Entre dulces y amargos

In an age where even Wal-Mart is trying to sell cloth bags and organic fruit, U.S. society advertises that it is “going green.” Unfortunately, we continue to find new places to drill in the Amazon.My last essay, “Entre dulces y amargos” or, essentially, bittersweet focused on my recent trip to Yachana Lodge in the oriente/Amazon Jungle of Ecuador. I saw the sweetness and beauty of the Amazon, but also experienced the bitter fact that we are destroying it.According to its brochure, Yachana Lodge is “an award winning eco-tourism destination that inspires thousands of international and Ecuadorian visitors each year. ‘Yachana’ is an indigenous Quichua word that means ‘A place for learning’, which is an important part of our philosophy.’” (see www.yachana.com)Of course, this comes from a brochure intended to market Yachana Lodge, but in many ways, I think it lives up to its description. Although we were only there for two full days, my time at Yachana was full of activities that interested, entertained and challenged me. Here a brief glimpse of my weekend:Friday: VIP plane ride to Coca; a three hour boat ride to Yachana during which I conversed with Juan, our indigenous guide, who has worked at Yachana for 20 years, knows 6 languages and has given lectures about sustainable tourism in far more of the United States and Europe than I can ever hope to see; an amazing lunch (our first introduction to chocolate from Yachana’s Amazonian cacao); settled in our rooms (hammocks outside overlook the Napo River); and ate more (I will try to refrain from mentioning more about the food. But, when Yachana advertises gourmet meals, they mean it.)Saturday: Hike through the Amazon jungle (saw animals, insects and were shown how to make a basket and water carrier from gigantic leaves); visit local couple mining for gold (it was a little uncomfortable to watch, in many respects I still feel like I’m “purchasing” or exploiting their lives and culture); floated down river in life jackets; ended the day with a night hike surrounded by the symphony of the jungle.Sunday: went bird watching; visited Yachana’s College/technical school that works to educate the next generation of indigenous students about ecotourism and sustainability; visited the house of a curandero (healer) where, again, I felt uncomfortable for many reasons; practiced using blowguns and throwing lanzas; ate roasted larva (some ate them alive) that tasted like bacon; saw sunset over Napo River; and heard Juan’s speech. That’s where I will end with the summary which, unfortunately, wasn’t so brief or interesting–my apologies. Juan’s speech is really what I would like to focus this entry on anyway. At our last meal he thanked us for being guests at Yachana Lodge, but also set a challenge before us. He talked about the reality of global warming, that things are going to come to a head during our lifetimes. Juan said that Yachana Lodge is doing what little it can, but that we all need to help. We, our generation, has to make changes now if we can hope to sustain this planet.That may sound like a Lion King “circle of life” type speech, but to us, it was a real challenge. When you see and hear the beauty of the Amazon Jungle and then look at the petroleum companies that continue to clear out lumber to meet our world’s endless thirst for oil, well, it personalizes the problem.It’s easy to drive a car in the U.S. and complain about gas prices, but when you see what the oil companies (the majority of which are from the U.S.) are destroying, it makes you want to change something. Unfortunately, it is likely that I will soon forget this desire and the beauty of the Amazon. I want to be environmentally responsible, but it’s so easy not to be. That’s where the whole idea of bitter-sweetness comes in. I’ve seen so much beauty and goodness in the Amazon, but I realize that what I experienced is ever-increasingly deteriorating. And I’m part of the problem.Maya-I’m-sorry-for-dominating-this-blog-space-Kehr