This expedition touched me in a way that I never expected. In fact, I think it actually changed my outlook on life. You see, as a guy that has spent the better part of his life studying fish diversity, specifically fish jaws and feeding behaviors, I fully expected to be blown-away by the fishes in the Amazon basin. And I was! The feeding mechanisms that we were able to observe and test with my bite force gauge were marvels of evolution. The pictures and videos that we shot can barely do justice to the amazing things we were able to witness with these creatures in the wild.
While the fishes made me quiver with excitement, none of them impacted me the way our visit with the indigenous peoples did. And this caught me completely off-guard! I fancy myself as a pretty tough guy, able to dive with sharks, swim with piranhas, snatch snakes out of the Amazon River, and catch caiman out of the wild. Yet, when we presented the gifts we had brought to the indigenous Arara Tribe five days up the Xingu River system, their response almost brought me to tears. In fact, I purposefully made attempts to avoid the camera because I didn’t want to be caught on tape with tears in my eyes. But they were there, and it was tough to fight them back.
What is most interesting about this experience is that I can not quite give you the exact reason why it touched me so deeply. I guess I realized how skewed my sense of reality was. In the States, people waste time tracking celebrities on Twitter and keeping up with the Joneses, while our senses of community and camaraderie have all but disappeared. To see the sense of gratitude for the gifts we had brought them in the painted faces of the people of this tribe, and knowing those gifts had changed the lives of every member of the community — it was the best reality check I’ve ever received and I received it as a slap in the face for taking my life for granted.
I am a different person now after that experience and this expedition made that possible. I only wish I could speak the language of the Arara people, because I would have told them that the gratitude they were feeling for the gifts we brought them was NOTHING compared to the gratitude I was feeling, for having been given the opportunity to visit them and their land.
For more, be sure to tune in to Explorer: Megapiranha Tuesday, May 17 at 10P et/pt.