On Thursday, May 23rd we started our adventure into the Amazon Rainforest bright and early. We were off for an adventure from the get-go because our bus literally caught in fire just as we were pulling up to the port to head to our first destination. It was frightening experiencing this at the time. Many students, and to my dismay- GUIDE- downplayed the whole issue, trying to make it seem like it was not that big of a deal. I am thankful that everyone was able to get off the bus and away before anything could happen.
We then got split up onto two incredibly small boats and road on the Rio Negro for about an hour, where we got off at a really small village. We were fed a traditional breakfast, and then taken on a small hike where we were brought into a traditional hut made of banana leaves and logs. We were greeted by the leader who welcomed us, and started the ceremony that blessed us on our journey in the Amazon. I was astounded by the men, women, children and babies in their traditional indigenous dress using instruments that they made themselves- singing in song and dance for the purpose of making us feel like a part of their family and community. This is one of the moments on the trip that I will remember for the rest of my life. This pure genuineness impressed my heart, and makes me want to be even more welcoming and understanding of others that come into my community.
After the ceremony we were brought back up to the village where we were given a feast of wonderful fish, chicken and rice. We then got back into the boats and were taken to our next stop where we started our 3 hour hike in the forest to reach the two different families that we would be staying at overnight. I ended up staying with the faculty and two other students with a mom, her daughter and grandma in her house. We were welcomed with open arms and given so much food and countless smiles. Even through our many attempts at broken translation, I knew that they family was happy we were able to join them, and I was happy to be staying at this completely awesome, functional home in the middle of the Amazon.
That night I slept in a hammock outside on the porch with two other students and 1 faculty member. When I woke up in the morning I was relieved to have survived the night in the middle of the Amazon, and happy to be hiking out of the forest on our way back into Manaus.
I have to say that this had to have been one of the most impactful experiences from the whole trip. I think in my mind I had this grandiose image of what the Amazon would be, and in all honesty- it was rainforest. Granted, there were amazing animals and plants there, but it was not anywhere as lush and overgrown as I thought it would be. As I was riding back on the boat I kept thinking about how even in the middle of a remote, yet mildly accessible rainforest, there are entire families that live their day to day life and are completely content and happy with their way of life. There are communities that now how to survive, and are able to just like I am in Pullman, WA.
I almost feel like now I am more apt to continue my interest in water justice and building awareness around these issues because I have been there. I have been there, and I know in the bottom of my heart that people 3,000 miles away from me are living their lives like they know how, and should be. Their livelihoods and wellbeing depend upon the land just like mine does in a different way. I am so happy that I was able to meet that family on a more personal level, and leave the rainforest with my assumptions completely shattered. I am aware now, and I want to help others grow in their awareness as well.