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Published: July 15th 2006
I made it to my volunteer station safely. No bus issues. Getting accustomed to life in Ecuador. It is so nice to be able to stay put for a while. My home base is an hour bus ride from Tena, where you can get an omlette for $.50!! (the bus has to cross a stream sans bridge on the way here). I live in a wood cabin with one other girl from the US. Most of the people here, not surpisingly, are in college. Yes, I am twice as old as some of them. (sigh). I feel it too, when we go hiking through the jungle, sinking into mud piles, crossing streams by delicately traversing fallen logs, (lost my balance and fell in once), ascending and descending earthen stairs formed by tree roots and ducking under spider webs! We have internet (altho it is very slow), electricity. (a bald bulb in our hut), and cold water showers. Brrr. I have not been able to stand under it yet. I just cup a handful of water and throw it on the important parts. The bathroom is a walk to a cabin, where there are toilets and showers. The worst part is having
to pee several times a night. I have heard horror stories from other volunteers about waking up to wildlife inside mosquito nets, crawling on faces, so the process of getting up to pee takes a little longer here in my jungle abode. 1. turn on headlamp. 2. check shoes for wildlife 3. light path to bathroom. 4. check toilet for crawling, flying or slithering things 5. pee. 6. walk back to cabin. 7. painstakingly stuff mosquito net between mattress and wood frame. get up later and repeat process.
I expected it to be much hotter here than it is. It´s only hot when the sun is out, which, thanks to the forest cover, is not so often. The humidity is pretty oppressive if you don´t like it, but it doesn´t bother me much. I don´t even mind the cloudiness since it keeps the temp down. (yes, i know, you are asking, what have you done with Tana). I´ll do one better, i even LOVE the rain here. So far, it´s mostly at night. But it´s been torrential, pounding on the roofs. It´s amazing. Love , love, love it!!!! Nothing better than listening to the rain at night. The next
day it sounds like it´s still raining, but it´s just the drops making their way to the lower plants. Although there are a lot of insects, i am not even using repellent and hardly have any bites. The only time i got ravaged was the one day i used "OFF". guess the bugs like it.
So far the work is not too hard at all but we get really really dirty and smelly during the day!!! Breakfast is at 6:30 am (good grief). We work until noon, and then from 1;30-3:30. We´ll put dirt in bags to plant trees in the organic garden, rake leaves off paths, compost vegetables, collect leaves and seeds. Some of the volunteers got to machete grass or collect palm leaves for making a roof. i have not experienced those yet. The coolest thing i have done is thatch a roof with palm leaves. way cool. Today 2 of us went on Bosque, a trek through the forest with one of the guides. We saw some really tall trees with huge trunks and massive roots. We also had a very cool conversation about clearing the rainforest for cattle grazing, the problems therein and possible solutions.
Probably the worst duty so far has been kitchen duty, which lasts from 5:30 am to 7 pm. You all know how much i love to cook. No bueno!!! But it did make me appreciate how hard the local women work to feed us.
Speaking of food, i am living on carbs. Donno if this is typical Ecuadorian cuisine or if they are trying to save money, but the main dish is always either potatoes, plantain or rice, often 2 of those together, then a small spoonful of cucumbers, beets or radishes, and literally a teaspoon of egg or some other protein. It´s surprising that my entire elimination system hasnt come to a screeching halt. That said, my stomach is doing well. For some strange reason i have developed an addiction to coke. didnt even like the stuff at home, but the glass bottles are novel maybe. Maybe they put some real coc in it?????? I have found tho, that the kitchen ladies work on bribes. After seeing some volunteers smile and get an entire omlette made special, i have learned to bring them chocolates and such in exchange for some extra helpings. hehe.
12 out of 15
of the volunteers here smoke, which is very hard for me to tolerate. Like there wasn´t enough pollution in LA, hello? I came to the jungle looking for some fresh air, for christ´s sake! There is also a local bar 10 minutes down the road, which many partake in regularly and then come home completely drunk, waking up the entire camp singing and shouting at ridiculous hours. I feel like i am living in a freshman year fraternity. So I have bonded with the 2 other non-smoking vegetarians like sticky glue! We have become somewhat of a clique. Altho there are some other super cool people there too.
I went rafting last weekend on the Rio Napo with 2 other volunteers. what a blast!!!! (I fell out several times!) We ended up sharing a raft with 2 blonde, beautiful German guys. trying to get pics developed from my underwater camera. Back at camp, a couple of us went swimming in the Rio Napo, which runs right by the station. very nice. actually warmer tham the shower. so we brought shampooo!
There is also a 100 ft tower here with a view of the entire forest canopy. of course,
i had to climb it. much less scary than a Redwood tree!
The station i am at has a medicinal garden and a sweet man who is a Shaman, cooking up various concoctions for voulunteers and the community. I love being around him and the healing plants. a couple of volunteers took part in a ceremony where you take hallucinagenic plants as a cleansing ritual. they said it was cool. Not sure if i will do that since it´s quite common to puke. And we all know how much i love that!
The only wildlife i have seen are insects. Man the bugs here look like they are on crack! Someone must inject them with growth hormones at birth, because they are HUGE. (mom, you so would not like it here). let me see... bugs i have seen:
-a dragonfly in the shower. way cool
-4 tarantulas. I let one crawl on my arm!!!!! missed the photo opp tho- damn.
-a gecko. they move so awkwardly across the floor. he was in the lunchroom
-a moth as big as my hand. brown with a black circle
-AMAZING butterflies of all kinds. my favorite is one that
has pink wings on top and translucent white ones on the bottom. they are really hard to catch on camera
-a toad on the path to my cabin
-furry black catepilars
-a grasshopper that was like something out of a horror movie (see pic)
-ENORMOUS ants, including cutter ants who dice apart leaves and carry huge pieces over their head in an ant procession. i spent a few minutes watching them cut apart a leaf. how friggin cool!
-a smally black snake i almost stepped on the way to the shower
-bats in a cavern while rafting
-a scorpion in the shower
-way way way more cockroaches than i ever care to count. and they are also the size of my hand. Oh, and FYI, they fly! ewwwww.
well, i´ve been working on this for days, so i will get it off. hope you are all well at home!
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