Well, I suppose I always knew this time would come, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Two days ago I left Busintana to start a very long journey back to Europe. My travel plans look something like this:
Busintana –(bumpy road trip)–> Valledupar —(fly)–> Bogota (1 night) —(fly)–> Leticia, Colombia (Amazon) —-> Santa Rosa, Peru (1 night) —(14 hour speedboat)–> Iquitos, Peru —(fly) –> Lima (20 hours) —(fly)–> Toronto (7 hours) —(fly)–> Brussels, Belgium
Yes, that trip is a week long. Currently I’m sitting in Iquitos. Being in the Amazon again brings back memories, and makes me realise how little I wrote about it last time. I wonder if I should document it now as I’ve found this little blog a nice way to recall things I otherwise would forget to remember. However, being in Iquitos right now isn’t jiving with me. This place is full of the bright eyes of recent Ayahuasca voyagers and I feel a bit like I’ve unwittingly knocked on the door of an overzealous Jehova’s Witness, with everyone from the moto driver to the waiter to the skinny Hungarian telling me about their pinta and how the universe really works… Two quotes come to mind:
“The secret of being a bore is to say everything” (Voltaire)
“He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know” (Lao Tsu)
I wonder if there is a polite way to drop these into conversation. Probably not. I know – I see the hypocrisy and realise I’m showing my own limitations with annoyance at self-proclaimed shamans and zen masters… But in spite of my own shortcomings and impatience with people, I heartily agree that these experiences are exceedingly valuable for pretty much everyone. Even though I might be wishing in my head that they’d go somewhere else so I could get back to my book, I do silently applaud anyone open to these experiences.
Anyways, moving on… I am always astounded at how many unbelievable things happen that I don’t really write about, probably mostly because my goldfish attention span is distracted by some other new magic. So please forgive this ‘dump’ of amazing things, but here goes…
First, where you can normally find me at 6am:
My Last Zaku Arumake Women’s Meeting:
This was a really special day for me as I finally finished my mochilla (and started a new one!). I felt accepted on a deeper level, having spent more time with the women, and was able to tell them how inspiring I found their work to be, and how much I had learned in making my mochilla with their help.They smiled at my efforts, noting that the finishing knots were much cleaner, “showing a cleaner mind” than when I started 5 months ago.
With the Mamo and Sara’s guidance I’ve learned how to offer some of my own knowledge to the circle, especially when it comes to health and basic nutrition. I brought some small essentials back from Bogota for the women – items they otherwise can’t afford, in addition to seeds and a very basic infographic I made to encourage women to grow and eat their own vegetables. Giving seeds is a very symbolic and profound gesture in Arhuaco culture, one that I am still learning to understand.
The girls and I found this 1.5m+ long snake tangled in some garden mesh. It is poisonous and quite dangerous but super beautiful. Here the Mamo is giving it the what-for in Ikan, telling it not to bother humans and to live on the other side of the garden. I shared how as a little girl I loved catching garder snakes and chasing boys around with them – an anecdote my zatis quite liked. This was only one of several in my last days.
Trip to the FundAmarIn School & Becoming a Mandarina:
We reached the school after driving for almost 3 hours on a “road”, which in most places was too narrow to pass oncoming traffic, so one of us would have to back up for a few hundred meters so the other could pass. It was an adventure as the road literally followed the edge of a cliff, but Lorenzo, expert driver and brother to the Mamo, was incredible. Twice we encountered other trucks stuck in the clay after torrential rains and had to get out to help them out or literally dig out banks of soil to widen the path so we could get around.
The school is one small classroom, built last year by the FundAmarIn Foundation (which I’m a part of). The kids range in age from 6 to 20 years old, and teaching is done in the traditional language of Ikan as well as Spanish. They are smart as anything and full of life. There is no real town here – all students live rurally and walk or run to school each day. Before it was built most kids didn’t receive any education as the closest school was a 4 hour walk (one way).
We had an amazing lunch of vegetables, served by abuelas, and hung out, took pictures, shared laughs. I brought suckers, pencils, erasers and combs for each child and took great joy in sharing these. Such small tokens, such big smiles. The term ‘mandarina’ is used to describe a second mother, like a godmother or a family friend. A great honour and great responsibility, I’ve been named the mandarina for the school.
The Great Bolo Feast:
Finally, on our last day together, we (the women and the blessed Gustavo) made bolo. Bolo, for the uninitiated, is a ball of maize that takes about 36 times longer to make than it does to eat. Together, 8 of us husked two hundred heads of corn, cut off the kernels with machetes, manually ground it to a pulp (thanks Gustavo ❤ ❤ <3), added a bit of salt and panela, then stuffed the concoction back into the husks and set all 110 bolos to boil in a giant pot on a fire outside in the dark. After 6 hours of preparation, we blissed out for the ten minutes it took to eat. Food is such a cool way to share with people and and now that I’m gone I like thinking that the energy and happiness I put into the process is in the leftovers with my zatis (though I am a bit jealous!).
And to finish on a sentimental note…
Writing all this brings on such feelings of gratitude and inspires me to say a big thank you to all of you who read this and who have supported me through this journey – even when I’ve dropped completely off the map into the heart of the world, I’ve still felt how much you look out for me. Thank you. I am probably only aware of a fraction of all the things I should be grateful to you for, but nonetheless it’s overwhelming. Love love love.
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