We are in the early February 2018, pasaje Jorge Chavez in the South West of Iquitos, in the small house of Mercedes.The place is very simple. The floor is made of concrete, on some walls the bricks are visible with some patches of constructions wood here and there. The main and only room is used as kitchen, living room, dining room or sewing and painting workshop depending on the furniture position. A mezzanine made of construction wood offices as a bedroom. There isn’t water all day in this part of the town. Mercedes has to store as much water as she can early in the morning for cooking, wash the dishes, bathing, and toilets.
We already can hear you asking, “but who is Mercedes?”
Dear Friends, Mercedes is part of these people we don’t often meet. Not often enough. You know, this ageless people who are reading what’s behind your eyes when they look at you. Mercedes was born in Iquitos. She saw it evolving, changing. She saw the end of the Caucho era, she was there when they changed the Amazon river bed position to save the town, she walked through many paths of the Amazonian jungle, learned some of its secrets, the plants, what to do with their extracts and so on.
Mercedes has a gift. She can read into paintings and drawings. The lines you unconsciously draw talk, and she listens to them. It is not about divination. It is about what and where you are now.
At this time, once a week, she leads a workshop of painting with natural pigments in a retreat center outside of Iquitos. She unfortunately isn’t allowed to share this gift with the retreat participants on site. However, she is welcoming the lucky ones she shared a special connection with to meet at her place once the retreat is over, back in Iquitos.
On this Sunday afternoon, she receives Manu, a French guy in his late 30’s and David, a Peruvian friend of hers working in the retreat center as a translator and facilitator.
Manu is a bit of a World traveler, artist, entrepreneur, dreamer and mostly a nature lover. He deeply thinks that anything is possible as long as you follow your intuition, your guts. He, at this time, lives in Bali, Indonesia where he remotely manage a dive center and a Yoga studio he built some years ago.
David is also in his 30’s. Working half of the month in Lima in his small IT company, and spends the other half in the retreat center in Iquitos. David is a giver. He is open heart, open minded. He would do anything to help the participants of the retreat center to help them through their healing process. As he had his experiences with the Ayahuasca Medicine, he has the empathy and knowledge to understand and support the patients going through the retreat . That is when he meets Manu. The two guys quickly connect and spend hours sharing about their experiences and realize how similar their paths are.
Manu just spent 2 weeks as a patient, a week as a facilitator and translator for the retreat center, and has 2 more weeks to go at the same position.
It is actually the 2nd or 3rd time that Manu and David meet on a Sunday at Mercedes place. The 3 friends spend hours talking about anything, learning about each others and have a lot of fun. But that very special day, Mercedes shared her dream to have her own workshop where she could teach people how to paint, read the paintings, beeing free to fully express herself. Unfortunately, Mercedes doesn’t really know how to proceed. David, Manu and Liza, them, they know a bit more.
Wait, wait, wait! Liza? Who is Liza?
Hahaha! Liza. Liza is half Chinese, half Peruvian, with a big Peruvian half. She could be described as a walking heart. She lives in Lima and is in charge of the internet booking of the retreat center. She has been working and learning with the Ayahuasca for about 10 years. And she still does. She likes to call Ayahuasca “la Abuelita”, which means something like “granny” in Spanish. Liza and Manu met in Lima mid January when he arrived in Peru before he headed to the Amazon forest.
Now that Liza has been properly introduced, lets go back to Iquitos.
So Manu, Liza and David give some tips and advice, to help Mercedes to realize her dream. Well, as always, there is a but. Money. So come the ideas to find a partner and so on.
Then 2 weeks pass, and Manu goes back to Bali and joins his girlfriend Paula.
Paula is from Brazil. She had been working as a dive instructor for the last 20 years all over the world. She has an endless knowledge about the reefs and fishes. She is an animal lover. She has this way of being amazed by a flower, a bird, a tree. She feels. Paula is extremely sensitive and connected to her surrounding. Paula is a quiet person,however she loves to laugh. Laughing is important to her. She says that happiness is within everybody, we just have to reach it.
She partially has a dive center as Manu does. Both of them would love to build something else so they start to think about projects. First come the idea of a dormitory, then a small commercial center on Nusa Lembongan close to Bali where they live. They know Indonesia as they both have been living there for at least 5 years. Then, a morning, after one of these nights without sleep because your mind is everywhere, an idea pops up in Manu’s head. And he asked Paula:
- “What if we build a retreat center in the Amazonian forest. I have friends there, amazing and trustful people who would love to work together, it would be amazing! How many time have we talked about our dream to create a small village where we could grow our food, like a community, it would be the perfect place!”
Even if Paula has never been in Peru, she decides to trust Manu and go for the idea. The same day, Manu create a whatsapp group with Mercedes, David, Liza, Paula and him named “Retreat Center” asking all the Peruvian friends if they would want to join in the adventure. I let you guess what their answer is.