Friday, October 27, 2006

Agua blanca, crab brains, and the great flood...or...Don´t mess with big snakes

Picture 1: Rainbow in Tena.

Picture 2: The village of Huasila Talag, with brilliant green, rainforest-covered mountains rising dramatically in the background.

Picture 3: Pet parrot in a tree in our back yard. One day I was headed for the bathroom when I heard someone say "Hola." No one was around, but I stopped to make sure... As I headed for the bathroom once again, I heard another "Hola." OK this is a little weird. Finally, after making a complete idiot of myself, I looked up to see this wise guy...

Picture 4: Heliconia flower...theyre everywhere!

So, even though yesterday afternoon started out to be just about the most boring afternoon of my trip so far, it certainly grew more eventful with time. So, as I was deciding what to do, I heard a rumble of thunder...thus, I decided I had better not postpone my date with the river for a bath. Well, as I finished, it started I have never seen it pour before...EVEN HERE!!!!11!1 And my host brothers come rushing out and we wait under the roof of a building for the rain to subside a bit. Except that it they say well, let´s stay here, you won´t believe how fast the river rises. I´m like ok...right. Except that in 20 minutes, the normally slowly flowing river that is hardly deep enough to lie down in grows high enough to wash away full-sized trees.

After the thunder subsided, we still heard rumbling, which my host family explained was boulders being washed down the river bed and also landslides in the distance. It was almost a huge disaster, because the water came within 1 inch of flooding the school of which houses their new mini computer lab. About 20 villagers came wading through waist-deep water to help one family save their belongings as the water threatened to flood their house. In fact, 7 of their chickens had already been washed away. It was a really touching show of community solidarity, but the water thankfully soon began to subside.

So of course the logical conclusion to this eventful evening go fishing. Many fish by hand after a flood, but we had a small net. We caught all kinds of cool critters! In fact, my invertebrates professor, Gonzalo, would have been very proud. I ate so many taxa, imagine how much money I could have earned if we had still been in Panama! But yeah, that´s where the crab brains come, crabs, especially of the size we caught, dont have much meat in the legs. What remains is basically the entire carapace...of which, the brain is NOT very tasty. Mine was female, and so I ate the egg-covered ovaries too, which was fairly disgusting...the resulting face that I made REALLY amused my family.

Let´s see what else we need to cover... So, the other day 2 of my brothers and some younger kids went to the Jatun Yacu (Big River, in Kichwa) to go swimming. I was slightly concerned when we arrived that it might turn into ¨whitewater innertube adventures minus the innertube: part II¨but as it turns out, my indigenous friends really know what they´re doing. We just swam relatively close the river´s edge, and climbed up onto some boulders...which proved to be challenging but very fun. A couple of guys went further upstream about 150 feet and innertubed through some whitewater, but Holger and I do not like whitewater...for the same reason, as I later learned.

Today we went to survey the flood damage in the jungle, and we saw an ENORMOUS SNAKE!!! I´m talking 8-9 feet long! It was incredible. But of course, as it slithers down into the water and starts up the other side of a stream, Holger decides it would be a great idea to through rocks at it for amusement. The snake does a 180 and starts coming furiously after us. We take off, running and laughing, but the snake doesn´t really even come close to us and proceeds up the other side of the creek bed.

So that´s about all for now. One other interesting bit is that my friends LOVE my chicken impressions. Holger was even buk-buk-ing after he caught his breath and got back up off the floor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Talag Proyectos, Day 2

Photo 1: Patricia, one of the teachers in the bilingual school, applying toothpaste to students´toothbrushes after breakfast.

Photo 2: bilingual elementary school in talag (it´s about 25 ft from my front door), where I am working on a few small projects.

Photo 3 and 4: students in 2 different classes, working on drawing pictures of the village and writing short letters to students in the U.S. as part of a penpal sort of intercultural exchange.

Photo 5: brushing our teeth at the river´s edge after breakfast. so cool, but we really need to figure out how we can start to use water that is actually potable instead of ´casi potable.´

So today was my second day working in the bilingual elementary school in Talag. Over a period of three days I am working with students to make cards and pictures to send to penpals in the U.S. I am going to bring them back with me and take them to my old elementary school so that the students there can learn more about life in Amazonia and can respond to the letters. SO COOL!!º!!11!1º1

Also, today was our second day of toothbrushing after our meal. The kids are unbelievably cute and get so messy/toothpasty/wet while their doing it, but it´s so much fun nonetheless. We also played soccer and

basketball during ´cultura fisica´which is basically phys ed class. Of course, I´m not much better than I was when I was younger, which is sort of pathetic, but at least my longer legs and taller height help to compensate.

Then I went to bathe in the river, and of course EVERYONE followed RIGHT into the water, regardless of what they were wearing...and wanted to use my shampoo. So I may have to go buy some because I don´t think that I have enough to last me for my entire trip if 10 other people are also going to be using it. That´s ok though, because they´re learning great habits...I just hope that they continue even after I leave.

This afternoon, my friend Holger is going to take me to visit his grandmother, who I met the other day. We were listening to a CD of indigenous Kichwa music from here in Ecuador, and he said that his grandmother sings traditional music very well. I CAN´T WAIT! And when we left to come to Tena this afternoon, Holger´s wife and sister-in-law were making chicha, a traditional drink made from yucca (similar to a potato). I wish that you guys could all be here, it´s such an incredible experience...unlike anything you´ve ever even dreamed of doing. Let´s see what else...not too much else new. I hope that these pictures work out better than my Quito pics that I tried to post yesterday. I don´t think that I had success with those...I´m sorry for leading you on. I´m kind of new to the whole blog scene, and so I´m still working on figuring things out. Alright, off for now, but as always, more soon!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Con JABON, Pues!

OK, I promise that I have a good excuse this time. So I finally landed in Quito on Wednesday evening, spent the night there, and then took off by bus for Tena, the so-called gateway to the Amazon. The road between Quito and Tena, which according to my friend Holger, who lives in Talag, was supposed to be completely paved is actually not. Which is sort of a relief to me actually, since I would have been really disappointed to feel too comfortable on a ride into the jungle.

I am currently staying with him and his family, alternating between staying in Tena and Talag...very cool. In fact, the first night when I met their dog, it really liked me from the start. So much so, in fact, that it began to try to mate with my leg. Then there was my first spider...the really really big kind (bigger than the bottom of my shoe). That one took me by surprise, and when I went to bath that night on their cement block with water from a cold hose, I was very disappointed in myself that it seemed so hard to adjust. Then came brushing my teeth with muddy water out of the river. But over the past few days things have become infinitely easier, and my Spanish is improving quickly.

Today we went to the bilingual school in Talag for the first time since my return. I can´t tell you how many times I have felt deja vu...the jokes about Colombians (actually, according to Colombia´s president, one of the country´s most notorious drug lords is presently hiding in the Ecuadorian jungle), the jokes about how the former Peace Corps volunteer used to wear thongs on her head while passing out condoms to villagers, the power going out in all of Tena for 2 days... you get the picture.

So I have some pictures that I am posting from my day in Quito. It was so amazing!!!!11!1

Now, I am heading out again to Talag with Holger, hopefully to eat some more garobata yuyu (baby favorite food in todo el mundo!) and hopefully NOT to eat more um WHOLE matter how delicious sucking the heads might be or how coveted the fish testacles might be...I almost couldn´t bring myself to do it, but I just had to convince myself of the Ecuadorian motto Si, Se Puede! We are still working out the logistics of my mini-projects, but hopefully they will be resolved soon. I have already been around to some of the houses to distribute some of the clothes donations and will hopefully be finishing that this evening. We worked this morning on teeth-brushing, but I´m not sure whether it would be better to brush our teeth and rinse with water right out of the river or not brush our teeth and not risk getting worms or amoebas. We´ll see in due time, I suppose. But then after lunch at the school, we went to wash our dishes, or rather RINSE them in the river. From this is derived the title of this posting...con JABON pues, because when you wash things you should really use soap. And so life goes here in Amazonia. I have so much more to say, but really need to go, since Holger and I need to meet up with someone imminently.

I really want to dedicate more time to saying that I am always awestricken by the generosity of people here. Everyone is so willing to help, so willing to talk to you, and so willing to give you whatever they can to welcome you. Yesterday when Holger and I were distributing clothing, one of the families gave us an enormous bunch of ripe bananas. These displays of generosity, especially from people who are so poor, cross all cultural and language barriers...and never fail to move me, nearly to the point of tears. It´s just incredibly beautiful and humbling, especially when you know how hard they have worked to bring those bananas from deep in the thick, steamy rainforest. I´m so happy to be here, trying to help in whatever little way I can, and trying to learn as much as possible. We all have so much to learn, but in our busy daily lives in the U.S. we don´t often take the time to listen as we should. I can´t wait to share more of my experiences, so please stay posted...more to come soon

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wait, This Doesnt Look Like Quito???!!!!11!1

After spending the weekend with Scotthew in Boston, I have embarked on the 2nd leg, and even the unanticipated 3rd leg of my travels. Basically, there was a delay in Boston that made me miss my connection in Miami and I had to spend last night in this really narsty hotel in Miami. That sums up the situation very briefly. In any case, I have finally arrived, safe and sound, in Quito, Ecuador.

The city is even more beautiful than I remember it being. Since our flight was a late-afternoon flight, we landed in Quito just after sunset...but in plenty of time to watch the sunset from the plane amidst the towering peaks that rise dramatically around the city. INCREDIBLE!!!!1!1! Youll have to take my word for it for now, as it was too dark to take any pictures by the time I arrived. I promise that Im not just entirely fabricating this whole journey...there WILL be pictures.

Oh, and for Caitlins amusement, I definitely had a hyuck moment. So I was on the plane today and my neighbors were Canadian...and they pronounced the city of Baños with an a sound reminiscent of that in the English word van. Dear lord, Caitlin.

Anyway, I think that Im going to be thrown out of the internet cafe soon, so I better run for now. Will post again soon. I PROMISE TO HAVE PICTURES. Patience, friends, patience. Ok, Im to you soon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Todo Despaciiiiiiiiito

So, Munia has successfully guilt-tripped me into creating a blog...after the first post, there's no going back to the blogless realm. Although the posting process is going to become significantly more complicated and difficult once I begin to rely on internet cafes as my sole source of contact with the outside world. Yet I try to naively convince myself that the Ecuadorian motto of "Si, se puede!" (Yes, you can!) must hold true here as well.

Things aren't exactly looking up for me, considering that I'm not yet in Ecuador but things are already seemingly taking three times as long as they should. It's 1:30a.m. and I have finally deluded myself into believing that I am finished packing and haven't forgot anything, at least not anything essential. Headed to Boston in the morning (need to get up in less than 6 hours) to visit Scotthew before leaving directly for Quito on Tuesday. Navigating the Boston subway system with 100 lbs of luggage plus my backpack should prove to be interesting for me...perhaps even entertaining for others. I promise that it's not because I'm packing too much schtuff. I actually worked to gather some odds and ends -- mainly clothing and school supplies -- to take to Talag, a small, remote indigenous village in the Ecuadorian Amazon where I taught English a couple of summers ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't even bring all of the items that I accumulated, so they'll just have to decorate the living room until I get back. Mom's already thrilled about that, but at least I won't readily be in phone contact...

So yeahhhh, hopefully I'll be really bored at some point over the next few days and decide to post again. I actually have quite a bit to say about my trip even before I leave, but my eyes are beginning to cross at this point and I feel that sleeping might much better serve me over the next few hours. I promise to update again soon, hopefully with some sort of visual aid. Alli punllungi (Kichwa for "sleep well")!