Sunday, May 14: After breakfast today we spent some time listening to a conversation between Elle and the recently arrived ASU students. We were technically part of the conversation but everyone was so tired I don’t think we had it in us to get involved. I did learn some things listening like Iyarina meaning “to relate” giving more meaning to the place we were staying. Learned how in Wao culture music can mean different things like a map of the forest or an experience someone had on the river. Also learned that the rivers in the area have a decent amount of gold but there’s a fight in the community to resist selling to miners in order to preserve their relationship with the land. Conversation is super important for this because there is no communal land in the Waorani nation so individual choices could lead to a complete loss of their culture. The view of success was also discussed, it being less goal oriented and more day to day, living with relatives, not about abundance. Elle shared how she used to drink out of the river next to our lodge and a goal of hers is being able to do that again.
The rest of the day we worked on our projects and hung out at the lodge. Me and Collin found an old chess board that was missing pieces. We just played an alternate version where we only had one of each piece and half the pawns. When nighttime came, Skip took us for a walk around the compound in the dark so we could see the different bugs that weren’t visible during the day.
Monday, May 15: Today we did an awesome river hike. In our mud boots and bathing suits we walked, waded, and swam through a river for a few hours, and it was great. Along the way we faced some troubles like me losing Anna’s GoPro (which was found later), and Olivia losing her boot in a deep pool. But about 20 yards down the river there was luckily another boot from Iyarina, lost by another group, that worked perfectly. At the end there was a small jump and pool we spent some time at before leaving. The walk back to the lodge was great as I got out of my boots, dried off, and took in the views.
Later, we took a boat to the town of Misahualli. There, we got some local food, like an empanada for 25 cents and pineapple juice. The town had a ton of street monkeys that the locals adored. They even had a statue made of them. Tons of signs said not to feed them, and I had no issue complying, but it was funny to see a local kid trying to share his banana with the monkeys.
Back at the lodge we just rested and ended up meeting Zoe, a young girl from the area. A couple times during me and Collins chess game pieces would go missing and a game of tag would commence. She was a sweetheart, and it was fun getting to be the fun old kids.
Tuesday, May 16th: For breakfast today, we got some crazy good French toast with a cane sugar syrup. Delicious. Everyone delivered their presentations, and all went well. After I got to talk to Elle about what she thinks of our presentations and “business ideas” from the perspective of someone active in the Waorani nation. Bringing my bag to the bus I saw Wyatt get bitten by what we think may have been a bullet ant. Glad it wasn’t me is all I got to say. We spent the day traveling to Quito by bus, flying to Guayaquil, and bussing to Puerto Lopez. On the bus to Quito, I got a pretty good empanada from a gas station. Suffering a little from the altitude and stuffy tour bus, a beautiful stop in the mountains was a savior. In the fresh air we walked through a poly Lepus tree reserve (an endangered tree with flaky bark), strolled around some trout stocked ponds, and saw some llamas in the distance. The rest stop was great, and we continued on.
In the Quito airport I was deceived by a Johnny Rockets which seemed like a good idea, getting a taste of American food. Wasn’t worth it. It was horrible. A flight and bus ride later and we were at our hotel, Hosteria Mandela. Each room had an animal name and there was a bit of a maze you had to take to get to our room. The rooms had hammocks, comfy beds, and compared to Iyarina: minimal bugs.