It always seems that once I start calling a place home, I have to leave! I had to force myself to leave Parque Ambue Ari the other day. My love for that place is all about the cockroach-infested hay mattresses, the 2 pieces of bread I get for breakfest, freezing cold showers after sweating in the rainforest all day, waking up at sunrise to birds and monkeys all around my cabin and the late nights with candles spent playing Israeli card games. I love it ALL! Life is exhausting, but so deliciously good in its exhaustion.

A couple of days ago I got to spend some time with puma triplets. Pumas are the most athletic big cats of the Americas. They have the perfect tail for balance, and so they are very graceful when they run incredibly fast or jump great distances. These puma triplets were rescued from a market in the Bolivian altiplano. They were raised by humans from the time they were little babies, so they are very affectionate. I can´t believe I was so blessed that I had the opportunity to cuddle with a 60 kilo puma sitting on my lap. They were in heat, so they were screaming all day at the top of their lungs and all they wanted was love from me.

On my last day at work I got to walk a jaguar named Amira through the forest! Amira is a baby jag, one and a half years old, that was rescued from a wealthy Lebanese family who were involved with drug trafficking in Bolivia. Nothing could have prepared me for how incredibly striking she is! I turned a corner on the path through the woods and seeing her took my breath away. I can´t believe how incredibly beautiful she is. Amira  is about 70 kilos, hugely powerful and muscular, but a huge sucker for a belly rub. She´s a lover, not a fighter! All day she lazily groomed me with her spikey tongue and nuzzled my side. Amira is also the only cat at the park that swims underwater.  She has really endearing antics- when she first decides to get in the water, she is uneasy about getting her paws wet and tests the temperature like a baby. Once she´s in, she tumbles around and somersaults with joy. There is a wooden raft in the lagoon with her that she´s really afraid of for no reason. She swims a huge circle around it, looking at it fearfully,  just to get out of the water.

Hilarious thing about jaguars- did you know that after jaguars poop, they sprint and jump out of the forest? Nobody can explain why, but all jags do it. It´s hilarious, and when Amira sprints,  she carries she drags two men behind her attached to a rope.

I hiked a tiny mountain two nights ago to get a good view of the surrounding forest. I saw an incredibly lush explosion of green living things, but I also saw terrible things. The park in which I was working is a small oasis of protected forest. the rest is up for grabs for ground-burning farmers and clear cutting. Every year the forest around here is less and less, and nobody with any real power does anything about it. The only people protecting the land are the small social entrepreneurs who work years and years to secure a small piece of land to protect. It´s a terrible situation. There is good money in the clear-cutting business, and much demand from western countries to buy the fine woods that are found here.

I was hitch hiking the other day with two men who worked in the clear-cutting business. You really can´t hate these guys, because they are really hard workers and really love their land. They just don´t have time to think about conservation. An 18 wheeler completely full of planks of wood passed, and I asked them how many trees they needed to cut down to produce one bus load of wood. They said that they needed to cut 24 trees, a meter in diameter, to produce that much. They are cutting the oldest trees in the forest, and in the place of these trees, banana leaves grow like weeds all over the place! The wood industry is not sustainable, and it´s getting worse every year as demand from the United States increases. Much of the furniture that we buy in common stores in the United States sells wood that is either illegally or legally cut down in the jungles of South America. To everybody- please make sure that you know where your wood is coming from. It´s such a shame to sit by the side of a south american highway and see huge trucks full of ancient, 8-feet-in-diameter trees speeding down at all hours. It´s really, really a shame.

Anyways, I´m really sad to leave, and I reccommend this place to ANYONE who wants to really experience the jungle. This is a spectacular landscape, and I wouldn´t have done it any other way. I am in Villa Tunari right now, on a wild goose chase for a letter that my family sent me. Looks like it´s not here! oh well. I´m off to La Paz hopefully tomorrow, and after that, Lima. I think I´m gonna be flying to Colombia, I have an (unfortunately) EXTREMELY short stay there. Everyone I have met in my travels says that Colombia is way way better than all the countries they´ve ever been to. I guess I´m gonna have to come back!

something to contemplate

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTE-b6aRKTE

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