Dressing Up for the Tourists

img_2304
The villagers wait to perform at my “village” resort in the jungle.

Having been to many tourist destinations, I often think about the theater that goes on for my benefit. Nowhere is it more apparent than in places where the “natives” dress up in tradition costume for tourists. I don’t have any deep thoughts about this but it’s just something I notice. And makes me think of words like “experiential” and “interactive” — nothing deeper than that.

img_2176
A non-performing child suffering from the heat while in “daycare” on the bench.

These thoughts occur to me quite a bit when I look through my photos. One place where it was evident was in the Amazon when we were transported for a “visit to an indigenous village” I felt this most acutely. No one lived in the village as the “natives” all lived in Iquitos and commuted to work every day in the village. They looked suitably poker faced and bored. I suppose they didn’t dream of being actors. Or maybe they want to show that their culture was one of seriousness… This makes me wonder about humor in native societies. I never see anything about humor in museums. I would imagine that most societies have a sense of humor.Wot wot?

img_2163
A child performer adjusting his headdress.

The Blood Tree

The weather was hotter than the inside of a blister. Perfect time to go for a walk. So I went for a walk “in the jungle,” but really it was just on the outer perimeter of my lodge, in the Amazon. I was trying to be cool about the squidgy mud squelching up the side of my leather shoes, getting close to the bare skin of my ankles. I as trying to be cool. Then I got bitten by a spider. A zap of fire engulfed my ankle. I looked down. There was a tiny black dot on my ankle. Then it was gone. That’s how small it was. To my credit, I remained calm.

WHAT was I thinking?

There are times to remain calm. And then there aren’t. This wasn’t. Apparently.

IMG_1798.JPGThis I found out when I casually told our guide that I had a bite. Never have I seen anyone move that fast. I didn’t even see him move. One minute he was across a pool of mud. The next right next to me! Then he took out a small plastic bottle and rubbed my ankle. This was the sap from the “blood tree” and it’s a magical potion. My ankle no longer hurt and there was no bite. I wish I had some of that Amazonian jungle blood with me now. Then I’d have the remedy to all bites. Will a company start selling this some day? Will all the secrets go the way of the dodo?

Amazon Woman

img_1964I doubt that this beautiful lady’s life is some romanticized imagining, but, she certainly didn’t need to smile or even tolerate me. She could have told me to eff off. Instead, she put up with my lens.

img_1940This lady, in her practical rubber boots and long sleeves (and ripped t-shirt), was a strong contrast to the locals who dress up in traditional costume for the tourists every day. img_2246

I wish her well.img_1954

In the Company of Jungle Men

So I went on a vacation in the Amazon. It was a “camp” with about 20 cabins, a pool, air conditioning, WIFI, etc.

At first, I didn’t notice it. Then I did. It was almost comical how there were only men working at our Eco-camp in the jungle. When my friend and I first got there, we and all the other customers, were women…

Me, being me, had to ask. I was expecting the standard tourist sanitized answer. Instead, our guide/handler said, “Well, Mr. Big Cheese (I can’t recall his name but he was from Scandinavian stock in Wisconsin or Minnesota), said when he opened this camp (40 years ago) that it was better to hire only men because local women have a baby every other year so they would only be in the work force for half the time.”

Manual labor.
Manual labor.

Well, that was not the answer I was expecting (oops, sorry, not). We were certainly not in modern day Scandinavia.

Jungle Allergy

I still think I’m allergic to the jungle. Here’s why. I went to the Amazon jungle in Peru and I was sick. The minute I was in the airport on my way out of the jungle, I got better. Heat allergy is called “heat urticaria” and I might have it. Actually, heat urticaria, is an allergy to heat above 109 F. This includes when the body reaches 109 degrees from steam rooms, hot showers, and spicy food! (And yes, there’s a condition where people are allergic to cold).

Chiles for sale in Bhutan.
Chiles for sale in Bhutan.

Or it might have been that jungle vegetable salad I ate…

A chonta, palm strips, salad.
A chonta, palm strips, salad.