Otorongo, part 7

Three weeks of solitude


When I left Otorongo in the spring of 2021, I could not even have imagined that I will be in Otorongo again in about six months, to do a diet in the diet hut. Being in solitude in a jungle hut for several weeks originally seemed too daring, too dangerous and too challenging for me. And yet, here I was, at the beginning of November, to start a diet in solitude with a plant called Copaiba.




The diet hut is at the edge of a jungle clearing and stands, like all the other cabins, on stilts. The walkway to the left leads to the toilet, which is just an open pit to the jungle floor.



The walkway down to the creek was always very slippery so I had to hold on to the fragile railing.




Walkway to the toilet



After I arrived in Otorongo, my suitcase was immediately carried to the diet hut. The hut stood empty for several years and had to be prepared for me to move in. Judith and Rosalia, staff members, swept the floor with a broom and Luis and Milton (two other workers) arranged the two beds and schlepped a better mattress for the main bed through the jungle. They also brought a second table (originally, there was no table available, but they must have taken a table from their own cabin).



Big mattress for the main bed



The mattress did not really fit into the frame. It was too wide on one side and too short on the long side. However, they managed to fit it in. The bed was covered by a pure white mosquito net. In German, these beds are called Himmelbett – bed of heaven.





After everybody had left, I immediately started to make the cabin homy and nice and was very happy how it felt and looked. Beside the bed, I placed the table I used for an altar.  Judith brought a red and white patterned piece of cloth I used as a tablecloth. The little stool underneath the altar I used for things I needed during the night, like a flashlight, candles, matches and my watch. I brought the yoga mat and the meditation cushion from Austria. The orange pot to the right underneath the bed is used during the night. I was advised not to step out into the jungle during darkness.



View from my “Himmelbett” to the other side of the cabin



It was already pitch dark outside when I locked my door, laid down my green yoga mat and meditation cushion, lit a candle and incense and started to meditate. The songs of thousands of crickets penetrated the inside of the cabin and vibrated like a wall of sound. In the distance, the deep croak of a single bull frog was calling for a mate, another nocturnal animal made a screeching sound over and over again. I tried to focus on my breath, but was constantly pulled outward. It was very hard to concentrate. After awhile, I heard a quiet tapping, the sound of hasty scurrying up on the ceiling. I stopped my meditation, switched on my flashlight and looked for the source of the noise.  Two rat like animals were running around on the ceiling beams, having the best time of their lives. They were not at all bothered by my light and stared at me with their big, black eyes.





I decided to go to bed, closed my mosquito net and was looking forward to reading a book. However, the tapping became wilder and wilder and I switched on my flashlight again to see what was going on. The light was falling on one of the rats nibbling on my sweaters. (I later learned that it is called an opossum). I chased it away and packed all my clothing into the suitcase again. During that time, the other opossum jumped on my bed. With a loud and determined voice I said “we will share the cabin, but you cannot come into my bed!”  It looked at me with big eyes and disappeared under my bed.

Around 10 pm, I was falling asleep. A bit later, something was pulling at my hairband and woke me up. It was the opossum again! I jumped out of the bed and saw the other opossum sitting on the small wooden cabinet eating my wooden earring. It had nearly finished it up to the silver hook. In addition, a bat got trapped under the metal roof. I heard a flapping sound tapping constantly against the metal panels. When I pointed the flashlight up to the roof, a red eye stared down at me.

The whole spectacle ended around midnight. I was convinced that Dr. Himmelbauer was not aware of the problems I was facing and that I will move into a cabin located inside the camp the next day. At 2:30 am I was woken up by a dream.

I was holding on to a railing, under me a deep abyss. The situation seemed deadly. My sister, however, was standing on firm ground and I was shouting to her “you silly donkey, look at me, I need help!” She pulled me to safety and we had a big laugh when I was safe.


Morning reflections in the pond


That morning at 6 am, I met Dr. Himmelbauer for a short ceremony at the pond to start my 3-week long diet.  Afterwards, I told him about my encounter with the animals.  He just smiled and said: “now the war starts! You are challenged!”

He gave me two options – either to move into a cabin inside the camp or take on the challenge and become creative. “You are in the jungle, dear Mrs. Wild! The opossums are aggressive animals. They once ate my expensive leather watchband. There are other animals too that can visit you, like a boa! It is up to you!”

I decided to stay.




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Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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    • Meri, great to hear from you! I would like to know myself what is next – it always depends on circumstances and a gut feeling what is the right thing to do. I am curious myself…..


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