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Two Dragons welcome the sunrise with an improvised dance atop the Andes. Photo by Ryan Gasper.

Mango

The little girl is dancing and on her shoulder the parrot dances too. She’s holding both of my friend’s hands, and all of us smile whenever we look at them. This child is, for me, part of the heart of our Boca community experience. Her parrot is a dazzling green and their friendship is one of the closest and the most natural that I’ve ever seen. Always on her shoulder, it bobs up and down and never lets go of her t-shirt as she runs through the fields and climbs on our shoulders and plays gentler versions of volleyball. When you hug her, you get a second friend as well. She is four years old, laughs at everything, full of energy and light. I’ll think of her for a long time, with love.

Our tent is the only place without mosquitos, but it seems hotter then any other place on earth!¬†Katherine and I get in to go to bed and spend the first twenty minutes scratching at our bug bites in a sort of daze, all the while telling each other to stop scratching! Finally, after changing, the tent doesn’t seem quite so bad, and we climb into our sleep sheets for the night. This time of day, though it’s been characterized by most of us as the time when bug bites are recognized and dealt with¬†and when the heat is most oppressive, has been one of my true favorites during this week in the Amazon rainforest. Katherine and I talk about the day, the happenings here and the adventures that are around the corner, but we also talk about the lives that we know we’re going back to in the month to come. We discuss our friends at home, our thoughts about the places we come from. It’s strange to know we’ll be with our families soon, away from this social bubble that has been our family for almost three months now. To have a friend who I can talk to about these things has been comforting as we draw closer to the uncertain days beyond this journey. Our tent is hot and maybe a mosquito did get in last night, but the “sleepovers” that we have, where we discuss everything in our lives here and at home, makes up for everything.

Ella and I are with the little girl, by the stream. She leads us to a mango tree with a ten foot pole in her tiny hands. We knock it down and peel it with my knife, with her instructing us the whole way. We sit on the steps and divide the pieces between us. It’s golden and sweet and probably magic, just because she found it. The perfect mango, I have learned in my time here, is one that is shared with friends.

The bus is taking us from the jungle. I have red, muddy stones in my pocket, sleep in the corners of my eyes. My hands are holding up my backpack on my lap, yet they keep slipping as I fall into drowsiness. I look out the windshield window and in front of us I see a huge blue butterfly, electric and gorgeous, crossing in front of this bus on its journey into the green land we are leaving. It’s a blue morpho, the mariposa that has astounded me and brought me back to the realization that I am truly in the Amazon rainforest again and again. Before this, the blue morpho butterfly was something I could visit in a sanctuary, a green room full of artificial heat; it was something I had to seek out in its man-made homes if I wanted to take in its beauty. Here, I have walked through the jungle and it has landed on my shoulder when I was not looking. Its wings are huge. Every time I see one, I think of my mother, who would hate the heat of this place but would be deeply moved by the beauty of the sight of things like this. My mother, who has worked hard for so much of her life now, who has never been anywhere like this in her life. One day I want to take her to see this kind of butterfly. As the driver takes us further and further from the jungle that we have spent a week slowly growing to know, the morpho flutters to the side of the bus, one of our Peruvian friends pointing it out through the open window. Then it disappears back into the green underbrush and disappears from sight.