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SQUAWK! There it was that call again. I studied the shifting green in front of me, at first distracted by so many unfamiliar leaves and colors. Finally I saw it, almost hidden between the twisted vines and purple flowers. There was my red macaw, staring down at me.



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Date: Tuesday August 21, 2007
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This Month's Other Stories

Teaching Love to Adolescents
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Following the Red Macaw

Walking by one of the many crowded bulletin boards dotting campus, something unusual caught my eye. There, almost hidden between the “Free Pizza” and “Music Jam Tonight” posters, perched a red macaw, staring out at me with its big black eye. “Amazon Jungle,” the flier said. “Come and Explore!”

Jungles have always fascinated me. Even as a kid, when I closed my eyes and thought, “Amazon,” my brain conjured up images of dense undergrowth and flowers, impenetrable walls of green concealing infinite ancient mysteries. But as a college sophomore, did I have the time or resources to embark on such a wistful adventure?

“Never say no till you know,” my mom once told me. So with her advice in mind, I wrote down the time and place for the interest meeting, and gave myself a pep talk. “Katie, you’ve got to take this chance while its here. After all, how many opportunities will there be to see the great places of the world?”

Still, I was skeptical.

The next week found me sitting in a classroom on an isolated side of campus. Dr. B led an interest meeting, telling story after story to match the colorful slides flipping by on screen.


He described wandering around a near paradise, filled with lost black water ponds, 4 foot lily pads,isolated lodges, leaf cutter ants and happy jungle people.

All this linked by the mighty Amazon river—a river so big sometimes you can't even see from one shore to the other.


“Sure it’s a bit dangerous,” Dr. B warned. “Its still wild- but it’s the adventure of a lifetime.”

My mind started reeling. Having never left the country, I couldn’t conceive what it would be to awaken to the sound of Macaws. No cell phones. For a week? Did such a place actually exist outside of the National Geographic Magazine?

It was almost too much. I left the meeting, my head full of ideas; yet I was already talking myself out of the adventure. I had too much to do. I mean, after all, these types of trips had to be scheduled at least a year in advance, not 6 months from now. And three thousand dollars was a lot of money (never mind that I would pay at least that much for a similar trip to Europe).

No, the jungle would just have to wait until later. Peru wasn’t going anywhere, and the jungle would be around forever, right?

Next year rolled around. With the changing of the leaves, and my new junior status, I started thinking back to that interest meeting. The jungle had been in the news a lot this year, and apparently it was going somewhere, disappearing at a rate of about 1.8 acres a second. I had the time; it didn’t have the time, so was now the time?

Or not. No matter where I looked, no macaws peeked out at me on campus from the billboards of campus. I contacted Dr. B. What happened? It was too late, the trip was canceled. Last years trip was amazing, but they could not get enough people together for this year. I had missed my chance.

Senior year arrived and the end of college loomed large. This was possibly my last chance to do something interesting, to chase that wistful idea just to see where it took me. So I went to talk to Dr. B. “I’ll hang up posters and motivate and organize people for the trip. Will you teach the class?”

After a short discussion, Dr. B agreed, and passed me a stack of fliers. The red macaw looked up at me, his big black eye staring into my soul. “This is your chance!” it said. “The word is calling!”

Holding the stack, I started jumping with excitement. “I’m going to the jungle!” Dr. B laughed and sent me on my way.

For the next two months I felt like the chicken in those old stories: I hung the fliers, and planted the seeds in student’s minds. I answered their emails and harvested their interest. I followed through and answered their questions, shaping a traveling group. I attended Dr. B’s class, got a job, and one day awoke to find a trip to the jungle all cooked up.

Spring Break rolled around and there we sat, chattering happily while we waited to board our plane. I was finally heading down to explore the stuff legends are made of, wildest place on earth: the Amazon jungle.

From the capital city Lima, we hopped on a small bush plane to the Peruvian jungle city of Iquitos, a quick drive through the dirt streets brought us to a dock where just as quickly we boarded our first boat and set out onto the Amazon.

Dusk fell and the river refineries gave way to jungle, solid green lining both sides of the river. After so much rushing it was all we could do to watch in wonder as the sunset painted vivid colors against the dark waters of the Amazon. Soon there was nothing to see but our boat sending ripples into the reflected starlight.


A slight drizzle started to fall as we reached our lodge, but we were protected by the torch lit bridges while we carried our luggage to our rooms. Settling under my mosquito net, I listened to the rain patter against the palm roof. Was this real? Was I actually here? I smiled into the darkness as I drifted off to sleep.

SQUAWK! Light shone threw the windows and I sat straight up. What was that? I got up to run outside but as soon as I opened I stopped short and gasped. What was that smell? The air tasted so pure. So… green.

SQUAWK! There it was that call again. I studied the shifting green in front of me,


at first distracted by so many unfamiliar leaves and colors. Finally I saw it, almost hidden between the twisted vines and purple flowers. There was my red macaw, staring down at me.

“Welcome to the Jungle.” It said. “You finally made it.”


Written by Katie

Red Macaw photo -- © Photographer: James Knopf | Agency: Dreamstime.com


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