A 2 hour bus ride and 3 hour canoe ride later, we arrived at the Waorani’s tribe remote village in Gomaton, an area in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. When I say remote, I mean completely isolated. There was no service or electricity, and barely any running water. We were greeted by 10 kids, a handful of adults including the Waorani grandma and grandpa, a spider monkey, and a trumpet bird. Upon our arrival, the tribe’s President painted our faces with powder from a fruit. I immediately felt supported and welcomed.
Some of the highlights from our Amazonian excursion included a 5 hour hike in the rainforest, shooting a blowgun, planting cacao plants, eating sugar cane, bathing in a creek and waterfall, and playing games with the young kids.
Aside from our daily adventures that never ceased to “wow” us, the Waorani tribe gave me a new perspective on virtually everything. How could such a large family seem so content and joyful with so few resources?
Their lifestyles are the complete opposite of what most American teenagers are used to. Growing up in an upper-middle class family in an urban setting, all of my fundamental needs were met. In fact, most of my desires were met as well. I never had to worry about anything, and I was always connected to society.
After spending time with the Waorani tribe and being surrounded by nothing but pure nature, I felt as though I connected with the world as a whole. On the canoe ride back, I was even questioning my future personal, career, and relationship goals.
I realized that I can use my resources and inherent privileges to help others—others who aren’t as well-off such as the Waorani tribe. The Waorani people may not have as much money as us, but they were the happiest, most creative, and talented people I have ever met. For instance, the grandma wove a beautiful basket from a tree leaf in under a minute!
Essentially, I felt honored that we were the first group of Americans to visit the Waorani tribe’s humble abode. This visit was definitely physically and mentally challenging at times, especially because I was not used to trekking through miles of mud and sleeping in the same room as hundreds of bugs, but it was an experience of a lifetime. I became aware of my many privileges and resources that I used to view as basic. I know that in my future, I will work hard to help others such as the Waorani tribe and never forget the beauty and importance of nature.