Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Power of Place, People, and Tongue

This journey seems to be very much about recognizing and appreciating the power of place. Yes, there are "papitos" or spirits who live in mountains and other regions and they have an effect on us.

I came back to Cusco from the Pongo and Quillabamba feeling changed once again. I'm not quite sure what the spirits of the Pongo whispered to me when we crossed through it, but they certainly said something.

Or maybe I am just getting old and finally developing the tranquility and peace that comes with age. I seem to want to be a different kind of warrior now, not one that causes more war and conflict in the world, but fights for its transcendance.

One woman in the journey said she didn't want to talk to me about the Camisea gas project because so many journalists had come to her village asking questions and she was tired of it.

Though I have always respected this position in theory I have to admit I was annoyed that she was applying it directly to me, who am after all such a fantastically good person.

So this little pinprick of annoyance stayed with me throughout the trip, especially when I found myself sitting near this woman. A little current of invisible hostility began to grow between us, and I fell right into it.

At the same time, I recognized that I had to thank this woman for being who she was and giving me a chance to look at how quickly my own invisible hostility sprang up. It's easy enough to talk about peace and enlightenment when everyone is being nice to you.

So AƱay, hermana. Thank you.

Here's what I learned to say in Machiguenga on this trip: Anomi. Tiarapipaita. Bekimba Egge.

Which means, "Hi, what's your name. Cheers."

For some reason I found Machiguenga easier to roll off the tongue than Quechua. Quechua is a language of rocks and mountains. Machiguenga is a language of the river.

But I guess we need them both.

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