Ella Egman-Lawless

October 26, 2012

Upon coming to Ecuador and during my stay in Quito I hadn’t gotten overwhelmed or scared. That all changed when I moved out the cloud forest region. As the bus drove me farther away from Quito and the majority of the other Fellows, I entered into a whole other world.  This new world was to be my new home. It is filled with types of plants and trees that were completely unknown to me. On the ride from the bus stop to my new home with my new family in our truck is when I got scared; we passed by crops of cacao, coffee, palm trees, exotic fruits and bamboo. I’m not used to being surrounded by so many plants that I don’t know.  The bamboo is what caught my eye the most. I had no idea bamboo could grow so big and its leaves could dance through the Ecuadorian air so hypnotically.

Once I got to my new home I began to realize how useful and versatile bamboo is. Every day to bathe and wash their clothes my family goes to the small river below our house. (We have a shower and a washing machine, too, but they prefer the river.) First they have to cross over the river — to do that they use a bridge made of a couple of bamboo branches. We also use bamboo as a rain gutter to catch the rain that falls almost every day, then we use that water to wash our hands outside. Some families flatten out the bamboo and use it as a wall. It has a lot of gaps but that’s okay here because it doesn’t get very windy or cold.

To get to the kitchen from outside they use a ladder made of bamboo. This is how the milk from our cows gets brought into the house every morning.

The bamboo also works as a pretty good feeder. Every morning when the guinea pigs get fed, their feed goes in a bamboo stalk split in half. Guinea pig is just one of the many farm animals that gets fed every morning. They are to eat along with our pigs, chickens, pigeons, ducks and turkeys. I haven’t been served the guinea pig, duck, pigeon or turkey yet but I will keep you updated when that changes.

Overhead of the bed of the family pick-up truck is a bamboo stick for passengers to steady themselves. On my first rides in the back of the truck I held onto it for dear life. The dirt road to my house is absolutely filled with potholes, interesting dips and bumps. Now I’ve gotten a bit more adjusted to this mode of transportation and I don’t have white knuckles anymore, I have a bit of a looser grasp when I hold to the bamboo.

Bamboo uses don’t stay only around the house the school that I work at has bamboo benches around the futbol cancha (cement field.) The benches don’t get used much because everyone is just playing futbol. Immediately after class is out the kids start drafting teams for a recess game. In the school garden the signs and some of the raised beds are made of bamboo. This is where I work with 3rd-7th grades on Monday and Tuesday.

I also work maintaining cacao trees, and of course sprinkled in with the cacao there is a majestic bamboo tree swaying overhead here and there. Yes I have tried the fresh cocoa and it’s absolutely delicious, it doesn’t taste like chocolate because it is the fruit around the seed of chocolate that you eat when it is fresh. One day when we where working to get up into a tree that didn’t have lower branches to climb my host dad simply put a bamboo branch with notches cut in it against the tree and shimmied up the “ladder.”

It has been incredible to see how my family knows how to use their local resources like bamboo. So far I’ve been content with my new family, new home, new food, new work and of course new vegetation. My family has been wonderfully accepting and they introduce me to new things everyday, just today I rode a horse without a saddle through the jungle down a valley to a river to fish by hand.

Sorry it took a while to get this post up I’ve just been having to much fun to spend time sitting at a computer and write about it.  Here is a link to a video I made about climbing the mountain Pichincha while I was in Quito. Take a look if you wish.

Ella Egman-Lawless