"MY FAVOURITE THING ABOUT THE EARTH" - Final Reflections from Rio Blanco


I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning.  What have I picked up? More than I can say, but it’s the little things I want to get down here – the things I’ve noticed, or people have said that might come in useful in my book but I’ll forget them if I don’t record them.  The big things will look after themselves, but will I remember, for example, that being on admin includes storing rubbish in bags up trees and putting ash on the loos? Maybe that’s just an insignificant detail, but maybe it’ll be useful.  Or will I remember that some people here have told me that in their efforts to do a good job they’ve pushed themselves to such levels of intensity that they’ve ended up having out-of-body experiences - literally seeing themselves ahead of themselves walking up the hill? Or will I remember what they’ve told me about their jungle training – the week they had to go through before being let loose in Chiquibul, culminating in a night spent sleeping alone in the jungle, collecting water, making fire and cooking for themselves?

Somebody said to me today that the jungle was their ‘favourite thing about the earth’.  What perfectly placed words.

Somebody else talked about there being two worlds, old and new, mirrors of each other, the old world, they said, encompassing the East - China, Malaysia, India, etc., and the new world the Americas, and there being interesting parallels between them - toucans in one, for example, hornbills in the other, pythons in one, boas in the other, tapirs in one, manatees in the other etc.

Somebody else talked to me about what they’d got out of the buddy-system.  This is the system the team operates pairing everybody in twos, and nobody going anywhere without their buddy knowing it/being close at hand.  It’s done as a safety measure, but it has other effects too according to the person who was talking to me about it. The world is a different place when you know there’s somebody looking out for you. And it’s different when there’s somebody whose well-being depends on you.

Somebody else said to me that the question ‘Who am I?’ hits her sometimes when she looks around at the strange new world which has become their home.  Here she is, her and her body getting down to essentials, doing things she never thought she’d be able to.  Small things matter in ways they didn’t before.  You notice a leaf in your mess tin.  An insect on the ground.  Your attitude to insects has changed.  Once you might have squashed that insect.  Now you think it’s a cool bug.  Food, too.  Once you’d have thought the food you’re eating looks – and is – disgusting.  Now you know it’s good.

‘There’s the same level of richness here, living in the jungle, as there is at home with everything I have there,’ somebody says.  ‘All the things that matter are here.  We’re not slumming it, you know. Our lives are good.’

Reader Comments (1)

Good post - thanks for not forgetting those little things!

June 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterand21

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