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Photo by Tom Pablo, South America Semester.

Boca Pariamanu

Sitting around the handmade table we had eaten all week on, eating our last delicious meal, we took turns sharing what aspect of the community we would like to take home to our own homes.  I found myself agreeing with one response after another. I was also grateful to my fellow students for opening my eyes to things I had not thought of myself. They shared their appreciation for the sense of tranquility, of the complete trust between neighbors, and of the loving stewardship for the forest they lived in.

When asked to share, my first thought was of the incredible story telling we had witnessed. One of the elders of the village, Don Alberto, shared two powerful stories about a spirit that roams the forest, occasionally leading people astray from the path by masking itself as a trusted friend of the one being led off the path. In addition to being a knowledgeable shaman, Don Alberto is a magnificent story teller. I was terrified. Though he was deeply amused by our scared responses to the tale, his voice also contained deep sadness for the young relative he had lost to the Duende. But what I admired about Boca Pariamanu was that the community chose to examine their relationship with the forest, and stopped the chopping down of the most profitable trees. Through their immense grief they were able to look beyond themselves. That is something that seems important enough to write home about.