Off To Rupinuni
Man, where do I begin? Internet access is sketchy and I don’t have a lot of time. So I’m frantically getting this blog post done off-line and will upload it in a bit. Adam and I are heading to Rupinuni in a few hours to enjoy some time in the bush. Rupinuni is a region on the Brazilian border, famous for its untamed jungle wilderness and beautiful savannah and mountains. We’re flying in a tiny bush plane and will arrive in time for a mountain hike. The highlight will be a walk through rope bridges strung in the high canopy of the rain forest, and the evening spent camping on the forest floor. I’ll be out of touch until we return Wednesday night, so you’ll have to put up without me until then!
Yesterday, we took a motorboat boat to Santa Mission, a protected aboriginal village of about 400 people, nestled in the fringes of jungle. It was a marvelous journey, during with we encountered natives in dug-out canoes and other river-borne commuters along these staggeringly gorgeous waterways. Along the way, we saw cappucin monkeys, pukka (sp?) owls, hawks, vultures, toucans and many assortments of colourful insects and eerie, horrorshow trees.
The highlight was the visit to the village itself, complete with fascinating vegetation, adorable aboriginal children and the local moonshiners making cassava wine for us. In the old days, the fermentation process was acceleated by the addition of salivary amylase (i.e., they would spit into the brew), but luckily not anymore. It tastes pretty damn good, by the way.
The most memorable part of the experience, though, was the nice swim we had in the river upon which the village sits. While all the residents gathered for a “town meeting” under a thatched roof, we pointless tourists stripped down and poured ourselves into the black water. Why was it black, you ask? Most claim it’s because of the tea-like forest leaves dipping into the river, releasing anti-oxidant tannins. In other words, we were swimming in strong, iced tea. I’ll let you know if any medical miracles befall me, like my foreskin growing back.
It wasn’t till later that our infectious disease doctor revealed that the water is probably infested with shistosomiasis. Great. Thanks for the warning….not.
Today was the searing hot day I chose to visit my familial village, Windsor Forest, dragging Adam across the floating bridge and through the various agricultural villages en route from Georgetown. He was greeted, of course, with various goodnatured catcalls of, “Hey, whiteboy!” to which Adam would respond by openly wondering why they were calling ME white.
Now, you must understand that my immediate family left this village almost 40 years ago. I still had close relatives there 26 years ago when I returned to spend a marvelous summer there. And when I went back 2 years ago, I remembered nothing and could only find one old man who recognized my name. Today, even the old man was gone. While I’m sure everyone there is related to me in some way, we remain as strangers, with no mutual recognition of our histories or sameness.
While this is in some ways a sad revelation, it is the way of the world, wherein change is the only constant. I took some time to contemplate the rice fields, where generations of my forebears would have spent the entirety of their lives working and dying, and where I too might have exhausted my energies, never having known the world. It was painfully beautiful and serene, with a terrible stillness that was nonetheless menacing with the history of hard labour it had absorbed.
And while sylvan beauty is the predominant tone of the place, I took time to photograph the empty pop cans and styrofoam cups that now cluster about the trunks of neem trees, to be fruitlessly gnawed upon by mangy goats and kicked by children dressed in the finest American castaway clothes. This is what some might call poignant closure.