Back home when it rains, life goes on. You pull out your umbrella, your rubber boots, your jacket, and keep trudging. That doesn’t really happen in the rainforest. The rivers widen and the paths turn into a thick paste. Animals and humans alike go into hiding. Sarah, Hanako, Erica, and I came to the MLC at the end of the rainy season, and so we were subjected to the whims of the weather. In other words, we didn’t have a lot of work to do at the beginning because it was raining too darn much.
On our second day at the MLC, we headed out to check the animal traps at 4:30 am in the rainy, gray morning. Juvenal was heading our group, so of course, an asthma attack and a few minutes later, and we were there and back again. I had a dream that we didn’t find anything, and sure enough, we didn’t find a single critter in our traps. Pretty normal in the rain, but not even one small mammal was caught on the proceeding days of the project, which has never happened before.
Thankfully, we had better luck with seeing wildlife in action. When the sky cleared up a bit, we saw a horde of adorable squirrel monkeys hanging out with some larger capuchin monkeys high in the canopy. Juvenal grumbled that we would have seen more animals had we not been chattering so much. I don’t think he’s used to so many girls…
White Fronted Capuchin
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Back at the MLC, Tilman forced us to learn the different bird calls. I thought it would be easy if I thought about them like music, but no, the macaws sounded exactly like the parrots, and I could hear a slight difference between them and the parakeets, but not by much. Heck, I was still confusing bird calls with monkey howls and bamboo rat screeches, so it was no surprise when I got 7 out of 20 on my bird call test. Sarah was the champ of the group with nearly 3 quarters correct! She must practice.
Thankfully, I still had a rather good hold on English which came in handy later in the day when we taught the staff and they taught us some Spanish. I worked with Tomás, the housekeeper. Tomás is a soft-spoken, sweet sort of man who has the biggest smile and an appetite for cervezas. He had a good memory for vocabulary and already knew a lot, and my Spanish wasn’t too shabby either, so the lesson really flew by.
Then, we visited the orchid garden, the bio garden, and the medicinal garden. There were cat’s claw for cancer, aloe for burns, and dragon’s blood to heal wounds. Another plant that resembled a snake was crushed by people of the rainforest and applied to their legs to prevent snake bites. But my favorite plant grew in a corner of the garden. Hunters traditionally bathe with it before going hunting to attract deer, and supposedly, if a person mixes the plant with perfume and wears it, he/she will attract a mate. The only problem is that everyone knows exactly what you’re doing because it’s ridiculously pungent.
And so another day in the Amazon came and went. The first day was for changes and the second for taking it all in. That night was the first clear night we had in the jungle. The trees were full of fireflies and the sky was heavy with stars- so much so that I caught my breath as I looked up and realized I didn’t know where the sky ended and the forest began.