So, this is it. The final trip of my Global Field Program experience. I have to be honest, I had to look at the map of South America to find the exact location of Guyana when this trip was assigned to me. Even with not knowing much about the place I was going, nor anyone who had been there before to give me advice I was ready to go. After the past two Earth Expeditions, jumping on a plane and heading to this remote location didn’t phase me at all.
I found Guyana to be an amazing place. Green, remote, relatively undisturbed, the forests of Guyana are vast and this is a truly special place on the planet. After spending time in the rainforest I have a greater appreciation of how truly diverse this planet is and how important these far away places are to the planetary biosphere. And we saw giant river otters. I love otters. And I stood in a torrential downpour in the rainforest. And we swung from vines. And met some amazing people along the way.
As I started the tradition in San Diego, in the airport on the way home I wrote in my journal the lessons that will stay with me thanks to this trip.
1. The jungle is hotter and more humid than I thought was possible. In the hot and heat, evolution has lead to this place being beautiful, and bitey, and spikey, and poisonous, and venomous, and overall pretty inhospitable to my Colorado sensibilities. With all that, it is amazing to explore a place where life is everywhere – layers upon layers of life within the jungle.
2. At the end of the day, all people love playing games and spending time together. The need for connection and fun is fundamental to being human. On this trip, we spent time together with our travelers and our hosts telling stories and celebrating life. These are always among the best moments in time. Cultures may have different flavors of how these moments look and play out, but at the end, it all comes back to wanting to be connected.
3. I love wildlife biology and learning about field work, but I still don’t love being the one in the field doing the field work. I respect those folks so much but give me the results and an audience and I will teach about what is being done and help others appreciate how important that work is. It’s nice to get to a point where I recognize my strengths and weaknesses and know how I can best contribute.
4. Thank goodness for a well-stocked first aid kit and kind classmates who donated supplies. There is nothing like being scraped up in the middle of the rainforest far, far away from the nearest pharmacy.
5. Protection of these forests is an ongoing and constant battle against the industries who see short-term profits in the extraction industries. Without Norway’s subsidies and organizations like Iwokrama, this forest would be lost like much of what I saw in Brazil and Paraguay last year.
6. Amerindians are facing the same challenges as many small, remote communities around the world. Many of the young people are leaving home for the big city and aren’t necessarily continuing the traditions and lifestyle of living in their small home villages. And why shouldn’t they have the choice to travel the world and be connected? But how does a cultural not fade away? It’s complicated. One comment from the first hour in Guyana sticks with me, our driver told us that there are currently more Guyanans living in other countries than living in Guyana.
7. I loved living with all of the little critters. Every time I took a shower the shower gecko made me smile. And the bird that would fly in the room in order to check itself out in the mirror and peck at its own reflection each day. The lizards, birds, bats, frogs, snakes eating frogs as snacks, and the local wake of black vultures (that’s a group of vultures that are on the ground feeding) were all very charming. However, the mosquitos, ticks, biting flies, and the other creepy crawlies are not charming and I do not miss them at all.
The hardest part about being home is that now the Global Field Program is coming to a close. These trips, the people I’ve met and worked with along the way, the projects and discussions have all changed me. I can also look at my writing and see how practice has improved those skills. I am more confident in my interactions with people and can comfortably walk into situations where I would have avoided before. I am fortunate to work in the conservation field as a professional already and experiences, like I had in Guyana, have made me work harder to help everyone appreciate this place we live.
Walking on the Iwokrama Canopy walk.
Check out all of the things that live on a fallen log!
These kids. They know wildlife.
A day on the farm.
Fern Gulley may be a real place near Kaieteur Falls.
Not done with my travel photos year? Here is the complete set – in a random order.