Thursday, March 30, 2017
Working Late in La Chunga
Short. Really short. Stocky too. He's ahead of us on the trail at two in the morning. Shirtless, clad only in threadbare shorts, he emerges from the darkness into the light of our lamps. He holds a hand-carved paddle, cocobolo, rosewood for English speakers, the kind used for dugout canoes for traveling up and down the river to places like La Chunga. The tide was coming in and the water rose high in the channel. Frogs hunted spiders. Spider eyes by the hundreds shown in the light of our lamps. "Busco una embarcacion, " (I'm looking to get on a boat) he said to DJ, our guide back out to the big river, the Sambu, and our lancha back out to roads and buses. He said this into our little sphere of light and its swarm of mosquitoes and gnats. "Pero no hay barcos," (but there aren't any boats) he mused to no one in particular. He was mostly deaf, seventy something, widowed, and rumored to be the best pig hunter in the village. He worked all the time, day and night. DJ told us he was one of the old timers of the village, a real traditional Embera man, one who knew the ways of animals, birds, fish, plants, spirits, and water. He sighed at the lack of boats before he stepped forward in the direction from which we had just come. Darkness closed in behind him. I watched him fade into the night, he who knew the way in, before turning to follow the others, all of us on the way out.