My first time in the Amazon rain forest lasted five days. I was advised to take long sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, boots, (for the mud, not snakes), and shower shoes or thongs, and of course, sun screen, hat, and mosquito repellent-pretty standard stuff for a remote area that ostensibly breeds mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds.
My job at the park is to teach the folks in indigenous communities, and those who work for the park to speak functional English so they can communicate with tourists who visit the park, and maybe some other nefarious persons who go there to pillage and plunder the resources. I’m not conquistador Alonso de Ojeda exploring unknown territory looking for gold. Nowadays, people here dress and live like everybody else in most parts of the world. One of the teenage boys from the Mocaqua community, who was roofing, has a handsome Mohawk, and multiple silver earrings. He could live in Chicago. Think of it as the Old West with lots of trees before the railroad, but with solar and gas generators.
Also in my pack were a computer, books, notebooks, binoculars, and iphone, which has lost its usage as a phone (I can’t get the sim card door open) but functions as a camera, small book and calendar. The latter is crucial. Sometimes I not only wake up wondering how I got here, but what day of the week it is.
One of my long sleeve shirts is white gauzy, linen with long tails and lovely small buttons –think Katherine Hepburn on the African Queen. I always feel somewhat elegant wearing it, even with my hair barely combed, no makeup, slathered with sticky poison. My beige bra-tank reveals the shape of my drooping, abundant breasts, but if anyone took notice I’m not aware. The most versatile garment in my pack was, and always seems to be, a sarong. I brought three with me to Columbia.
The second day I was in the park, it was so hot I wore my sarong as a skirt with the tank top. At night it became a curtain for the window where bugs as big as my thumb battered against the screen to get into my private room. Sometimes I draped it across my lower bunk bed to keep the light out. Here in Leticia, they alternate as curtains and clothes daily. The third day I used the kitchen shears to shorten one of the pairs of pants into sort of army-style capris. I slept in the long sleeve light tee, and my underpants-or not.
At night-after six when the mosquitoes came to dine, to go with the layer of 40% deet, I wore my socks and my fashionable new, red and yellow plastic shoes, the linen shirt, and long pants. Reasonable people had sneakers. In spite of screens that had only a few small holes, and a mosquito net on my bed, the mosquitoes found a way to me no matter what I slept in. Naked was cooler. My white skin must have glowed in the dark jungle, a beacon of tasty new blood as succulent as Botero’s reclining fat woman.
I’ll be going back to the park every other week. Since I am now an expert on jungle fashion, I’ll take all three sarongs, two tanks, loose cotton pants, and a couple of short sleeved tees, plus my closed toed walking shoes. The deet will be upgraded to 99.11%, military grade stuff that tourists, who wrote on the internet say ate through their rubber watch bands. Lordy mercy.