13 Chapters
Medium 9781576753927

Nine: Sarayacu, Ecuador

Handler, Marisa Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

153


“Once, there were many sabios here. They were very pure. They were able to transform into snakes and tigers. They knew everything—sickness, healing, they understood it all.” Atanacio Sabino Gualinga Cuji, a shaman himself, is giving me a crash course on three and a half centuries of Sarayacu history. His gaze is piercing, unbending from eyes blued by cataracts, eyebrows riotous as the jungle floor. “Then the Christians came to convert us. Then the companies came to drill for oil.” He shakes his head. “In ’35 Shell came and put a pipeline in. Before, there were lots of fish, turtles, alligators. After, nothing was left. Everything died from oil.”

Atanacio is tiny, earnest, serene. His hair is oiled and neatly combed, his goatee white-filamented, his checkered shirt clean and pressed. We are sitting in his yard on two well-worn stump-stools, beneath the cool relief of palm-thatch. He looks beyond me to where Mario, my host here, sits with his wife, chatting in tempered tones, sipping homemade chicha. “I saw it. Everything died.” He considers the sweat-polished wood of his walking stick, propped scepterlike beside him. “There is money. But here there are marvels. Here we have pure air. Here women can walk freely.” He giggles, now a mischievous six-year-old dropping a punch line. “We only have to watch out for the snakes.” Then he’s abruptly somber again, with all the burden of his seventy-odd years. “The oil corporations—they want to kill everything here. They don’t understand. They live apart from real knowledge. We wouldn’t want that kind of knowledge.” Atanacio pauses as a tame toucan—the family pet—dashes boldly at us, formidable beak parted in an ear-splitting screech. He tosses it a nut. “We want to maintain our culture and identity. My role is to maintain the consciousness.” He looks past me, past the palm fronds, into the legendary mar verde of Amazonia. Quietly, now: “The earth is our mother and father. We can’t sell our mother and father.”

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753927

Eight: Miami

Handler, Marisa Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

133


Run, Marisa, run. Go. Go. Go. Faster. Keep running.

There is no other line of thought in my brain. The panic stretches so wide it exiles all but the nonessential. Run. Run. I am clutching my sign, my backpack is jogging hard against me, and it will be simply a matter of luck if I don’t slam into another runner. Sirens shriek. I am surrounded by choppy swells of black, a surging swarm of sprinters veering at manic angles. Cops at the jagged edges of the beast, prowling. Run. I’m not sure why, but I must keep running, can’t be left behind. Go. Faster. Move. Can’t see much in front: just bobbing heads. Behind: generous crescents of white around the eyes, pink Os of mouths.

Can’t—get—quite—enough—oxygen.

“Run!” someone is screaming, as if we weren’t already, as if hundreds of pairs of lungs weren’t already aflame. “Run!” Rape! Fire! Murder! they may as well be howling. Panic stabs through the crowd, and the pace picks up. Somewhere in the conjoined brain of this terrorized animal the primal impulse to flee has been slumbering; once aroused it is overwhelming, irresistible, familiar. A cheer arises from my left. On a window glints the strident black of a fresh-scrawled anarchy sign. Running through the streets of Miami with the Black Bloc: not what I pictured when I contemplated going to Miami to protest the FTAA.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753927

Two: The Valley

Handler, Marisa Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


“Hey you! Chica! You!”

He is whistling at me. I keep walking rapidly. Where is homeroom again? Yes, B13, on the other side of the campus. That way, I need to go toward the central lawn and then—

“Hey, you! Girl, I’m talkin’ to you!”

Followed by a sodden trill of kisses. People are starting to look. I scurry along, head down. I hate this school. Every single one of my six classes is in a different location. Portola Junior High is roughly the size of seven Camps Bay Primaries put together. It’s my third day and I still get lost trying to find my classes.

“You! Baby! Turn aroun’!”

The hallways are clearing as the six-minute passing period ticks to a close. A good proportion of those who remain pause to take in the unfolding theatrics. I scan the faces around me anxiously. They are, to a last one, untarnished by empathy. Not a single face is familiar. No one to stand up for me. It would be impossible to know everybody here, or even a tenth of everybody. Who ever dreamed of putting two thousand kids into one school?

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753927

Seven: San Francisco

Handler, Marisa Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

115


“Listen, I have to say that I have pretty strong feelings on this one. There’s no question in my mind: we really need the ‘the’ in there.”

“I know you have strong feelings about this, Jumble, and I also feel strongly. The ‘the’ makes it way too specific. We aren’t only about this war. We’re about all war, right?”

“Jill. Just think for a minute, please. We are talking about war in Iraq here. We aren’t talking about Vietnam or Afghanistan. People aren’t going to get out in the streets over some war. They’re going to mobilize around Iraq.”

“Are you trying to build a movement destined to self-destruct? Is that what you’re doing? Because then you’re on the right path, my friend. I’m just thinking about the future. Holding the long-term vision here. ‘Direct Action to Stop War.’ It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I mean, come on people, that says it all. We’re against war, period. Right? Or am I at the wrong meeting?” Jill looks about for support. The other six people who are neither Jill nor Jumble gaze steadily at the table or the walls. We’ve been sitting here for two hours and the “the” debate is now hitting the twenty-minute mark. Initially there were a number of robust contenders, but now only Jumble and Jill remain in the ring.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781576753927

One: Cape Town

Handler, Marisa Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Lunchtime at Camps Bay Primary School is when things tend to go severely wrong. Outside the structure of a syllabus, beyond the rigorous scrutiny of our teachers, I reliably blunder. These forty-minute daily ordeals typically consist in no small portion of us prattling about what our parents prattled about over the last night’s supper table. Election time is no different.

“Who are your parents voting for?” Joan turns to Catherine first. Joan is my best friend, and the only girl who can legitimately kick my ass at the hundred-meter sprint. Of course, going to an all-white public school does cut out a good chunk of the competition.

“The Nats, obviously.” Catherine nibbles delicately on the edge of her sandwich. Blond, green-eyed, and irritatingly demure, Catherine is the resident beauty in Standard 4P, Camps Bay Primary. At least half of the boys sitting on the other end of the playground spend lunchtime gazing at her with unadulterated longing. I, on the other hand, wend my way from one humiliating, clumsy crush to the next. Any attention I do get from boys is strictly limited to my skinny legs or massive, unwieldy glasses. Following the purchase of our house in Camps Bay, a sleepy beach suburb of Cape Town, my parents had been feeling a tad pinched when it came to finances. My mother succeeded in convincing my sister and me that her old frames were just perfect for us. Given that my vision verges on legally blind, the abnormally thick, oversized lenses make for a fearsome sight.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters