There I was: flying in a speedboat down the second largest river in Ecuador-the Cuyabeno. I was heading back from my three-day jungle adventure at the Guacamayo Ecolodge. I dipped my hand into the splashing warm water skidding by alongside the boat. The cloudy water conceals all sorts of creatures from anacondas to piranhas. Guacamayo Ecolodge focuses on sustainable tourism by providing solar electricity and protecting the communities in the reserve located in 604,000 hectares of primary rainforest.
We pulled away from the lodge in our speedboat and headed for an island that can only be reached by a two-hour boat ride. At the last moment before exiting the island, a gorgeous Ecuadorian female employee jumped on board. It was hard not to stare at her natural beauty from the corner of my eye. As a makeup artist searching for indigenous beauty, she was unusually striking in a way that I had never seen before. She possessed a flawless face with Indian features; just like a real-life Pocahontas.
The sun was extremely hot this morning and I couldn’t stop scratching my itchy arms and legs, which were covered in sand fly bites. I looked back at the woman and with the intention of having an in-depth conversation about beauty, I asked, “Do you know what I can use for my bites?” And I embarrassingly showed her my bitten legs. She smiled and said the trick is to not scratch the area and to apply aloe vera to heal it faster. I did not have a true appreciation for aloe vera until my trip to South America. Aloe vera is used for almost everything by the natives. On my trek to Machu Picchu, the Peruvian locals suggested to use aloe vera as a protectant from the sun.
As a beauty expert and also a half-Ecuadorian female, I was intrigued to know more about her beauty regimen. What does she use to protect her skin from the sun? Does she use SPF 15 or SPF 50? What kind of shampoo does she use? Something from a tree like ground up bark or leaves? The endless string of questions were running through my mind. We stopped every so often to observe animals in their natural habitats. I smiled when we spotted a family of turtles and again when we stumbled upon the bluest butterfly I had ever seen; called the morpho butterfly. We also saw the brightly-colored toucans and macaws. It was picturesque. This was a glimpse into the simple life; an appreciation of nature and its beauty. But I wanted to know more about her beauty. I wanted to know what she and the other tribe women considered beautiful.
Which question to ask first? I thought. Finally, I asked the woman, “do you use mosquito repellant?” She shrugged her shoulders and answered no. I quickly rebutted and said, “so the mosquitoes don’t bite you?” She laughed as she replied, “No. We became used to them and over a period of time they don’t bite you anymore.” With a surprised look, I asked if she used sunblock. She answered, “why?” I explained that people in America use it to prevent wrinkles and sun damage, and she interrupted me, “No, we don’t use any of that in the jungle.”
Her occasional eye contact and confident behavior in response to my questions made me feel welcome to ask her anything. I then introduced myself and said that I was traveling the world in search of beauty. I told her I was half Ecuadorian and I wanted to identify with my cultural beauty roots. I asked her what it meant to be beautiful in the Jungle.
Stay tuned for Next Weeks Posts…………..