The Amazon

I close my eyes and try not to take a deep breath. I feel the healing man hover above me, blowing tobacco filled smoke into my face. All I could think was, “Is blowing this smoke into my face really going to cleanse me? It seems so dirty.” I relax a little as the healing man brushes my face and shoulders with leaves from nearby trees. The local healing man is getting rid of my mal aire (bad air) and replacing it with buen aire (good air). And if the practice was not strange enough, I am at his house, in the middle of the jungle, in the Amazon. Oh yeah!

The procedure, if anything, left me exhausted. But that could have been from a week filled with hiking and seeing (or touching) exotic animals, plants and fruits; floating down the River Napo; eating trees (or grubs as the case may be); touching a tarantula (and seeing at a distance other poisonous animals); and painting ourselves using traditional indigenous methods -just to name a few of the activities that we did in the Amazon. Or it could have been the hot afternoon air that made me feel so tired. Still, I was not going to miss out on participating in the other afternoon activities: shooting a blowgun and throwing a spear in a somewhat similar fashion as the local people.

While it was a lot of fun exploring and learning about the Amazon, we were there not just to have fun, but also to learn, as the trip was part of our monthly Training Seminar. And what better place to continue our discussion of global development and social enterprise than at Yachana Lodge – a lodge located on the Napo River?

The profits from Yachana Lodge help fund a local private school and the organizations is committed to protecting the environment. One of the greatest threats to the Amazon and the people living in the Amazon are the oil companies. The oil companies want to dig underneath the ground for oil, which will destroy the environment and the people’s livelihoods that depend on the environment. Yachana Lodge is considered a social enterprise, using business methods to produce positive social change.

During this Training Seminar we examined the effectiveness of social enterprise as one means to development. What I really enjoy about our discussions is that they are not hypothetical, theoretical classroom cases. We discuss methods that we have either seen or are currently working with. This allows us to have insider understanding and enriching conversations as we draw on our own experiences as we analyze aspects of global development. For example, we also visited another social enterprise called Runa Tarpuna that was both very similar and very different than AACRI, where I work. Instead of coffee, Runa Tarpuna sells Guayusa (a traditional tea produced, prepared, and drank by Amazonian indigenous peoples). It was interesting to me to compare and contrast the different styles of management, implementation and approaches to growth between the two companies, one being a social enterprise, the other a community based organization.

We also took the time to evaluate our year thus far, and figure out what we hoped to achieve during the next few months. I really cannot believe that I am half-way through and am so glad that the Amazon was the place to contemplate the past, present and future.

And so, with newly placed “good air” or positive energy, I am ready to tackle the next few months in order to make the most of this experience.