Before March 2020, I was in a different country nearly every month. Then, when literally packed up and waiting to catch a ride to the airport, the Guatemalan President went live on national television and basically said to foreigners, "Don’t come." That was thirteen months ago.
So, after receiving the second Covid-19 vaccine shot, once again my office is strewn with gear and tech. This time I believe I’ll make it to Guatemala to visit our bi-coastal parrot conservation efforts – we work with the yellow-headed amazon on the Atlantic coast and the yellow-naped amazon on the Pacific coast.
Two of the conservationists I will be working with next week in Guatemala
(photo by Julian Serrato of CONAP)
People keep asking me if I’m deliriously happy to be free from the stay-at-home lifestyle and able to fly free with my beloveds. Well…yes…I am grateful. And ambivalent.
Did I soften up in these intervening months? Will hiking in 95-degree humid heat to the parrots’ nests do me in? Nah, I just need to see one nest tree today, not all five. Will my hammock be as comfortable as it once was, and be enough privacy for me with the ten or more conservationists and soldiers camping out with me? When are we getting back to a town with a hotel?
My future camp mates on their way to the conservation site (photo by Julian Serrato)
Where we will be "camping" in the community building and school - now with our new
anti-poaching signs for the community (photo by Julian Serrato)
Will my cargo pants still fit? They do, mostly, but they aren’t nearly as comfy as my PJs and sweat pants. And what am I going to do with all those pockets? And will witnessing the poaching of parrot nests hurt less or more when I can actually touch the tree and hear the beseeching calls of the chicks' parents? I think it will be the same, though the meaning of being able to do all I can for the people and their wild parrots, and being with them as present as possible, might lessen the persistent ache.
A yellow-headed amazon nest poached on April 8, 2021
I’m well aware that I am privileged to be able to go visit our conservation partners, because it is so hard for them to be protected with vaccines and adequate health care, let alone obtain documents to travel safely out of harm’s way. The southern border of the USA is currently overwhelmed with people coming from where I am headed in a few days. The two back-to-back hurricanes in November are still having an impact on local communities in Guatemala and Honduras, leaving many without homes, jobs, or enough food. I’ve had plenty in the last year, and now it’s my turn to do with a little less comfort.
But I will be comforted, because most of these people with whom I work are not strangers. We’ve been in close contact during the past year via WhatsApp and Zoom, maybe even more so than when I used to travel a lot, because our movements have been more restricted and have slowed down. But face-to-face time, standing on common ground beneath a parrot tree, and looking to the sky together helps us dream with more passion of a world with more justice and compassion. That’s where we’re headed together. Oh, what a place we are going to!
I will be distributing patches and stickers with this message:
We are all going to that promised land together!