todo es posible en ecuador

We are back in Arutam (after a weekend spent in Banos) and it surprisingly gave me a sense of home when we stepped off the bus. Traveling is nice, but it's also such a great feeling to sleep in the same bed two nights in a row, to unpack your bags, and to not feel so displaced. So here we are, back in Arutam for the week. Lisa leaves on Friday, and it is at this point that I am on my own for 7 weeks...from then on, I'll be traveling alone, with no one to depend on but myself for getting around. I'm actually excited for the challenge, because my Spanish will vastly improve. I don't have any plans. Originally, I was going to stay in Arutam all summer, but I feel as if a couple weeks here is substantial. I also feel called towards a place that could use my help more than here. No tengo ningunos planes. Eso es lo mejor plan. Time will tell where  I end up and how I get there, but inevitably, with whatever I end up doing, I will be happy. Come Friday I will have a better idea of my plans.
I have been having some interesting thoughts about the project here in Arutam. The website and introduction speeches have left me rather disillusioned. On the one hand, telling us exactly what we want to hear -- that we are helping the Shuar people to conserve their culture and preserve their rainforest from deforestation. But, so far the work we have done is to go deep into the jungle, cut a bunch of palms, and build a firehouse for future volunteers. I have often felt that the Shuar people know exactly what the volunteers want to hear, but don't necessarily act accordingly. But then there's a whole other side to what is going on: the light -- this program is helping the Shuar people to develop. However, I'm used to seeing the black and white aspect to international development, because it's what I study in books and text and what I've lived and breathed scholastically for the past three years. But its playing out all gray in Arutam. There's nothing black or white. Its a got damned mess! There are good things.. but mostly, coming from a developed society, I see the faults and approach the Shuar development with cynicism. It is one of the best lessons I could have learned. I cannot quite verbalize it but I know how I feel. As time goes on, I will be better at forming my opinion on the project and other projects just like this one across the world.
All the other volunteers have arrived, which means it's finally time to start work.
La selva tropical: Words cannot even describe how I feel. Enrique (the main Shuar who worked with the volunteers) took us on an introductory hike through the jungle yesterday. Three hours later I came back much more knowledgeable and fearless than I was when I first entered. The Shuars have lived off of the rainforest for over 200 years, and thus have an exponential amount of uses for the jungle's resources. Enrique showed us only about 1/30th of what there is to know - it was so impressive.

With machetes in hand, we entered the unknown. First, he gave me a "present" -- a yelow (seemingly poisonous) spider, that we later found out does not bite. It was huge and vibrant, so naturally my gringa-self originally had fear. Then later down the jungle trail he carved some trimmings off of a thin tree. He put them in his pocket. When we arrived at a muddy stream later, he made us put our hands out in cup form. He got the shavings out of his pocket, got them wet, and squeezed some of its juice into our palms. He then advised us to snort the juice, as it helps cure the flu and stomach aches (we had previously mentioned having weak stomachs). It tingled and made my nose a bit numb, but que loco -- It helped!

He also pointed out the different variations of palm trees, how one's roots can help you stop bleeding, another's roots are good defensive shelters because of their hut-like shape and spikes on the exterior, and how antoher is good for using to construct wood and rope.

To me, the jungle seemed shades of green with a few beautiful red buds intermittently. However, to Enrique, it was a religion. A way of life. The hike was quite inspirational and I look forward to learning more and more about the rainforest as my time here in Arutam develops.
I'm in a hammock, it's 6:30 am, and I'm in the middle of the Amazon. There are so many thoughts I would like to record. The air is so pure. The sounds of nature so calming. I've only been in this ecosystem for about half an hour of daylight and I am already infatuated. I cannot imagine what I am going to feel in a couple weeks once I've really gotten comfortable and have learned more about la selva tropical. This area is gorgeous. The drive from Banos to Puyo was incredible -- I want to bike it sometime this summer. It mixes the Andean mountain range with the Amazon... mountainous jungle. Waterfalls everywhere you turn, with Rio Pastaza flowing through a deep canyon that the road is adjacent to. Que tierra hermosa en Ecuador.

All of the things that have come into my life this past week have been a sign of some sort -- drawing me towards South America, a place I already feel comfortable calling home, and a place I never would have imagined I would be as of one year ago. I think all of the locals that have taken us under their wing have furthered my fervor for Ecuador, and for living life according to no set plan. Going with the flow could not have worked out any better for us. Viva Ecuador!

    Adrienne Hearne

    These are excerpts taken from my summer travel journal. While telling the story of my summer, they also express my different experiences of culture shock, being an individual  living in a collective culture.