leaving a place, once again Monday, May 25 2009 

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

doin´that thang Thursday, May 21 2009 

hello everybody!

I´m closing up my time in Bolivia. how unfortunate! Bolivia is a GREAT place. I love it here. I head to Lima this weekend i think, and I might take a flight to Medellin if I can afford it. I want to go up to the north of Colombia as quickly as possible so I can get my diving license.

So what IS NEW with me? I got egged today because it is my birthday. That was cool, except I don´t have any soap or shampoo because they were stolen, so I have little elastic bits of egg white all over me. I guess one has  to be egged SOME time in their life, though. My ocelot is in heat again. She is very affectionate and temperamental. I awoke her from her hours-long nap in the sun the other day because I was flanked by mosquitoes on all sides, and she attacked! but it´s all good, because she´s pretty small and she only bruised me badly.

OH, by the way, ABC filmed a Nightline special at Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi while I was there. It will air sometime in the next couple of weeks; they´re trying to make the park seem like a tourist attraction for adrenalin junkies, which it is not. They might have me on tape singing a song to my cat, but I have no idea.

I CANT WAIT TO GO RELAX ON THE BEACH! I am exhausted from life in the jungle. Today I carried a huge bag of bricks for a mile through knee-deep mud and water, no hands free to kill all the mosquitoes that were gladly and selfishly sucking my blood! I am so pooped.

My brain is fried. I´m gonna have to fill this in at a later date, because I can´t think of anything interesting to say.

i love all of you,

caroline

greetings earthlings Saturday, May 16 2009 

hello

I am in an internet café in guarayos, bolivia at the moment. for about two weeks now i´ve been taking care of an obese ocelot named Lazy Cat. We burn lard every morning on a jungle trail. EXCEPT, it´s not so sweet now because the other day she shat out 3 intestinal parasites! I do not want these in mah belly. So I´m not giving her so much love! 😦 All day I am bored out of my mind without a cat to play with, and there are too many mosquitos to ever be sitting still, so I can´t read or write. Usually I go exploring the jungle, trying to climb trees only to discover many varieties of stinging ants. I like chopping lots of things with my machete, singing Beatles songs to my cat, trying to sing the guitar solos. I pass hours and hours following huge lines of thousands of marching ants, trying to figure out what they are doing. I think they just march because they don´t know what else to do!

Yesterday I had a good day, 8 hours straight of bordome yielded one long, brilliant green poisonous snake, and an ant war. (giant black one with huge-ass pincers versus quick stinging red ant, it was a draw). Another let-down (or not?!!) is that there is a huge wild male jaguar roaming around camp. For three days in a row now I´ve heard him grunting (it’s this sort of deep, infrasonic, mighty, guttural noise) about 50 yards away from me, somewhere in the forest. Too bad they have perfect camouflage and are quiet as hell when they stalk things! otherwise I would have more peace of mind while I am off exploring the jungle. So basically I just stay in one place, near my cat´s cage, because my soft human flesh is surely delicious.

Also- a giant fire ant was latched on to my cat´s leash, so i chopped its stinging body off from its head so that it wouldn´t get us: the body stayed alive for 2 hours, stinging MADLY away at the air, the ground, anything really. In a social experiment of sorts I put the headless body in the middle of the marching line of ants to see how they would react. Some tried to eat it, others tried to help it, but in the end they just altered their path slightly so they could avoid this unpleasant distraction to their hard work. How telling!

AND! the birds! I love them! there are a ton of parrots on camp. They are so intelligent. I sing to them every morning and they are such a good audience. They all gather in one corner right next to me and start dancing, which means the move their little feathery bodies up and down to the beat of the song. It´s really cute. The macaws are the biggest fans of singing. They´re so smart! Whenever I am walking towards them, I can hear them practicing language together- Hola! What´s up! Hello! Cool! Yo! Nooken in the Cooken! (sex in the kitchen in Dutch) and then when they realize that I´m passing, they stop talking and start screeching inarticulately. It´s so hilarious! this happens without fail every day. They speak with each other perfectly in various languages, and then when there are people in sight, they feign stupidity. I think they are secretly plotting a total human takeover.

PS: sorry about the lack of photos, I promise I will put them on the internet somehow, even though I am returning home very soon. I just can´t find a good way to do it, and I´m never on the internet!

Çómíng home June 10th

-Have had only one shower a week since March 12th

-I need to get to Barranquilla, Colombia by the end of may, but flights from Lima to Colombia are all several hundred dollars. I may have to travel by bus for one week without stopping, which will SUCK big time!

LOVE TO ALL

bye

life in the jungle Saturday, May 9 2009 

so, i´ve been staying in a cabin in the middle of the jungle here in bolivia for a week now. I was working with a BEAUTIFUL ocelot named vanesso, but he hated my guts! he would full-force attack me and try to end my life all the time. So the switched me with this other girl, and now i´m working with an obese, affetctionate ocelot named lazycat. She´s in heat, and she´s so exhaustingly horny all the time that she won´t walk more than 3 meters without resting for 10 minutes. Apparently my old ocelot really loves the new volunteer. I wonder why he didn´t like me?

Life here is tiring! it´s emotionally frustrating to work with these cats. we get up at dawn every morning and go to bed late after many games of chess or cards.  AND, there are  SO MANY different kinds of cool bugs to look at! All the time you see ants of all different shapes and sizes organizing themselves or building something incredible. They have such civil societies! On my walks with my cat I have seen butterflies with clear wings, insects that look exactly like leaves and twigs, and all sorts of different kinds of mosquitos. I´m bitten all over, but apparently during the wet season there is a record of a man slapping his arm and killing 40 mosquitoes in one go! damn!

There are tarantulas everywhere! two nights ago I had one in my bed, under my mosquito net with me while I was sleeping. I also saw one the size of a man´s hand with the fingers crawling around my bed. They are really nice creatures, though. They won´t hurt me.

SO MANY MONKEYS! every day I see at least 15 on my walks with my cat. Capuchin monkeys follow me and my cat everywhere, singnaling warnings to their family and sometimes making weapons to throw at us. There are really cute tiny little spider monkeys too. The best monkey, though, is Marocha the spider monkey who lives on camp with us. She spends her entire day being a bully. She chases wild pigs around and pulls out their legs so they fall over, and steals candy from the kitchen and gets high on sugar. She´s so cute and really manipulative!

The wild pigs are supposed to be the most dangerous animals in the jungle. A pack of wild pigs can kill a jaguar. They´re really vicious.

What else should I tell you? EVERYONE here has some sort of gross health issue. Most people working with the jaguars have jungle fungus that goes all over their feet and up to their knees. One girl got Bora-Bora, which is when you make the mistake of wearing wet clothing (impossible to avoid this) and then somehow a week or two later a caterpillar hatches out of your skin. I do not want to get Bora-Bora.

For fun people go to the next town and listen to the minimal selection of songs on the juke box, which is pretty much limited to reggaeton, 90s hits, and michael jackson. we also drink terrible alcohol, suc/h as potable, which is rubbing alcohol that is safe to drink (hence it´s name, which means ´drinkable.´) This is 190 proof straight alcohol that practically turns to gas when it hits your tongue. It doesn´t even feel like you´re drinking anything! It´s a strange sensation. I don´t get obscenely drunk down here, though, because it´s money that I´ll never see again that I need for further traveling.

I miss you guys! I have to go get cash from the western union. I will see you soon. My birthday´s coming up! I will have survived against all odds for 19 years on the 21st.

have a american springtime, i can´t believe i´m missing it

caroline

ps. happy mother´s day to my MOM! I love you mom! you´re the best!

HEY YOU Monday, May 4 2009 

Hey people of the world, I´m gonna be without access to internet for the next few weeks while I work with animals at Comunidad Inti Yara Wassi. They were psyched that I came because there is an ocelot named vanesso who hates men  and needs a friend. I felt gypped at first because I think huge animals are much sweeter, but then I said to myself, SELF: what are you complaining about? life is good!

i´ll see you guys later!

caroline

Don Pancho Sunday, Mar 29 2009 

Hey everyone, just here in Leticia, Colombia givin a shout out to mah MAIN man,

Don Pancho

…Don Pancho.

I love this man so much! I figured that I should do a little blog ´special post´for him because he is THE best. I chopped wood with him all day on Friday, and I am still feeling it this morning! I´m gonna be ripped, i tell you! He cut the tree down in less than 3 minutes! This man is great. I dont have any time left so ill talk more about him later.

lovin´u

bye

c

COMIN´ TO FILL YOU IN, PALM SUNDAY 2009

CUSCO, PERU

Now that I have more time,  I can update you about my life in the Amazon.

Life in the Amazon is slow and lazy. Everything that people need to survive sits around at such abundance that it literally rots on the ground. The colors of the people and the places match the jungle perfectly. I love the red clay roads the most because it feels gross between my toes.

The humidity is stifling, but the fat, heavy rain makes it all worthwhile! The sky can go from clear blue to looming grey in a matter of minutes. On my last day in the jungle the biggest rainstorm came- and I sprinted down through the neighboring forest down a dirt path, trying to find somewhere to swim. I ended up finding 20 kids jumping off of this tree in to a pond, and so I joined them to try to prove that girls aren´t wimps (I´ve noticed all the guys down here think girls are wimps!). It was really fun trying to make myself relive the explosive joy that only little kids have when they can play in the rain.

Last Saturday I took ayahuasca with the Shaman and his wife and many of his family and friends. I was afraid at first, but when I walked in to the ceremonial hut and saw that there were smiling faces of every kind of person, I was really at ease- even the wee babes partook in the ceremony!

Taking ayahuasca was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. The ceremony, more than anything else, shook me to my core. I felt so incredibly blessed to be able to take part in a sacred ancient ritual. The songs and the knowledge of healing has been passed down from father to first son for hundreds of generations.

Before I drank the ayahuasca, the shaman went around to each of the women and puffed the smoke from his tobacco pipe on to the crown of our heads. He then patted us down our torsos and across our shoulders with a bundle of delicious-smelling leaves.

The ayahuasca was very strong tasting, kind of bitter and a little bit spicy in a strange way, and sour. It made me feel a little overwhelmed at first;  but then I started to feel really alive, and I became aware of how greatful I was that I have blood pumping through my veins. This was the first time I could feel the ayahuasca working on my mind. My limbs felt electric and I could feel every vein pulse with blood.

The shaman and his wife sang a song together that is thousands of years old, and then the rest of the ayahusaca maestros  joined in, beating on the ground lightly with the same bundle of sweet-smelling leaves. The music was so beautiful, at once  full of lament and gratitude. The songs welcomed in to the ceremonial hut the various sacred spirits of the Amazon rainforest, the spirit of the warm and yielding earth, and the healing spirit of ayahuasca.

They sang for hours as each of the people in the room descended in meditation to their innermost struggles or ascended in to a spiritul, ecstatic state where some people say that they sit in God´s lap. An old man, one of the maestros, was speaking in tongues for a couple of hours when one of these spirits entered his body.  The Shaman team surrounded him and gave him special healing after, to let the spirit leave his body.

When I was tripping, although it did not have that many typical hallucinogenic effects on my mind, I experienced all different kinds of emotions in their pure extremes- joy, respect, disgust, frustration, sadness, love, fear and loneliness.  My mind ran a million miles per hour, and I felt peace that I was able to cry about all of the things that make me happy and sad, because I have struggled so much to feel emotion lately.

I felt like a child, free and content, and I felt like I didn´t even recognize my own hands, my face, my legs- my body was completely new to me.

I then had to go outside and make myself throw up, because everybody else was throwing up, and I felt that it would feel good and relieving to do so. I was surprised to feel like I was in some magical realm where my footsteps were so free and easy and light, and everything around me was so beautiful and alive. This made me feel so sad that a lot of the time I forget how beautiful and fragile our earth is.

I had countless thoughts and revelations during the four or so hours of the ceremony, that I could never write them all here for fear of creating a massive blog post. I also  don´t want to devalue this incredible spiritual experience by clinically exposing it on the internet.

I think I will take ayahuasca again. It is a powerful medicine, and stories of its powers make it sound like some mythical cure-all. A woman given two months to live after her breast cancer had spread to her lungs has been living healthfully with a shaman for a year now;  the cancer in her lungs is completely gone and the tumor in her breast has deteriorated from the size of a small apple to the size of a penny. Another man had a skin disease that hadn´t been healed for 13 years, and he was completely freed from his condition in two weeks. There are countless stories, too many to relate here, about ayahuasca´s ability to heal.

If there is one thing that I have learned by staying in the jungle, it is that mystery is everywhere in the world. My mind wrestles with this, and I constantly  struggle to wrap logic around our existence- but to no avail! The universe is infinite and beautiful,  and the nature of life and death are equally incomprehensible to us;  and that´s what pisses me off most and what makes me incredibly happy about being alive.

OH mah lowdy lord i have so much to say, but I don´t have the time to write it all down! Wednesday, Mar 25 2009 

So, since I last updated everybody a lot has happened.

In Iquitos, after using the internet cafe, Johanna and I went to an animal rescue place in the middle of an island in the Amazon River. It was started by an Austrain woman who really liked butterflies and wanted to protect them. There I got to see a lot of the butterflies that make the Amazon famous– but that’s not the cool part of this story. The funny thing is that we always had to watch our backs because SNEAKY monkeys were always trying to rob us.

The monkeys had been raised by street children to rob everybody they see. A monkey named Toni stole a 5 soles coin from me and put it in his mouth. he also took my dads old lens cover, but thankfully he didnt think that it was that cool. I also saw a jaguar named Pedro, kept in a cage way too little for him. They said that they would release him to the wild soon.

BUT, my favorite of all was lucas the Tapir.

Lucas the Tapir getting a belly rub

Lucas the Tapir getting a belly rub!

After a long day of seeing all sorts of cute animals, Johanna and I boarded the boat to Santa Rosa.

The boat was really cheap, and we were able to give our hammock to an old man who was going to sleep on the floor, which felt really good.

===

SO: We arrived in Santa Rosa, and the first step i took out of the boat i fell knee deep in to mud, to the great excitement of all the locals. It was really funny trying to get out of the mud, and that made me happy. We had a couple of really huge, cold beers to celebrate our arrival. Theres nothing better than a cold beer when your slowly traveling through the amazon, which has not one cold thing about it. We took a boat to Tabatinga, Brazil, and, as it was too dark to find the shamans house, we stayed in a hostel. The hostel owners taught us how to make traditional amazon drink with cachaza (fermented sugar cane) and lots of lemons.We played cards with them all night and dominated the competition.

The next day, after finding out that the owners of the hostel had paid for johannas share of the room (people here LOVE here blue eyes) we set out to find the shaman. After a hazardous 20 minute ride on a motorcycle, we arrived at a small gate. Turning around, I saw an old man carrying 20 fish and a lot of groceries smile and give me a thumbs up.

It turns out that he is the shaman, Seu Pancho. He speaks a little Spanish, but mostly Portuguese. Most of the time we understand each other by smiling (I cant help smiling when I see him!) and giving each other thumbs up, of which he is so fond. I found out that He is 99 years old, which I could NOT believe. He walks hours every day to the market to buy food for his family, and chops and carries wood all day long without effort! I congratulated his strength and health, and shook his hand after I found out that he has over 80 grandchildren, all of which he loves and spends a lot of time with. He is a hero all around town, and it seems like he gives a nod, a smile and a thumbs up to every other person he sees.

He met his wife when she was 13 and he was 19 (according to him) or 25 (according to her) and they got married within months. Theyve been married for 70 years now. The math of their stories is hazy, but its all the same.

All around their property are fallen fruits and little animals. There is a tiny baby pig who runs around adventuring with tiny baby kittens. There are a couple of really cocky rooters.ha. and a couple of hens/vigilantes with their little baby chicks. Its really a paradise, minus the MOSQUITO OVERLOAD! But thats alright with me, it builds character. I dont have any mosquito repellent but I dont really think it makes a difference.

I am staying in a grass hut on the edge of their property in a hammock. In this grass hut is a 41 year old, really really nice and quiet black guy from the northern coast of brazil. Hes been travelling endlessly for the past 25 years of his life, working a little in every town to pay for his food and his other expenses. He is SO TALENTED. It made me smile to jam with him as he was playing (masterfully, which is really hard to achieve!) the Berimbau . It was the best music I have heard in a LONG time, and it really fed my soul. He is a capoeira master, even though he cant walk on one leg because of a soccer accident when he was little. He also has perfect pitch and can mimic all the sounds of each rainforest animal at night.

Speaking of music, every night here I make myself fall asleep by picking out all the different sounds of the rainforest! There are so many different things to be heard: differences between males and females, mammals, insects, etc.

i only have 2 minutes left on my computer

BYE

oh babay Saturday, Mar 14 2009 

Hey everybody!

I know what you guys are thinking- where the F are the pictures!? Well, that’s too bad you’re just going to have to suck it up until I have some. I haven’t been carrying around my camera because Ulises tells me people are robbed all the time in exactly the places that I always happen to be, so I decided I should leave my camera home for the meantime. I started my day playing chess with ulises- i think we were pretty evenly matched. We then took a bus for 20 minutes to the center of lima which cost only 30 cents in usa money. Me and this german chick Johanna just decided spontaneously that instead of leaving for Ica and Huacachina tomorrow, as I had planned, we are going to take a 6 day trip into the rainforest. (6 days covers the commute there). Its a 24 hour bus ride, and then 6 days living on a rickety old boat floating down the amazon river. When we arrive at our destination, a tiny town on the border of brazil and colombia, we will live with a shaman named sao pancho for a couple of days, and then we will return to civilization.

basically, I probably won’t have access to internet for a while, though i will try to keep as in-touch as possible. If you’re sad because I wont be around to write, just think about all of the SWEET amazon rainforest pics I’m going to send home!

keep the faith

caroline

ps. what does keep the faith even mean? for some reason i felt like writing that