Wednesday, September 25, 2013

More on Irked...and Guilty as Charged

So a friend of mine has been guarding someone's ayahuasca camp for several months and not been paid. At least that's what he tells me and then he asked me to get in touch with the owner and ask when money might come. I did and the owner responded that it was all a lie.
   Just then someone wrote me about someone being able to make a good deal of money from some jungle products and I sort of blew up--you know, that freaking feeling of being irked again. So off I ran my mouth about people opening ayahuasca centers and being all holy and who knows what and my friend wrote back: "Well, that begs the question of why you take people out to the woods to drink ayahuasca."
    I knew the answer. It's great medicine and the only way I can get my jungle fix. I also knew/know that what I do is not take people out just to drink ayahuasca--I take them out to teach them about the river, the people, the food, the jungle, and in the course of that they have the opportunity to drink ayahuasca. Drink it the way I was taught it: as part of the jungle experience, not apart from the jungle experience.
   And I would say that maybe one out of every six people I take out on my jungle intensive courses does not drink ayahuasca. They enjoy the ceremony as a rule, but don't actually drink the medicine. Which does not mitigate the fact that most people who come on my trip damned well expect to drink good ayahuasca, have their lives changed for the better, and would probably toss me off the riverboat if I didn't deliver. So I'm guilty as charged.
   This is what I wrote to my friend: Yes, well, unfortunately, I was one of the people who started it all and have been remorseful ever since. If I didn't start it, I was certainly there at that point and will suggest that my great friend did. And I agreed to take gringos to the jungle and make ayahuasca available because I'd moved my family to Peru and when I realized I had to feed an extended family of 23 at least three meals a day at $1 per meal--well, they were either going to starve or I was going to accept taking gringos out occasionally.

   BUTTTTT......I keep my place secret--even Alan has never been there and never met Julio when he was alive: I didn't see what good it would do Julio, though it would have done Alan a world of good to have Julio at the first couple of conferences. I also try to keep my guests from talking with any other gringos until after the trip--no false info from people who are willing to share it. We eat at Miriam's or outside of the city--at Miriam's I'm a known commodity but other gringos--and I'm not talking about the regular ex-pat crowd but the new true believers who need to proselytize the medicine, don't talk with them. Then I whisk them out of town and no one knows when we left or where we're headed.
   And Julio's son, our curandero, is kept a secret as well, so that he can mature into a good curandero, rather than, like a lot of the others, become gringo arm-candy at some semi-luxury camp somewhere on the carretera where the object is to keep the real jungle out but keep it looking like jungle.
   Why do I keep doing it now that I no longer live there? It's the only way I can get my jungle fix. Plus, it's gotten to the point where I know a boatload about the rivers, the jungle, the people, the medicines, the food--and I love sharing that with some well-vetted strangers a few times a year.
   So I am guilty as charged. Phony as bad boloney. Hypocritical as a bad pickle. In my defense, I will say I resisted the urge for 15 years, even when good money for private trips was offered. The people I'm angry with seem to get the calling within weeks of airport touchdown and first ayahuasca takeoff, even if they don't speak Spanish. And then they buy 20 hectares or 50 hectares--which truth be known they probably don't actually own because it's very complicated to get a clean title, as you know--and then they tear down a bunch of it, then have people tear down a bunch elsewhere to provide the wood to build their places, then have other people scour the jungle for every inch of ayahuasca vine so that it gets impossible to find, burn tons of wood daily to keep the ayahuasca fire going, try to make gobs of money and tell people they're helping the locals. HA! Bringing people into the money system, unless you can guarantee you can keep them there for life if they so choose, is a ruthless thing. You get people hired by these camps and then camp goes to ruin and they no longer want to farm because it's too hard and they got used to the other life. So you have brutalized them on a lot of levels.
   I guess that's some of it.

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