Solbit feels a calm settling in

Dear Nicalai,

You know how Nona likes to wake up at 6:30 or 7:00 AM, sit up in bed, pull out her iPad, open her New York Times Replica Edition app, and read the newspaper until mid-morning right there in bed? Then maybe she’ll eat a little something around 11. Well that’s not happening here in Manu. We have to get up really early, usually by 5:00 AM or before!

At 5:50 AM, we’ve already gotten dressed, had breakfast, piled into our river canoe, and started our river trip to another interesting place in Manu.

At 5:50 AM, we’ve already gotten dressed, had breakfast, piled into our river canoe, and started our river trip to another interesting place in Manu.

Poor Nona! She not only has to get up and get out of bed early but she also has to have her breakfast well before 6:00 AM, most days. Also, no electricity and no internet. So she can’t have a fresh NYT daily.  She reads old, back issues, but not in the morning. She has to wait until we get back from our morning excursions.

On the Madre de Dios River (that means “mother of god river,” I think), it strikes me: how nice to name a river for the mother of god. She deserves a lot of credit, right?

On the Madre de Dios River (that means “mother of god river,” I think), it strikes me: how nice to name a river for the mother of god. She deserves a lot of credit, right?

We sit in our comfortable car seats that have been installed in our big river canoe, and, the calm of the river settles over me. I can tell that Susie, Tom, Nona and Papa feel the calming effect too.  In fact, one of them is so “calm” that I hear snoring sounds.

Our canoe went through a little rough water, and that was a sign that we had gone from the Madre de Dios River to the Manu River. Another way to tell the difference is that the Manu River looks much more brown, that is, muddy.

Our canoe went through a little rough water, and that was a sign that we had gone from the Madre de Dios River to the Manu River.  Another way to tell the different rivers is that the Manu River looks much more brown, that is, muddy.

Speaking of mud. If you have rubber boots, you want to wear them on these river trips, because getting on and off the river canoe can be a wet and muddy exercise. Of course, I don’t need rubber boots, because Nona always carries me in her purse pocket.

Dorothy, our travel companion from Germany, brought her rubber boots and they served her well.  I even think the boots look fashionable. Don’t you?

Dorothy, our travel companion from Germany, brought her rubber boots and they served her well.  I even think the boots look fashionable. Don’t you?

Well, you are probably so bored by my story of being calm on these rivers that by now you’re snoring too.  Still, if you ever need to calm yourself, you might consider an early morning — I mean very early — canoe trip on a wide river somewhere.  Sometimes calm can be a good thing.  I bet it might even be healthy.  Bye for now.

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit encounters Amazon jungle mysteries

Dear Nicalai,

Our river canoe took us deep into the jungle of the Manu Biological Reserve here in Peru, landing riverside in the mud and the muck. Nona carried me up to the trail into the dark jungle. That’s when I discovered something very important, “Nona, I don’t like it here!”

“It’s ok to be unsettled in such a strange place, Solbit,” Nona tried to calm me. “I’m not ‘unsettled,’ Nona,” I corrected her, “I’m terrified!”  Keeping her calm,  Nona asked me, “Now, Solbit, you have me, Papa, and our excellent guide, Danny, to protect you, so why are you ‘terrified?'”

“I don’t know. It’s all so mysterious here. Nothing is familiar. Nothing seems — you know — normal.”  Nona listened to me and then her eyes sparkled and she told me, “Solbit, jungles do hold mysteries. Jungles are not familiar to us. We don’t know what we’ll encounter here. That’s why we came here, to discover and to learn about new things — things strange to us, and to unveil mysteries. We’re going to have fun! You have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then Papa chimed in, “… And maybe a puma or a caiman!”

I could not refuse to go along, but I sure wanted to get right back into our canoe and get out of there. Then something changed. I don’t know why, but I started to ask questions about the mysterious things I was seeing in the jungle. Like, “Ooh, what’s that?”

"Oh, look at the pretty mushroom," I called out. Papa said he thought it wasn't a mushroom but a lichen . I wonder which?

“Oh, look at the pretty mushroom,” I called out. Papa said he thought it wasn’t a mushroom but a lichen. I wonder which?

Papa answered, it’s a beautiful living community of different organisms that together we call “lichen.” You know, Solbit, we have lichen back home in the US too. It’s not so mysterious. “No, but it sure is pretty,” I admitted.

We walked on, deeper into the jungle.  Next thing I knew, I was acting as if everything were normal.  “I bet we don’t have this kind of bug back there. Do we?” I asked Papa.

Bugs can be beautiful. Don't you think? I just love this one's color -- orange, like me -- and long hair, too -- not like me.

Bugs can be beautiful. Don’t you think? I just love this one’s color — orange, like me — and long hair, too — not like me.

The next thing I know, I’m looking at a very familiar object. “Look at this! Somebody left their piñata right here in the middle of the jungle,” I called out in surprise.

Gee, I knew we had piñatas back home and also in Mexico, but in Peru, too?" Nope. That's something else.

Gee, I knew we had piñatas back home and also in Mexico, but in Peru, too?” Nope. That’s something else.

I didn’t know that termites were such skilled builders.  Even without measuring tools or tools of any kind, they can make almost perfect spheres way out here in the jungle.  How do they do that?

Hey, did you know that some termites make their homes underground.  Yeah, they dig tunnels.  They even have storage rooms down there.

I guess termites have to put the dirt somewhere when they tunnel underground, so they make mud towers. How cool!

I guess termites have to put the dirt somewhere when they tunnel underground, so they make mud towers. How cool!

Remember before when I said that I learned something very important, that I don’t like it here?  Well, I’m changing that to I’m loving it here.  I’m learning so much by putting aside my fears and finding one interesting mystery after another.  What a great trip!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit’s Big Amazon Basin Adventure

Dear Nicalai,

Well, we’re already in Peru. Nona and Papa have taken us to a remote area of Peru’s Amazon basin region called Manu! More birdwatching … and reptiles and mammals too!

We traveled by boat on a big, wide, fast moving river.  I saw this alligator first and yelled to everyone in our big river canoe, “Alligator!”  Wrong. Our excellent Manu Expeditions guide, Danny, gently corrected me, “Solbit, I know it looks like an alligator, but, actually, it is a caiman.” That’s why we have guides, you know, to help us learn.  I said, “Thank you!”

That's not an alligator. It's a caiman. We saw it from our big river canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios River on our way to Manu.

That’s not an alligator. It’s a caiman. We saw it from our big river canoe on the Alto Madre de Dios River on our way to Manu.

We see all kinds of wildlife here in Manu: birds, frogs, monkeys,  and even a tapir!

We saw this Large-headed Capuchin Monkey at the Cock of the Rock Lodge on our way to the park. He wanted me to give him a banana. Our cousin Tom gave him one. Then he just wanted another.

We saw this Large-headed Capuchin Monkey at the Cock of the Rock Lodge on our way to the park. He wanted me to give him a banana. Our cousin Tom gave him one. Then he just wanted another.

Traveling by river canoe is an adventure.  Sometimes it is even scary. The current of the river is fast, but the river is wide and shallow in places.  The boat can get stuck.  Our captain, Jose, was so good at “reading the river” that he almost always found the hidden deep channels to ride. When he didn’t, he got help from Aurelio.

Aurelio, our boatman, was strong and often saved our river canoe from getting caught on tree snags, dragging on the bottom, or crashing into rocks.

Aurelio, our boatman, was strong and often saved our river canoe from getting caught on tree snags, dragging on the bottom, or crashing into rocks.

I didn’t get to tell you all my Ecuador stories.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that Katy, Dino, and I did so well at birdwatching in Mindo, Ecuador that we’ve graduated from wonderful birdwatching in Ecuador to an Amazonian adventure to see all kinds of wild life.  Here’s our graduation dinner that we had in Ecuador before we left for Peru.

Marcelo (R), our guide in Mindo, Ecuador, and our friend Louise (L) helped us celebrate our graduation, before we left for Peru. That’s me (orange), Dino (blue), and Katy (red). Only we got to sit on the table, because we’re really small.

Marcelo (R), our guide in Mindo, Ecuador, and our friend Louise (L) helped us celebrate our graduation, before we left for Peru. That’s me (orange), Dino (blue), and Katy (red). Only we got to sit on the table, because we’re really small.

My first graduation!  Papa says that I’ll have many more.  Have you already had a graduation, too? Graduations are good because they bring us our next big adventures! Look at me.  I’m proof of that.

I wish you were here.  Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit finds mummies  and “legos” too at ancient pyramid

Dear Nicalai,

Hey, we moved to Peru. We’re in a neighborhood of Lima, Peru.  It’s called Miraflores.  Oh, you’re gonna love this letter! I know how you love mummies, and Miraflores has them.  Oh, you love Legos, too, and Miraflores has something ancient that reminds me of legos.

We found both the mummies and the “legos” in the same place today.  No kidding.  The place has several names but let’s just say it is the ruins of an ancient pyramid. Look at this.

Call these ruins what you like -- The Huaca Pucllana, Pucllana or Huaca Juliana or Wak'a Pukllana -- this place is an amazing pile of dirt bricks!

Call these ruins what you like — The Huaca Pucllana, Pucllana or Huaca Juliana or Wak’a Pukllana — this place is an amazing pile of dirt bricks!

You might wonder why would someone go to the trouble of making all these handmade dirt bricks and then piling them up so carefully, so wide, and so high.  I wondered.  So, I looked it up on Wikipedia.

The pyramid is pretty high up, so, from the top, we got a good view of the modern city of Miraflores.

The pyramid is pretty high up, so, from the top, we got a good view of the modern city of Miraflores.

Sounds to me like the place was very important long ago, 200 CE to 700 CE. That’s more than 1300 years ago! I guess the leaders of those ancient people tried to please the gods and to govern the people from here. They had something called the Lima Culture, but I don’t know anything about that.  I need to read more, right?

OK, get ready, because here comes a South American mummy!

The ancient people mummified their dead, gave them nice little rooms on the pyramid, and brought them food and drink. Looked like a lot of leftovers to me.

The ancient people mummified their dead, gave them nice little rooms on the pyramid, and brought them food and drink. Looked like a lot of leftovers to me.

Now, here come the “legos!”

Long before the days of plastic, somebody had the "lego idea." The stacked handmade adobe and clay bricks to make things.

Long before the days of plastic, somebody had the “lego idea.” They stacked handmade adobe and clay bricks to make things.

Guess what, these ancient people were smart.  They figured out how to stack all these dirt bricks in a way that earthquakes couldn’t knock them down. Amazing!

Now, you probably are asking yourself, “Why didn’t these mud bricks just dissolve in the rain and wash away after all these centuries?” Good question.  Answer: Because it almost never ever rains in Lima, even though it’s right on the Pacific coast of Peru.  Isn’t that surprising? OK, that’s it for today. Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

July 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit Sees Tricky Art

Dear Nicalai,

We saw some tricky art yesterday. We went for a walk in our neighborhood in Quito.  What could be more boring, right?  Wrong.

Only a few blocks from our hostal, we found a little neighborhood park surrounded by colorful buildings.  Some painters went wild, but just with color, not playing tricks on us.

When we go for walks, we expect to be surprised, and, rarely, are we disappointed.

When we go for walks, we expect to be surprised, and, rarely, are we disappointed.

“Wow, I wonder who lives here?” Papa wondered aloud. I replied, “I don’t know, but they sure love colors.”

All around the little public square the buildings are painted bright colors, some with intricate patterns.

All around the little public square the buildings are painted bright colors, some with intricate patterns.

Then, after a walk around the square, I learned a new word “trompe l’oeil,” when Papa tried to sit down at this table.

Papa walked over to that chair on the left, backed into it to sit down, and -- surprise -- hit his butt into the wall.

Papa walked over to that chair on the left, backed into it to sit down, and — surprise — hit his butt into the wall.

That’s when Nona told me about the painters’ trick. “Trompe l’oeil” refers to a way of painting to “trick the eye,” and Papa’s eyes were definitely tricked by that painting on the wall.  Even Nona — a painter herself — has made these trick paintings.  She painted a floor canvas and made it look like a carpet was crooked.  People who walk on that painting try to straighten the rug!

Oh, hey, this is really cool news.  It’s not just human beings who trick the eye with art.  Nature does it too.  Nona took this photo of a creature with a big eye that got on Papa’s shirt.

On first glance, you might think that's an animal with a big eye, but look again. It's a pattern on a butterfly's wing!

On first glance, you might think that’s an animal with a big eye, but look again. It’s a pattern on a butterfly’s wing!

I wonder if that butterfly knows the word “trompe l’ceil” or speaks French? It sure knows how to make a tricky picture on itself.  Papa says the artist for that butterfly’s wing is “Natural Selection.”  That’s a weird name.  Who wants to be named “Natural Selection?” Maybe some artists would like the name.

I discovered that butterflies and I have something in common. We both like bananas.

I discovered that butterflies and I have something in common. We both like bananas.

Butterflies, Nona, and I — we girls — like bananas, and Papa hates bananas.  I wonder if that’s just Papa or if its all guys who don’t like bananas?  Guys would be missing out on a good thing if they all hated bananas the way Papa hates them.

Now you can see how our ordinary walks get me to thinking about all kinds of interesting questions that I didn’t have when I started my walks.  I have come to the conclusion just now that bananas and walks are good for me and, probably, for you too.  Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

June 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”