Biocultural Regeneration

Dec 29, 2009

Yesterday we had our first seminar.  The learning experience is very different from the traditional college or university pedagogy.  Today we had two sessions.  The readings were about fair trade, Shamanism, biocultural regeneration, and other indigenous topics.

Last night we were visited by a youth group who performed an indigenous dance for us, with musicians, and then showed us a wrestling exercise.  The dress for both the women and the men was very colorful, meant to represent the colors of the forest.  One musician played both the flute and the drum at the same time.  I’m very glad that we have had the opportunity to meet and greet so many people from the community.

Before I continue I want to clarify a statement I made in my first journal entry.  Casa Sangapilla is not a resort by any means.  And if it was a resort it would be horrible.  But I was so shocked by the beauty and the natural elegance that I did not know how to express myself when I first sat down to write.

The energy of this place is incredible.  I feel much more aware of energy in general and I have had very interesting and challenging conversations with other students on the trip.  Our first Shamanic ritual is tonight.

The food is great.  I’ve tasted so many fruits and vegetables and all kinds of beans and rice.  The juice is fresh, made right here, and the coffee and chocolate put any brand from America to shame.

I wish I could describe the weather effectively.  It’s almost like being at the beach without the salt air.  Yes, it is warm and noon time is hot and the sun is brutal if you are exposed for long periods of time.  But the breeze is cooling and the shade is plentiful.  The smell from all the flowers and the cooking adds flavor.  The humidity has not been strong at all.  We have only had a sprinkling of rain, although we’ve been told that rain storms will certainly happen at some time.

Every morning I wake up to a gorgeous view of the Andes.  The mountains and the green is spectacular.  The plants and the trees are so unlike anything in the US.  Overall, it feels like I’ve been here for weeks.  I hope the time moves slowly; I have no desire to leave.

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Flights and First Night

Dec 27, 2009

I left Leominster at 3:00 pm on Saturday. I didn’t breathe fresh air until 12:00 noon on Sunday. It took three flights, several hours of layover, and a crazy cab ride to get to Center Sachamama, or Casa Sangapilla. Arriving at the final airport in Tarapoto I expected to step outside the plane onto a ramp that led straight to the airport. But when I rounded the corner I stepped on to a staircase that led right down to the tarmac. The fresh air was brilliant and the sun and the warmth made all of the flights and craziness worth while. Outside the airport, there was a slight confusion with the taxi service but it our professor sorted the issues.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no traffic rules in Peru, at least not in Tarapoto or Lamas. The taxi drivers are in a perpetual race with one another, competing with motorcycles, scooters, and pedestrians for their part of the road. It was like being inside Mario Cart. And it was awesome. The town of Lamas reminds me a lot of Rincon, Puerto Rico, where I was two years ago. There are lots of abandoned and dilapidated buildings, stray dogs, and misplaced trash. But the people are all very friendly, smiling, and numerous. I haven’t been downtown to the mestizo part of Lamas yet; we are going tomorrow.

Once off the taxi I stepped into a tropical paradise. Casa Sangapilla is gorgeous. It’s a Disney World resort, it’s a cabin in the woods, it’s a picture-perfect slice of solitude. The main house is beautiful and colorful, with a large balcony on the second floor, which my room looks out on. There are three hammocks hanging from the beams, the best place to sit. The floor and walls are made of clay and sandstone, painted with natural paint from the soil. I’m sharing the room with another girl. We have a good deal of space, nice beds, and some shelving. On the grounds are two separate dorm huts for the guys. There is also the dining tambo, a large pavilion with long tables and a kitchen. Then there is the guard’s house, an extra bathroom, a volley ball court, a giant stone oven, a chicken coop, a rabbit pen, a garden, lots of trees, and just pure natural beauty.

It’s amazing here and I can’t believe it will be our home for three weeks (almost). The food, both lunch and dinner, were amazing. The fruit is so fresh and flavorful. I’ve already eaten several things that I can’t name and have never tried before. We drink fresh fruit smoothies and great coffee. The staff on the casa are natives, many of them with university degrees. Obviously there is a lot of Spanish speaking, everywhere. Within our group of students only one of is fluent but we are all getting by. I tried to speak Spanish in the airport, didn’t work. I wish I brought my laptop.

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