JUNGLE NIGHTS


It takes me a week, five flights, and a ten-hour boat ride to reach the Nukini village. Finally, the boat pulls up to Joana’s riverside home and I try to stand—my legs barely allow it. The family’s house is open and spacious and permanently surrounded by mottled ducklings and scrawny chickens. In every direction, the view is green: olive green, emerald green, sea green, pea green, chartreuse, sage. I can only just make out the neighbors past the gardens.

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The children welcome me in a cheerful but matter-of-fact manner—if my arrival is cause for excitement, it doesn't show. It's life as usual, and life as usual in a young family consists mostly of chores. Nevertheless, I'm delighted: to me even the mundane is spectacularly exotic. We bring the food and luggage up to the house and get settled.

I tie my hammock to the rafters with the help of the crafty nine-year-old Isaac. Next to us, Pedro installs some electric wiring: for the first time, their home will have electric lights. The power is supplied by a generator that runs from 6 to 9 PM, lighting up every house this end of the village. Joana is hardly excited about it: the generator is quite noisy, and she prefers being able to see the stars at night.

Our neighbor Paula and her family have been using electricity for some time now. Paula is one of the school teachers who makes an effort to preserve Nukini traditions and language. She shares Joana's sentiment: “Animals used to come much closer to the house when we didn’t use lights.” The families that flock to her house to watch the soap opera every night disagree—they are more than happy to substitute the stars in the sky with those on the screen.

Next: Part 4/8 - Jungle Eats

Previous: Part 2/8 - How Pedro Fell in Love with a City Girl