A Different Kinda Dance
Instead of mirrors and disco balls, there is a sparsity of light bulbs strung up. The wiring is exposed, hanging from ceiling rafters, powered by a generator. There is no taxi or vehicle otherwise taking us too and fro, only a manually propelled canoe and a 20 minute hike through the jungle in our finest attire, collars and skirts, with bottles of alcohol in tow. Instead of a
linoleum or sealed wooden floor, there is a dusty concrete surface, proudly showing the marks of tread over years of use. No one notices or cares. Forget about a pounding, watt frothing sound system making your chest feel like a paper bee hive. There is however a boom box, maybe a few years old, also powered by the generator that is just loud enough. Draughts of cheecha...of cerveza, are not needed to forget the difference between a multi thousand dollar sound system and one that cost $200. No one notices or cares, its all too delicious. Dancing slow or fast; close, no distance between my body and hers, two worlds magnetically brought
together like a car accident. Wonderfully sweaty, hands clasped, hips shake to the repetitive rhythm of the Kichwa song pulsing out of the speakers. The three minute musical connection of our hearts, minds, and wet skinned selves is enough to forget our surroundings, of the surroundings in any perceptible place.
But wait....who the hell wants to forget? We are in the jungle, amongst new Kichwa friends, an ocean of buzzing and droning insect life, gigantic geranium leaves big enough to cover the genitals of a Leviathan. A Kichwa dance party in the jungle.
Sitting people of ALL ages line the boundaries of that dusty, marred, perfect concrete dance floor, waiting to be offered a drink out of friendship, or to be asked for the next dance. Babies, tykes, ninos, jovenes, young people, teens, women, old women, abuelitas, chicas calientes, men, men with sweat stained shirts and protruding bellies, grandfathers, mothers, mothers openly breastfeeding, guapalitas, handsome devils and heartbreakers. I always wanted to share at least one dance with a woman that was breastfeeding, the image would just be too funny and bizarre to pass up, but somehow that goal evaporated from my compulsatory grasp. The number of this jungle groove fest consisted of about 200 indigenous Kichwa folk, and maybe 15 westerners. It was a collection of happy and drunken souls on a dance floor without walls; the only boundaries being the deep blackness of night swallowing everything extending a more than a childs' stone throw away from the light bulbs.
And more cheecha is being concocted. The beverage that I love, that all my volunteer friends hate with a nauseous passion. It gets boiled over a pit in huge vats, the main (yet certainly not only) ingredient being mashed yucca root, and is let to ferment over a few days...the longer the more potent. It has a mottled white appearance, the consistency of clam chowder, and generally has an all around vomit like taste. I love it because it is free; it is strong; it is the strange and beautiful custom of a different culture; and when I gulp it down with a ravenous thirst, it disgusts and shocks all those around me. Shock value, a thing of marvelous worth....at least to me. It is customary and ordinary at a Kichwa party for it to be passed around the entire crowd
of people, small draughts being dished out of a large vat carried around by one person. While most people are satisfied (or painfully satiated) by one little sip out of the bowl, I usually drain at least two full bowls, with the permission of my stomach of course. This is just one amongst many of the story worthy customs of a Kichwa dance party. I fear it will be a long wait until the opportunity of one presents itself again. Until then, the memory of dancing the night away in a happy, intoxicated mass of Kichwa people surrounded by jungle flora will be savored upon like a green jawbreaker, never shrinking in size, slowly becoming sweeter in taste.