Independence In Hot Chaos.

This Independence Day found me back in Iquitos. It was hard to believe that it was exactly a year prior that I was wrapping up my final day in my Seven In Seven journey with a night in Rome with my sister and a high school friend who now lived there. But there I was, walking through the tiny airport in the hot and chaotic city in the Amazon Basin.

As soon as I was pushed out of customs and into the terminal waiting area, I was bombarded by motokar and taxi drivers. All were competing for my money stream of a few soles to take me to the hotel in the city where I would be bunking for the night.

"No gracias," I would say. "Casa Morey is sending a driver for me."

"Miss! Miss! Are you sure? What if he forget? He not here? Miss, I will take you for ten soles."

I smiled. I had timed the driver to not pick me up until my two friends arrived on their flight from Lima. I had arrived from Panama City. And I had about an hour to kill.

I wandered over to the few shop stands in the airport. I contemplated sitting in the cafe and grabbing a coffee while I waited. But instead I chose to check the flight status, which showed the plane was now delayed a little. So I hopped online instead, and updated people on Facebook that I had arrived.

Eventually, my friends arrived, and walked out of the terminal to meet me with the driver in tow. He had been allowed inside to meet the flight directly at baggage claim. I had to assure him a few times that I was the "Heather Molina" he was supposed to pick up.

I hugged my friends hello, having been a few months since I last saw them. With me were Hill (a former cheerleader buddy from high school two years younger than me) and Bea (a buddy from my class). I had talked both into coming with me to Iquitos for the retreat about six months earlier.

"It will be therapeutic. And I think you both are down for the experience," I said.  They were excited to be there finally, unsure of how things would go for them.

My instincts told me that Bea would have a tougher time than Hill. But they would both come out of the experience with a positive view. I wasn't exactly sure why I thought that. It was just my gut instinct.

We quickly checked into our hotel.

It was already past 5pm. Bea said that she had read somewhere online that Iquitos had a great Chinese food scene. So I looked up where was the place to go...

Chifa Long Fung in the Plaza de Julio.

We went in. The place was clearly not a tourist attraction. There was no English anywhere.  Hill, having a fairly decent grasp of the Spanish language's basics, was able to decipher the menu for us and ask the waitress to tell us what one of her favorite dishes was. We ended up with a shrimp dish, a chicken dish, and a pork fried rice dish.

"And dos agua con gas, et uno agua san gas," I added. It was my on Spanish contribution to the conversation.

The waitress thought we were silly American girls. We tipped nicely. But that probably only added to her opinion.

We ate the food and watched a Peruvian talent show, similar to American Idol. Then we were off in a motokar back to our side of town.

And that's where the Iquitos Saturday night scene really began...