Geetings from the Land of Creepy Crawlies

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July 11th 2006
Published: July 15th 2006
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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

my bed
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.
-spiders everywhere
-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!

Additional photos below
Photos: 41, Displayed: 27



typical meal. soup, rice, some potatoes, plantain and beets
Face paintingFace painting
Face painting

jaime, the shaman, painted our faces with plant dyes
Jungle FlowerJungle Flower
Jungle Flower

this one is in the shaman´s garden. looks like lips. i think it has aprodiesiac properties
Rio NapoRio Napo
Rio Napo

river from a lookout tower in the botanical garden. clouds over the volcanos in the background

15th July 2006

Tanya, I can't thank you enough for sharing your trip with us. I am becoming addicted to your blog entries, I'm afraid! It sounds like you are doing wonderfully, being very brave, and helping to save the world while having the experience of a lifetime. Keep up the great work! :-)
15th July 2006

Creepy Crawleys
Hi Tan- I'm really enjoying your blog. The pictures are great! Seems like there would be some birds around to chow down on all those big bugs....then again, the bugs are so big that they might have eaten the birds! I don't guess you get much world news out in the jungle. FYI, the world is a mess! Israel has just invaded Lebanon, the problems in Iraq keep getting worse, Iran is building the bomb and the entire Middle East is like a powder keg about to explode. Meanwhile, back here in the US of A, crime is increasing, the western states are on fire-much of souther California is threatened by wild fires and there is gang violence everywhere. I'm beginning to think that you are in a safe place by comparison. Hone those survival skills; you may need them when you come back to the states! Be safe and enjoy-- Love, Dad
16th July 2006

What a wonderful, challenging experience!! It seems that you are absorbing it all and enjoying every minute. Can you do anything to get more protein in your diet? I feel proud of you. I especially enjoyed the pictures of the flowers; so beautiful; breathtaking. Thanks for sharing. love to you, becky swanson
17th July 2006

aw HELL no.
T--Do you remember, in Charlotte, the freaking mass hysteria over ONE moderately-large spider??? I seem to remember an episode of screeching heebie-jeebies (don't quite remember if they were yours or mine, though!) And now you're out hanging with tarantulas (tarantulae? What's the plural of tarantula??) Anyway--THOSE I might be able to tolerate. But whatever that gackful...THING is on the guy's shoulder in that pic??? I would be on a plane home, just to get away from THAT. You're WAY brave!!! (Incidentally, the bug NEARLY distracted me from the hot guy...but not entirely!) As always, GORGEOUS pictures--that one on the bottom really captures how intensely GREEN the grass is...and that jungle flower pic is like a poster! amazing... It's so great to hear that you're having a good time, even with scorpions in the shower and complicated pee rituals...keep posting! I love these blog entries!--monster
13th November 2007


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