Monday, August 30, 2010

Close to Crisis

It's all the talk around town - on the TV news, in the papers, on the streets; Iquitos is approaching a water crisis. Due to lack of significant rainfall over the past couple of months (and, I'm sure, other geological, ecological, and environmental factors that I neither know about nor understand), the rivers are essentially drying up. According to local record keepers, the rivers are the lowest they have been in 40 years.

The consequences of this are numerous. Those who fish for a living are having difficulty getting into deep enough water to be able to catch anything. The river taxis and other boats are losing business - with each passing day it is harder to get into or out of the ports, or close enough to the villages and towns along the rivers to allow passengers to disembark (this in addition to general hazards in the rivers caused by the shallowness of the water). And Sedaloreto has already begun shutting down the city water system for brief periods of time each day in an effort to conserve water; the next step will be outright water rationing (for people who own the large water tanks this isn't too dire of a problem because they can retain enough water to bathe and cook each day - the problem will come for the poorest of the poor who only have small containers in which to store water in their homes). These and a host of other problems are lurking.

Please pray for significant rain. We need more than the light 15-20 minute showers we've been getting about once a week. We need those torrential downpours, the ones that last for hours and that the jungle is famous for. Though we are not at alarm stage yet, at this point we have to begin thinking about and preparing for the future.

For those who have never been here before, the following pictures won't mean much to you, but for the rest of you, well, you're in for a surprise!

Itaya River at the Boulevard
The land here is very green and beautiful, but it is typically under water.  The ground is dry and solid as it has baked in the sun for weeks now and people walk out past the trees trying to get to what is left of the river out there to get water for washing and cooking.  The picture was taken standing in front of the Medical Missions property on the Malecon - where the original Iquitos Presbyterian Church was located.

Itaya River at Puerto Huequito
This is the port the mission teams typically use for river travel. Notice the houses floating in the shallow inlet, blocked from moving by the sand bar that has surfaced.

Itaya River at Puerto Huequito
Past the sewer outlet (large concrete structure in foreground) you can see grounded boats here as well.  Also you can see how far out the sandbar extended as well as the size of the riverbank past the sand bar.

Bella Vista Port on the Nanay River
If you look in the upper left hand corner you'll see the white building that is the Iquitos Boat Club - looking to the right of that you will see the grounded boats sitting on dry land.  The distance across the Nanay to Santo Tomas is narrowing as the river dries up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I Slept Through an Earthquake

I've always known that I was a fairly sound sleeper (and I can snore pretty well too, so I'm told, though, of course, I don't believe it), but evidently my slumber is a little deeper than I realized. The neighboring country of Ecuador recently experienced a significant earthquake - somewhere between 6.9 and 7.1 - about 100 miles southeast of the capital city of Quito, putting its epicenter fairly close to the border of Peru. Thankfully the depth of the earthquake was estimated to be 115 miles below the Earth's surface, so direct impact and damage was minimal. The quake occurred just before 7 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

A day or two later Villa asked me if I had felt the house shaking on the Thursday morning in question. Naturally I looked at him and started laughing, because I assumed he was yanking my chain, as he frequently does. He swore he was serious, but then Villa has been known to tell a fish tale a time or two. When Ina arrived I asked her if anything strange had happened at her house early that Thursday morning, and without hesitating she said, "Yes, both of my girls and I woke up because our beds were shaking and we later heard on the news that there was an earthquake in Ecuador." Ok, so Villa got to Ina earlier and she was playing along. Better to do my research elsewhere. So, as I went about my business for the day, I started asking around and, sure enough, the answers were consistent with Villa's story; people reported feeling the floors in their homes tremble or being awakened because their beds were moving. Margarita also confirmed that the tremors awakened her patients in the hospital. Not a big deal, nothing scary, no dishes crashing to the floor, no glass shattering, nothing like that, just a very noticeable, however slight, movement of the tierra. And I slept right through it.

But there's another part to this story. Around 3 a.m. on the morning of the earthquake I woke up terribly thirsty. Villa and I had shared one of our favorite dishes for dinner the previous evening - fried rice with chicken, pork, and shrimp, doused in soy sauce, and all the salt and MSG was kicking in. As I stood in the light of the open refrigerator door gulping water from my old Young Life nalgene bottle, I heard the soft patter of water hitting the ground. I thought to myself, as I walked toward the window over the kitchen sink, 'how nice, we haven't had rain in several weeks now, we need it.' But as I arrived at the sink and looked out said open window, nothing was falling from the sky and the ground was perfectly dry, but still I was hearing drops of water. I didn't have to investigate long to find out where the sound was coming from, because as soon as I stepped into the screen porch room, there in the dim illumination of the lights on the path leading to the front gate was the answer. Dolly, my now 7 month old yellow lab, was hopping and jumping and splashing, having herself a grand old time in the fountain of water spewing forth from the small pvc tube of an old irrigation line she'd managed to locate and chew holes into. Like a pig in mud, literally, she couldn't have been enjoying herself more. I had no idea how long the water had been gushing, and visions of a whirling meter sent me running straight to Villa's room to wake him up and tell him we had work to do. Thus began the clean up and repair.

It took us until 4:30 a.m. to dig up more of the pipe, cut it off, add another, new piece of pipe to the cut off part, use matches and some kind of really sticky stuff to melt and seal up the end of the tube, then bury it again, all the while trying to keep Dolly out of the huge mud puddle she'd created (she thought that our descent to our hands and knees on the ground in her pool meant we had come to play with her). At this point we were soaking wet, covered in mud ourselves, and ready to keep digging a much bigger hole to put Dolly in - well, I was; Villa found the whole deal to be quite humorous. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I went back to bed somewhere in the vicinity of 5 a.m., thoroughly exhausted. Is it any wonder I never felt the earth move?

Recommended Reading

  • The Bible
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open - Doing Short Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence - David A. Livermore
  • Cross-Cultural Servanthood - Serving the World in Christlike Humility - Duane Elmer
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) - Robert D. Lupton
  • When Helping Hurts-Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself - Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
  • Shadow of the Almighty - Elizabeth Elliot
  • Messy Spirituality - Michael Yaconelli
  • The Irresistible Revolution - Shane Claiborne
  • Peace Child - Don Richardson
  • If God Should Choose - Kristen Stagg
  • In the Presence of My Enemies - Gracia Burnham
  • Inside Afghanistan - John Weaver
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore
  • Through Gates of Splendor - Elizabeth Elliot
  • End of the Spear - Steve Saint