The group has just returned from our homestays in the small Amazonian community of Boca Pariamanu. Despite the heat, bugs, and my own weak stomach, I had an incredible time getting to know a little bit about this small and beautiful community. The people live in wooden houses with half walls and roofs made of palm leaves. Their main source of income is from the brazil nuts they harvest, which are native to the Amazonian Rain Forest. One of the mornings our group was actually able to participate in the collection of brazil nuts, an activity I found enlightening and humbling. We strapped hand woven baskets to our backs and picked up the large nuts (brazil nuts are enclosed in larger shells with anywhere from 6 to 30 nuts) with a three pronged wooden grabber so as not to strain our backs too much. After just an hour and a half, my shirt was drenched in sweat and covered in dirt from constantly wiping my hands. From a group of seven, we had collected about $300 worth of income for the community. Once the nuts were all ina large pile, we watched Don Juan open a few with his clearly practiced machete technique.
What really stood out to me during this experience was how careful, hard-working, and respectful of their surroundings the people of Boca Pariamanu were. They choose to make their living off of brazil nuts because they know that doing so will not harm their jungle. They crack open the nuts and leave the shells in the forest so more trees can grow back. They know that theyt could make quick money by selling their land to people who might destroy it, but they stand their ground. This respect for nature extends into other aspects of their life as well. For example, many of them have extensive knowledge of the plants in their area and the different ways in which they can be used, especially for medicinal purposes. Don Alberto, the elder in the community with whom we spent the most time, gave us a presentation on his garden of medicinal plants. When I was sick, I was able to experience his healing methods firsthand which was a once in a lifetime experience. I am so grateful to the people of Boca Pariamanu for opening their homes to us, teaching us about their culture, and giving us a glimpse into what their life is like. After this week, I have begun to understand just how lucky I am to have the things I have, but also how unnecessary those things are to live a full life.