Thursday, March 20, 2014

Something I just found and I think it's worth sharing

So I went to an ayahuasca board on which I occasionally post and found an interesting topic and saw that I'd posted there a year ago. Surprised me. It was a discussion of whether organized retreats in Peru were better than simply arriving on your own and trying to find a healer. Well, the conversation disintegrated over the course of 150 responses until it kind of became an argument of "at what point are  you ripping off locals?" That's when I interjected my comments, which didn't fill the bill exactly, but gave an indication of where you're ripping the locals off. I used the metaphor of the indigenous Shipibo who sell the most beautiful woven telas, cloths. They take a long time to make and I'm always upset when gringos chew them down in price to the point where the work that went into them is nowhere near getting paid for. So this was my comment and I'm sticking to it.


Someone here is talking about the price of a Shipibo skirt in Pucallpa versus the skirt in Iquitos. I would say that if the skirt took two weeks to weave, you should pay the person 10 days wages--at 20 soles per day, plus one meal a day, the minimum wage in Peru--so that would come to 200 soles and 10 meals at, let's say, 3.5 soles each, or 235 soles.
That's the minimum for two weeks work.
Now to ship that skirt to Iquitos will cost 5 soles. To have someone pick it up at the port at 3 AM will cost 5 soles. The cargondero who carries the box of skirts will charge 5 soles, to that's, let's say, 1/2 sole.
The woman in Iquitos selling her sister's skirt will walk around, with her two kids, for a day/two days, before she sells it. So add another 40 soles, plus meals for the woman and kids--just one a day at 3.5 soles, or, let's say 10 soles.
So we've got 235 soles, plus 10.5 soles, plus 50 soles. That's 295.50 soles. So then they offer the product for 180 and idiot gringos, looking at three weeks of work, chew them down to 70. The 180 came to about 65 dollars for something you will cherish for the entire time you are alive. Why on earth would you back them down to the wall of desperation? The number they will accept but which will force them to email their sister in Pucallpa and explain that they got ripped off and therefore the sister won't get any money for her two weeks of work or the 40 soles of material and thread she put into the piece?
On my trips there are four rules.
1) you ask for cocaine, talk about cocaine, you're off the trip and forfeit all your money.
2) No complaining. If you complain you are off the trip. You do have the right to punch me as hard as you want between the elbow and shoulder to get my attention, but the minute you complain about anything vocally, you forfeit your trip.
3) No sex with anything, anyone under 18. In Peru, as a lot of people know, courtship lasts about 1/2 bottle of beer. But if you take that chicken home, you had better be able to show me a birth certificate of 18 years old or you forfeit your money.
4) No bartering with Shipibo women. You may barter, but only under the awareness that you will promise to pay double what they asked when you finish. So if they start at 180 soles, and you get them down to 90--and that gets your rocks off, fine, but then you have to pay 360, to ensure that the woman and her children and the sister who made the tela--the fancy woven cloth--will actually all have enough to eat. Break the rule and you forfeit your trip money. All of it.
I think those are good rules. I've tossed probably 10 percent of my guests off the trip over the years, like one per trip or two, for breaking the rules. Are they surprised? You betcha. Do they learn to come and ask how they should really behave? You betcha.
We take care of people, we don't steal from them just because we can. And I think that's found somewhere in the golden rule....unless I'm mistaken.

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