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How experiencing the Bolivian jungle changed me

Why do that

Why would a little twenty year-old girl, living in Switzerland with a comfortable life go on the other side of the world to a developing country you might ask?

I think that the first reason is that I needed a challenge in my life. At this moment I needed to get out of my little routine to know if I was able to do something crazy like that. The kinds of things that can give you a kick a little and open your eyes to the world.

The shock of cultures and the reality of life

When I finally arrived, it was probably the biggest slap in the face that I could have had. I found myself confronted with a totally different lifestyle and mentality that were not mine.

I also had to face some hard realities of life, the kind I would probably never have encountered in my life as a ‘’privileged’’ European girl. The communities that Sustainable Bolivia tries to help in the reserve have no water and no electricity. The Bolivian medical system is really lacking as they use a small health post for the two of them. In contrast, in Switzerland everyone has health insurance. Here this is not the case. The public authorities are seen by some locals as corrupted. I saw the difference when Bolivians describe me the way it is here, compared to the Swiss political system I am used to living with, so quiet and stable.

The families here seem like they live in another world; the comfort is very basic because even if the salary is really low, the cost of living is very expensive.

I was always told by the locals that everything is dangerous in the city and in the country. You watch the TV and there are only horrible things happening on the screen all day long. That was the wakeup call I needed, to be grateful for my comfortable, safe, and happy life. With this in mind now, I feel I have a great responsibility to work to offer this feeling of safety to everybody, no matter where they are living. This experience made me want to change things to make the world a better place.

What this experience teaches me

I think that the very first thing that it gave me is self-confidence, I decided to take part in this adventure on a whim, without really thinking about all the consequences, implications, risks and all the stuff that it might include, I was just like “okay I will try that”. I knew in my heart that I had to do it or I never would. This is maybe the chance of my life and I had to take it, and if in addition I can help someone or do something for the planet it’s even better.

I have to confess that a few days before I was telling myself, ‘’ no Sophie you can’t do that, you are not courageous enough, it’s not for you. ‘’ Me, little princess, blond with blue eyes, typical gringo here, who was crying when she saw a tiny spider in the cellar of her big house.

Few weeks ago, I would never have believed that I would be in the middle of the jungle, walking in the middle of the night. This was quite possibly the scariest thing I have done in my life, I screamed a few times of course. I walked for few hours with only a flash light, my courage, and my guide who was encouraging me and didn’t let me go back running to the house.

A dream to come to a revelation

More than a challenge, this trip was an occasion to realize one of my biggest dreams. I am even more passionate about the Amazonian forest and the wild animals now.

I had the chance to see crocodiles just feet away, monkeys jumping from tree to tree like we can only see in the movies. I also discovered a new passion for frogs and I was almost sad to not be there for the rainy season to see more frogs and snakes.

This experience was also an occasion to confirm my subject of study; a few times before my trip I was asking myself if I was on a good academic path. More than a confirmation I had a revelation, I saw myself staying for hours in the middle of the jungle just looking at the trees moving and listening to the sound of the birds and the frogs and absorbing this natural and sensational experience. Just stalking the monkeys as quiet as possible, never losing sight of them and hoping that I can stay forever sitting in the middle of this jungle, in the middle of nowhere alone in the world just looking at the monkeys playing all the day long, in a few words: just enjoying the show of the nature.

Preservation or learn from our mistakes

What I try to defend in my normal life in Switzerland, fighting for the rights of animals and for them to let be quiet in their natural environment, I was now living that in real life, with real wildlife. In the jungle you have to be lucky and really patient to see something. But for me it was the chance to see the beauty of the preserve and wildness of nature. I want, and I will, do everything possible to preserve this beauty.

There was a lot of contrast between this natural beauty and other areas, like the trash heap I had to pass through to arrive in the forest, or the slash-and-burn field things all over, the plastics bags everywhere in the city, the abandoned bottles in the middle of the forest, lakes full of trash, the electricity spent for no reason.

But how can we accuse the people living here when they don’t really know how to do good, and don’t know the consequences of their acts. They are living like we some of us were living before when we were thinking that we can do anything without repercussions, that our acts would have no repercussions for the greater world and mostly that nobody was coming to telling us what to do and how to do it.

I think that it is our mission to not just scream at this this people but also help them to learn about our errors to prevent them from doing the same.

Sharing

In the direction of this idea, I think that sharing is a really important point of this trip, maybe even the central point.

Whether it is with the family I am living with, who teaches me Spanish, initiated me into their culture, and showed me the local tradition, and local food. The traditions helped make me a part of the family by associating with the local community. Finally, about the orphanage, this is I think the more touching point, the people who are in charge of the children just give them everything they can, their time but even more, most of their life these children are left to themselves.

In summation, a lot of people told me that I was too young to do this kind of thing, especially because I was a girl, and you know it’s well known that girls are fragile and delicate and can’t do anything by themselves and alone. But if you want to do something just do it and never let someone stop you in your dreams.

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