ADVENTURING WITH A VAGINA
Ahoy it’s Kitty. I work for the marvelous charity Cool Earth, which is saving the world with the Adventurists.
You guys should be familiar with us by now. You know, saving the rainforest? 5,522 acres of it and counting to be precise. All of it protected through the adventures you mad bunch are doing around the world.
As Cool Earth’s Projects Manager, my job is all about our indigenous partners. Whether it’s managing our projects or developing new ones, all of it comes down to ensuring our community partners are calling the shots when it comes to their rainforest.
As such, I spend a lot of time in the rainforest. It goes without saying that it’s by far the most rewarding and incredible part of the job. But I will be honest, it is also pretty gruelling. And whilst I’ve managed to avoid the malaria, dengue fever and TB that’s riddled my (male) colleagues, there’s a hundred and one things that make the rainforest a rather disagreeable place.
First and foremost, there’s the heat. It’s so hot you are continually bathing in your own sweat. By the end of a trip, my own stench really is something to behold.
Secondly, absolutely everything bites or stings. Snakes and spiders you can understand. But a caterpillar that can kill a child? Really? I’ve also casually brushed against a plant only to feel like I’ve been set on fire. Imagine a stinging nettle on steroids. Anyway, the sting transformed into an enormous pus volcano on my thigh that considerately exploded in the middle of a meeting.
Thirdly – the runs. No stay in the rainforest is complete without a good old bout of diarrhoea. One of our party was so fearful of what lay ahead he took an entire packet of Imodium before he even entered the forest. Needless to say, he couldn’t defecate for more than a week.
I’ve also contended with quicksand, nearly drowning in rapids, being held at gunpoint, and been made to sing (terribly) for our local hosts. The Adventurists’ very own Mr Joolz has also been subjected to this public humiliation. ‘I Love you Baby’ was his song of choice. And no, he didn’t rock it like Sinatra.
I would argue that these delightful quirks of the rainforest affect men and women in equal measure. The one area that I am continuously envious of is the male ability to pee whilst standing. Despite my best efforts I’ve had to accept that I’ll never accomplish it. It really is a gift from the gods.
Trying to find somewhere to squat that doesn’t reveal my nether regions to all and sundry is the bane of my life. And yes, I have heard of a shewee but there’s something oddly humiliating about trotting off in front of your colleagues with a rubber hose. I’ll spare you the delights of thrush and periods in the rainforest, I’m sure you get the gist.
What I do find infuriating in all of this is that women who have a sense of adventure, who challenge themselves, or in my case merely marinade themselves in their own sweat, are often described as ‘having balls’. If a man does something stereotypically feminine, do we heap on praise by declaring ‘they have a vagina’? Obviously not. So why the hell is it considered complimentary to say that women have testicles? When women do something brave or adventurous, it should be a demonstration of their ability as a woman, not how like a man we can be.
I am completely in awe of the women in our rainforest projects around the world. Their unflappable style is an example to us all – male or female. They pay no attention to the pathetic tribulations I’ve listed above. I’ve watched my young friend Mikaela lop the head off Peru’s most poisonous snake with a machete without a second thought.
Or what about giving birth in the rainforest? Think of the song and dance we make about childbirth in the UK – we’ve got the bloomin’ NHS. Ana from Cutivireni in Peru has given birth to 14 children with no medical help – half inside a cave whilst hiding from the Shining Path. If I’m honest, I can’t think of anything braver.
These women steadfastly safeguard their families and the forest. Cool Earth is about to celebrate saving its 100,000,000th tree. A landmark achievement that is largely down to these incredible women – they are the real ‘Lady Adventurists’.