On Leaving

I am sitting on a river boat, sun at my back, heading down the rio Ucayali toward Pucallpa. We have cut our stay a bit short for reasons of travel and comfort. My legs speckled with red itchy spotys remind me of my childhood episode of chicken poxs, thought slightly less itchy. The bugs despite coatings of deet, natural oils and retreats to our mosquito net at the first sign of them, have gotten to us. Natali and I have had our fill of the bitting insects. A combination of that and the restless nights on bare floorboards and rustling rats made the decision to leave early to avoid traveling on the busy and dangerous peruvian independence day a no brainer.

Reflecting on the two and a half weeks, I have much to ponder. How different yet similar the shipibo culture is. Little boys can be just as obnoxious. little girls just as cute and rambunctious. Fathers just as stoic and mothers just as carring. Yet despite unyeilding hospitality one would be hard pressed to find conversational niceities as you might in the US. For brief example, Bernardo who, without informing us, was vacant for half of our stay, payed little attention to us as we showered their family this morning with praise and thanks and even a genrous cash gift, yet no emotion or response. One might think that they didn´t care we were leaving, and infact bertha barely lifted a brow yesterday at breakfast when we told her of our premature departure. The children told us they were triste(sad) yet blank faces save a quick wave sent us on our way this morning.

This contradictory attitude seemed trancendent throughout the experience there. From our shocked faces when nearly every shipibo on the boat ride to the village blatantly littered in the river with bottles, bags, and the like. This coupled with grandpa´s conversations about terra madre and the spirituality of plants and our connection to nature makes the idea of littering completely ridiculous, and yet it occurs. I imagine it could only be because of the clash I have spoken of.

And still despite their very different conversational styles and confusion regarding the preservation of nature, I did certainly learn something here which I am sure will only come to fruition upon my return and may continue well into my adulthood. From theiry simplicity, their demenor and they way they welcome us, I am already beginning to understand the diversity of peoples and cultures in a new way.

The more I learn, the more I read, the more I open my heart and mind, the persistence of the unknown becomes more and more relevent. As a philosophy professor once said to me, “If your not ok with the fact that you might not find the answer, then you should probably switch majors…” And this great wisdom is seen once again in reflection of my stay. They are different, and fine as that may be, and no matter how long ponder, I will never know what it is to BE them. I will never know what it is like to be a boy growing up in the jungle, visiting with gringos and eating plantanos and rice every day. We will never known how Bertha feels to be a subservient wife of Jefe. We will never really know how our actions here will effect their future. Whether we should be there or not, wear raincoats or not, or even teach english or not. Indeed my life has been a collection of instances inspired, nutured, torrmented and love by both random and known individuals, contributing to my existence through happiness and suffering. For we learn from the good and the bad, and as it seems we may never know the consequences of our Being.

One Response to “On Leaving”
  1. Chris's MOM says:

    Nice thoughts,A jedi soon you will be!!!!!

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