For the last two weeks, we have been in the Ecuadorian Amazon visiting the indigenous community where Ben spent five weeks working on his Senior thesis. It is a long bus ride, a two-hour truck taxi ride down a dirt road, and a five hour tippy canoe trip on a rather rapid filled river. So needless to say there aren´t too many (or any that we saw) foreigners there (also it is invite only or $400 to come in, so we were lucky). We enjoyed spending time with Ben´s ¨host¨ family and getting to travel deeper into the community´s territory, something not too many outsiders get to do.
The river (at a less rapid filled point):
Here is a list of some of the more awesome and also less awesome aspects of being in this community:
MORE AWESOME- Taking a walk in the woods
First of all, in Ecuador you get to say you are taking a "trek" in the "jungle," which just sounds more awesome. Second, nearly everything you see has some use. The best trees are the ones that produce things for eating. A walk through the jungle is like a fresh fruit buffet. In just an hour, we ate a string of guava fruits, a fruit that must be the source of nutmeg, and hacked off a cacao fruit with a machete (seen below). Not to mention, we chowed down on a tree trunk that tastes like cauliflower.
Also, we got to wear these cool outfits and carry machetes. Here is a comparison between us and our Ecuadorian hosts Edgar and Victoria.
LESS AWESOME- Amateur machete wielders accidents
While slicing up this sugar cane for gnawing on, Ben hacked half-way through his middle finger with the machete. Luckily, of course the Yuca leaves that grow there act as a coagulant and he got bandaged up with a ripped dirty tshirt. Unfortunately, he bled all over the sugar cane and it seriously detracted from the natural flavor. (I will spare you the picture of what the finger looks like now, eeeeeeehhhh)
MORE AWESOME- Two days a week specifically set aside for drinking- Sunday and Monday
These are purely drinking days. They drink ¨chicha¨which is made from the root of the yuca plant that they cultivate in these parts. The women make it by mashing up the boiled root, chewing it, and then spitting it out. Here is a picture of Monica demonstrating how it is made (note the half chewed wad in her mouth ready to find its way back to the mixing trough), followed by a picture of Kim enjoying a refreshing gulp. Although it took her a few days, she came to be fond of the purely unique taste.
In this picture, Kim is sporting a design in the traditional face paint that comes from a fruit (it´s like henna but black)
LESS AWESOME- Women basically run the whole show around the house, including continuously serving the chicha to visitors which leaves little time for them to be involved in the festivities.
MORE AWESOME - Bathing
All bathing is done outside in luke warm streams that lead to the river. Here is a post-swimming picture of Ben and Eduardo (another one of our kid guides that knew all the best swimming spots).
Here are some other random good pictures (you may have noticed by now that most of the friends we have made along the way have been somewhere between the ages of 5 and 13).
Monica and Kim with a wild jungle animal (cuchuchu in Kichwa, pisote in Spanish) that wandered into the wrong place:
Ben and Uber:
Ben and Eduardo playing War. I think we averaged 4-5 hours of War daily. We have resolved never to teach it to kids in the first place from here on out. But he just looks so happy eh?
PS We fly home tomorrow. We are excited to see everyone... but returning to find jobs again? Yikes!!! It is sure to be the most daunting adventure to date...