First weeks in the Jungle

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February 27th 2011
Published: February 27th 2011
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Hello altogether,

By now, I think it is time for my first entry into this blog. Particularly because I can only be online once a week, twice if I’m lucky. After hanging out in Quito for a while, which was pretty chilly (only 8 Degrees at times), we ventured 5 hours into the country (towards Brazil), crossed the Andes, and arrived in our temporary home: The Suchipakari Lodge, an hour away from Tena.

The Lodge is pretty cool, lots of colours, flowers, hammocks and nothing but jungle around you. On the downside this remoteness means that there is no landline, mobile phone signal and the only way to get into town is to hitch a ride on a pick up truck into town. Rather adventurous!

When we got here, there was a group of guests in the lodge, some Germans and some Ecuadorians. Since we firstly wanted to know what the lodge is like, what they offer etc, I tagged along for all the trips, jungle treks, community visits, canoeing trips and so on. For some reason I was nominated to translate to guests, with my ‘excellent’ Spanish (NOT!). Anyway, because everyone is only speaking Spanish here, I
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The whole village helped to push our truck out of the water
find it a very good environment to be in if you really want to boost your language skills in a short amount of time.

Since I’m here to work, I decided it was best to determine the current status quo of the place by putting a Questionnaire together with which we can find out whats done right and where areas of improvement pop up.

So far the Questionnaires have revealed some interesting facts, for example, that the environmental sustainability of the lodge was questionable, or not clear to tourists, that the food lacked quality and local/ jungle ingredients. Also we found that the cleanliness lacked and the vast majority of tourists would prefer if the staff spoke English. They would also all take part in a cooking lesson with some locals or another activity involving meeting locals and tasting typical food.

After sommarizing all the info and presenting it to the manager, we have now established a few ways forward. First Jana and myself will put a spin on the cabanas and rooms, to make them as clean as they should be and add a nice touch. Also, we suggested that, with the use of more volunteers,
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stuck in the river
as vegetable garden could be a good idea. In terms of the food, which guests rated as ‘not very creative’ and based on the fact that people wanted to get more involved in local cooking, the owner, manager and us have decided to pursue the idea of a community restaurant. The land has been bought by the lodge a while ago, yet what was to be done with it was not too clear. So far all I can say is that the Project has been approved by the community. However, a few critical issues pop up. For example has the head of the community as well as the lodge decided to employ only women. A.) because to eliminate their double disadvantage, but also because B), men of the local Kichwa Tribe seem to have a huge problem with alcohol. The restaurant will therefore be slightly outside the community to avoid local men going there to drink all the time whilst tourists are around. This obviously leads to 2 important conclusions:

- Is the restaurant really representing the community as such, if it is build in a way that certain community members are not welcome

- Does this provide the tourist with an image of ‘a perfect world’, and would the reality not be better?

It is a conflict, however, the community, who is actively engaged in the decision process and is enthusiastic for this project to go ahead, is in support of the above, so is the lodge . I was very skeptic, and still am. However, yesterday we had a meeting with the local president of the community, the director of the school, the secretary and an assistant to talk about the project. Interestingly, the president of the community turned up completely drunk, supporting the negative image of the Kichwa men.

Whilst this project will go ahead from next week onwards, in the meantime we have arranged to teach English to the kids, age 7-9, in a local school. The kids here learn Kichwa, and Spanish. Yet, interestingly their English teacher does not speak a word of English – and its 2 hours a week...on and off. We were only there to watch the first day, but I was pulled up to the board by the teacher straight away to teach them colour...erm, yeah, well it went ok I would say. Tomorrow we start teaching
our Lodgeour Lodgeour Lodge

properly on a daily basis.

Next week, there is carnival here, and I believe in the rest of South America. It won’t be as crazy as Brazil, but there will be festivities here down by the river all weekend long and the lodge will be super busy too.

Anyway, I have to say that at the beginning, and still at times now I feel a can I say this..overwhelmed and sad. I think I always said, yeah I’m going to work in the Ecuadorian jungle bla, bla...but really I was a bit naive and did not understand that this means living in complete isolation, no phone, internet – NADA! And I imagined the place to be a bit more luxurious too. Ts, ts..anyway, fact is: If I was in a place that was THAT amazing, with internet, phone signal etc, I quite frankly would probably struggle to find some sort of project I could develop. Therefore, I have pulled myself together and get on with it. And apart from the 100 mosquito bites I struggle with, thing s are cool. Me and Jana get on great, people here are friendly, and I’m already best buds with the smelly dog of the Lodge. His name is Ja, but I don’t like it, so I call him Pedro! Ha! To be honest, this is a place with tremendous potential. They are supportive of my interests and I really, really feel that I could make a difference here in the 2 months that I’m with them. Not to mention the fact that they need more volunteers, particularly for a food upgrade and/ or to support the chefs in the community kitchen in putting menus together, training them in health and safety and hygiene standards etc, so Max coming along should be sweet.

This is why I left England, so I have to and will make the most out of this!

Anyway, I hope this update find everyone in good health. Feel free to comment on pictures or entries I’ve made. I’d love to stay in touch this way, and hear how everyone gets on and how boring Brighton is without Maximiliano and me..ha ah! ;-)

Alrighty, take care,

Yours Claudi

Additional photos below
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making chocolate
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making chocolate

28th February 2011

Hi Claudi, your trip sounds really adventurous. The jungle is not a 'ponyhof' I guess. Keep your head up! From what you have written you are establishing big changes there! Wow. This is great to hear! So proud of you! The project sounds so ineteresting especially the social problem with the men of the village. They should open up an AA centre there or some sort of extra work to keep them busy and away from the local pubs! Here in Brighton not much changed. We had some nice sunny days already and spring is showing itself slowly. University is absoluetely stressful. Malte probably has told you how much wehave todo right now. I cannot wait until this all ends. Peter is still inGuildford. He willmove to another ward (elderly ward) on the 15th March. He is happy there now and has settled in as best as possible. I can understand that you may be feeling a bit sad but keeping the goal of the project in mind will help you! Will try and write you here as often as possible. 2 months will pass in no time. Hello to Jana. Big hug and kiss from Brighton! Naissa
5th March 2011

Hi Claudi, I think it all sounds amazing just the kind of adventurous break I could do with at the mo. Its certainly not a hotel, but I think this is exactly the kind of environment where one (especially you) can make a difference and generate change for better. So keep the spirit up.... Little has changed over here, Jorun has moved in, Amex is still shit and I am busy 24/7. I miss you lots xxxx

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