How do I find words?
It's late at night and I'm struggling, trying to think of a way to describe my trip to the Amazon Jungle. Some of you read my missions blog at http://kristentorrestoro.myadventures.org, and have already heard some of the story and seen some pictures. I want my account here to be different for you, my friends. I want you to taste the South American heat, swelter under its mischevious sun and watch the river race past a jungle dancing to its own beat. How do I describe such a beautiful, wild, dense, diverse place? How do I take you there with me?
Hopefully in these next few posts, I will find a way. This week my blog is dedicated to telling y'all about the trip. My goal is to make you feel you just spent a week in the wild Amazon Jungle.
First of all, the trip was way too short. Second, I arrived exhausted out of my mind. We weren't jetlagged at all, but after 24 hours of travel and very little sleep, I was more than a little goofy. Actually, I felt stupid. At one point at 5am, a security guard in the Lima airport asked me if I spoke English or Spanish so she could explain something. All I could do was stare at her, unsure if she even said anything remotely coherent. It took me a while to figure out she was speaking English!
My Spanish was rusty at best, having learned it through immersion, and I wasn't used to the jungle dialect anymore. So I spent my time there my mind all a-swirl, trying to keep up and also be able to communicate myself in this beautiful language. By the time we left, I felt like I was finally getting my "sea-legs" back in Spanish. Such a disappointment to leave!
We arrived to a typical Amazonian downpour, which was highly ironic considering the clear skies around us as we flew into Iquitos. My friend and I raced across the tarmac and prayed our luggage wouldn't get too wet. Our hosts met us at the airport (always a plus!) and after a quick lunch in Iquitos, we took a 90 minute taxi to the village of Nauta, which sits on the edge of the Maranion river, a tributary of the mighty Amazon.
I spent some time in Iquitos and Nauta two years ago, so seeing places I remembered--places I honestly never thought I'd see again--was very disconcerting. Things definitely changed and a lot was the same too. When we pulled up at my host's house, I knew where we were in the village. That was a cool feeling! You'll notice that the buildings in the pictures below have walls. There are motorcycles, auto taxis (kind of like rickshaws, but not on bicycles), and other western conveniences. It's not as primitive as many of the other villages I lived in back then.
**The streets of Nauta--Photos by Kristen Torres-Toro**
Children flocked about us. Not long after I introduced myself, cries of "Kristina! Kristina!" followed me inside. Determined not to crash until evening, my friend and I went outside to play volleyball with some girls. The rain finally let up so we were in the mud--perfect! I kept hitting it out of bounds (it was a very small court and all this p90x is making me really strong--ha!), making it roll down the hill towards the river. But the little girls didn't seem to mind chasing it, and we had a lot of fun!
**Photo by Kristen Torres-Toro**
After a bucket bath, a dinner of mac'n'cheese (brought over from the States), and a lot of laughter, we went to sleep.
Over the next couple of days, the four of us met with several pastors, walked throughout Nauta, sweated gallons in the heat, established the set up for the trip this summer (the reason we came), attended a children's ministry, taught in a youth service, and took a day trip down river. You'll hear more about that Wednesday--so please come back! It was a very full trip and we were tired, but it rejunvenated me at the same time. I got less sleep there than I get here, but I had more energy during the day than I have here. I felt... honestly, I felt like I was home. For me, that was the best part.
**Photos by Kristen Torres-Toro**
**Photos by Connie Rock: http://donrock.myadventures.org**
I was completely unprepared for the onslaught of memories, caught off balance by the trip itself. It literally came from out of nowhere. I graduated college in 2007 and three weeks later woke up in the Amazon Jungle. For two months, I was an Amazon woman. And a part of me came alive that I never knew before that time. Maybe it was the newfound freedom of being a college graduate coupled with the knowledge that I was doing what I loved and was in one of the most remote places in the world. I'm also a huge nature lover. I hate being inside. So living for several months in huts without walls was a lot of fun for me! The trip itself was hard... physically very taxing, amongst other things. I left the jungle feeling like it got the best of me. Returning almost three years later, I have a completely different perspective. And the shadows cast by those hard memories only create a contrast for the light. This trip I was able to remember the good--oh, it was so good!-- and in a way, re-experience it. It was exactly what I needed. I had no idea how much I'd longed for the jungle until I was there, back in her embrace.
Photo by Kristen Torres-Toro, 2007
See you Wednesday!
8 hours ago