Yesterday was Sunday, rest day for the community. Everyone just kind of hangs out and chills in their houses – which makes Sunday the perfect day to do interviews because I know everyone is around. This Sunday I decided to put off bothering people until the afternoon though, so I was bored by mid-morning. I decided to pack up and head out on a hike to try to find some cool bugs to do some macro photography. At 10am then, I grabbed my machete, my GPS, my camera, and my lunch in an old grocery bag and I slid on my rubber boots. I headed out to the west where I know there’s a trail system that turns northwest and intersects with one of our research transect lines after 4 or 5 kilometers. I walked very very slowly, stopping every ten feet or so to listen for animals or large bugs and search under leaves for cool looking insects that might be camouflaged or hiding. After two and a half hours of walking, I had found lots of cool, colorful bugs and had some sweet close encounters with hummingbirds. They're my favorite to see (two Long-Tailed Hermits if you’re a bird person).
At that point I decided to take a lunch break. I had come across a big group of Black-Mantle Tamarins so I wanted to sit and watch them for a bit anyway. For lunch, I had packed some of the tapir that Jairo and I had found last week. He gifted me just over a kilo of meat that day, and I had made most of it into tapir stir fry, but about half a pound of it I cut into strips, salted, smoked, and dried to make some nice tapir jerky. Meat lasts forever when you smoke, salt, and dry it, and I had brought the rest for lunch. My neighbor also stopped by again yesterday morning with vegetables to sell and I bought even more cucumbers, even though I already have at least 10; and they’re enormous (but I always want to help out my neighbors anyway). So, since I didn’t have any food prepared when I left, I grabbed a big cucumber on the way out too.
I was sitting there enjoying my lunch when I heard something moving in the forest, towards me. I gave the classic Maijuna owl hoot noise to announce that I was here, and someone hooted back (which is good, then if it’s a hunter they won’t think I am a peccary and shoot me). My friend Ulderico rounded the bend in the trail, saw me parked on top of a log eating a huge cucumber like an apple and holding a fistful of dried tapir, and busted out laughing. I didn’t get it at first – I think I blend in pretty well with the community with my long messed up hair, ripped shorts, and knee-high rubber boots. Until I realized that I am the only one in the community who eats raw vegetables, and I probably did look pretty funny eating a cucumber like a fruit. He explained that nobody eats vegetables for their rancho frio (I think just translates to cold meal, but what they call a packed lunch).
I laughed with him and invited him to sit for a bit and have some water and jerky. We flipped through some photos I had taken of some bugs and he went through the ones that had names in Spanish and Maijiki and taught me them all. By then the tamarins had moved on and we headed back to the community. I asked him if he liked cucumbers and he said yes, just not raw. I headed back to Ulderico’s house an hour later with two of the biggest cucumbers I had bought, and he laughed again and said he was going to try to eat one with the skin and seeds like I do.
I settled down in my hammock with my mandolin and thought back on the day… somewhat strange, bonding over cucumbers and tapir meat, but if it helps me make even better friends I’ll take it!