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Amazonian Beauty

This week I went on a field trip for my Community Building and Sustainable Development class. We were able to explore the amazon, meet the Yagua people (indigenous group who live in the amazon), interact with many animals, and visit and learn about several NGOs in the area of Iquitos. It was a great experience and I’m happy to share it with ya’ll.

It’s July 8, 1:37 pm in the afternoon. I am casually laying on a hammock in Iquitos, Peru as noisy monkeys and birds do their daily routine of chatter. As I lay here calmly and peacefully swaying under a palm leaf roof, I’m praying that the 98% deet containing mosquito spray does its magic. So many pesky mosquitoes are zooming around threatening to find a place on my legs and arms. Besides the noises of nature, the Amazon is indeed peaceful. The next activity is at 2:30 pm, so it is just enough time to get a short nap in. The nature’s sounds will be my lullaby.

It’s now 4:16 pm and I’m laying back in the previous hammock. I have just gotten back from walking to a little community. The reason for the trek was to go visit the local shaman. After walking through dirt paths and seeing several chickens on the way, we made it to the shaman’s home. We went out back and sat in a room with a palm leave roof. The walls were partially wood and mosquito netting. During our trek gray skies were looming, threatening to unleash many raindrops. Now it seemed, was the perfect time to unleash the rain. The pitter-patter of the rain made it hard to hear the shaman. The shaman started telling us healthy properties of some substance he had in a bottle. He took a sip and then poured some on his hands and wiped it on his face and hair. The ritual was about to start. There were 6 of us girls and we had all sat on a long bench. We closed our eyes and immediately I get in a state of peace. Whether it be because I was tired or sleepy, it was very relaxing. He rubbed that medicinal substance on our heads one by one. Then blew smoke on top of our heads. I kept my eyes closed and heard him sing in the background. All the while shaking what seemed to be a bouquet of dried leaves. In the end I understood what he was saying “may you be filled with good health, success in business, good fortune, and luck in love”. Whether or not that was legit, I did feel good. Sleepy yes, but good nonetheless. Hope this ritual proves successful.

The next morning as I contemplated my first night in the amazon, I couldn’t help but smile because I had enjoyed myself. I had fallen asleep to the chirping of crickets, croaking of toads, and yapping of monkeys as I laid in bed with a pink mosquito net around the perimeter of my bed to protect myself from the buzzing intruders.

That day I waked through the jungle, found an enormous tree with hanging branches and we swung like Tarzan. While swinging, it decided to downpour. I along with Cassandra (study abroad friend) took off our rain jackets to feel the cool drops. We figured we’d might as well get wet from the Amazonian rain than from our icky sweat. Needless to say, I was glad we were wearing our bathing suits under our clothes. We continued our walk but then since it was raining, one of the guides decided to turn around and go a different way. The streams were overflowing and our way back had to be modified. We walked and walked. I was on the lookout for our hanging tree but we didn’t pass it. I felt lost. We were not going the same way we came. It was less traveled terrain. We had to jump over fallen trees. Our guide was chopping away vegetation with his machete. It continued to pour. Into our partially lost walk back to the lodge, we had to go through some swampy muddy area. Lucky me, as I made my way through the thick squishy mud, my right foot came all the way out of my boot and into the muddy gunk. My boot was stuck in place one step behind me. All that was left to do was laugh and put my muddy foot back into my boot. My foot sloshed inside with every step. Wet, muddy, mosquito bitten, and scratched we finally made it to the lodge and out of the jungle.

Later after lunch, we boarded our boat and headed down stream passing the dense green foliage of the Amazon. We finally came out into the vastness of the Amazon River. We stopped the boat and took our clothes off to put our bathing suits to use yet again. We waited and sure enough we were gifted with the presence of a pink dolphin. It was the coolest thing. We jumped into the murky yet “safe” water. No piranhas would disturb us. I was skeptical, I kind of didn’t want to jump in; however, I was glad I did. 1. I can say I swam in the Amazon River and 2. I swam with pink dolphins. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself doing such a thing. It was a really neat experience.

On our third day in the Amazon, after playing with monkeys, sloths, and birds, we left for Iquitos. In Iquitos during the following days, we were able to meet with Brother Paul and see his work with indigenous Amazon students. He houses students from the Amazon so they are able to attend school. The students come from low income homes. Given their struggles and circumstances, they work hard and attend school with Brother Paul’s help. His work is very inspiring.

We also took a tour at CREA. We learned about initiatives to protect and rescue endangered Amazonian animals. We fed manatees and took with us the notion that it’s up to the educated individual to do something. At Pilpintuwasi, Quechua for butterfly farm, we saw butterflies and learned the stages of being a butterfly. It was very impressive seeing a beautiful butterfly come out of its cocoon transformed. These two places made me mindful that our wild life as well as our natural surroundings are very important to us. The exploitation of resources such as petroleum, copper, and trees affects the biodiversity of our Earth. We only have one, so we need to protected and stop taking it for granted. If we keep destroying and misusing what nature offers, we will pay a higher price in the future. We need to wake up and make changes. It would be a shame if we can only learn about these creatures from a book and not actual real life.

This trip allowed me to experience so many new things, and I’m fortunate to be able to say that I did experience them and learn from them. Our surroundings are so beautiful and sometimes we are so busy to not notice nature and what it offers. Not everyone can say they traveled the amazon, swam with pink dolphins, or visited an indigenous tribe, or touched so many animals; now that I have, I’d like to spread the word and say love our surroundings and everything that calls it its home. It truly was a great experience. Although I had to get on a plane and a boat to reach this marvelous destination, our backyards could be pretty interesting. I encourage people to learn, educate others, explore, and live a life worth living.

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