“It all happened so quickly. One minute I was squatting on the bare earth, preoccupied with popping pea pods. The next, I saw the flash of a black hand and white cloth, and before I even had a chance to cry out it had sailed towards my face, and completely covered it…”
That is the beginning of the incredible story of Marina Chapman. She was only 5 years old when she was playing in her backyard in Colombia before being kidnapped by a man. The man left her in the middle of the jungle and for some reason he didn’t return to get her. It was Colombia in the mid 50’s, the context included FARC, guerillas and many conflicts. There are many possible reasons that explain why that man didn’t come back for her.
She found herself alone in the middle of Colombian rainforest. Being from Brazil, I can say I would be scared to be alone in a South American rainforest - even today as an adult. After two days without food or water, she noticed that some monkeys were surrounding and observing her. The monkeys were analyzing her, probably trying to understand why that human baby was alone in the middle of the jungle. As a young child, she felt safe and attracted to the monkeys. She started to follow and to mimic monkeys’ behaviors. She noticed the trees and fruits that the monkeys were eating from and she started eating from the same trees. She also noticed were the monkeys found water and she started drinking from there as well. By mimicking the monkeys she managed to survive for 5 years in the jungle. Yes, F I V E long years as a child in the jungle. The monkeys accepted her as a member as well. There is one episode where she had some sort of food poison, probably she ate fruits from the wrong tree. She was in pain and one the monkeys, noticing her situation, pushed her towards the river and made her drink heaps of water. That provoked a vomit reflex and it possibly saved her life.
One day, after approximately 5 years she noticed two strange figures walking in the middle of the forest. The 2 figures were different from the monkeys or the other animals that she got used to. They were human. Hunters. They were hunting deep in the jungle. Her first reaction, as usual, was to hide. But then, she noticed that one of the figures had a familiar body-shape. It was a woman and it trigger some sort of deep memories about her mother. She then decides to reveal herself to the couple. The couple was surprised and couldn't understand what a child was doing alone so deep in the jungle. They approached her and escorted her back to the civilization. You might think that this is the end of the story, but it is not. Unfortunately, the couple sold her, and for another 2 years she was forced to work as a house-slave. This new contact with civilization was not a pleasant one. They used to whip her. After two years in these terrible circumstances, she managed to escape and ran away to live on the streets.
She was alone in the streets until another family adopted her, but this time she finally found a home. This new family treated her well and sent her to study and live in the UK where, after a few years, she got married and had 2 kids. Marina Chapman tells this story in her book:The Girl with No Name: The Incredible Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys
Since I came across this story I was intrigued by her capacity to move forward. When Marina was living in the jungle with the Monkeys, the only thing she knew she could be was “a monkey”. If you fast forward 60 years in time, she is a woman who raised two kids and wrote this fantastic book. As someone who is trying to get better at writing, I can say it is not easy to write any kind of book. I never heard about a Monkey who wrote a book, but I heard about this woman who lived like a monkey and evolved to be a mother and writer.
It is easy for us to limit ourselves by the environment around us. It is so easy to accept the voices around us that keep telling us that we cannot realise our dreams, or that our future is to be another monkey in the jungle. But each one of us can do more, can have more, can be more. We have to leave the jungle mentality behind us and embrace the future version of us. Sometimes the next phase can be a terrible phase. I wonder, while being a slave, how many times she dreamed of going back to the jungle. But when she had a chance to escape, she moved forward, to an unknown future. I would like to finish this text with a reflection: What is the jungle that you have to leave behind to realise your potential?