By Danielle L. Krautmann
It’s 8am and I am in my best mood, sipping coffee, sitting alone in the open-air lobby of the main lodge writing in my journal. For almost a month now, I have gone to sleep and dreamed of spending my days walking through tangles of vines, trees taller than my apartment building, watching animals eat other animals, nature unfolding in front of my eyes. For almost a month, I have woken up in the morning to find that it was not a dream and today I will walk through the forest again. I allow my thoughts to flow onto the pages of my journal with little attention to spelling, grammar, or whether or not my audience will like it. My journal is only for me. So I write this morning’s thoughts…
“Dear Journal, I never knew how many different shades of green existed until this past week when I started working on names for them in my head. When Crayola gets word of this I want to be the first employee who’s job it is to label the colors. There’s leaf-cutter-ant green, naked-tree green, Mealy-Parrot green, and we can’t forget Orange Cheeked Parrot green, the purest green of them all. Am considering changing my favorite color from yellow to…”
I pause from my writing as a flustered middle-aged woman plops down next to me with a dramatic sigh commanding me to look up from my journal. As I raise my eyebrows towards her she declares “If you are writing about this company, I hope you write about what a bad job they do preparing their guests for what to bring.”
I have no choice but to acknowledge her and at least appear that I’m listening by using the age-old trick of staring at her forehead. She continues, “They said on the website that I should bring long-sleeved shirts, so I brought three, but I get hot when I hike and I only brought two short-sleeved shirts which will get covered in sweat. And they said it might rain here, so I brought a rain jacket and rain pants, but it hasn’t rained so how can you explain that?”
I know she will go on, so I allow my mind to drift back into its stream of thought. I contemplate a decision as critical as changing my favorite color. Have you ever tried to name all of the hues of yellow? Would it be fair to Yellow to replace it without first visiting the sun or at least staring at it for a long time? I think to myself. Then…Darn. The lady is looking at me and awaiting an answer. How long I have been staring at her forehead? What was her question?
She appears irritated with my lack of attention and responds “I know. You would think they’d do something about that. They could AT LEAST keep them further from the lodge.”
I can’t pretend to listen any more. This is the first time I’ve felt irritated in weeks. “What was your question?” I ask in the nicest voice I can muster.
“I asked if you’re writing about what a bad job the company does of telling people what to bring.”
“Um, no. But when you fill out your evaluation, please try to be clear in what you felt was lacking. But no, that’s not what I’m writing about.” I respond apologetically only to be scolded with a “Well, maybe you should!” before she stormed off.
I work for, what is in most guest’s opinion one of the best ecotourism companies in the world. What I have learned most from working in the tourism industry is that some people travel for the sole purpose of complaining. It bothered me a lot my first three weeks working in the Amazon. I would ask myself, guides, other tourists: How in the world can you come to such an incredible place and find something to complain about?
While most travelers who visit the lodges are in awe and have an amazing time, I would find myself trying to scope out the bad eggs. When a new group came in, I would think to myself, which one will it be? Well, today I remember that she isn’t the first and won’t be the last.
But with less than a week left in this place, I cannot worry about her sweaty armpits. So I take a sip of my coffee, and return to the most important decision I will make today. I don’t think I’ll change my favorite color, but I’m definitely gonna write Crayola when I get back to Lima.