February 20, 2011

Finding grandma in the forest – Telma Story 5

Telma walks to Tinkareni village to find her grandmother, Noemi. Telma hopes Noemi will help find out what is wrong with her.

Telma was a little worried about her two young children who she’d left in her mother’s charge back at the big river port, but she could move faster through the forest on her own and would be back before nightfall as long as she didn’t get distracted from her mission again

There were signs of climate change along the route, with deforestation happening in the path of recent flood waters. The path had been re-routed around tangled masses of trees and bare muddy gullies that didn’t used to be here.Yet much of the trail was wider than she remembered it. Some of the young men had been clearing it recently to make it easier to carry in building materials for the school building extension and also to carry out sacks of chocolate beans.

Tinkareni was one of the largest of Asháninka annex communities in the area; larger even than Cutivireni where Telma lived and which was the political “capital”for some nine separate villages scattered across a forested area extending to over 70,000 acres.Including children, there are almost three hundred people living at Tinkareni now, though at least half live in smaller satellite settlements and independent households strategically located along the trails that go deeper into the forested hills to the east.

Noemi and her sister, Telma’s aunty Paulina (who died last year), were the founders of Tinkareni village. They were married to the same man, an important leader, with whom, around forty years ago, they broke with the Asháninka tradition of living semi-nomadically by settling a piece of fertile land between the Tinkareni stream and the Mamiri river. It’s a beautiful spot with sandy river beaches, access to primary forest and some good alluvial soil for growing manioc, other foods and medicinal plants.

The closer Telma came to the village, the narrower the trail became. After an hour’s walking, Telma lifted her cushma – the traditional robe all Asháninka women wear – to keep it dry as she crossed theTinkareni stream. She washed her face in the cool flowing water, then continued up a short, but steep river bank before making her way through the chocolate tree gardens to the edge of the villageclearing.A big smile spread over her face as she saw Noemi stirring a pot over a small fire in her cooking hut. Noemi looked up and offered an even bigger smile in return.

Telma squatted by the fire, next to her grandmother and spoke very quietly to her asking for help to find out why she wasn’t feeling very well. Her concern was that she might be pregnant, something that she really didn’t need at the moment, with two young children already, herself only 22 years old and her husband still recovering from a snake bite.

Noemi told Telma not to worry and to prepare another fire, just outside the hut, for a vapour diagnosis and treatment. With that, the old ladystood up from squatting on the ground with the ease of a teenager. She walked gracefully out of the hut and disappeared into her garden with a large kitchen knife in one hand and a metal saucepan in the other.







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