Rich tourists

Tonight I had a strange dream. I dreamed I had spent 90.000 Euros on the first part of my SALIDA journey – that included:

  • crossing the Atlantic ocean on the „Tres Hombres“, a sustainable cargo sailing boat
  • all trainsportation between Belém in Brasil, to Puerto Maldonado in Perú, to Cuzco and back, to Lima and back to Cuzco, to the communities (airfares, busses of all categories, canoes, taxis and collective taxis – no horses on that trip)
  • food (eating in restaurants, cooking myself, eating with the locals)
  • housing (in hotels and staying with locals)
  • lending money which I never got back

The lending money part was one I didn’t grasp in my dream. Had it really been that much?

Yes, I gave money to people who actually were really helpful with my project. Because I had it at the time, and because I really though I would get it back. It wasn’t to total strangers either, but to people that had offered me a home. In the end, I didn’t get it back. Everyone tells me, I am stupid and that of course that was to happen. There is another case, however, and this is, where I have to say: „No, I am not stupid. I just had a different concept of trust and friendship between locals and the foreigner that I will always be in a country like Peru, no matter how much time I will spend there.“ (that being different in certain parts of Lima, however):
I spend a lot of time in Monte Salvado in the Peruvian rainforest (see previous blogs). Teodoro, the founder of the community, asked me, when we got back, if he could borrow 2000 Soles for a month and return it with a ten percent interest, which is normal there. I gave him the money, but refused to make that deal including the interest. Teodoro paid back every cent, a month later than agreed, but he kept his word. We are still in touch and I am hoping that, once I can continue filming in Peru and start with my so-called development projects in the region, that together with Teodoro and his family in Monte Salvado we will be able to do many things together that help their community to more autonomy. So they can do what they see as their purpose and protect the un-contacted tribes in the area.

– With Teodoro in the rainforest, finding out about natural medicine. In the background: the drowned boat he had wanted to take me on to explore the lagune.

„I am gringa, hence I am a tourist, hence I am rich.“ That’s the perception that people in countries like Peru have when they look at me. People that belong to a sort of upper low class, you could say. People with little income, basic education, even being able send their kids to university, watching a lot of telenovelas and TV news, reading newspapers and knowing how to handle the internet. Their perception is highly influenced by their access to information through media channels. And the picture US and European media like to draw of our countries is: Our standard of living is economically high and we are financially better off than people in the so-called third world.

I was very disappointed and hurt when I realized that I wouldn’t get my money back – also because I invested all I had in this first phase of my project and don’t have the economic means to continue filming at the moment. I took it personal and got angry. I got angry at them, at people in this beautiful country Peru, the imbalance between South America and Europe / US, our system, society… at the end, at myself. Because in a way I had used their hospitality just as much without understanding the mechanism behind it. I just wanted to have a nest where I could feel home as well and started taking it for granted.

And apparently it still bothers me, otherwise I wouldn’t have dreamed about it last night. I am not saying: don’t lend money, because Teodoro’s example proofs just the opposite, even though he is less educated, doesn’t know how to handle a computer, and many other things that define modern society – or maybe because of that… There is such a fine line between that innocence of people like Teodoro and other farmers, chamans, etc. I have met in remote areas, and those who already start thriving for more. Every case, every person is unique. The next time I lend money, I will make sure that I won’t miss it, if I don’t get it back, but I certainly don’t want to start mistrusting! I will continue traveling openheartedly and be glad that is wasn’t 90.000 Euros I spent and gave away!

PS: Just remembered that a girl-friend also lend some money and paid me back! So it’s 2:2 in total! Her educational background, by the way, was a little higher than that of those who kept it.