Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sinchi Aqua, Yachana and Quito photos - just some

Sinchi Aqua Center

Sinchi Aqua Center
Annie in Rio Napo
Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Annie at Yachana Lodge, Ecuador
Annie in Rio Napo
Sinchi Aqua, Ecuador
Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Meliza - Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Karla - Sinchi Aqua
Leti & Karla - Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Karla - Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Sinchi Aqua
Annie and Meliza - Sinchi Aqua
Annie at Sinchi Aqua Center
Sinchi Aqua ladies
Rio Napo at Yachana Lodge
Sinchi Aqua
Rio Napo - Yachana Lodge
Annie and the Shaman
Rio Napo
Blowgun Annie
Cooking lesson at Yachana
Sinchi Aqua guys
Yachana Lodge, Ecuador

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once week closer............

Hello from home

I look at the photographs of my time in Ecuador with a smile still
plastered on my face, and look at all the goodies I brought home with me
with such good feelings and memories.

Am I happy to be home? Yes! It feels good and yet I look at my home,
all my 'things', and wonder who really is more fortunate - me or them.
The people of SInchi Warmi have a beautiful family and a much simpler
way of life in many ways. I see how many things I have to be grateful
for and I am, but I long to go back to where the only sound at night is
the croaking of the frogs, where the moisture almost drips from
everything, where even a trip to the bathroom is something to be thought
through first and the kids are so much free-er than they are here.

I have 7000 photographs to take me back there, to remind me, and now
with only about 20 bites that have still not fully healed and still
itch, I know that I am one week closer to going back again. And I can't

As promised, some of my photos are online now. Go to
http://www.picsbyannie.com - the top 4 folders are those of my time in
Ecuador. I also have them posted on my facebook page if that is easier
for those that have facebook.

This trip changed something in me, opened my world and my soul and I
will always be so incredibly grateful that I was able to go and for
every single experience along the way.

Till next time.......

Love and light


Sunday, December 9, 2012

n - It's only just begun.......... :)

Today Tavo took me around the back roads of Quito - well not the back roads, but places much less often visited by tourists. We walked down the most exquisite cobble stoned lanes, lined with high up balconies filled with flowers and early Christmas decorations. The skyline is dotted with the spires of Cathedrals and Churches and old buildings, many from the 15th and 17th century. It is really a beautiful city. Apart from the traffic! The drivers take no notice of the lines depicting the lanes - basically you drive where there is space, and an inch IS space! Cars pull out, pass and stop whenever they want and need to and everyone just adjusts to it all. I did not see a single fender bender, but there is a constant language being spoken - the honking of the horn. Mostly these are short toots that mean many things - "hello", "want a ride", "I am not stopping even if it is a stop sign", "ok go", and so on. Public transport by bus is the cheapest way around and there are more buses and taxis than cars and pickups by far. When you want a bus to stop - no, you don't have to wait at an official bus stop, you simply hold out your hand, it will slow down enough to hop on and then off it goes again.

Many of the streets were closed to traffic today, being Sunday, so we only competed with the trolley buses for walking place. The roads are,
in many places, made from the same stone as many of the buildings - also from centuries ago. Very few of them are level, so I had to watch where I was walking carefully. Around every corner there was a view of something fascinating or just plain beautiful. There are many doors
leading right off the side walks and I have obviously developed a love of these doors. They are incredibly ornate, many times with amazing
carvings, other times designs made of metal if the form of studs or swishy whirls - its hard to describe. I will have to put the photos up for you to see.

We came across the main town square that houses the San Fransisco Cathedral and two of the oldest and most expensive hotels in Quito, and there was an extremely colorful celebration going on. I wish I could
remember the reason for the celebrations going on all week here, but this one consisted of people from a good few countries dancing, singing and beating drums all the way up the road. The best for me was the costumes of the Mexicans - they were stunning.

 It was a lovely day and my camera got filled to the brim. I could not get enough of the insides of those ancient churches, the beauty of the
sculptured outsides and also the people walking everywhere. There were church services going on all over town, people walked in, sat down and
stayed for a while, or stood and took photos in awe, like I did. People were everywhere, playing street games, hop scotch and other, eating from
the food stands dotted everywhere, just sitting on the sidewalks watching the world go by. I love the faces of the older generations here - each of them tell of history that I hope someone else knows too.

The color everywhere is beautiful and there were plenty of smiles and laughter going on all around. This is a country with a strong culture, one that binds them and it shows in the general respect given to all. I love this place.

And so here I sit in my hotel room, bags packed for the umpteenth time, feet up resting and ready to go early in the morning. I don't want to
leave. I don't want to leave. But I am ready to get a day closer to coming back.

Its not over - I feel it in my bones that this part of my life has only just begun.... and what a great feeling it is!

When I first started looking at doing a trip on my own, I knew that I wanted, and needed, to do something way out of my comfort zone, something totally different from any other trip I have been on - I needed to grow. Also, and maybe this has something to do with age, but this time I felt that I had to do more than just 'go and see' the places.... I wanted to be involved in some way - to give back and to
make a difference. I also wanted to learn the language - there is a wall between people when a language is not known. Yes, sign language works most times, and struggling through 'talking' can be fun at times
and laughter is universal, but how to learn about their culture, how to ask the deeper questions and to have a conversation......that's almost not possible without at least a fair understanding of the language. Its all fine and well to be able to ask for water, food or beers, but there is so much more - SO much more.

I signed on for two weeks of Spanish tuition in the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle....... this included a week at Yachana Lodge, a weekend in Tena, and a week at Sinchi Warmi Center. That's one sentence........... what happened is a lifetime of change for me. A learning that I could not have imagined, a growth that has particularly strengthened my mouth muscles causing a perpetual smile and a dance deep inside my soul.

The Napo River, in all its muddy glory has some kind of hold on me. I stopped trying to figure out why, or what causes that - it simply is the way it is. I loved being on the canoe, waltzing down the river watching the jungle go by, and tubing slowly downriver with Avel was an incredible experience. Apart from the rush of water, there was such a silence, a peace and tranquility that I have not had many other times in my life. Learning about the plants and animals, trekking through miles of slippery, mossy undergrowth of the jungle, sweating buckets per hour with the heat and humidity and seeing the most beautiful scenery, all brought me closer to the person I really am. At night I would sit on that deck at Yachana looking over the Napo River, or lay in my hammock and just soak up the sounds, smells and feelings of the jungle. There really is nothing like it.

The weekend in Tena - well, that really put me way out there in a wonderful way. I was left in the town not knowing anyone at all, not knowing the language enough to get me out of trouble - what is 'help!'
in Spanish anyway? Waving my arms to be rescued from that island did not help much at all either. I was very obviously different looking from almost every one there and really could not blend in. I loved
every minute of it though and would happily go back there right now! I am really glad that I did not go on the tour for that weekend, I absolutely loved being alone, discovering the town and discovering me.
I could have stayed there on my own for at least another week. Tena is a place I will definitely go back to again.

The short distance between Tena and Misahualli (correct spelling - pronounced 'Misha-wa-yee") where Sinchi Warmi is, surprised me - it was only about 30 minutes in total, and yet so many differences in
lifestyle, what is available and how life is done on so many levels. Also, the sun fleas and mosquitoes don't like Tena - they thrived in the lush, always dampness of the jungle

When I first arrived at Sinchi Warmi (Strong Women), I had serious doubts about what I had got myself into. Here were no private bathrooms - the shower hut only had a half door, the only air conditioning was no windows, no sign of internet or couches even. The tv is an old 13 inch in the main gathering area, nailed to a beam up near the ceiling and on which the kids loved to watch...... yes, The Jungle Book, with Mowgli and Sheer Khan and all. The kitchen was the hub of life at the Center, it was a busy place, most evenings filled with many family members cooking, chatting and laughing. Yes there were bugs flying around and yes the chickens walked up the steps into the kitchen sometimes, and yes
butterflies and other flying things whooshed their way through the gathering area quite often....... but it was so filled with a wonderful feeling that little else really mattered.

The people of Sinchi Warmi not only saw me as a guest there and a bringer of goods, but they seemed to fold themselves around me, giving me so much more than I could have imagined. The smiles, laughter - at and with me were beautiful. Their way of life here is amazing, its tough and I am sure not much fun most of the time, but they have such a grace about getting on with it.. It's really lovely to see.

Ecuador is so many things, its beautiful, arid, dry in places, lush green and damp in others. In the jungle, even my notebook had a dampness to it all the time. And here in Quito its dry, clothes dry in
hours unlike the days it takes the further inland you go. The country is seeped in tradition and in the Catholic religion and driving to Cotopaxi yesterday, we passed through towns of different cultures and
the differences were clear - and always with really beautiful church's in each town. It is a country of contrasts, color and a utter beauty. It feels as if each time I experienced something here, that it added
something to me, changed me in many ways.

I felt as if I were more in touch with the people of Ecuador this time, I loved being among them, walking, talking and eating with them and bouncing around insanely for hours and hours on those hot, sweaty, crammed bus rides or quietly floating down a wide rushing river in a tube with another. I could not help but smile my greeting at the ladies that sell toilet paper at the public toilets (yup - 15c for "twice
around the hand" amount), or the men that happily held out their hands to help me on and off the buses. It was good to watch the smile in the eyes of the people I spoke to in Spanish - to listen to their patience
in correcting me or smiling their understanding of my halting words. Heck, I even wear my mozzie bites with pride these days - maybe because they don't itch quite so much?

I frikken did it! I did it on my own and I had a blast. I learned a fair bit of the language, I loved being out of my comfort zone and coped well with it. I saw things, ate things and did things that I could not have imagined I would. I succeeded in what I wanted to do on this trip..... It was all I wanted it to be and then so, so much more! I am
proud of me, please with myself and am thrilled to bits that I actually did all this! This has been an incredibly deep, wonderful learning fortnight. I met beautiful people, laughed, learned and itched my way from the Amazon Jungle to the concrete Jungle of Quito, always with a sense of wonder and appreciation at being able to be here. I know I have changed in many ways and I know I will be back in Ecuador againbefore too long.

Another really big thank you goes to Gold Bond, the pencil company in Chattanooga, Tennessee that donated hundreds of pencils to the children of the Ecuadorian Amazon Jungle. Another really big thank you goes to everyone that added to those suitcases that were so much appreciated by the Sinchi Warmi Community. You all made a very real difference, you all changed lives in such a good and positive way.

And I got the biggest benefit of it all. :)

Thank you all for coming along for the ride. I promise photos next week after I get over the flight back home tomorrow.

Love, light, laughter and....... more than words can describe



Saturday, December 8, 2012

m - back in Quito

After a night of wet soggy rain and thunder rumbling in the distance all
night long, along with lightening flicking across the sky, making those
incredibly tall trees into silloetes against the sky, I woke up fairly
early wanting to leave and avoid hours of waiting to say goodbye, but
the taxi to Misawhalli had been called for midday. Urgh. After saying
goodbye to the kids all dolled up in their uniforms, walking around and
re-taking photos just in case the light was different, wishing I would
have done more around the Center, I finally asked them to call the taxi
earlier. It was time to go and waiting around made no sense at all.
The smaller kid was crying - she did not want to sleep - not even in a
little sheet hammock hung on the railings.

Oh - I wanted to say something about the food we ate here - it was
definitely different from that at Yachana Lodge. Here we ate primarily
what they ate - food from the jungle. Yucca plant, heart of
.....something or other (without the grubs!), coffee and cocoa picked
from the jungle, fish from the fish ponds and a multitude of things that
I dont remember what they were and I will probably only ever eat again
when I go back there. Oh, we did have scrambled banana with lots of
stuff in it the last morning - and every day we had a different, fresh
fruit juice - they were always delicious!

More goodbyes, more tears and finally the trip home started. Strange how
I saw it that way - the start of the end of my journey - this time.
With a total of just under 10 hours of travel through Primary Forest -
this is literally ancient trees, growth of many many years of everything
and compost incredibly rich that everything grows in it, I knew it was
going to be a very long day. Heck everything grows on anything and
everything here in the jungle. The fence posts, some wood and some
concrete, all had plants growing out of them, the fruit trees were laden
with fruit and dotted everywhere that there was not forest, dotting the
landscape with bright yellows and orange........well dots.

We drove up really high mountains, the windows all fogged up and we all
happily closed them, the mist swirled between the taller trees giving
everything a ghostly look. There are small towns all along the way and
sales people jump on the bus at every stop and try to sell their
stuff..... I was not buying. This time I was good, having my bad
clutched firmly on my lap all the way.

About halfway through the bus ride, I wished that the scenery would
become boring so that I could go to sleep for a bit. I was very very
tired by now. I challenged myself by putting my camera away, but I
think I am a photo addict. Gypsy did not sleep long before I yanked her
out of the bag and set her to work again.

They put on a movie - some awful horror movie about dogs ripping people
apart and set the sound on the as-high-as-it-can-go setting. It was
translated into Spanish, and even though I don't like horror movies at
all, I found myself watching, trying to figure out what was being
said. My stomach also started churning and hurting, but I knew that we
were still at least three hours away from any chance of a bathroom, so
spoke to it, severely warning it to behave. Very quiet, slow "release
of the pressure" seemed to go thankfully unnoticed and no emergency stop
was called. :) All the good scenery had fallen away about 3 hours into
the bus ride - 5 hours into travel time. Another insane movie was
loaded and by now I was meeting my "I am done" point, but with no
options. It started getting dark as we drove into the main Quito area -
still two hours from the bus terminal. But coming over those mountains
into Quito was absolutely beautiful - the lights glistening way down
below reminded me of De Waal Drive at night (Cape Town). Being a Friday
night and all the traffic, it took longer than normal to finally get
through Quito - but at last it was over, just a 45 minute taxi drive
would find me a hot shower and internet! Much needed and appreciated.

Today, Saturday, I was up early again, ready to go to Cotopaxi and the
Otavalo market, amongst other places. A little way into the trip, I
started recognizing places and things along the road from last time I
was here - it felt good! We stopped at a small place where they make
marzipan figures - quite interesting, but nothing marzipan is coming
home with me, then off to the Panama Hat place, where most of the 12
others on the bus bought themselves hats - I still have mine from last
time :) Panama hats are not, and have never been made in Panama - they
are made right here in Ecuador. Right next door to the hat shop, was a
little restaurant where we all tried out some traditional food - just a
snack thing...... It was like a rusk - or baked hard bread, with caramel
and then some cheese ...... well, it was different and a rather welcome
snack as I had not had breakfast. Out the back of this shop were a
couple of kids with Llamas - one could take photos for a small fee. I
stood to one side of here looking at the incredible view of towering
mountains when I heard music from one of the many churches dotting the
hillside. I was rather surprised that no one else had noticed - it
sounded beautiful, gently bouncing off the hills - a lovely, almost
isolate moment.

When we were leaving the hat and llama place I saw a group of women in
traditional clothing outside and the tour guide said that this was our
surprise. Well, I knew exactly what was going to happen! These ladies
were going to get on the bus with us and sing as we drove to the market
and sell some of their items to us while we were all on that bus! How
did I know? Because this is what happened last time I was here and I
recognized Christine from 3 years ago! It was good to see her again -
one of my favorite photos is of her - she is a very beautiful young lady
with a lovely voice. Well, when we were about to leave, she pulled out
a piece of paper and we exchanged email addresses! I will send her the
photos from last time and today.

Then off to the market we went. It's a huge place and the hour and a
half we had there was not nearly enough to look at everything. I kept
getting drawn back to the fruit and veggie section of it, it was way
less 'touristy'. There were chickens, all plucked naked, hanging upside
down ready to be bought, whole pigs cooked with bright red apples in
their mouths, sacks of incredibly good smelling spices and fruits of all
sorts. The vegetables are interesting, to say the least as there are so
many I did not recognize nor know their names. I walked around alone,
not with the group and found a few goodies, but not much. And then I
lost my way - I had no idea which direction to go to find the bus. The
guide in Yachana had said the one day there, that I was like a 'turned
around frog" when it came to finding my way around - and I felt exactly
like this now - off balance, but just for a little bit. Ok - the turned
around frog story is this : we were looking at a poison dart frog and
when he was going to put it back on the leaf, he first turned it around
and around so that it got dizzy. That gave me enough time to take a few
photos of it in its natural environment before it could hop again. Poor
little bugger seemed quite confused for a minute. And that was me today
in that market. The colors are beautiful and bright, there is so much
to see and yet it all sort of looks the same. But finally I found the
bus again and off we went to a simply delicious lunch of way too much
food. I got a beer and a traditional Ecuadorian lunch - lovely!

At the next stop, most of the stores were all about leather - I found a
good few things that will come home with me. One was a metal crafted
picture of a couple hugging- its just so incredibly beautiful - modern
style, but it really sang to my soul, I also found a dried seahorse.
Strange thing to find here, but its new home will be in Tennessee soon.

It was a long three hour ride home, but I wangled my way into the very
front seat next to the driver and had the best view in the bus. We got
home after dark again which just gave another opportunity to see those
flickering night lights of the city. I decided to test out the spa bath
here in my room, and opened a small bottle of shampoo to make a bubble
bath. And there I lay, all relaxed, eyes closed with bubbles all around
me and whirlpool jets blasting the tiredness out of my feet....... for
all of one minute! I felt something tickling my ear and quickly flicked
at it, only to find that while my eyes had been closed, the bubbles had
piled up a good 6 inches above the side of the bath! Thank goodness I
had the shower doors closed. But at the same time, the most insane
itching started in all my mosquito bites - and I literally have them all
over my arms, stomach, back and legs. There was no way I could not
scratch - it was awful! I hopped out, quickly applied the next to last
benedryl cream to as many now bright red spots everywhere.

I was all ready to settle in for the night - had some food ordered and
all, when I looked outside and saw people walking everywhere - colored
fountains and other things that looked interesting. So I dressed again,
put the food on hold and went for a walk. It was just lovely mixing
with the crowds in a barely cool evening. There was a tent on the
sidewalk - one without the sides, where short movies were playing and
seats to sit and enjoy, big frogs and statues and climbing things for
kids and adults alike to pose next to or clamber on. The huge dragon
was really beautiful - it looked like glass and stood about 20 foot
high....... and then I noticed that it was made from plastic bottles!
Quite beautiful - it looked almost like an ice creation. I walked
around for about an hour, just enjoying the general company.

Its been another lovely day here in Ecuador, and I can feel myself
getting ready to be home again. I have packed and repacked my bags a
good few times - There are many things to bring home with me - very few
are clothes! I reprinted my air tickets in the business center
downstairs and checked that they had not been changed - that was one of
the things stolen on the bus on the way to Tena.

Tomorrow I am going to meet up with a friend, an Ecuadorian Guide, Tavo,
who is going to take me around old town Quito - to places not normally
for tourists, more the 'real Quito'. I am really looking forward to
that. We will probably also be talking about a different sort of
opportunity for me involving tours here in Ecuador.. could be
interesting :)

Till then
from one very tired, very happy me


l - Sinchi Final - for now

Today, my last full day in Sinchi Warmi, was a simply lovely day. I was
offered frogs by an 8 year old :) I feel as if I have been here
forever and yet definitely not long enough. I am so glad that my time
in Ecuador ends with these people fresh in my mind. What an incredible
community this is. I know that I will come back here in the not too
distant future.

Last night, Wednesday evening, I was chatting to a guy who is spending 5
months volunteering here, Galen. He is only 18 years old and decided to
come here to learn Spanish and see what it is he wants to do with his
life. Well, we were talking about how its almost impossible to explain
to people what its like here - and he is so right...... there really is
no way to explain this unless I describe every moment, every action,
smile and nuance along with the temperature and the weather, the mood
and the time of day and bite of yet another mosquito or sun flea..
well, see.... there is no way. I can show you a photograph, tell you
the story, but when I see that photo, I can close my eyes and smell,
feel and re-live that moment and hear that laughter and sense the
peace. No one else can, so any description I type is only a small part
of the real experience.

After my final Spanish lessons today, we, just Miliza, the kids, a guy
friend of hers and I went to the swimming pools. No, this is nothing
like any normal swimming pool. We drove from here, through Masawhailli
(spelling!?) all the way back into Tena, though some incredibly bad
roads - really really bad, then up into the mountains on some tiny
rumble roads where we passed a man with a tiny baby sloth. Yup - got
photos. About 6 more miles along this road we pass a beautiful view of
the Napo RIver. There were huge, I mean h u g e boulders glistening in
the sun and the water rushing, all white and frothy, through them with a
backdrop of seemingly endless primary jungle dripping, as always, with
moisture. I had never imagined the Napo River like this! A short
while later we stopped, walked across a bridge, well, it was a bunch of
loose planks resting on a rickety frame and really did not earn the name
'bridge'. The kids happily skipped over it and neither Miliza or her
friend freaked out, so I headed out after them. What an incredible
place they took me to! We clambered over some rocks, along a
(thankfully) short trail and there were the swimming pools of crystal
clear ice cold water rushing to get to the Napo, and on the way they had
created these see through pools that were just way too inviting to
resist. So in we went. Oh wow - the showers, by comparison, were hot
water! The rocks were covered in moss and there was a small beach of
white sand on the other side framed with Japanese looking trees with
pink flowers. I carefully picked my way across the water with my
camera held good and high in the air, and then had fun. We swam and
played around for about an hour - it was so incredibly peaceful there
that it felt as if the rest of the world did not exist. The kids found
some really tiny little frogs - about a quarter of my finger nail in
size and one came across and offered them to me......but we set them
free. Being out there with the kids swimming in only their panties, with
their beautiful brown skins and jet black hair was a tad like being
thrown into the middle of Jungle Book with Mowgli. And then came a
small group of tourists, very nice German people and they enjoyed the
pools, but broke the magic feeling for me.

Too soon it was time to head back for the hour long drive back home.
The kids were in the back seat with me and trying to teach me Spanish.
Judging by the amount of raucous laughter, I know that I got many many
things wrong! Then they asked me to sing a song and that started a good
many songs along the way - happily passing the time. There was always
at least one kid holding my shoulder, resting their head on my arm,
playing with my hair or flat out asleep with her head in my lap. I
video'd them singing some songs and will put those on youtube sometime
next week. It really was great fun.

The car windows were all down all the way, the kids age ranged from 4 to
8 years old, no seat`belts are even visible in the back, let alone used,
so the kids jump around, hang out of the window but are generally very
good about being silly around the open windows. When we first left
Sinchi Warmi on the way to the pools, we picked up two kids who were
walking from school - its about an hours walk for them. So they jumped
into the back of the pickup/bakkie and off we went - at around 80
kilometers per hour around corners and all. The kids held on tight but
also moved from side to side at times giving me the heebie geebies, I
must say. And on the way back, little Karla suddenly hung her head out
of the window and threw up, so Meliza told them all to get into the
outside back again. I was quite amazed that there is no slowing down
when the kids are in the back at all - and sometimes those roads were
really bumpy and they were bounced fairly high into the air. The kids
seems to know what to do without a problem at all and the parents know
it. At one point at the pools, one of the kids was standing literally 4
inches away from a serious drop off. If she had taken just one half a
step back, that would have been it for her, but no one worried, no one
shoo-ed her away, she just knew.

Life is very different here - the kids are not watched all the time like
hawks, they climb up on railings, get hurt, get up and sometimes they
get left alone while mama does other stuff - and thats all ok. It works
here. And its good to see.

After getting back from being offered frogs, I packed up my suitcases
getting ready to leave - a good many clothes were not going to make the
journey back with me and also sadly my lovely green suitcase (sorry
Steven and Laura!) - but Its wheels got severely damaged in Tena and
well, they could use it better here. So I filled it with the clothes I
did not really need to bring home again and lugged the thing down those
precarious stairs that Lucia fell down yesterday. I asked Betty if it
was ok to leave it here, whether they could use it and ........ yes! was
the answer. Good. I turned to go upstairs to carry on packing up and
was in deep thought about how I am going to leave these people.. In such
a short time, even with the language barrier, I feel so incredibly
comfortable here. Anyway, I heard them calling to me in Kichwa to come
downstairs again. Betty then handed me two pictures..... These ladies
had made two wooden pictures for me, studded with jungle beads (seeds)
and wood burned designs. I will attach a photo of them. I was
overwhelmed at their thoughtfulness..... but it had only just started!

Each one of the six woman, and one extra had brought me a gift. A gourd
with beads for a jewelry holder, hand made pottery bowls, a balsa wood
toucan, necklases, bracelets, a ring, key chain and a waist chain and
more - all made from jungle product totally.. It was, simply put, an
incredible evening. Betty again expressed extreme thanks for all the
things you all helped put together, they said that I was assured of a
place here anytime I wanted to come back and that they never thought
that so much would be given to them. I had to say something in
response, but it was difficult to express that it was THEM that gave me
so much more than I could ever bring in 20 suitcases, let alone two. It
was an emotionally heavy couple of minutes with us all feeling so
incredibly grateful - I think I got the better end of the stick though!
I really have gained so much here. This place really is soul food.

And then supper was served and all the kids disappeared - they came back
all dressed up in traditional dance outfits, from 4 years old up to
around 13. They stood there and the dance was officially dedicated to
me as a thank you. A most beautiful dance for me followed, accompanied
by music coming from that little tv way above our heads. It was good to
see just how much fun the kids had doing this - again there was much
laughter and huge grins had by all.

I found it easier and easier to talk to the women here, and the guys
started talking too. A couple of the smaller kids hung on to me
continuously during the week, but this evening for the first time, the
older kids came across to talk as well. They have a small understanding
of English and seeing as everyone is gathered around in the same area -
everyone chimed in with translations. There is such a feeling of
community, bonding of real family between them all. Its really
beautiful to watch and feel.

Before the evening was over, I had said goodbye to most of the women and
children - only two were going to be around the Center in the morning
when I left. There were a few wobbly lip moments on my part, many many
hugs and both a heavy and light heart. It really is quite an incredible
feeling to be happy and sad at the same time - it made me feel with
every fiber of my being...

I felt emotionally very full when I went up to bed, full and happy with
a knowledge that I have been taught so much, that I have learned so much
from this community, this family........ I know I will be back someday
in the not too distant future - mosquitoes and all!

This has been an incredible experience for me here. When I first
arrived at the front steps (there is no door) of the Sinch Warmi Center,
already slapping mosquitoes, I wondered just what I had got myself
into. I could not have imagined this total experience. Not only is it
a simply beautiful place, but it was created by women, particularly, who
built it from nothing, who run it, sell the fish, veggies, cocoa and
other plants, fruit and vegetables to sustain themselves all while
raising the kids. They have a vision for this place and I hope that it
grows, that its successful in the long term because if anyone deserves
it (and I use that word sparingly), they definitely do. Along with the
daily chores and duties, they all had time to make me feel not only
welcome, but as much apart of them as I could possibly be.

It was a simply beautiful week. There really are not enough words to
describe it. Sinch Aqua/ Sinchi Warmi Center in Misawalli, Tena,
Ecuador is well worth a visit!

love and light and ....... so much more!
two photos attached - The main Sinchi Warmi Center - on the left with
the balcony - that was my room. The other is the frog offering moment :)


Friday, December 7, 2012

k - Sinchi Wonderful!

There are the fish ponds outside and all night long the water runs
through a pipe and drops about two foot into the fish ponds. This
simply makes me need to go to the bathroom 16 times a night! And the
bathroom is down the stairs with no rail, across the gathering room,
down some more steps into the night, across a short path and up into the
bath hut. There is never anyone around here at any time after we go to
our rooms, they pretty much go home for the night and this whole place
is deserted. Not that I really mind walking down to the bathroom,
but........ well, ya know. By the time morning rolls around I am way
ready to get up and scream down those stairs like a streak of lightening.

Today was a slow start. As soon as the first light of comprehension
hits my brain, my hands start to scratch at almost two weeks of mozzie
and sun flea bites, and then I look out over my little private porch and
am in amazement of where I am. Its so wonderful here and today,
especially, I found myself unwinding and really relaxing. Yesterday I
wondered what anyone did here for more than a couple of weeks, well, now
I see - people take life gently, there is no rush. A little garden work
here, a little more there, some craft works, shopping, cooking,
sweeping.... and so the days go by.

After this mornings classes, I walked back up to the tarantulas, but
they were still not playing and no matter how much Betty prodded at
their living quarters, no spiders came out. I hope to get one of the
guys here to show me them tomorrow night. Early afternoon was spent
making some bracelets with seeds. The string used is made from leaves
of the jungle plants - I had a demonstration of that the other day. It
takes about three days to prepare the string, to roll and dry it and
maybe even to add color from berries in the jungle. Its quite a process
and all the ladies do some stunning work. The seeds are drilled with
tiny tiny drill bits - if any of you can get some tiny drill bits for
me, please let me know! Thanks. Anyway, the seed it held between two
fingers and a akita/dremil electric drill used to make the hole. I
lost count of the number of times I could hear a sucking in of a breathe
as that drill missed the seed and hit a finger. Once I got the hang of
doing to knots on the bracelet, it was fun. I took about an hour to do
mine - Betty did hers in 5 minutes - start to finish! There is
definitely room for improvement there......

It really was lovely to sit with these women on the floor and chat.
Well, the chat actually went slower than the bracelet making, but we got
there somehow. between the five of us there and a chuckling man on a
bench behind us, we managed to figure out what we were saying - or at
least we thought we did. There was much laughter and hand signs,
pantomiming and eventually the volunteer, Galen, was called in as a
backup. He is learning Spanish too while here for 5 months, and
although his Spanish is not perfect - its a heck of a lot better than mine!

So I got two bracelets made and I love them! One is with tiny black
seeds and the other with natural bright red seeds. Then it was off to
see what things I could by from all their crafts they make. Oh boy,
what a choice. I wanted to buy something from each of them - they all
do beautiful work and different things and also I would have hated to
offend one of them if I bypassed them! So I went shopping, to
everyone's joy. I came home with a happy smile and a pile of goodies.
They are safely packed away already waiting to find new homes when I get

This afternoon threatened a Big Rain, as they called it. When the wind
blows and things inside the gathering room start falling down, then you
know, they said. But no - just a gentle, constant rain that soaked the
already soaked everything even more. But it was good, and the hours
passed by with slow conversations.

Then the kids came home from school - well, that is like lighting a
cracker in a fireworks store! They are so full of bounce and energy and
questions and eagerness to learn English too. I showed them how to use
my camera and boy I could not get little hands off that thing for the
rest of the day! It was wonderful to watch and they laughed at the bad
photos and got shy at the good ones both of themselves and the photos
they took. When we were outside, they grabbed my hands yelling
something about a tortuga and I was dragged by widely smiling faces to a
smaller pond near the lodge. There, the smaller one, five years old,
grabbed hold of a nylon string and pulled. Out of the water came this
frantically flapping turtle attached by this nylon thread by a tiny hole
drilled in the edge of its shell. The kids were so proud of their
tortuga and happily posed for photos. Three of the kids were playing
with the candles at our table later in the evening and Karla, 8 years
old, who really got my heart, sang happy birthday to me while holding
out a candle in the palms of her hand. She then told to blow out the
candle, but to wait till she could get my camera and take a photo of me
doing that. The boy of the trio of kids there this evening, Johan, held
firmly onto his Power Ranger and a little blue car - his eyes lit up
whenever I asked him what they were!

Oh yes, earlier in the evening, right before dinner, the lights all went
out. OH MAN this place is dark in the dark!! We could see nothing,
nothing at all. Meliza lit a candle and we all turned around to the
sound of pounding feet. Three kids had come running - they were at home
alone when the power went out and ran to the gathering room and their
mama's. They were all a little flushed and were saying that it was so
dark out there that they were scared they were going to fall in the
river! Now I have to see where these kids lived and where they ran in
the dark tonight! No one was worried - this is normal here for the
kids, it seems.

It was a lovely evening learning from and teaching the kids English as
well, they copy sounds so easily and were proud when they got it right.
Lucia had gone up to her room much earlier - she does not feel
comfortable around the kids for some reason and seems a bit distracted
today, which is good, its got me off some of my lessons :) Anyway,
after a good long while of me being with the kids, Miliza (pronounced
Melissa) came across and we started talking. I quickly ran up to my
room for the dictionary I had bought in Tena and we exchanged a good
amount of information. One of the guys sat at one of the other tables
with the computer doing some work and he would chuckle occasionally and
give us the word we were looking for. He can understand a bit of
English but was not comfortable speaking it yet.

In the meantime, the two younger kids had switched on the tv, which is
all of 13 inches, one lay on two bench chairs put together and the other
on the floor, watching tv until they fell asleep. There was no noise,
no whining or crying - they just drifted off when they were ready.
Karla sat at the table drawing pictures for me and of me which drew much
laughter from her especially.

All the while there is a big pot in the gathering area, filled with wood
and termite nest, gently churning out smoke to keep the mozzies away. I
am not sure if it helps at all, but it smells so good! I wonder if that
was because of the termites or the type of wood..... oh wait - termite
nests are made from termite poop.

And so my day ends again under my mosquito net and frogs a-croaking ( in
a good way sis!), this time with two self made bracelets "a la selva"/
'a la jungle' and again a big smile on my face. I really do love this
place, this area and Miliza was telling me about a sweet little house
right on the Mishawalli River that is for sale........ sigh. Apparently
there are two German families and one British family living in houses
next door already.. The houses all have an amazing river view
and....... ok, ok, not this year......

Does anyone know why a rooster crows at night? This bugs me for some
reason. He sounds a bit hoarse tonight though and is not crowing as
much as my first night here....

Love light and joy


j - Sinchi Mozzies

Mozzies are mosquitoes. They ALL live here in Sinchi Warmi with big
families and are all fit and strong. I doing think there is a square
inch on my body that has not been bitten. Lucia and I sit at table in
the gathering area doing my lessons with our chins almost on the table
with an almost permanent grimace, because we are scratching our legs or
ankles all the time. My arms look as if I have chicken pox with no
control to not scratch and many places on my arms and legs scratched
open. No amount of any oils., terra-whatsit or teetree oil, anti
whatever spray or cream, oil of Olay, germoline, spit or benedryl stops
them biting, nor does it stop the insanely incessant itching. I am even
mozzie bit on my scalp and between my toes. I look seriously diseased
and I am going to have to wear long pants and long sleeve shirt in Quito
and on the plane or no one will want to come near me. I totally
understand the mozzie nets at night and am happily sitting under mine
right now - its like a little cave, blocking out everything around me,
except the fantastic cool breeze coming through the front of my room and
the sounds of some happy frogs in the ponds below me.

I woke up with a start at around 7am this morning - happy to be up and
ready to get up. Strange how I can never wake up at home, but when I am
away - no problem at all. It was thundering so I quickly got dressed,
ran down to the bathroom - a hut on stilts with thin bamboo slats as
'walls'. But it does have running water and a basin too! Then off with
Gypsy to see what there was to see. It was so quiet here - seems like
everyone gets late starts here - just one lady, Melissa, was quietly
cooking in the kitchen. This open area, the lounge/gathering place,
reception and kitchen reminds me of Skipskop for some reason - everyone
gravitates there and it has such a gentle, no issues feeling. There is
not one thing here that will pass the grade of standards to be met, in
the US and I think this is part of the charm in it all for me - its so
different, a good many years behind the times, yet everything works just
fine as long as you are patient. This lifestyle seems to have a calming
effect of people - no one here is uptight at all in any way.

Screaming down the road again today, I noticed that all oncoming cars
honk their horn at people walking or sitting alongside the road and then
keep up that speed assuming that the other person will do right. And so
far they all have - kids and all. If there is someone walking, the taxi
will stop and take them along the same road for as far as they want to
go - no extra charge - they were going that way already. We gave a ride
to the couple from the butterfly farm like this yesterday...... people
just seem to do the right thing for the community and this show of lack
of selfishness, or selflessness is everywhere here. It just seems such
a pleasant way to do life around here. The families gather in the
kitchen part while the cooking is happening - some cooking, some
chatting and joking around, and they are each doing their part with no
hassle at all. The kids today were playing outside with some of the toys
they got yesterday and all waved repeatedly at me with huge big smiles.

Anyway - it rained. And rained, so we did lessons all morning - well,
most of the morning. I am really honestly able to remember some words
not - my grammar sucks seriously, but I can and do make myself
understood most times. After a couple of hours I can literally hear my
brain go 'clunk', and that's it for the day. No more learning. Lucia
is very patient, but does not speak good English at all, so it makes
explaining stuff slower than normal, I think - but I am getting it!!
Another thing I am happy about :)

After lunch, I was issued with some 'botas' - boots. My feet and lower
legs are so swollen from the heat and mozzie bites and the constant
being upright, that the only size boot that would fit my calf, was at
least three sizes too big for my feet. But hey - they worked - for now.
And off we went to see the waterfalls. WHY does no one tell us that
this is going to involve an intense hour or three of hiking on a tiny,
uneven, muddy, mossy slippery UPhill path that runs along the very edge
of a huge drop into nothingness?? Sheesh. This was a really rough walk
today - all three of us were sweating profusely almost from the start.
My glasses and camera almost immediately fogged up from the humidity, so
there I was, unable to take photos most of the time, unable to see and
trying to walk in these conditions with boots about three sizes too big
on my feet, but rubbing all my mosquito bites on my legs open to
bleeding point. But I had to see the waterfalls. About halfway there,
the guide asked if I would mind if a leech leeched onto me. Ummm, no -
I think. I told Lucia that she was first to take a photo and then pull
the flippen thing off as fast as she could. This was another of those
paths that had no ending. Along the way there were big holes in the
ground that led to underground caves. The guide just said that every
now and again a new hole appears. Well, what a great thought that was to
have while walking right there, in the now light drizzle with thunder
booming above our heads. Not a big storm though. A good many times
each of us slipped, but no falls and I felt that I did pretty darn well
for a halfway-old lady :)

We had to cross the river on some huge bolders before finally getting to
"De Cascades" - the Waterfall. There was a small area that one could
swim in but, even being severely overtired, over hot and ready to get
into anything cool, especially a beer, for some reason I just did not
want to get in that pool.. The waterfall was beautiful and the cool air
was incredibly welcome. I went and stood with my boots in the cold
water and enjoyed the cooling effect. The thought of using even more
energy to get undressed, get those boots off and then back on again -
no. That pond stayed un-swimmed in today. Imanaged to get my lens on
the camer fog free for a minute or two and got some photos, but that did
not last long. and the path back down still waited. Its strange to me
how it felt as if we were going uphill all the way, and at one point I
even thought that I was thankful that it would literally be all downhill
on the way back.......... but noooo - there were way too many uphill
bits on the way down too. I felt a bit like a slug on that path,
sweaty, slimy from connecting with mossy trees and slipping back down
that path ever so slowly and when I felt myself slipping, I grabbed the
camera in protection first. Lucia knows that if I go down - let me,
grab my camera :) And a couple of times she almost had to.

Both there and back it was important to test your foothold on each and
every step. The rocks were slippery and even worse when covered with
rotting leaves, the mud either sucked your foot into a tight grip (most
often when your other foot could do with some help too!) or sent you
scrambling for balance while leaving skid marks of varying length.
There were very few places with hand holds and one does not grab hold of
trees and plants here in the jungle - there are way too many things with
teeth and stingers to reward you for such a stupid move! It becomes a
very interesting mode of travel, "walking" does. And even though the
waterfall was beautiful and there were a good many interesting
viewpoints, plants and critters to see along the way - the feeling of
achievement of having done that trail with not even falling was a bigger
deal to me!

Right across the road from where we were spat out of that path, was an
overgrown walkway to the Napo River. The waters swirl in huge big
circles all the way from one bank to the other. Apparently no canoes
can go on this stretch of river at all. Why do I love that river so
much? She is not like any other.......

And then it was into a taxi - most of them are pickup trucks/bakkies,
and we all make a grab for the window winders and down came the windows
and we were all grateful for the speed that driver drove -that cool
wind........ aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!

Instead of going to the main house when we got back home, we headed into
the forest again, both Lucia and I sighing heavily - but with a smile,
telling the guide that there was no way we were going another hike like
the last - not today! But no, we were headed off to see the tarantulas.
It was not far up the path but Lucia's mind was working overtime and
every time even a leaf brushed her, she would jump in anticipation. I
have not seen her like this before and it was funny in a way, but I felt
for her. So I handed her the camera and told her to take photos - we
would not make her hold the tarantulas at all. We found them in there
specially made, open air 'house' with jungle thatch roof and all, and I
got to hold one and even put one on my face for a photo - but Lucia was
by far not at her best when seeing this and, well, I have two photos :)
That small place held about 25 tarantulas, I was told, but I only got
to see about 5. I will do back in full daylight to see if I can see any

Off to shower again in cool water and I must say that I was more than
happy to hop under that water, but found myself smiling broadly at how
much I had moaned and groaned about it before. And yes, you were right
there in my mind while that cold water pounded my back - you know who
you are and I know you are laughing!!

Lovely supper, gentle evening and a cooler evening. Its been another
lovely day here. Tomorrow I go to the Art Museum where the 5 ladies who
own this place will teach me some crafts. I look forward to the time
with them all - it looks like it will be lots of fun, judging how
everything else is done around here with lots of laughter and caring.

Oh - that rooster from last night? I think he thought he was a cuckoo
clock! Every hour he crowed, every freaking hour! I dont hear him
tonight though......... hmmmm. Nope - we has spaghetti for supper.....

Love light and huge happy smiles, oh, .........and endless scratching!


i - Sinchi Warmi - Sinchi Aqua Center

Oh my, what a day!! After waking up really early and still in Tena,
just after 6am, I went downstairs again to see if there was an internet
connection. I could already start feeling the withdrawal symptoms with
the connection free week ahead. Yup - I managed to catch up on emails,
and send the last Tena email too. Now I felt that I could head into the
new week with a clear start.

Lucia found that taking a taxi to Mishashuwelli (spelling?) was just a
little bit more than taking the bus and SO much less hassle with all the
bags I needed to drag there. Sinchi Warmi is about 5 minutes outside of
Mishashuwelli and the taxi would bring us all the way here. And so it
was, at breakneck speed. Are all these taxi drivers super mucho insane
racing drivers? No wonder it takes so little time to get from Tena to
here! My bags got slung around at the very first corner and I asked that
he stop and lay them down in a way that would not do any more damage -
all the donations, including two laptops were in there!

I am sure that we made that trip in record time! It did not take long
for the town of Tena to fade into the rear view mirror, for the side of
the road to become all grown up with jungle green again and what I think
of as Tiger Grass.......... it looks just like in the movies when you
just know a tiger is going to come slinking out of those tall long tails
of grass.

We went over a long noisy bridge that could take only one car - with
literally inches to spare on each side - this also at a speed that
almost made me want to close my eyes, except that there was a river
below and Gypsy was singing and dancing at the idea of taking photos of
yet another ribbon of water. And so we did, take the pics, I mean.
Driving through Mishashuwelli, the driver slowed down to almost a crawl
to let me take photos of the monkeys all over the square! They were
being shooed away from the shops, one man nearly lost his water bottle
to one of them and they generally looked cute with their babies and all,
but it was obvious that they were not very welcome around town. They
did not care at all!

As I said in my other email, I left all expectations of Sinchi Warmi and
my week behind. Well, I thought I did. The taxi screamed on down the
road, with the driver every now and again putting his seatbelt on and
becoming even more of a leadfoot. A short while after he stopped to ask
for directions to Sinchi Warmi there sat, held tightly by a good many
different plants, a sign that said Sinchi Warmi. Breaks got applied at
the same speed as the accelerator and we turned into a tiny, I mean t i
n y little road. There was a big pond with the most gorgeous reflections
of jungle thatch roofed buildings. Oh my. I had seen the photos online
but this was much more beautiful. Its so lush and green around here -
the plants almost dripping with humidity creating a perfect backdrop to
three of the most interesting buildings I had seen in a long time. Two
were at least double story, one with a much higher view point. I am
having difficulty even thinking of how to describe this place.

Ok - the main building that houses the office, dining area, and two
rooms with a view upstairs...... This is the building were our rooms
are. The dining area is so much more than a dining room in a normal
hotel........ well, more of that later. The buildings are entirely made
of wood and its so homely and so totally unlike any hotel or motel or
place I have ever stayed in. Its beautiful. Kate you would love love
love it here! Its got character, warmth and there is not a single
window in sight. Everything is open air with butterflies and birds
flitting and chirping, frogs doing their thing and drops dripping from
the greenery. The pictures will have to tell the story. And now the
Art Center or Museum...... This is a huge A-frame building - also no
windows but plenty of air space. It has got many things like traps, and
model canoes and models of the different types of boats the Kichwa Tribe
used, and I will have to revisit it because each of the women make their
own jewelry and have it on display for sale here.

This community is mainly of the Kichwa tribe that is directly linked to
the Inca's, I believe. Many people speak a mixture of Spanish and
Kichwa, but here they try to keep it pure. The Kichwa language is
beautiful - the words sound round and full.

The third main structure is not really a building but a long thatched
walkway over water to the fish ponds. They have netting over a large
number of ponds to keep the birds from catching all the fish. This long
building has hammocks in it for a perfectly lazy day that I see coming
:) There was also a beautiful and very much needed breeze blowing right
there. We did not want to leave that spot. There are about 5 houses
dotted around this main building - well, 5 that I could see - all jungle
thatch and very small but cute in a way.

It was so hot that I could feel the sweat running down my back, and it
only cooled of around 9pm tonight. And in the middle of all this heat,
after about an hour of Spanish lessons, we were taken to the butterfly
place about 20 minutes away. Again in a taxi and again driven by
someone who drives way too aggressively, but safely, it seems. As we
were dropped off on the side of the road, I looked up and saw the
entrance. There were to huge gates and a narrow pebbled road that led
up into the forest. A memory that I could not quite grab a hold of hit
me so hard right then. It had something to do with those gates and me
being a kid. Still cant get it, but I can remember the feeling of
wonder and big-ness of those gates. Anyway..... we walked and walked and
I was convinced that someone had decided not to end the road and that it
would keep climbing forever. It became almost funny that it just kept
going with only another corner around the last one. When we, as kids,
would ask that typical question "are we there yet?" my dad would
answer, "its just around the next corner". I thought of this, and you,
dad, all the way up that road. We were all pouring sweat by then but
knew that if we stopped, that would be the end, and we really were not
there yet. Finally we got to the top, to find a beautiful lodge,
sparkling swimming pool surrounded by lush jungle foliage and the big
muddy Napo river was in the background snaking its way through the
trees. The furniture was very interesting and everything seemed open
but no one was in sight. We chatted to another couple who were also
waiting to get in to see the butterflies, while we waited and waited.

So down we went again, this time accompanied by two big dogs who seemed
to think we needed leading down that road. We found a 'building' - it
was just a frame covered in netting, and peered through it -
butterflies! But it was locked. Melissa,who is from Sinchi Warmi
called a number we found and finally someone arrived and we got to spend
time looking at a good many butterflies - most of them that irridescent
blue`- the Blue Morpho butterfly - or Mariposa, as its known here.

Back to more lessons but I could tell that Lucia was heat tired. She
went for a short nap while I did some homework and took a walk around.
There is a path with a sign that says Tarantulas...... really! We are
going to see them tomorrow.

And here is the best part of the day!

Supper, a delicious one, was served, with candle and all. Oh, the
Sinchi women had made some gorgeous displays of jungle flowers for us -
I got many photos - they are such bright, big flowers with incredible
contrast and backed by deep green fronds of all sorts of palm trees.
After supper, the whole community - about 15, and one volunteer guy, all
got dressed up and came to dance for us. This was their welcoming dance
and it seemed as if it were not perfectly performed as there was much
laughter and fun had by all. They all wore traditional outfits with
multiple strands of beads made from seeds of the jungle that all had
their own sounds. Together with drums and other instruments and the
laughter and fun, it was the most perfect dance ;) And then we were
asked to join in. What a hoot! Yes, I kicked off my shoes and danced
along with them, being shown pretty much what to do all along the way.
There was one little girl about 6 years old who took great pleasure in
my missteps and I fooled around a bit more than needed just to hear her
laugh - it twinkled its way out of her mouth.

And then I had to present the goodies that I brought to them. I had not
even thought of a speech, let alone one that had to be translated. But
obviously what I said went down ok. They were all totally intrigued at
the two big suitcases and thanked me profusely. I asked whether they
were not going to open them and about 8 people almost fell over each
other to get there. Oh the looks on their faces! They had such fun
with everything, the paintbrushes were a total hit and the pencils were
held on to with very big smiles. I loved how they shared everything out
amongst each other. There was no bickering or anything, the stuff just
got passed out and everyone was happy. Two of the younger guys grabbed
the laptops and quickly got playing around on them - I was just glad
they had survived the trip across here!. It really was wonderful to
watch them all go through the clothing and the toys and the books and
.......... well, everything - there was not a thing they could not use.
I loved how the older boys held onto the action figures and
airplanes. After all was said and done, just a small pile of plastic
bags was left to throw away, the rest had all been taken to their new homes.

A total and utter success - THANK YOU to all of you that helped make
this happen for these families.... everything was so needed and very
appreciated. You have all changed the lives of these people - you have
really made a difference!

These women are really something else. They are so open and friendly,
so quick to help me understand what they say and love having photographs

And then it was time for bed. What an incredible day. SO much more
than any expectations could have reached, so much more. When we first
arrived, I must admit to a small, very small thought of 'oh, a whole
week here?" By mid afternoon I was already starting to feel my heart
strings tug at the thought of leaving! Well, apart from the stinking
heat! But hey. Anyway, time for bed. First I needed a shower - badly,
so off to the showers I go. Yup, they are outside around the corner
with only a half door and cool water. Thankfully not cold, but I would
have happily taken that tonight. And then back up to my room which is
upstairs from the dining area. This dining area also serves as a common
gathering place where kids do their homework, the young guys sit and
chat and someone was playing guitar. Its a very friendly place. The
stairs leading upstairs are about a half a foot too short in length with
makes for some serious concentration when going up or down - with no
railing either. The rooms are big enough for two single beds, a table
and a small mirror hung squifly on one of the roof beams. These beams
are all round trees, and not planks, and the jungle thatch is uncovered.
A coat hanger serves as my closet and I even have my own personal
little porch, not big enough for a chair. No windows - just a beautiful
full room size open space out into the jungle night! WOW! The railing
of the porch is also made of small whole trees, crooked parts and all.
All this is varnished very lightly. The bed has a mosquito net on it
and I totally understand why.

Lucia, in the next room, got up a minute ago and the whole place moves!
Oh boy. The young volunteer here says there are tarantulas in the
thatch occasionally, and right now I hear a freaking rooster crowing
nearby! Its 10pm!

The night sounds are so peaceful and I hope they stay that way! Froglets
and crickets and things I dont want to think about.

SImply put, its fantastic here! Oh - when we were coming back from the
butterfly place, there along the side of the road were two little girls
- I mean around 4 years old.. The taxi driver slowed for them, moving
into the middle of the road - but these little girls were on a mission!
They held out their hands to stop the taxi for a ride home! It was
just plain hilarious! One just had a pair of shorts on but both of them
wore smiles that are hard to forget and a laughter in their eyes.
Everyone just laughed when they said they were tired of walking so far
and just wanted a ride.. Yup, here kids can walk around even at their
age, totally safely.

There is so much more - so many small and big things to remember, but
for right now, I need some sleep. I itch like heck, but have no
complaints. I cannot think of anywhere else in the world I would rather
be right now that my a-framed room with a whole open wall for a window
and frog music.

Love and light and ............aaaah - so much more!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

h - Leaving Tena

I am just loving it here.... it reminds me of Wynberg main road on a weekend :) Friendly, familiar, easy, busy sounds and a million interesting things to see, smell and hear. I walked for a good couple of hours again today, this time down side roads, over one of the bridges and along the river front. I saw where I stood yesterday pathetically waving my arms for help to get off that island, and laugh at what everyone must have thought of me! Ah well. I am on the right side now.

I decided not to take Gypsy with me this time, she really is too big to carry around town and I already stand out so much around here, so out came 'little one without a name' and she is a good job getting pics of this fascinating town and its much more comfortable to carry. Halfway across the bridge, the batteries died on me..... and yes, I asked, was understood and pointed in the right direction where I bought new batteries :) Am I getting good, or what? Mostly, its the 'or what' still, but its good to know that I can make myself understood. Ordering food is a no brainer anymore, sometimes I get something different from what I thought I ordered, but thats ok, so I learn.  And I get the food anyway :)

Something different is happening in my head as far as taking photos go. Until this trip, I happily snapped away at anything and anyone, but this time I find that I am really reticent to take unasked for photos of people. I think maybe because the other times I felt distanced, was almost disconnected from the people of whatever country, but this time I feel much more....... attached? Not sure that is the word, but still. I do still snap the occasional photo of people or kids playing or climbing poles when they are not looking, but generally I have a very different feel about this.

The roasted hoofs and guinea pigs were on display again and this time I snapped a quick shot of them. There are piles of plantains, almost like bananas, being sold everywhere. When we got off the bus coming to Tena this weekend, one lady had about 7 huge bunches of them under the bus. No doubt bringing them into town to sell over the weekend.

Yesterday was washing day for me! My clothes has started to get that musty, just-before-mold smell and, well they needed airing and washing. One handbasin, cold water, extra shampoo and four hooks to hang things on. No coat hangers and one small, thin towel to squeeze the wet clothes in to help dry. I found that hooking my bra in the fan that is attached to the wall, worked great, even though I got clipped across the ear a few times by it being swished around and around. Got what I wanted washed and hanging – thankfully they dry here with the fan and open window.

About 11pm I was getting ready for bed, feeling happily very tired and accomplished – so back to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Something just was not right. At all. I absolutely hate brushing my teeth in hot water. Huh? Hot water?? What happened? I just could not resist, I jumped into a shower for the longest time, just daring it to change to cold again! What a way to pass 20 minutes :) Earlier in the day I had gone to tell the main office that my tv did not work, and found out that I needed a remote control to make it happen, she laughingly gave me one. Maybe they had forgotten to turn on the hot water to that room too? Whatever – no complaints, I love it.

I had the tv on for about half an hour and discovered that I like it better off. And so its stayed since then.

Lucia is due back here today and I have done my homework – a whole page in Spanish about this last week. Does writing reeeeaaaalllly big count as cheating? Just kidding, I wrote normally. It feels to me that if I just lived right here for a year, that I would absolutely know the language. One of the guys at Yachana said that if you kiss someone you will learn the language faster. Uuuuum, really?

I went to the supermarket here and bought some things to eat, fruit, juices and chocolate! I will peel the fruit – promise! I nearly bought a blow gun and arrows – a smaller version of the one I tried last week, but need to find out if I can take it back home without an issue.

Earlier on today, I sat in the main lounge of the hotel doing some online Spanish learning, when a huge group of folks came in. A couple of them stopped and chatted – they are a medical team, with interpreters and all. It was SO good to hear English, and whole paragraphs of it again :) The older guy who is the leader of the group sat down to talk. He is also a Spanish teacher and gave me some really good pointers. A small group of us just sat around and quietly nattered. It was really good.

Lucia came in at around 5pm after a very long 6 hour bus ride. She seems to take it in her stride but needed to walk – and so we did, for two hours all around town again! There are huge sidewalk restaurants where people hang out with families, couples, young and old. Apparently this happens every night – its simply a lovely atmosphere. It seems to me that many people are just ambling around, some buying ice cream, others just chatting or the kids playing as they tag behind the parents who don't seem to be in any rush whatsoever. It's a very gentle, relaxed feeling.  Then off we went to supper and the supermarcado to try to find a spray bottle and now I am back here in my for-one-night-more-only home.

I found it strange how I am disappointed that my time in Tena is at an end. Lucia coming back was....... well, it almost felt like an invasion of my time.  Interesting.

Tomorrow we leave here at 8am and get the bus to Mishauwalli......I think that's how its spelled, and then onto Sinch Warmi. Apparently its not as far from here as I thought, a couple of hours, and looking at the photos today on the internet, its very beautiful and not quite as rugged as I anticipated either. But they still only have cold showers! I am really looking forward to this week and have emptied my mind of any expectations of any kind.

Its going to be good to finally be able to give all the pencils and clothes and toys and the computers that you all helped to put together, to this community! I will try to get as many photos as possible :)

I will probably be out of internet contact until Friday when I will get back to Quito. I hope to get online at least once during the week, but one just never knows around here. So, if you don't hear from me, just know I am having a blast :)  Just thinking about leaving Ecuador makes my heart clinch and I can almost feel the tears rushing to my eyes.... so I try really hard not to think about it.  This place really has a hold on me.  I feel like I have grown such a lot during this week in Ecuador, and definitely during the weekend in Tena.  I feel more alive and happy than I can remember.

I am sad to leave Tena but its a part of me now and I know that yet another part of the journey is waiting.

Till then, love and light and laughter.


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