Close Encounter of a different kind, or, OK, this is going to be gross!

Dear Nicalai,

[Warning: you may not want to look at my second and third photos.]

You know how sometimes you feel very comfortable being close to another animal, for example with llamas or alpacas, like these.

Every time we encounter these animals -- even a close encounter -- I can't tell whether its an alpaca or a llama. Can you?

Every time we encounter these animals — even a close encounter — I can’t tell whether its an alpaca or a llama. Can you?

Other times, though, you really want to see another animal — let’s say a very deadly snake — but you don’t want a close encounter with it, right?

What is good is when you get to make the choice for yourself.  You chose what kind of encounter to have, right?  Close or distant, depending on how you feel about the animal beside you or that you want to observe. You could say that I’m a pro-choice kind of plastic Jurassic.  I like to make my own choices about these encounters with others in the animal world.

Maybe you’re like me, so pity poor Papa.  Why? Well, when we were here in Peru, he had a very close encounter with an animal.  That animal didn’t even give him a choice of how close the encounter would be. In fact, he didn’t even know about his close encounter at the time … not until a few weeks later. That’s when, as a result of the unknown encounter, well, you’ll see what I mean … just look at this photo that Nona and I took of Papa’s ankle:

Papa called me,

Papa called me, “Solbit, come look at my ankle, please. Tell me what is that coming out of the skin?”

I didn’t want to get too close, but I had to get close to see that little thing wiggling out of Papa’s skin.

From Nona's and my close encounter with this little beast, we agreed on what we had seen, and I replied to Papa,

From Nona’s and my close encounter with this little beast, we agreed on what we had seen, and I replied to Papa, “OOO! Yuck! That looks like a maggot!” And Nona said, “It is a maggot!”

Guess what? That little wiggly thing was alive, and it wasn’t Papa’s skin that was wiggling either. No, we found out that, because this thing was coming out of Papa’s ankle now, that meant that some weeks ago an insect, called a “bot fly,”  had bitten Papa and laid eggs inside Papa’s skin.  That would have happened a few weeks ago when we were in the jungle of the Amazon Basin area of Peru, a region called ManuRemember, I wrote you before about that trip?

Oh, yuck, those eggs were in there all that time! Yes, not just “egg” but “eggs,” plural (that means “more than one.”) So, a few more maggots came out later.  Poor Papa. Fortunately, the eggs weren’t heavy and the maggots are so very tiny that they didn’t eat much of him, and, “best” of all, they came out of his ankle. They didn’t decide to stay there.

So Papa’s ok now, although he does spend a lot of time checking his ankles for bot flies now. Nona keeps saying, “For Pete’s sake, Papa, stop swatting at your ankles. We’re not in the jungle anymore.”

Of course, not all close encounters are bad.  Some can be very good, if you have them by choice. For example, I’m looking forward to a close encounter with you this December. Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

August 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 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.”