May 10, 2007

Peru: Jungle moon

We walked through the Bora indian village in the Peruvian Amazon, passing thatch-roofed, wooden huts on stilts where women tended to steaming cauldrons of mush made from manioc root and men stretched and strung whole, tanned hides of wild boar to cure in the sun.

As we neared the village's central grassy field, used for community gatherings and soccer games, children began to appear from the trees, all headed for the open-sided school that sat on a concrete slab at the field's far end. Older siblings led younger ones, and a few teenage girls shepherded younger brothers and sisters toward the school while carrying their own babies in slings on their backs. At the school, the younger kids took places at the wooden desks and benches under the open-air structure's corrugated green roof, and the older ones left to tend to chores -- fishing, washing, cooking, hunting.

We sat outside the school awhile and watched the teacher, who came to the village by boat a few times a week from the city of Iquitos downriver, as she led her class in Spanish grammar lessons.

As we walked away from the school, the kids started to sing. To the tune of "Have You Ever Seen a Lassie?" we heard "Vamos a la luna, la luna, la luna..."

We stopped and listened. A dozen small voices singing from a remote jungle school: "We're going to the moon, the moon, the moon..."

Did they know, I wondered, that man has been there?