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Published: January 8th 2011
The day starts off with usually eggs and rolls, although one morning we had cold potato chips. At 8:00am we board the dugout canoe and take a pleasant 15 minute ride to our location of Puka Urku – the village we will be working in. Our mission for the week was to build bathrooms for the villages houses.
DAY ONE: My job this morning was Education. When we arrived we were given toothbrushes with the students’ names on them. We were to call out the names and give it to the corresponding student. Then we moved outside to the running tap (this ran all day long because their previous water supply was broken) with toothpaste and the students brushed their teeth. We were told by Enga that when VESA people arrive this is the only time EVER that kids brush their teeth.
Next we moved into the classroom to begin the teaching side of Education. Amy and I were ready to jump in front of the class and teach something really easy however we soon learnt that this involved sitting with students while Enga (the group leader) taught them. This was really boring because Enga did everything. At the students lunch time we were able to play soccer or interact with the students. The nursery children were begging for piggy back rides and races. After lunch we went to the younger children and repeated the same process. The students only attend school from 7:30-12:00pm, after then they are required to do house chores.
Lunch came for the volunteers and we were met by construction people at the school. The food usually consists of rice and something or sandwiches. Today’s food was rice, lentils, and a piece of beef. After our lunch break we walked up to the construction site and started hauling bricks up the hill. We were to get 400 bricks from the bottom of the hill to the top. These bricks would be used for the bathroom blocks. We made a line and started throwing bricks from person to person. After a few hours of throwing bricks we were finished for the day. WOOHOO
DAY TWO: I was on construction today. Amy, Jen, and my job were to get the rest of the bricks up from the hill. It is great when the locals come with wheelbarrows and baskets to help you carry them. I was then whisked away to make a concrete mix for the workers, this involved mixing sand from the beach with concrete to make a thick paste. Lunch time came quickly and we walked back down the hill to the canoe. Fun thing if you’re on construction, the canoe takes you upstream about 500 metres then everyone jumps overboard and floats down to the school for lunch. It’s very refreshing after a tiring, hot, humid morning. Lunch today was sandwich rolls, one ham and lettuce and one caramel spread roll. After lunch I was lucky enough to paint the inside of the toilet, yellow!!
Our activity for the afternoon was a walk and visit to the waterfall. We all jumped into the back of a pick-up truck and rode the 15 minutes to the opening, then followed a 45 minute walk to the waterfall. I slipped many times in the mud and on the slippery rocks. The waterfall was very powerful, and managed to make me slip onto the water and rocks underneath.
DAY THREE: Education again today, and us who were on it, were sorting out the presents we brought over for the kids. Each child received one piece of clothing and a bundle of toys. When we gave the children their presents, some had presents for us in return. Wellington (the cutest and my favourite boy!!) gave me a bow and arrow made of wood in return for his presents. Construction in the afternoon was pretty relaxed… I stayed behind at the school and help repaint the school.
Our afternoon activity today was tubing down Napo river (the main river surrounding Mishualli). When let off the canoe, we had to walk over rocks in the middle of the river and then shoot out into the rapid. I left with the group but then minutes later, missed a rapid and was left around 100metres from the rest of the group! The whole tube ride I could not catch up!!
DAY FOUR AND FIVE: Both days my job along with Amy, Jane and Rachael was to tidy around the toilet blocks and get them ready to present to the owners. Jane and I began braiding reeds from local trees and eventually I made a long door hanging with flowers sticking out of it. It was pretty while it lasted, because after lunch when we came to presenting them, they had wilted! 😞
JUNGLE TREK WEEK
We started this week with a 5 hour hike through the jungle. It was very long and tiring. Overall I liked the trek, but during it, going up the steep steep hills was a nightmare. Pepe our jungle guide told us stories and showed us various bugs and uses of trees and leaves. After the hike we arrived at our jungle lodge where we would stay for 3 nights. The lodge had no electricity for lights or for the toilets. This meant we would use our torches and candles at night and flush the toilets with a bucket of water. Each bed had a mosquito net attached to protect us from insects, and the lodge was right on the river with its own beach. The lodge also didn’t have showers so we had to wash in the river. Teale was the hair dresser for the week and gave most people a shampoo and conditioner and even shaved Tom’s and Jack’s beard off.
The second day we hiked an hour around a banana plantation, where Fabio (our Spanish speaking guide) made hats and bags from trees, painted our faces with fruit off a tree, and told us (with Amy’s English translations) about the uses of plants and shrubs in medicine and remedies. Afterwards he showed us how to pan for gold like the locals did each day.
Other activities during the week included a visit to the animal sanctuary where we saw Toucan’s, giant rodents, spider monkeys, macaws, other monkeys and other animals. We also went for a night navigational tour one night, where we saw absolutely no animals!!
Last day of our volunteer trip was white water rafting. I was shitting myself before we left, but I had the most amazing and enjoyable time. We spent 4 hours rafting down class 3 (I think) rapids, we were able to swim some of the way down the rapids and river, and in one section take turns to sit right on the front of the raft. My turn came, so I jumped and sat on the very front of the raft, as we were going down the rapids I kept slipping until we hit this massive rapid and it pushed me back with great force and got water up my nose (which HURTS).
Lunch was a wonderful buffet style with bread rolls, chips, fruit, soft drink, and many salads. We continued rafting about 2.5 hours after lunch. During this time we started playing games which entailed running up giant rocks and getting stuck and attacking the other rafts and stealing their paddles. It was a great way to finish the VESA trip and have one last day with our new friends!! In the evening we had dinner and then set off on the 6 hour bus journey back to Quito.
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