Return to the Amazon


Yanomami mother and child
By Cmacauley, via Wikimedia Commons

Is it possible for someone to leave their own culture? Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin look at one woman who first left her tribe in the Amazon, then chose to return.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

When David Good was a child, he lived with his father in the United States. David studied in American schools. And he liked to eat American food. Sometimes, people asked David about his mother. David said that she died in a car accident. But this was not true. David’s mother lived thousands of kilometers away in the Amazon rainforest. David’s mother was a member of the Yanomami tribe. This tribe lives alone, deep in the rain forest. David’s mother was very different than David. She followed Yanomami traditions. She did not wear clothes. She ate insects. David felt a lot of shame about this.

Voice 2

For many years, David denied his mother and her culture. But today this has changed. Today's Spotlight is on the story of David Good.

Voice 1 

David’s story begins with his parents – Kenneth and Yarima. Kenneth was an anthropology student in the United States. At university, he studied other cultures. In 1975, he went to work in the Amazon. His job was to research the Yanomami tribe. The Yanomami lived along the border between Venezuela and Brazil. Kenneth planned to live with the Yanomami for 15 months. But he stayed for much longer. Kenneth liked living with the Yanomami. He learned their language. And he stayed for 12 years.

Voice 2 

The Yanomami wanted Kenneth to become part of their community. So they offered him a young wife. Her name was Yarima. At first, Kenneth said no. But the head of the tribe continued asking him. Finally, Kenneth agreed to marry Yarima. But he said they should marry at a much later time. He did not believe he would live with the Yanomami long enough to marry Yarima.

Voice 1 

But things changed. Kenneth spent a lot time with Yarima and her family. Yarima grew and became a woman in Yanomami culture. David talked to the BBC news organization about his parents. He said,

Voice 3 

“My father began to deeply care for the people. And he began to deeply love my mother.”

Voice 2 

Yarima also loved Kenneth. So, after a time, Yarima and Kenneth married. Then, they began to have children together. First, David was born. Then, Kenneth and Yarima had a daughter and another son. Kenneth and Yarima were happy. But it was not as simple as two people in love. Although Kenneth was living with the Yanomami, he was still part of American culture.

Voice 1 

Kenneth often needed to travel for his research work. But in Yanomami culture, husbands do not leave wives - even for a few days. A husband must be with his wife to protect her from other men. Once when Kenneth was traveling, a group of Yanomami men hurt Yarima badly.

Voice 2 

After 12 years of living with the Yanomami, Kenneth’s supporters stopped giving him money to do his research work. Kenneth no longer had a job to support his family. Without his job, the Venezuelan government would not permit him to stay. He also continued to worry about Yarima’s safety when he traveled. So Yarima agreed to move to the United States.

Voice 1 

For Yarima, the move was difficult. Modern American life was extremely different from life in the rain forest. David’s mom liked parts of American culture. She enjoyed particular American food and American music. She also liked to buy clothes. But she was very lonely. In a Yanomami village, everyone lives together in one large building. Everyone is very close. National Geographic made a film about David’s family.  In the film, Yarima said,

Voice 4

"It is not like the rainforest. People are separate and alone."

Voice 2 

Yarima missed the people and sounds of the rainforest. So David’s family would visit her Yanomami village. But on one visit, Yarima refused to return to the United States.

Voice 1 

At this time, David was five years old. David and his brother and sister remained in the United States with his father. David could not understand why his mother was gone. It hurt him very much. Slowly, he began to hate his mother and Yanomami culture. He told the radio program Snap Judgement,

Voice 3

"I went through a period of time where I just did not want to be Yanomami. I did not even want to hear that word. And I never wanted to hear about my mother again."

Voice 2 

As a young adult, David began drinking alcohol. He hoped it would make him feel better. But things only got worse. David even stopped going to school. He told Snap Judgement,

Voice 3 

"I knew that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to deal with this hate."

Voice 1 

So David read a book his father wrote. It was about the Yanomami and his parents’ life together. For the first time, David began to understand his mother better. He also watched the National Geographic film about his family. Seeing images of his mother and family in the Amazon made him cry. David told Snap Judgement,

Voice 3 

"Deep in my heart, I wanted to go and find my mother."

Voice 2 

And so he did. Although David was afraid, he made the long trip across distance and cultures. He had not seen his mother for more than 20 years.

Voice 1 

When David got to the village, everyone gathered around him. They knew who he was. They remembered him as a young boy. When Yarima arrived, everyone stopped talking. It was silent. Yarima started shaking. David wanted to hold her, but he knew that the Yanomami do not do this. He told Snap Judgement,

Voice 3 

"I looked into her eyes, and she just started to cry. I felt flooded with emotion. I thought, ‘My mother is alive, and I found her, and we are together.’"

Voice 2 

David decided that he did not want to concentrate on the past. He wanted to concentrate on building a future with his mother and his people. David stayed with the Yanomami for months. But he did not become a permanent part of the village. He was too connected to the United States. But David recognized there was something he could do. So he started a not-for-profit organization called “The Good Project”. This organization helps the Yanomami connect with the modern, outside world. He told the BBC,

Voice 3 

"I am now proud to be both Yanomami and American. I am proud of my culture. I want to create a bridge of friendship between the Yanomami and the United States."

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Jen Hawkins. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Return to the Amazon.”

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Is it possible for someone to leave their own culture?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
timetobealive
said on November 21, 2013

No matter what is your culture or what is your skin color, only matter if you believe in yourself and be proud of your origins, you are the only one who can make a different world being proud of you nacionality, or country.

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Orante
said on February 02, 2015

This is a very beautiful story. thank you for this and other stories on “spotlight”.

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on February 05, 2015

It’s emotional story.The different culture isn’t a barrier and distance for people who can not be together.The best important is the love , kind and unity.All of us can integrate and live together in large community.Even we love other culture and custom!

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oscar_gzlz
said on February 06, 2015

I think the different cultures or tribes are disappearing because the influence of other people who lives in better conditions that is the reason i think.

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prince of persia
said on September 18, 2016

It was a nice story.it reminds us a true connection between hearts of a son and his mother that although they are far apart but love has nothing to do with such things.

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CharlesOlavo
said on September 19, 2016

I think that is a history amazing between mother and son.
Just one thing move the world. LOVE.

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Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 22, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Thursday 22, September 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Robin Basselin, Jen Hawkins, Ryan Geertsma, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and leaners of English more one great article. Thanks!

Yes, It is. It is possible for someone to leave their own culture but it is a difficult decision to take because our family , country, people, and culture is our the best treasure in which we have. Thank you again to bring us this interesting story.

The best regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

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Jack Chen
said on December 08, 2016

For young people, it is possible to leave their own culture. However, it’s more difficult for old man to leave their own culture. Now, many young people have left their own culture and adapted to the new culture. They still return to their culture because their parents can’t adapt to the new culture

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Kim Kim
said on January 06, 2017

If someone to leave their own culture then they will find their own again i think. Because people always want to know their origin. This is a great story. I have many emotions about it.