Sitting at the roulette table in a crowded hotel casino, she wondered why she ever agreed to tag along on Linda’s corporate outing. But she knew it meant a lot to her gregarious friend, who was having the time of her life at the upscale resort casino, so she resolved that she would try her best to fit in.
“What are the odds of her winning twice in a row?” Caught off-guard, she turned to see a handsome man in a tuxedo standing next to her. “About as good as the rainforest making it through the next decade,” she quipped in her most upbeat voice.
“The rainforest?” he replied with a raised eyebrow, “what makes you say that?” Fearing that he may have detected a note of cynicism, she tried to recover, “Well, you know what they say, you can take the environmental scientist out of nature, but the environment will still be in her nature,” she smiled.
“Well,” he replied sounding intrigued and a bit amused, “most resort guests aren’t interested in that sort of thing, but we are in one of the most biologically diverse rainforest regions on the planet, and believe it or not there are some very rare plant species not far from the resort.” “Really?” she replied, “Are you from around here? Where are you staying?” “Uh…,I’m staying in the orchid room atthe jungle flora suite,” he answered, sounding a bit equivocal. “If you are really interested, I would be happy to show you some of the species I noticed on my hike yesterday,” he replied, eager to change the subject.
“I just don’t go for these corporate resort vacationers,” she thought to herself, “always trying to impress with their wealth.” But he was cute, and she had promised herself she would try to fit in, so she reluctantly agreed. “Meet me near the preserve tomorrow evening,” he said, handing her a crumpled piece of paper “the taxi driver will know where it is.” She looked down at the crude hand-drawn map he handed her and, when she turned around to inquire further, he was gone.
The following evening, she had second thoughts. “Maybe it was the champagne,” she mused, “but I just don’t do this sort of thing. I don’t even know this guy, and if he is just another high-powered big shot staying at this expensive resort, I doubt we will have much in common.” Despite her better judgment though, she just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the rainforest. Besides, Linda was insisting that they go to the casino again, and she couldn’t bear the thought of another noisy evening of pretense and politics, so she called for a cab, took a deep breath, and hoped for the best.
As she walked down the hidden winding jungle path, occasionally referencing the hand-drawn map, the vegetation became dense and she thought about turning back. But as the jungle thickened, she began to spot bright, colorful patches of orchids, bromeliads, and other jungle flora in the most wonderfully vivid colors she had ever seen. “This is truly amazing!” she thought, “some of these species are incredibly rare, and these are the most vibrant, prolific specimens I have ever seen!”
As she rounded the bend in the trail, she heard the faint sound of water in the distance. Following the sound, she peered through the dense jungle to see a small hand-built shack of wood and tin, sitting in a small clearing near a pristine waterfall and a crystal clear jungle pool, completely surrounded by brilliant jungle flowers bursting with color. Wild hummingbirds, parrots, and toucans dotted the tree line, splashing in the cool jungle pool and gliding from flower to flower. In awe at the hidden jungle oasis, she sat down by the edge of the waterfall, taking in the natural splendor.
As the sun dipped low on the horizon, turning the sky to a fabulous pastel pink, she heard something rustling in the brush. She spun around to see a man in old shorts and a torn T-shirt holding a walking stick, a tiny monkey clinging to his shoulder. He stopped in surprise and stared at her for a moment.
“I didn’t think you would come,” he said hesitantly. “Neither did I,” she replied. “This place is amazing!” she exclaimed. “I would love to come back and examine these species further, but it is almost sunset and we should be getting back to the resort. Would you like to share a cab?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m sorry, I can’t,” he replied. “Why not?” she asked, a bit disappointed. “Because this is my home.” He replied, looking a bit embarrassed. “I’m not a wealthy person,” he admitted, “I couldn’t even afford one night at the resort. I just borrowed some clothes from a friend and went there hoping to find a little companionship. I’m sorry I lied to you, but you looked so pretty and kind, and you seemed a bit lost, so I just wanted to meet you.” he said with a note of sadness, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I understand that an intelligent, successful woman like you wouldn’t want to have anything to do with someone like me.” he resigned.
“Who is someone like you?” she inquired without missing a beat. “Well, I used to be a business person myself,” he explained, “but a few years ago, on a trip to the very same resort, I snuck out of a cocktail party to go on a little hike and well, one thing led to another and I never went back. Now this is my home. I care for the plants and make a modest living taking tourists on hikes and educating them about the rainforest.” “What’s with your little friend?” she asked, motioning toward the tiny primate. “His tribe abandoned him when the resort expanded,” he replied. “We take care of each other now.”
“I apologize again,” he said. “I’m sorry I wasted your time. I’ll get you a cab and they’ll have you back to the resort before nightfall,” he said contritely. “Before I go,” she answered, “I just want to ask you one question.”“Of course,” he replied, “it's the least I can do.” “Is that waterfall fresh?” she asked. “Completely pure,” he replied. “I got a bit hot hiking out here,” she said, “do you mind if I take a quick dip?” “I would be honored,” he replied with a slight smile.
As they waded into the sparkling crystal waterfall pool together, surrounded by orchids and bromeliads in brilliant reds, greens, oranges, purples, and yellows, with the sweet fragrance of the wonderful jungle flora in the air, the tiny marsupial leapt off of the man’s shoulder and onto hers and she knew that, for the first time in her life, she was home.
The next time you travel to a resort and set out to explore the rainforest, if you hike down a winding unmarked jungle path to find an old wood and tin shack deep in the jungle flora, pause for a moment and enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the fragile ecosystem, as there is no guarantee it will be there should you ever return.
And if you are quiet and patient, you just might catch a glimpse of a weathered old man and woman, walking hand-in-hand through the colorful jungle flora, a tiny grey-haired monkey never far away.
Global Zen Life plants a tree and funds a charity with each purchase. Your ideals matter; if you would like for us to donate a portion of your purchase amount to protect our rainforests, select the Rainforest Trust from our list of important causes.
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