May 23, 2004

Floating Down the Amazon in a Dugout Canoe

Snapshots In My Time, Of My Time.....Hauntings.

Senior year college-1983

Yanomamo Girl

That was my only goal in life at the float down the Amazon River in a dugout canoe. It was my life's goal. I was an anthropology major and had prepared for working in a third world country. I had taken so much Spanish that I was pretty darned fluent. (Try this if you aren't) I had planned to join the Peace Corps when I graduated and then begin the world of work. I was ready to go off and see the world and assist all those Spanish speaking 3rd world countries.

I loved anthropology. I loved reading about all those exotic countries and ways of life. Margaret Mead was my heroine. I had read all of her books and wanted to do the sort of things she had done. My favorite book by her was Growing Up in New Guinea. It was written in 1930 about the people who lived in Manus in the Admiralty Islands who had not been exposed to what we call the outside world at all. Believe it or not I still have a copy of it on my book shelf.

I had a wonderful anthropology professor for all 4 years as well. His name was Gary Brana-Shute. He inspired me in many different ways during college and for years after. While the time "may" --and I mean "may" be past for floating down the Amazon in a dugout canoe, I still have that yearning inside to do just that due to him. He gave great lectures on the population he studied when he was in school. He studied the people of Paramaribo, Suriname. Specifically, male behavior of that population. He has, of course, written several books and many articles on the subject. Gary Brana-Shute's main book on the topic is On The Corner: Male Social Life in a Paramaribo Creole Neighborhood. He also wrote Crime and Punishment in the Caribbean.

We had to study many different cultures during school but the one that stands out the most in my memory is the Yanomamo. They are a fierce, warring, tribe of people who live in the rain forests of central Brazil. They have no real written language, wear minimal clothing and the men are the leaders of the tribe. They do have a detailed religion based on story telling and the use of hallucinogenic drugs. They are, I think, the last population of the world to be exposed to modern civilization. I do know that many books have been written about them and their culture is being destroyed as the rainforests are being cut down. They have been featured in National Geographic.

Well to get back to me in 1983, I had mailed in my application for the Peace Corps and had been accepted. I told my mom what I planned to do. The "you know what" hit the fan. She said I could not go for many reasons. She mentioned the danger about Peace Corps volunteers being killed as the main thing. That was not a deterrent to me, I was an anthropology major. There was not a culture in the world I could not understand without a little study on the people. I was ready for total culture immersion. I told her I was going. She then began with another tactic. She had paid for 4 years of college and I was going to put it to good use. I was going to get a paying job and not one that may pay $30 a month with the Peace Corps. Well there was not any letup so eventually she wore me down and I did get a job. I put my dream of the Peace Corps off for a while, but the while never ended.

The closest I get to the wilderness is watching Survivor and the Amazing Race on tv.
To this day I have the yearning to run off and see the world--to ride down the Amazon in a dugout canoe--to eat roasted tarantulas around a campfire and to bathe with the pirahna.
check out my favorite anthropology books:

Up In
New Guinea

On The

of the
Rain Forest


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