Untouched by Civilization, Touched by Kindness – Blog 4

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The past two days were amazing, and I do not think that this experience can be replicated. On Thursday, Tod told us about the history of our next location. We were going to visit the Waorani Nation, the most recently contacted indigenous group. They were contacted by missionaries in the 1950s, and we met two of the people who were contacted by them. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We took buses from the Iyarina lodge to a landing spot, where we were took canoes to the community. The ride was about 2 hours, and the canoes started to feel uncomfortable after about 10 minutes, but the beauty of the river and the rain forest around us took my mind off of the unpleasant feeling of the canoe. When we landed at the community, the president gave us traditional face paint, and showed us to our lodge. The path was extremely muddy, but it overlooked a lagoon, and the view was stunning. Skip busted out his drone, and one baby was absolutely fascinated by it. After we settled in, the community showed us their blowgun and we all had a try. They had a banana hanging by a string from a tree, and we all missed except for Ben. He was gifted a headdress, which is traditionally passed down from warrior to warrior. We ate dinner and then learned more about the community, then went to bed.

The next day, we ate breakfast and then went on a hike through the Amazon. That was some of the hardest terrain that I’ve hiked. It was muddy and slippery, and there was no clear path. Omanca was absolutely killing it. She was there during the first contact, and was laughing when we fell down while passing us. Everyone in the community was helping out and poking fun at how slow and clumsy we were in the jungle. We came up to the top of a hill and they showed us plants they use for basket weaving, medicine, diapers, and then we dug up some cacao plants to plant later in their chakra. We continued on our hike until we reached a waterfall, and the hike was worth it. We relaxed there and David and Diana helped translate the stories members of the community were telling us. They elaborated on the history of the waterfall and some of the spots we passed on the way.

After the hike, we had lunch and helped them plant the cacao plants in their chakra, next to their yucca and plantain trees. We learned from Kaillari about the chakra system, and how planting next to other plants allows the cacao to absorb the flavors of the plants around them. It was amazing to see this system being used, and to help the community replant and grow their chakra. After we planted the cacao plants, we had some free time, and some of us went to play a game with some of the community members. It was a combination of dodgeball and bowling, where there was a banana set up with a circle drawn around it. One team took turns trying to knock the banana over, and when it happened, the defending team tries to hit the other team members with a ball before the team bowling sets up the banana again. It’s complicated, but the kids absolutely destroyed the adults. Then we ate dinner and the community did a traditional dance, and invited us to join in. It was a lot of fun, but it was exhausting.

Seeing this community was absolutely amazing. 70 years ago, this community had no idea we existed, and we did not know that they were out in the Amazon. Now, they’re welcoming us into their home, playing games with us, taking us on hikes, telling us their history, and sharing their traditions with us. For many of these people, our group were the first people from the Western world that they have seen. This opportunity brought out how different our culture is from theirs, but also how we have historically forced our culture onto them. They want to share their culture with others, and they have been put down again and again. Tod was telling us that despite the large indigenous population in Ecuador, they only recently were able to vote in elections. What I saw was special. I know that I may never get another opportunity like that ever again. But that makes it more important to learn all that I can about groups like the Waorani. This experience that the Waorani had with the mission is not unique, and is happening across the world right now. It is up to us to make sure that they have a voice and are able to preserve their culture.

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