The river land was everything I wanted and about one third of it was beautiful primary jungle. The other was still amazing but some of the huge trees had been removed for timber by local people. Towards the back of the land in the jungle was a lake which dried up in the dry season. When I first saw it, it was a beautiful open lake surrounded by huge trees and vines hanging into the water. Small alligators called Caiman lived there in the wet season and migrated to the river in the dry season. As we approached, we heard a mother caiman squeaking to call her babies. We saw the small babies flitting across the surface of the water and jumped into the mouth of their mother. This is how she protects her babies from predators. When she was confident we were gone, she would release the babies from her mouth. What an incredible introduction to the land!

  I also recognised medicinal plants including Una de Gato and Sangre de Grado so I pacified myself by thinking about what other plants might be there.

Some of my money was used to construct a small concrete room big enough for a bed, a shower and toilet attached to their house which was the size of a kitchen and dining room at home. The toilet was just a pedestal which needed to be flushed with a bucket of water each time it was used. I learnt very fast to make sure the bucket was full of water before I did my job; excuse the pun. The shower was a pipe with a tap attached to the roof and flooded the concrete floor of the room when used.

The first thing for me to do was to buy a bed, mattress, sheets, blanket and a mosquito net.  One of the open topped walls was shared with neighbours making privacy nonexistent. At night time I could hear neighbours talking, cooking, using the toilet and sometimes making love. I was very conscious of not making noises especially in the toilet.  A large tabby cat roamed down the street using the top of the rear wall connecting all houses. The absence of ceilings made it possible for him to roam through the entire house in the street and sit watching whoever he chose to watch. I was not going to mention this but he had the largest set of testicles I had ever seen on a cat! He would lay on top of the wall with his testicles draped over the edge. He would lay up there watching whatever was going on and was not intimidated by anything or anyone. I suspect he knew he had a magnificent ‘set’ which sent a message to not mess with him.

During the night, rats taunted the cat by running around in the houses in pursuit of food. I always made sure my mosquito net was tucked in tight to keep them off the bed although I never had any incidence with them. I would watch them walk across a wire which I had stretched across the room to hang my clothes on. I often had to scoop a dead rat out of the toilet bowl.

I settled in very well; just accepted everything as it was and it is surprising how quickly we adapt to the simple daily routine with no modern conveniences. The hot and humid weather dictated the agenda for each day in town. Early morning was the best time to go to the markets and most shops closed everyday at 1 pm to escape from the heat and opened again at 4 pm.

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