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  • From: Jeronimo M.M.

    Subject: Greetings from the Amazon

    Dear X…

    I am writing to you from a cabin in the middle of the Amazon jungle. I’ve been here in complete solitude for 15 days now. I am not allowed to eat much, half a bowl of rice and a green banana a day. No salt, sugar, oils, fat, or fruits. I not allowed to read books or listen to music. I can’t walk very far form the cabin, nor stand in the sun. I’m not allowed to bathe, or brush my teeth. I am not allowed to do much, other than sit in the hammock, think, and wait. Every morning an indigenous curandero (medicine man) serves me a cup of palos, a herbal brew of roots, barks, and leafs of some 15 different plants. It tastes like rotten compost. First I want to puke, then things get strange. In these parts they call this process la dieta, and they’ve been doing it since time immemorial. It is part of indigenous body of medical knowledge that has survived the European conquest, the missionaries, the outboard engines, the governmental alphabetization campaigns, and the satellite dishes. Five hundred years after Columbus arrival here I am, a white guy, receiving from a mestizo a preparation whose formula was discovered by an Indian hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

    The prescription goes something like this: If a person retires to the forest for an extended period of time, drinking barks, eating next to nothing, and avoiding contact with all people except the curandero, something will happen.

    I’ve been here for 15 days now and believe me, things do happen when every aspect of life as you know it is striped away. I spend all day feeling strange, and thinking why am I here? And then I thought about you, because all this began around the time we met 20 years ago …

    to be continued
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