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Archive for February, 2010

Off to Bosawas

What follows is a mission statement of sorts; the reasons for my journey into the Reserva Bosawas. This is not something I usually do before my trips, but just so you get an idea of where it is I am going, I was today instructed by the branch of the Nicaraguan government that deals with the national reserves that such a document needed to be presented to them before I depart. They will then send it to their regional offices so that people have a general idea who I am. They also gave me the mobile phone numbers of the 5 presidents (yes presidents) of the indigenous communities that call the biosphere home so that I can contact them and ask their permission to enter their territories.

Nombre:          Rory Creedon

Edad:               25

País Natal:       Inglaterra, Británico

Misión

Quiero explorar La Reserva de la Biosfera BOSAWAS, para encontrar y conocer la gente que vive allí, y si es posible, querría trabajar con algunos proyectos sociales o ecológicas.

Motivaciones

  • Para explorar un lugar de belleza natural
  • Para ver la flora y la fauna de la selva
  • Para encontrar y entender culturas muy diferente que la mía
  • Para vivir en un lugar tan distinto de la mía
  • Para ayudar las comunidades cuando lo quieran, cuando yo pueda y donde yo tenga habilidades apropiadas
  • Para conseguir material por un libro lo que quiero escribir (véase a continuación)

Mi Vida como un Escritor

Durante el año pasado he estado viviendo en México y Guatemala aprendiendo español, viajando y también escribiendo. Escribí artículos sobre La Día de Independencia en México, La Día de Los Muertos en Guatemala, y dos viajes para escalar volcanes en Guatemala y México. Tres de estos artículos había publicado en un periódico en Inglaterra, se llama The Guardian.

Ahora quiero escribir mi primer libro, y quiero escribirlo sobre mis experiencias en la biosfera. Ahora la forma del libro no es fijado, pero mi plan es hacer una comparación entre mi vida antes en Londres y la vida que veré en la selva. Además voy a describir como se ven los animales, las plantas y la jungla en general.

Estoy interesado en la historia de los comunidades y la biosfera, pero realmente no quiero escribir ni estar involucrado en los preguntas políticas que afectan el área.

Trabajo

Quiero trabajar con proyectos activos en la biosfera para conocer a las comunidades locales y darlas gracias para permitirme quedarme en la biosfera y ver su manera de vida.

Tipos de trabajo:

  • Manual
  • En una escuela
  • Con niños
  • Cualquier manera que pueda

Experiencia

  • He trabajado en escuelas voluntarias en Rumania, Guatemala y México
  • He ayudado en campamentos para niños en Guatemala
  • Trabajaba en un banco de inversión por tres años en Londres.

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Puerto Escondido

Miss Layna
Miss Layna

A Masterpiece in the Making
A Masterpiece in the Making
Mono sunset
Mono sunset

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Monte Alban

Monte Alban

Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua

Julio

Julio

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San Jose del Pacifico

San Jose del Pacifico

San José del Pacifico seemed, as most of the villages I had seen on the 130km journey from Oaxaca City (wa-ha-ka), in the deepest of REM sleep. The only other people who disembarked from a bus that was in such a state it surely could not make intact another journey across the vast mountains that separate the capital of Oaxaca State from its Pacific side satellites, were two other travellers from France, one of whom for some reason unknown to me had yet to discover the miracle of shoes. I had heard that there was a lot of hongos related activities in this tiny mountain village, but when I questioned the woman who served me a delicious portion of chiles rellenos -stuffed chiles- in the first comedor -buget restaurant/road side shack/ tent etc.- I spotted, what there was to do in the area, she neglected to mention being off your head on magic mushrooms. What she did tell me however was where the cheapest cabañas -cabins- in town were. As I was finishing my meal I took a napkin to wipe my face and noticed that the napkin holder was a small group of mushrooms carved in wood.

There were other little tell-tale details around the town; mushrooms painted on the sign pointing to my temporary residence, a mushroom drawn in ink on the wood panelling of said dwelling, wooden carvings, and a disproportionate number of hotels in an out-of-the-way, miniscule settlement. However, I was not interested in anything hallucinogenic at that moment. I rather felt like exploring some of the trails that wind through the thickly pine forested mountains.

The señora in charge of my hotel confirmed my suspicions that there was no map of the local area available, and that guides were not necessary. All that was required was that I follow the only road until it ran out, and from there pick a path to follow. It was, so I was told, impossible to get lost. As it turned out she was completely right (assuming you have a vague sense of direction), as I weaved in and out of the pines, changing paths, up then down through the heavily scented air, such that I should have been lost deep in the labyrinth. Yet I emerged somehow exactly where I had started. The pine incensed atmosphere, for me forever associated with Tamworth, New Hampshire, brought back memories of our family’s twice a decade trips to New England. However, these were swiftly purged when I came across giant cacti that served as reminders that I was in fact still in Mexico.

San Jose del Pacifico

San Jose del Pacifico

Early the next morning I had a bowl of Oaxacan hot chocolate and pan dulce -sweet bread- in a comedor in which pictures of Maria Sabrina, a curandera or shaman like woman who lived and died in northern Oaxaca, adorned the walls. She was a priestess of the mushroom and it is said that John Lennon, among other notables, made pilgrimages to trip with her. Thus the rumours about the village could only be true, and I was determined to investigate. In the next comedor where I went for my fix of eggs and frijoles –beans- I asked the woman if it was true that the town was famous for its mushrooms, and she told me it was. Had she tried them helself? “no”. Then who was eating them? “extranjeros”, foreigners.

I was left with the impression that the mushrooms were not so much part of everyday life here, rather there was a demand from tourists, and the forest and locals were only to happy to be the supply. However, Adolfo, who I was to question next told a different story altogether.

He had lived in the village all his life and had seen many come to sample the wildlife. He told me that the local families would “use” them once a year or so. In my vernacular I would say I had “taken” mushrooms, and the difference between the verbs “to use” and “to take” perhaps illustrates the different attitudes toward the drug in the UK and this part of Mexico. I explained to Adolfo that mushrooms had been legal in Britain until two or three years ago when a legal loophole was finally closed. In my experience they were primarily a party drug, taken at festivals and the such. Adolfo told me that in his village they had a more sacred purpose; not explicitly religious, but the ingestion of the fungus could resolve problems or difficulties in your life. “Such as?” I asked. “Well, if you have problems with your wife, mushrooms can help.”

Adolfo had experienced severe lower back pain until he dosed himself with one of the three varieties of mushroom that grow in these hills. Also, he had been an alcoholic and a prolific smoker of mota (marijuana) until he consulted the schroom and he was now coming up to eight years sober. I got the feeling he may have been laying it on a bit thick for my benefit given that he later asked me in a tone of voice that surely indicated an imminant offer, if I liked to smoke weed.

It was a shame I had not come in the rainy season when the mushrooms were fresh, as the preserved specimens were rarely as effective. During this time the town would be full of people. Adolfo wanted to know if I had tried them before, yes, and with a twinkle in his eye “would you like to try some now?”. It turned out that he could get his hands on some preserved ones and make me a tea, apologising that it would cost 200 pesos (10 pounds) as stocks were so low this far out of season. I accepted and we agreed to meet in two hours, so in the intervening time I went on an dramatic hike in the valley before climbing back up the mountain.

During my time thus surveying the seemingly endless pattern of valleys and peaks to the north, and the Pacific Ocean, just visible in the south, I got to thinking about what I had heard that morning. Physical ailments aside (I am no doctor) I do see one of the benefits of psychoactive elements being that they can help you understand how to fix problems, or to realise what ought to be done in life. However, I do not believe this is because they are magical or holy as Adolfo might, and certainly his pre-hispanic forbears did, but rather because they can help to switch off the part of the brain that suppresses deep desires and knowledge of oneself. Somewhere inside of me, I know what I want, and how to solve problems in my life but I so often lack the self-realisation and belief to first detect these elements, and secondly to have the courage to act on them. I assume I am not alone.

Thus when we find something that grows naturally such as a hallucinogenic mushroom, and the “trip” tells us something, gives us a vision or sign, then it is far simpler to outsource our conviction than to act on our own previously undiscovered initiative. This effect is multiplied ten fold when the enabler in question is considered holy or sacred. After all, it is impossible to ignore a message from the divine, but all too easy to ignore a self-generated sentiment.

***

Whilst celebrating the Day of the Dead by watching 12 metre kites being flown in a small town in Guatemala I met Chris who had spent the best part of his young working life the head of a successful film company based in LA. His greatest achievement was overseeing the production of American Psycho based on the novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, by Bret Easton-Ellis. One day he gave up this life and set out from his Californian home to walk to the centre of the Brazilian Amazon. One of the driving impetuses behind this epic journey was a vision he had received as part of a service in the church of Santo Daime. This church uses a drink called ayahuasca which contains a powerful psychoactive element, in the same way that the Catholic Church uses alter wine and guilt. Having drunk the ayahuasca Chris had a vision of himself walking and he interpreted this as a sign from God that he should undertake this great pilgrimage.

Yet it seems to me that this vision could have been interpreted in various different ways; that he should be abandoning the car as it is harmful to the environment; that he should be getting out and enjoying the Californian scenery more frequently, or even that he is out of milk and should walk to the shop to stock up. But he interpreted it as meaning he should set in motion an inspiring and life changing series of events.

***

If we draw a Maltese cross in black on a white background, we will either see a black cross or a white flower. It is impossible to see both at the same time and what is more, if the illusion is not explained to us we may continue to only see one of the symbols. Which we see first, it is thought by phenomenologists, is effected by our background. To simplify, if you are a gardener you will see the flower, and if you are soldier you will see the cross. Thus our reading of the image is a product of choices already made and experiences already lived. This explains why Chris interpreted his vision as mentioned: he told me that prior to the vision he was already aware that his company made violent films and he felt he was not therefore doing good in the world. Is it not natural that he would then choose to give up this life in a broader search for meaning? It also explains why Adolfo told me he saw an image of the Virgin of Guadeloupe (the most celebrated holy image in Mexico): he is a Catholic Mexican. In my view, both experienced visions of experiences and decisions long ago embedded and made, deep inside their own brains. To me such hallucinations are not sent from God, do not occur due to the sacred nature of a plant or fungus or root. They are not signs from above, but signs from ourselves, equally as potent, productive, and even more important. They are pure moments of realisation.

***

In Franz Kafka’s The Trial, there is a parable about a man who wants access to “The Law”. He finds a door that will give him this access but his way is blocked by a doorkeeper who says he may not pass. Although the doorkeeper himself will not stop him, the man is made aware that after this particular doorkeeper there are many more doorkeepers each more terrifying than the last. The man decides to wait until he may be permitted to enter. Just before the man dies the doorman reveals to him that the door he was dying outside had in fact been intended for him all this time.

Such is life! We all have deep desires, dreams, ideas, solutions, but a part of our brain is condicioned to tell us that even if we overcome the immediate problems facing us in an attempt to realise these deep held wants, be it money, work, family or whatever, there will only be further and more grave problems around the corner. Thus we continue on a path which, had we been bathed in the soothing light of the infinity of our options in this world, we may not have even chosen. We miss opportunities that are rightfully ours; rightfully mine.

Since I began this journey (which started many months before I physically got on the plane), I have been slowly working toward a better understanding of myself. I now know that what I want in life is to travel the world and be a full-time writer. I am terrified at this prospect and see many hurdles and future problems, amplified in my mind to many times their actual size. Whether I am strong enough to overcome them, and how I shall feel to thus read this back to myself in 30 years remains to be seen. I have had my eureka moment, my dawn of realisation. I have received and interpreted the message from myself, and as such I do not need to rely on the revelatory nature of hallucinogenic drugs. This does not mean that they do not remain incredibly good fun though.

Enjoy responsibly.

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