I would like to start this blog post with an apology. I realised after speaking to a few people that in all the posts I have up on my blog so far, it seems I got so lost in trying to be poetic and deep that I forgot to say what exactly it was that I’m doing here in Ecuador. If you know me you’ll know my mind works in weird ways, sorry about that. Time to clear clouds and reveal what it is I am actually doing in the Amazon.
A month ago, I arrived in a small Amazonian city called Puyo in the Pastaza province where I was welcomed into the Fernandez family (literally, they call me Munya Ra Munyati Fernandez). My new family, comprising of Papa Jhonny, Mama Hipa, Sheyla, Jhorddan and Bruno (Piranha) the dog, gave me a warm welcome and have since given me a new place to call home.
Puyo is the last city before you enter deep into the Amazon jungle and it definitely feels that way. Despite being a city, you only need to look to the horizon to see the vast jungle of varying shades of green resting below the low lying clouds. It is absolutely beautiful indeed. Even without looking to the horizon, the wide variety of insects and birds that I see daily are evidence enough that this is more or less as real as the jungle gets (well minus the buildings).
I currently work at Parque Omaere, 15 hectares of ethnobotanical park in the city reserved for the preservation of Amazonian flora and culture. This parque was started 22 years ago by a Shuar (one of the 7 indigenous cultures in Pastaza) lady named Theresa Shiki and two French women. The area was previously cattle pasture and sugar cane plantations and after acquiring the land, these women began to plant the seeds of important Amazonian trees and plants and let it grow. Now, the park resembles a primary forest with no indication that it was simply pastures in its previous life.
At work, we give tours around the parque showing different flora that were essential to the indigenous tribes and explain the different uses and properties of the flora within the parque. We also give detailed explainations on certain aspects of two cultures, the Waorani and the Shuar, in our “casas typicas” (the typical houses for these groups). The Waorani and the Shuar are especially interesting as they were the only to cultures to not be conquered by the Spanish Conquistadores. We also prepare and sell traditional medicines made from flora in the parque and these are especially popular among visitors and tourists. I personally have started guiding in English and Spanglish (my Spanish is still loading unfortunately) and I also do quite a bit of general “Jungle Maintenance”.
However, I’m doing much more learning that guiding because everyday, I have the pleasure of seeing a new insect, bird, flower, fungus etc. and am lucky to have such knowledgeable people to learn from. It’s often the people I’m guiding who bring new information from where they come from and share many other uses of certain plants and trees that I show them.
I am also lucky to learn from my supervisor who is an environmentalist, actively spreading knowledge regarding preservation of nature and sanitation. His Urine-diverting dry toilets are spreading like wildfire around the country and look to greatly improve the level of sanitation around the country. And of course I’m learning so much Spanish that it’s often shocking when people hear I’ve only been here for a month.
This is more or less the shortened version of what I’ve been doing over the past month. It took a while to post because with the new environment came the gradual process of adjusting to a new family, new place, new culture and all that comes along with that. Future posts will definitely have more detailed events but I hope this gives a general answer to the question “What are you doing?”