Image 1. Tambo (by the author).
Prelude: In Isolation circa 2013
The quiet evening song grows into a cacophony of noisy nocturnal dwellers as the inky darkness of the waning moon takes hold of the densely vegetated landscape of the Peruvian Rainforest. Hayy is alone in a tambo or a choza (Quechua terms for huts used for living in isolation during plant fasts) that has four thick wooden posts, a thatched hut made of leyarina (a type of palm leaf), and a foam mattress placed on top of a wooden platform with a mosquitero (mosquito net) around it. No walls and no floor, just the open air and sandy jungle soil.
A machete remains by Hayy’s side for the twenty days of his isolation as a kind of mental comfort for fear of some kind of unexpected animal attack, but it turns out that though it is useful as a weight to hold down the mosquitero and as a tool to clear dense vegetation on hikes during the day, it isn’t used for much else. Apart from water from a nearby stream and food (boiled green plantains and rice without any seasoning) delivered once a day by the curandero’s apprentice, the most important thing to Hayy unexpectedly turns out to be tobacco. To mark territory against animals (and spirits, as the natives would say), to drive away hornets that had made a nest close to his bed, to deter little gray scorpions seeking shelter on the platform Hayy’s bed was on during rainstorms, as mosquito repellent, as anti-itch salve, antiparasitic tea, mouthwash, and yet also, according to the almost all native Amazonian cultures, tobacco is used as a way to amplify prayers and intentions.
Now that spring is here and it is actually getting warmer in New York, I actually feel myself thawing and flowing with creative juices again.
Since Zahra and I returned to the United States from Peru in the summer of 2017 we have been settling into our new intentions, roles, and essentially our new lives.
I am back at SUNY New Paltz in New York and this May I will finally (and officially) be an anthropologist! Meanwhile Zahra is already a step past “student midwife” in El Paso, Texas. As an intern at the Maternidad La Luz birthing clinic she has been catching babies at a rate that is inconceivable to me. I had the pleasure of shadowing her at her clinic this past January 2018, and then I again visited her during Spring Break in March (though I haven’t attended a birth myself yet). It was a surreal experience meeting someone I know so intimately in a new role and at a whole new level of skill and knowledge. Of course, even with all the changes, looking into her eyes I knew I was home again.
Eight months ago Zahra catching babies and me being back in the flow of my undergraduate studies was all still conceptual, and now...
Here we are! As there now is quite the collection of photos, projects, and experiences we’ll gently be playing “catch up” on our lovely little nook on the web.
“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
-Alan W. Watts
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
"You can't direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails"