My first day at the lodge, together with a group of six people, we followed Romulo, our guide out in the jungle. As we made our way deep in the forest, we were taught several techniques such as building an animal trap and making a fishing rod. We were introduced to all the plants that are used as herbal medicines to cure headaches, skin irritation, malaria and many other diseases.
At some point, Romulo got all excited, “Look, look, there are army ants!” We all looked at each other, trying to understand why this was supposed to be so exciting.
He got down on the ground and picked two of them up on his fingers. He explained that an army ant’s grip with their jaw is so powerful that the natives used these ants to stitch up wounds. They would place an army ant over an open wound and squeeze it from behind, so the ant would bite down around the wound. This was their process of what we refer to as “stitches.”
In an effort to demonstrate this, Romulo, squeezed the back of both ants on his fingers. Sure enough, the ants gripped on tight with their jaws. He then had us pull on the ants’ lower body, so we can feel the power of their grip on his fingers. It was like pulling on a nail stuck in a wall.
Romulo had each of us tried this, giving us time to really feel the pressure. I could see the ant’s jaw digging in his fingers. It was like two sharp staples dug deep in each finger and having someone pulling at them. I just had to ask, “Romulo, isn’t this painful?” He looked at me, smiled and replied,
“This is a good pain. It reminds me that I’m alive.”
His words stuck in my mind throughout my entire stay in the jungle.
I lived with no electricity and no hot water. We had to fish for food and ate piranhas for the first time.
We made yucca bread by actually chopping down the yucca tree and making everything by hand.
I came up close with spiders, had all kinds of different species of cockroaches in my room and in my bed.
One night, I walked in my room and had a little visitor that sent me running to Romulo for help. A snake was crawling up against a wall beside the door.
I’ll be honest. I felt an anxiety and discomfort in the beginning. It’s normal, once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, you will experience things that are unfamiliar to you. This was certainly nothing I had ever experienced before.
As I kept living it, I realized that this pain actually made me experience feeling alive.
As I looked back to what my life was two years ago, I would not have given any of that up for just one day of being in an office answering emails. That pain reminded me that I had stopped living. Having to endure that kind of pain is nothing compared to the pain I endured in overcoming challenges of learning a new language, adapting to different cultures and all the mistakes of having to start over in achieving something that would make me better.
I understood what Romulo was trying to tell me.
How about you? Have you endured pain that reminded you that you’re alive?