Autumn Moon

Galen Tsongas - Ecuador


November 21, 2012

Before I begin transcribing the blog I’ve written in my journal, there are a few minor things I’d like to make clear. This blog post will be a culmination of journal entries and a few attempted blog posts, which may mean the writing will be choppy. I am a bit technogically incapable, so I don’t have a picture with this blog even though it’s required. I want to upload a picture from my camera, but I can’t, and I’m not going to upload a random picture from the internet which has no significant unrelated meaning to this blog, so suffice it to say that my words must be my photo. Enjoy.

I don’t know how to start this blog so I thought this would be a good way to start… Which if you think about it, is a complete contradiction of words. It’s strange writing a blog post in my journal because I usually write down personal thoughts and realizations, but what´s usual about my life now? Seemingly nothing. I’m in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. I live with a native kichwa family. And I no longer wear black skinny jeans, steel-toed boots, or my leather jacket. But the seemingly unusual has become the usual. Two months have passed and homesickness has finally worn off. I’m now comfortable in my environment. Spanish is rapìdly becoming my new language and Kichwa, one of the many indigenous languages here, it doesn´t bother me, listening to this beautiful language and not understanding a word except for baby (WAWA). This is the mystifying element that entrances my curiousity and intrigue of its beauty. Beauty. The wind heralds dark clouds from the southeast that streak the grey laden sky with strokes of rain. Mother nature’s melancholy strikes above: seek shelter. I would dub this a storm if I were elsewhere, but here in my unusually usual reality, it is simply weather. Not unlike a night such as this, my team leader Andy and I rode in taxi to the town, Misahaulli where I was supposed to live in a Miduvi hut by myself.

A Miduvi hut is really a concrete house created by the government as free housing, affordable housing, or housing that can be purchased. This was a very successful endevour to reduce homelessness, avoid crowding (families are comparatively larger than in the States), and provide a safe living arrangement with electricity, locking doors, and a roof that doesn’t leak. Staying in one by myself never happened. We arrived in a downpour, dropped my bags off under my porch roof, and ran to my host mom’s, or host grandma’s house. Andy had taken his shirt off while unloading my bags due to the heavy rain and it was misplaced. Nontheless, we ran over to the house. We knocked on the door and the grandma answered, followed by a reply in her rather high-pitched voice, then a slamming door in our faces. Andy looks over at me, bewildered, and asks,¨What did she say?¨ I shrugged and Andy explained to the grandma through a window who we were, but as bad news would have it, she didn’t have the key to my hut… She told Andy my host brother had it, but he wasn’t answering his phone. A relative came by in a car in that moment on some accord of her own will and talked to the grandma. She came out nonchalantly, eating an apple, and told us that the host brother might return tonight… Or tomorrow… Or the next day. She then left. Andy sat me down and told me he was going to find me a new host family, but the next two nights would have to be spent in a hostel. I was put in a hostel with AC, HD TV with cable, a comfy bed, and a warm shower. I spent two days there and headed off to my workplace in Andy’s car, where I worked and slept for another two days… Not in Andy’s car… In the workplace. I’ve never been an orphan before, albeit highly spoiled. I live now with my host mom, Sonja, host brothers, Jhair and Dammir, host sister, Daniella, and baby. Our house is the nicest one in the community I live in, San Pedro. We had a power outage that lasted for four days, switching from light bulbs to candles… That and lightning. Once you get past the thought that you’ll be struck by lightning, or you’re sleeping with spiders, or cockroaches and other bugs in your sheets and crawling on you while you sleep, sleeping is pretty comfy. I’m thankful that I can’t feel the spiders biting. Tarantulas are a real thing. A real, big thing… Or things. But oddly I find them cute and fluffy like a kitten. The flying bugs? They aren’t so cute and fluffy.

The sky, as of now, is a tiger of pink and grey, slowly metamorphesizing into a panther with with yellow streetlights as eyes. The past few days have been overcast, which has been great for working and bad for stargazing. My work includes digging a pool out for fish, removing weeds, cutting grass with a machette, collecting leaves, sweeping, cleaning, helping in the kitchen, and some days learning the craft of making bracelets. I work at Sinchi Warmi Agua Center with the women here. Sinchi Warmi. Mujeres Fuerte. Strong Women. These women work so hard on the maintainance of the lodge. I used to complain about sweeping and mopping the Hypnodrome, the theatre I worked at in San Francisco, but this work that I do now is so much more physically demanding than sweeping and mopping could ever be. Russ and Jim have my gratitude, sincerely, for instilling the skills needed to work this hard. Without those years working at the Hypnodrome, I wouldn’t understand why I’m here doing this work. But this is so much more than mere manual labor by miles, by lightyears. This experience isn’t about working for an organization. It’s about self-realization, thinking, learning, and experiencing the experience while being absorbant. It doesn’t matter what I’d be like if I wasn’t here now because I am HERE NOW.

I stood outside. The rain fell diagonally across the sky and brought me to a swing. I must have seemed absolutely bonkers in the pouring rain, swinging, laughing, then running with the wind. The American running in the Amazon. There was no fear, no hesitation, just the thought, the utter happiness and love I felt was incredible. Everything disappeared  except unity of the environment surrounding me. What lasted minutes was hours and I’ll never forget it. Lluvia. Rain. Life. Vida.

Autumn Moon. The sky darkened as my feet propelled me down the road with the flashlight in my right hand, and a rock in the other. The rock? My security in case a stray dog, snake, or other animal happens to be hungry. I’m not into harming animals, and I hope I don’t ever have to, but it’s a dark road in the rainforest and there have been a few close calls already. The full Autumn Moon was unsheathed by the clouds and my flashlight was a moot point. Some days I miss the feeling of security that my steel-toed boots gave me… Somedays. It hasn’t rained for two days and I miss it. When it rains, a cool wind blows, pushing the hot and humidity away, allowing a respite from perspiration and exhaustion. The sounds reverberate off the leaves and I am in a serene world both physically and spiritually. I see dark clouds welling northwest. Espero por lluvia. Una gota. Una gota de cielo. it´s Monday now and I have to work. Perhaps I can work on making a Guayusa tree nursery. Guayusa is a special-tea in the rainforest. Halloween is two days away and not a single leaf, nor house, nor pumpkin (or lack there of) is orange. Day of the dead (the day that I´m transcribing this) is approaching with colada morada, a drink that is liquid pie. Sometimes I think I’m dying. When my stomach aches, I know I’m dying. When I look at bug bites I have, I know I’m dying. I’m not though, don’t worry! On the contrary, I’m very much alive. The stars appear beneath a thin sheet of silken clouds, revelaing a sky riddled with holes, and the brightest of all appeared, unsheathed by the clouds… This Autumn Moon.

A realization has occured. The importance of sojourning here is not coming from the U.S. to Ecuador, one place to another, but rather the importance is coming from one environment to another, completely different environment. Adaptation. Darwin’s principle of natural selection is apparent to me now. I’m living his principle. Adapt, or be eaten by your surroundings. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but what happens when you aren’t a dog? The dogs are still hungry. Will they acknowledge the difference that you, the human, isn’t a dog? Meat is meat, blood is blood, and food is food. I am glad I have opposable thumbs! If I didn’t have thumbs I’d have to grow a beak, or wings, or a tail, and that could take a few million years, well after being eaten, and well after I would actually have need of said appendages. Personally, I believe thumbs trump a beak any day. Grubs, worms, fish, and maybe the occasional kitten, on a daily basis sounds awful when I have the ability to cut a medium-rare steak with a knife. OKAY! Tuna… Siempre! Odio atun, pero como me dije arriba, comida es comida.

This is a lot to read, I realize, and if you have read all of it, thank you for reading. If I could hug you, or smile at you, I would. However, my love can only be expressed through my words which I hope you will accept. I love you. And even if I can´t see you, hear you, know who I´m talking about when I say YOU, I love you. Our hearts beat as one. Enjoy your day, enjoy your life. And remember that I and many others care and love you.

Galen Tsongas