Reflecting on Amazon Mysticism

By Geena Harnisch

There is something mystical about life in the Amazon.

Like the wild weather rhythms, the days are filled with unpredictability, forcing its people to adapt to the unexpected. It is a more present way of being. They seize the joyful moments of sunshine, and enjoy a moment of rest when the rain unfolds.  Everything goes, life is ‘tranquila’ here and its people radiate with contentment.

Much of my time in Tena mimicked this pattern. Attracted by the foreign Amazonian culture and biodiversity, I decided to venture to Tena, despite my minimal Spanish speaking abilities. And by minimal, I mean knowledge of a 2-weeks-intensive-spanish-course minimal. “I’ll be right”, I told myself. That was before I knew that most of my first weeks would be spent solely without English-speakers.I was thrown in the deep-end, some might say.

Navigating my way through those two weeks was a concoction of emotions and without a doubt, my most memorable time here. Throughout this period of constant hand gestures and confused-eyebrow-raises, I learn a lot. I sharpened my active listening and observation skills and spent all of my time in the office researching the world of communication and business. You might consider this a survival strategy, and that’s probably right, but it also turned out to be a time of creativity, productivity and self-reflection.
In this state of confusion, I somehow developed confidence that I could contribute to Aliados in some way, which was something I had doubted before coming here.

What inspired me the most, were the field trips to the different communities.

I have always had a fascination for Indigenous cultures and their effortless way of living in harmony with nature and with each other. Here in the Amazon, it was no different. In fact, collectivism is so ingrained in their being that they take the time to acknowledge everyone, never failing to greet and farewell each person in the room. Same goes for cooking, if someone is cooking, you are guaranteed to get fed too. Sharing is executed without hesitation.

Something I am particularly grateful for, was being part of this harmonic way of life, through an ancestral Kichwa tradition called ‘Minga’. A Minga is a wonderful collective endeavour, in which people of a community volunteer their time, effort and sometimes resources for the greater welfare of the group. This tradition has been used since the Inca times, as a way of achieving a shared goal. In this case, Aliados and the community of Tsawata, shared the goal of building a community nursery, that would be used to grow plants for reforestation purposes. When I arrived, I instantly noticed the clearly defined gender roles for this process. Building is for Men and planting for Women. I ignored my usual impulse to challenge norms of this kind, and joined the Women.

This first (and inaccurate) perception of traditional gender roles was however challenged in the Community of Mushullucta. Here, I marveled at the incredible strength and versatility of the Women. The Women do everything from raising their children, teaching, cooking, cleaning to charging around their Chakras; Machete in one hand and giant basket strapped to their foreheads. All without a word of complaint. Women powerhouses are birthed in the Amazon, and it is truly remarkable to witness.

To wrap it up, Aliados gifted me with an environment in which I could learn to be comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unexpected. Traits that are guaranteed to push me in both my personal and professional growth.