Friday, March 15, 2013

Dag Walker, American Writer, goes to prison at Iquitos, Peru

I was prepared to meet rapists and killers and drug lords inside El Penal when I entered the local prison at Iquitos, Peru. I was ready for almost anything, but I was not expecting what I actually encountered: Real fear. I met a man so evil he put the general population to shame, and he scared the hell out of me.

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Iquitos, Peru: Juan Maldonado, more than just a con artist....

Juan Maldonado is the guy I go to for things I'd be embarrassed to ask anyone else about or for. Juan is the kind of guy in Iquitos who does anything, more or less, for a buck. If I want to sneak into an abandoned and condemned building, I go to Juan to arrange it. If I want to buy another driver's license so I can drive sort of legally, I ask Juan to do the paperwork for me and then stand in line for me for days at a time till my smiling face graces officialdom's paper pile with my new permit to scoot around lawfully or so. If I want ... well, I don't want, but if I did, Juan would be the guy to go to for it. Yes, half the time he takes whatever taxi fare I give him to get him on his way and I don't see him for a day or so and never get my money back. He's a low-rent scammer, a con man. But, like most people who know him, I like him. And I find out more about him, of course, as I get to know him. Much of what I learn about him makes me wish I never met him. And then he turns out to be an artist. A con artist, yes, and deeply so. He also draws pictures.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Why Vic the Canadian was f**ked-up beyond repair

Canada has to be one of the worst nations on earth to live. One could see that in Vic, the lunatic from there who wandered around the streets of Iquitos in his dirty underwear and screamed at people and howled at the moon. It's because he lived too long in Canada. Living there can do that to a normal man, and by the time Vic got to Iquitos it was too late to save him. Canada is Hell. Look what Canadian living did to Vic, and in this see why he is as f**ked-up beyond repair as he is. What happed to Vic will happen eventually to every Canadian, if it hasn't done so already:

Do not ever go to Canada. If you are there, leave now, before it's too late and you go crazy like Vic did. You don't have to go to Iquitos, but if you don't want to be a f**king lunatic like Vic, go to North Korea or Saudi Arabia where you will be safer.

Oh, you won't be better off there. They might be marginally worse. Whatever. But get away from Canada. Hurry, friend. You could be like Vic if you stay there.

Look for "Dawn on the Amazon Captain's Blog" and this story to see what happens to Canadians who don't get away soon enough:

Tales of Iquitos, Richard’s Story

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: The Amazon Chinese (Part One)

A mototaxi fell into a hole in the road again on Sunday morning. How many times has this happened recently? People in the city seem to have quit counting, but the death toll and injury rate keeps on climbing; and so does the anger level of the locals, that anger directed at the Chinese government's handling of the sewerage system they are installing across the city, a schmozzle that is literally killing people. Dead people make for bad public relations, and the Chinese government seems not to be concerned about it, which is adding to the problem.

The word I hear often is "Arrogance." I might offer my own: "Contempt."

The Chinese government in Iquitos, in Peru, and in South America is working hard at making p.r. inroads to gain land for farming to feed its evermore demanding citizenry, raising food to satisfy a developing workforce's economic clout. People in China, just like in Texas, want beef, and there's too little land for cattle in China to allow for that. So, the Chinese are using land elsewhere, across Africa, for example, and in South America to feed their own. And if the locals of Iquitos in mototaxis fly into holes in the road and die, it doesn't seem to matter much to the Chinese government. They have their own version and their own vision of p.r., and it doesn't include anyone else's feelings about life and death. I don't say a thing. I just shake my head. I slap my forehead. I spit on the ground. But I don't say anything at all. I leave that to the Peruvian government that has now, as I have heard but not yet seen, posted two large signs near the aeroport  venting some rage at the Chinese, proclaiming to passers by that the Chinese government had better start treating Peruvian people better. To me, the first thing would be to stop killing people. There is no shred, like nothing at all in the way of evidence, that the Chinese government gives a rice cake about any of this.

I note a friend who once told me that it's amazing how strange normal can be. And in the case of Chinese government public relations, I can't think of anything at the moment stranger than their approach to winning friends by killing the locals and then getting belligerent over criticism of it. That's public relations of the wrong sort. If the Chinese government gets that, they also don't seem to care. And it's not like the Chinese government thinks they're just killing Indians from the jungle or the average Mestizo immigrant from the Andes: a lot of Iquitos' population, and a good portion of its business community, is ethnic Chinese. In simple terms of dollars and political pull, if not just in basic and ordinary terms of human life itself, the Chinese community in this city matters a lot. The Chinese government doesn't seen to give a shit about anyone at all. It is so seriously out of touch that one should not be surprised if the Chinese government workers are all lynched at some point by an enraged mob. And don't be surprised if the Chinese government doesn't care about that either. It's no wonder so many Chinese left the country and came to the Amazon over the course of over a century and more. Until the Chinese government came too, the Chinese community in Iquitos was doing pretty well. Now they have to worry, as do we all, that the Chinese government might kill them by negligence and idiocy. The Chinese have been in Iquitos for over a hundred years, and they have been hugely successful and beneficial. Now the Chinese government is here. Whoa! This is a different lot indeed.

I've made any number of attempts to talk to the Chinese government engineers in Iquitos to get their input about the sewerage system they are installing in the city. So far, after months of emails, phone calls, and visits to the door, nada at all. Happily for me, I have a number of Chinese friends in town, and they are quite happy to talk about the Chinese community in Iquitos, the history of the Chinese and the success they have made over the generations.

Chinese Peruvians, also known as tusán (a loanword from Chinese 土生 pinyin: tǔ shēng, jyutping: tou2 saang1 "local born"), are people of Overseas Chinese ancestry born in Peru, or who have made Peru their adopted homeland. The first Chinese immigrants to Peru came from Macau. Asian Peruvians are estimated at least 5% of the population.[3] One source places the number of citizens with some Chinese ancestry at 5 million, which equates to 20% of the country's total population.[4]
C.f. wikipedia, "Chinese Peruvians."

Chinese are the largest non-native ethnic group in Iquitos. Unlike the Chinese government workers in Iquitos, the local ethnic Chinese make good things happen.

Now, why on earth a movie by Philip Kaufman would stick in my mind after 40 years or so-- and one line from one scene-- I don't know, but it's been a running joke with me and my friend since we saw The Wanderers way back in the 70s, since we saw a Chinese street gang emerge from the cinematic fog, since we saw a kid come forth and say: "Nobody fucks with the Wongs." Since that moment I have had some kind of soft spot for anyone named Wong. This town is full of Wongs, and I get to meet them en masse. There's the Chinese government; and then there's the Wong family.

Next time, I'll come back with some look at the people, the Wongs, who help make Iquitos a great place to live, assuming one does live and that the Chinese government hasn't killed anyone else.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Kitchen Coke

I've only seen cocaine once in the year and a half that I've been in Peru-Bolivia. The short version is that a woman had a fight with her husband at my hotel, and he dumped her on the spot-- unfortunately for her-- without money or anything much more that the clothes she was wearing.

Cue international drug criminals scouting out the vulnerable, and next thing we see, she's sitting in the hotel lobby asking for advice about whether she should take these two bread loaf-sized packs of cocaine to Miami so she can get some money to buy dinner and pay for her hotel room.

My first thought was, "No, Mrs. Middle Class Peruvian Lady, don't do that." My second thought was, "Lady, you're going to die."

She must have read my mind when I thought she should instantly back out of the deal to fly with cocaine to Miami. Unfortunately for her, she's an imbecile: She panicked and tossed two kilos of cocaine in a dumpster somewhere and decided to walk home, wherever that is. I found out about what she did, and I am sure so too did the drug gangsters who set her up for the deal. I wasn't happy about what she'd done, but that's not the unhappiness of the unhappy guys who lost all that coke. Those guys are going to kill her.

I stay far away from drugs and drug dealers. If I didn't know already, I might look at Brian, the English drug addict in town for the past five years, the guy who approaches tourists and tells them he's been beaten up by locals last evening and robbed. "Can you help me out with a loan," he says, holding up the small finger he mutilates to elicit sympathy and money from the unwary. He mangles that finger himself to get money for drugs. The man lives for nothing other than cocaine. I ignore him. But, I am curious. What exactly is cocaine? I've seen bales of cocoa leaves that turn into cocaine; and I've seen the powder that the leaves once were; but the middle part is all mysterious to me. Or, it was until I decided to find out for myself how to make it in the kitchen sink.

Peru is the world's leading nation in the production and exportation of cocaine. This is a problem for the average person who wants to use a kerosene lamp. Precursor chemicals, kerosene, for example, are illegal here. If you have kerosene, you might well be tempted to be a narco-terrorist. How anyone came up with the combination of cocoa leaves and kerosene is beyond me. But anyone weird enough to do that can come up with a substitute, I believe. No kerosene oil? No problem. I went to the petrol station with a plastic funnel and a soda bottle and got a litre of diesel oil. I'm sure it works just as well. The process is pretty simple and the stuff one needs don't present any hardship in purchasing.

[A]s an investigation by Peruvian journalist Romina Mella of IDL-Reporteros sets out, the process of making cocaine is relatively simple and requires only a few key components. Aside from coca, the whole process makes use of just six ingredients: sulfuric acid, potassium permanganate, sodium carbonate, kerosene, acetone and hydrochloric acid.
Geofry Ramsey, "Why Monitoring Precursor Chemicals Won't Halt Cocaine Production" Insight Crime: Latin America. 29 February 2012

Kerosene, as noted above, is illegal here. I didn't have a clue where to get sulfuric acid, and not wanting to ask a jihadi where he would get some to deface a woman who had jilted him, I went instead to a guy at the local coffee shop who knows general things about the world and I asked him. He said it's battery acid in the car. I went to the auto shop and told them my truck wasn't starting and I needed battery acid to turn the motor over. This is a fairly common problem, and the solution, when I finished it, meant pouring the acid into a glass beer bottle and leaving it in the sunshine on the roof top for a few days till the water had evaporated. I confess I had never heard of potassium permanganate, but the outdoors store guy knew, and it's used for purifying water, a pretty good thing when trekking in the Amazon jungle. Condy's Crystals. It looks like Purplesauras Koolade. It's also useful for itchy feet.

But since I'm not a drug dealer and am simply a curious guy writing about stuff, I decided to play it smart and not make a sample batch of cocaine, which would be illegal. I got a sackful of ditch weeds, pretty plentiful around the Amazon River, and I shredded them in the kitchen and laid them on the roof top in a metal cake pan for a few days till they were crumbly. I got a little sack of lime from the market and used my knife blade to let the breeze blow some powder over the dampened crumbs. I funnelled the broken leaves into a soda bottle. I had about a pint of leaves and filled a two litre soda bottle with diesel. I'm a busy guy, so I let it steep for a week. I didn't know at the time I was being so fussy about my science project. "Sulfuric acid is frequently replaced by muriatic acid or water mixed with salt, wild lime (easily found in the VRAE) or bleach." Ibid.

I had no idea what is sodium carbonate, given that I eat my junk food regardless of the ingredients listed on the package and thus am chemically uninformed. "Sodium carbonate can be replaced by calcium carbonate, lime, urea or cement." I do know what cement is. After that, the science gets too complicated for me

[P]otassium permanganate could be replaced with sodium hypochlorite if necessary.... In this stage the necessary sodium carbonate can be replaced by calcium oxide, calcium hydroxide, ammonium or calcium carbonate. Ibid.
For me, it's Condy's Crystals. Since I'm not making cocaine I figure I should get something concrete out of this, like losing the athlete's foot and also killing off the grub worms in my lawn. It also happens that the body of my fibreglass boat needed some work, so I had to get acetone to fix it.

In the third stage, where the product is crystalized, acetone can be replaced by ethyl acetate, toluene, benzene, ethyl ether, methyl ethyl ketone or methyl isobutyl ketone. However, acetone is so readily available that these substitutes have not been found in seized laboratories. Ibid.
I don't even begin to know what those other things are. The good news is that my new boat won't sink when I do the repairs on it.

Because I'm not a drug guy I didn't go through with the last step, which wouldn't have been difficult.

The only ingredient that cannot be replaced is hydrochloric acid. However, it can be produced with relative ease. Mella claims that a common way of doing this, known as the “yogurt method,” involves distilling a salt (sodium chloride) and sulfuric acid with muriatic acid and water. A second method uses only the muriatic acid, and results in more pure hydrochloric acid. The materials used in both of these methods are fairly easy to come across, and cost only about $300 to $350 per liter of acid. Ibid.
The full piece, in its original Spanish, can be read here.

Once I got into the process a bit and realised that I was on my way to making tea with motor oil and bleach and Drano and other toxic shit I wouldn't pour into my toilet I had a fair idea of why I avoid drugs in the first place. It might feel good to snort cocaine, but burning holes the size of interstate highways through my brain is about the last thing I would think of as a good time in the long run. I'll stick to doughnuts and chocolate milk for breakfast so long as I'm left alone by the health food pot smoking Libertarian types ranting about free choice for dope fiends.


You can have an open mind

Chocolate milk?

Or you might prefer listening to funky music with a clear mind.

You decide. For Brian the drug addict, it's a "no brainer." For the dead lady in Lima, well, that decision was made for her.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iquitos, Peru: Dag Walker, American Writer's Prison Chronicles (Part Three)

Dag's prison chronicles.

At this point in life, after nine failed attempts to get into prison at Iquitos, Peru deep in the Amazon jungle, going to prison is just about my number one goal in life. It's not always easy to get to Iquitos, but if one were on the run, it would be nearly impossible to go anywhere safe. If one could escape from prison, where would one go?

They can't keep me out of prison for life here. There has to be a way in, and I will find it, whether I tunnel or climb or organise a mob and charge in by main force. I'll wait years if I must, but I will get into El Penal someday and then I'll be free to continue my real life as it is meant for a man. Freedom. I can hardly stand the thought of not being free. I am trapped on the outside of that terrible prison, looking at the walls and wondering how I can break through, break in, get into prison so I can live again like a free man. It's so frustrating to look at those plain concrete walls, armed guards sitting at the front of the steel gate, and see no way in.

It's my goal to enter prison at Iquitos. I'll go to prison, El Penal in the Amazon jungle.

To read the rest of this story, please turn to the following link;

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book: