By Danielle L. Krautmann

To access the lodges, I must fly to Puerto Maldonardo, then take a boat up the Tambopata river. You cannot access the lodges by road.

About a month ago I was bored in my apartment for 10 minutes.  Charlie was at the mine, it was eight o’clock at night and none of my movies looked enticing.  I hate the mention of the words bored, boredom, boring and agree with Harvey Danger when he sings “if you’re bored than you’re boring.”  That’s the last thing I want to be.  So I baked a pie, cleaned the house and sat down at my computer.  I tried to write, but nothing came so I began searching the internet for inspiration.  In the process I found a very general classified add in the “journalism” section of an ex-pat site.

Looking for someone to travel to Puerto Maldonardo for 3 to 5 months for writing/social networking.  Length of of time somewhat negotiable.

Knowing nothing of the position, or about social networking, or whether I could commit to three months in southern Peru, I replied via email with my resume and a link to my blog assuming that would be the end of it.  I moved on to bigger and better things and by the time my pie had cooled and I had completed the first half of my instructional DVD on belly dancing, I had forgotten about my informal application.  A few days later I received an email asking about my availability and possibly meeting.  A week later, I found myself in Starbucks sitting across from Martin, my contact for what I’m calling (to myself) the “jungle gig.”  Ironically, I had just finished a segment in Spanish class in which we practiced conducting jobs interviews (in Spanish).  Fortunately this interview was in English.

A happy hiker in her element

Still knowing absolutely nothing about what this position would entail, Martin, the Limean,  asked me what I was expecting from this job.  I correctly took his question to mean what would I expect in terms of compensation.  I decided that I would spar with him in this ambiguity game and replied that I expected that I need not to make money on the gig, but did not want to spend money either.  After several more non-specific questions during which I struggled to get some idea of what we were talking about, I couldn’t stand it.  I had to ask in the most polite professional way I could come up with, “um…now…I was just wondering…well…what exactly is your company and um….what kind of …er…position…are you looking to fill?”  Martin’s reply was to hand me a CD with a cover that said “Rainforest Expeditions” and wait for my reply.  From there I began to learn more, when I got home and saw the company webpage, I was sold.

Rainforest Expeditions is an ecotourism company that operates three sustainable lodges in southern Peru in the Tambopata National Reserve.  My job is to “social network,”  which means that I maintain the Facebook business page, Twitter account, and keep a blog, which essentially brings more attention to the company via the internet.  While I believe in this position and have recently noticed how many large and small companies have Facebook and Twitter accounts, I initially knew very little about this new wave of social networking.  I am currently in the learning phases using books, knowledgeable friends, and online sources to guide me.  For me to do an effective job, I’m going to have to take at least two trips to the lodges to visit them, write about what’s going on there, and interact with other guests, networking the old fashioned way via conversation.  During my interview, Martin mentioned that there would be a “social aspect” to this position and said he was looking for someone with an outgoing personality who would be able to talk to other guests.  Does this sound like my type of job or what?  My first trip is for three weeks and I will be departing Sunday morning.

To clarify, I will not be staying in a 5 star resort.  But to me, this is far better.  Ecotourism means “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” (TIES, 1990).  I will be sleeping in shared staff quarters except for when Charlie comes for 4 days to visit, during which we will be put in tourist lodging.  The lodges are built from local materials and to minimize impact have cold water only, electricity via generator only turned on once a day, lighting form kerosene lamps and candles, and open air sleeping with mosquito nets.  I picture waking up in the morning to the sounds of birds rather than traffic on Javier Prado, breathing air free of diesel fuel, and seeing an area of Peru off the gringo trail where few tourists venture.

On Sunday I will leave the city with little hesitation other than the last few words spoken by my interviewer in our first conversation.  “This place is addicting.  People who leave always want to come back.”  Bring it on, jungle.  I’m ready.