I awoke to my first morning at the Jumandi Caverns to roosters. Lots of roosters. If I was surprised then, I should have saved it for when I walked out the door. My family was gathering to go to a minga, or a communal meeting for work, and I was going, too. In order to set out and be ready for the work, we all donned a pair of rubber boots, and then, the part that surprised me: machetes. Everyone in my family had one, even my younger sisters, who are 14, 10, and 7. “Okay,” I thought, “let’s do this!”
We set to work cutting down mala hierba (weeds) in what was pretty much the jungle. After a short time my family, the other community members, and I had cut down a good chunk of the weeds. A little bit later, after thwacking and slashing at the mala herba, I felt a stinging in my hand. It looked as if the plants had gotten a little revenge of their own, in the form of blisters. I didn’t want to stop working of course, and simply switched to my other hand. Again, after a short while, I had blisters. Thankfully, my supervisor noticed something was wrong. After looking at my hands, she told me it was because I didn’t have manos duras (tough hands) and that I wasn’t accustomed to using a machete. Unfortunately, my family had noticed and they shared a laugh, all in good faith of course. It was also at this time I saw that I was able to see one of the miraculous trees of the Amazon. I’m not sure what it was called, but when my supervisor took me to a tree and cut it with her machete, red sap started to flow out. I was of course, curious, and oblivious as to what she was doing this for. She then grabbed a leaf, collected the sap, and poured it onto my blisters. Everything made sense at once. The sap acted as a coagulant and sealed all the broken skin on my hand.
Once I was taken care of, I was made to sit, and watch everyone else work. Although it was terribly embarrassing, I learned a lot from watching and working with my community. They are extremely tough, and everyone shares a part of the work, and its benefits (the land was going to be split up into blocks for farming). Also, of course, I realized I need to develop my manos duras.