We thought he’d never leave, but alas, it was time for Tilman to head on back to civilization without us. A good listener, and a good friend, we were gonna miss the fool. Who was going to tell us off when he was “not in a mode of patience?” Who would show us his strange ballerina moves, wow us with his earth-tone, nature shirts, and give us words of wisdom at the most unexpected times? Such a gentle person, he had trouble telling us what his favorite animal was because he was afraid of offending the other species in the animal kingdom. That’s Tilman for you.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
We saw him off down by the river with hugs all around. We would see him again in passing when we left, so it wasn’t goodbye forever. When he left, things felt a little emptier, but there was still work to be done. By the time we got back to the MLC, Juvenal grabbed us, the “chicas locas” as he had started calling us, and took us to clean the collection nets in the jungle.
The nets are used to catch foliage in order to see how dense the forest is. It’s a pretty easy job, the most difficult part of the process being getting there and finding the darn things.
We ate a boxed lunch by the river, and as we were getting up to leave, we saw a flash in the river. At first the animal was swimming, and then running faster than our eyes could follow. “Is that a fish?” someone asked. “No, no, no, chicas locas” Juvenal dismissed. “Lobo del rio! An otter. It’s a baby.” This “baby” belonged to the rare giant otter family found only in South America. I had no idea these animals could move that fast, and if that was a baby, I could only imagine how big an adult was.
On the way back, Juvenal asked how my asthma was doing. “I’m much better,” I told him in Spanish. “I have an inhaler that I use.” “No, no inhaler,” he scoffed. “You need suris.” “What are those?” I asked. “Like a small worm. You eat it and your asthma will be better.” I figured it was only a matter of time before someone asked me to eat some grub around here. And it was only a matter of time before I accepted. Though I promised folk back home that I had given up my adventurous eating ways after ingesting cuttlefish ink and stunning my internal organs, I couldn’t resist trying just one more exotic dish. I turned to Juvenal. “And where exactly can I find these suris?”