Monday, 19 May 2014

Day 19 - Happy Mondays

Today all the guys here at Pie arranged to take the boat down to Lucerna, which is a very small community just down the river (people here often go down on a Sunday to play football/volleyball with them – Sunday Funday, as I’ve mentioned before!). Luix, one of the coordinators is keen to engage with the community there and especially the children. It was clearly very important to him; working with local people could greatly improve not only the way that people see the Amazon, but also the way that they treat the jungle too, so he invited everyone from Fauna Forever to come and help with the kids. Last night all the crew had a meeting explaining what was going to happen, and we were asked to try and practice our Spanish so that we could interact as much as possible with the kids – I sat from a distance watching the meeting go ahead, if I’m honest, I was feeling a little emotional that I wouldn’t be able to go, so distance was my armour.

As predicted, I was still poorly with my foot this morning, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go. I haven’t been able to do squat for days and I still couldn’t walk well on my foot, so I just let things slip now and try not to get upset about it. Just before leaving, Luix came up to me to ask if I was going, which was a clear NO, unfortunately. But he insisted that Chiki would be able to carry me to the boat and help me get around. Which again was a clear NO from me – I really, really, didn’t want someone to have to suffer because of me, the heat and humidity is enough let alone carrying a 57 kilo sack of potatoes too! I started to feel a little overwhelmed because I really did want to go, and I felt as if they thought I just wasn’t interested. For the first time, my emotions got the better of me and I could no longer hold in my frustration and sadness. Hayley and Katrin noticed, and assured me, along with Luix, that it is perfectly acceptable to be helped, and that they wanted me to come. I very soon caved in and allowed the guys to help me get there.

It felt so good to be out of the camp, the wind on my skin and blowing through my hair on the boat was just wonderful; I finally genuinely smiled to myself for the first time in days.
Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix up with the professor, and the children weren’t actually in school this morning. Vladi, the chef at Pie, managed to round up a few of the younger kids so that we could still do something with them so it wasn’t a waste of a journey. The school at Puerto Lucerna is a very simple wooden hut, it isn’t draped with maps and posters - it simply accommodates a couple of benches, tables and a white board. The school is still very young, a year old in fact, but the community itself is only young, they settled there around five years ago. The coordinators are very interested in helping develop the school and teach the children more about the animals and plants that surround them, about sustainability, conservation and how they can thrive in their environment while also caring for the Amazon.

Everyone from Fauna Forever introduced themselves to the children and said a little about what they are doing; with my pretty bad broken Spanish I said something along the lines of “My names Ffion, I’m a photographer and I love animals”. By now I can understand some Spanish, read a fair bit, and speak very little, but I’m trying. Juancarlos and Luix took charge of the class and once we told them about what we did and the work that Fauna Forever aim to achieve we played a game with the kids to fully engage with them. The game was fun, perfect for the kids, you have to be deadly serious and keep a straight face, while one player goes around pretending to be a cat, and the first one to laugh at the ‘cat’ then has to take their turn to be the cat. It was so wonderful to see the niƱos getting involved in the game and having fun – I think that this is really what conservation needs; teaching young children how important our forests, animals, and habitat is, they are the ones who hold the future in their hands. With a lot of hard work, and maybe even some luck, hopefully the next generation will have a better understanding of the rainforest and have the knowledge to allow it to grow and thrive alongside them without the need to destroy it for the rest of the worlds’ greed. Now, who will teach the rest of the world to not be greedy?

Once the game finished, we stopped off at the local shop for a few essential supplies like beer, cigarettes and cookies. Yes, all those things are essential, I can hear you tutting from here - you don't want to bump into an addict of cookies or cigarettes who hasn't had their daily dosage in the jungle, it's dangerous! Once our super important supplies were bought, the guys went to play volleyball. Unfortunately I couldn’t take part this time thanks to my shitty foot, but it was nice to have a cheeky cold beer in the heat watching them all getting sweaty.

On the way back to Pie, we went down a small entrance off the river; this is apparently where the guys here go fishing. Chiki is apparently an excellent fisherman too, and it’s one of his favourite spots. There was a huge tree fall in the middle of the stream/river, and we stopped here for a late lunch that Vladi had prepared and packed earlier that morning. Everyone went off exploring, and eventually ended up jumping into the river from the tree trunk.

Me being helped onto the boat by Chiki and a hand made stick, just for me.
Pedro contemplating the meaning of life; trees already have meaning 

Even though I couldn’t really join in, and no matter how tempted I was, jumping off trees and swimming probably wouldn’t have been the best idea for my foot, so I was sensible and stayed on the boat. Pedro, the botanist, was kind enough to bring back some leaflets and seeds to the boat to show me, I am endlessly impressed with his knowledge, and the different smells and details that seems so subtle to me, makes the world of difference to him. I was glad to have his company while the others blissfully played.

The difference between the way I was feeling this morning, and now, are like two polar-opposite worlds. Today would have been truly depressing being totally alone in the lodge all day while the others were out. Luix, Chiki and everyone’s kindness, yet again, has brought happiness and light through this cloud of darkness that had overcome me.