One month ago when I first arrived in my small Kichwa village of Alto Tena, my mind was blown. I simply could not fathom how unbearably slowly time passed in my community, and it was hard to imagine being able to spend six months living in a place where a day felt like a week, and a week felt like an eternity. The hours are long in Alto Tena, that’s for sure, but after being there for a few weeks I am beginning to see just how beautiful that is.
Every single morning, the people in my community wake up around 4AM. They go to drink the traditional cup of Guayusa, and then they begin their days either going to school or farming in the jungle. Sometimes they will return home for lunch, other times they will work through the daylight. By 6PM, everyone is home for dinner, and we all sit in la cocina to eat and chat, reminiscing on our days and the latest community gossip. By 7:30, everyone is in bed preparing for what will become of the next day.
The people work hard in Alto Tena; there is no doubt about that. In fact, I have never met a group of people that works harder. But there is also a degree of tranquility and simplicity that comes along with their way of life. They do spend hours and hours laboring away, but the attitude of the entire community is one of unlimited time and no pressure. Periodically throughout the day, people find time to share a laugh over someone tripping or stop by home to catch the latest fútbol game on TV. When one is tired, he or she rests. When one is hot, he or she bathes. When one is hungry, he or she eats. We didn’t repair the bridge today? That’s all right; there’s always tomorrow.
As I change my perspective, the days in Alto Tena are beginning to blur together, and I am able to appreciate spending my free time swimming in the river or just lounging in la cocina. Finally I can take the time to explore myself, pursue hobbies I’ve never had the time for before, and go out and learn to just be. I see this way of life as an opportunity, one that I may not have again for the rest of my life. As I sit here, sipping my cup of Guayusa and writing, I can’t help but appreciate: What an utterly beautiful simplicity this is.