Finalities sneak up on you. More often than not, you don’t realize a moment is the last of its kind until it’s gone. The last party hike, the last splash in the Rio, the last clink of glasses amongst your peers, your familia de el verano, as you all bring your jungle drinks together and toast your last toast.
The jungle is as bitter as it is sweet. There are the picturesque days when the sapphire skies overlap each mountain peak with a casual brilliance – the warm, carefree days that find us bounding happily between rocks, grabbing at the tropical enigmas growing and crawling from every ravine. But there are also days that test your spirit. These are the days when the glory of the soil defies you, when the elements reign merciless and seep into you through every permitting crevasse. Have you ever truly understood the luxury of having dry feet? Dry anything? Or felt the memorable burn down the backs of your legs as you scale “Suicide Hill” beneath the unforgiving sun? These are moments when the splendor of the land works as much against your spirit as it does for it. These are the moments when your team becomes essential.
This week I write about camaraderie. The levels of social solidarity achieved in the depths of the rainforest are not easily matched. After surpassing so many crucial moments with the same people standing by my side, it’s no surprise that I find myself yearning to pull each one of them back for Round 2. It’s no surprise that I’ve come to reevaluate what camaraderie truly is.
It’s the kind of inside, continuous jokes that rock your ribcage – the kind of jokes you only have to glance at one another to understand. It’s being able to sit in silence, perfect silence, and simply enjoy the moment before it flees. It’s talking about poop – that’s right, poop– because you don’t really know someone until you’ve heard about at least one bowel movement. It’s the way that even the bad experiences– the frustrating, painful experiences– can be made good just by the twist you’re able to put on them. It’s the filthy jokes you don’t mind telling because everyone knows you’re not really a baby-killer. It’s pushing each other to our limits, our collective refusal to see anyone give up. It’s the end of the night, when the iPod dies and the stars are out and everyone brushes their teeth in the dark, listening to the choir of Nintendo frogs (“Pew! Pew!”)
Waves of reverence for you, my Valley teammates. This summer has been electrifying and humbling. Whether the moment in question found us trekking up hills, swimming against the current, dancing in the rain, or simply sardine-packed into a graffiti scrawled city bus, every step I’ve taken has been enhanced by its proximity to yours. I’ve decided to stay here in Panama, and I’m beyond thrilled to continue working with Kalu Yala. Still, I know I will be unable to forget any of you, my primary team, my jungle jovens.