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!

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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.