Month: June 2013

Tenacity of Tena City

All though I have been trying to deny it, it is time to face the reality of the fact that my time in Napo has run out. I postponed my departure a couple of times but tomorrow morning I really do believe I will be sitting on a bus back to Quito, where I will spend a couple of more days before I fly back “home”. Home between parenthesis because, as big ol’ Pumba once said, “Home is where the rump rests”, and Tena has become a place where my rump has become very comfortable doing just that. But that’s not all it has done! Hiking, running, jumping, swimming, swinging, rafting, cycling are all things I have done here as well and there is still so much left to see and do!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If I look back at the goals I wrote down at the beginning of this adventure, I see that my first goal was to create a network for myself that would help me forward in some way. I feel I have definitely succeeded in this. The people I have met here at Runa are people I have come to think very highly of and I am sure that they would let me pick their brains about anything they have stored up there at any given time. There is an incredible amount of know-how walking around in that little office in Archidona and I feel proud and happy that I can call them my friends.

Another goal I wrote down was to learn a bit of Kichwa. I feel I could have done more in this area but the little words that I did learn and applied, were definitely appreciated by the people I set them loose on. These too are people I have grown very fond of and I will miss them dearly. With a little help from the world wide web I might be able to stay in touch with some of them but I definitely wish the very best for them and I will cherish all the memories I built with the mamacitas in those beautiful villages by the river.

This brings me to the next goal I wrote down, which was to take a lot of nice pictures. I’m not sure if I took any pictures that I will be hanging on my walls but they definitely captured a lot of nice moments. It makes me happy to think I can take their smiling faces with me and show them to my friends in Holland. I will tell them how the mamacitas in San Pedro de Chimbiyacu made fun of me all the time because of how lousy I was at the work that I was supposed to be supervising them in. They laughed at how little I knew about housekeeping, raising children and food. The teasing lightened up my trips to these communities, all though it did make me realize the necessity of goal nr 2 on my list. I’m sure I missed at least half of the jokes that were made at my expense, all though it was always in good fun.

Making fun of the gringa, FUN!


The next goals I wrote down were just goofy fillers I jotted down to fill up the page a bit at the time, like “learn to use the word chevere” and “take nothing for granted”. To my own delight I did succeed in the first one and I will make sure to introduce it back home; who knows it might catch on… As far as the sappy second one goes, it is actually surprisingly easy to get used to all the greenness, the incredible landscapes and the many gorgeous rivers, waterfalls and beaches that this area possesses. The fact that just looking at a seed here makes it start to sprout has almost become a nuisance and all the birds and insects that fill the evening air have become normal background noises that I hardly pay attention to (except the roosters… if only they would fade into the background). So it was actually not a bad one to mention in the end and writing this has made me realize that it’s time to use my 5 senses again to appreciate what is going on around me.

Thank you Runa for focusing my energy in such a positive way.

The Almighty Boa

Living in Ecuador these past couple of months has meant answering the same questions every day, starting with the inevitable “Where are you from?”. I have wondered how often un-Dutch-looking people get asked that in the Netherlands… Not very often, I’m guessing… And I’m not saying that is a good thing! There is some genuine interest in “the other” that stems from that question and it makes room for conversation. I think we Dutchies are missing out by overprotecting our personal space that way…

I’m from Holland. Where are you from?

The second most frequent question I get asked is probably “How are you liking Ecuador so far”, followed by (after me saying that I love it here) “Are you married?”. The fastest way to stop a conversation like that, would probably be saying that I am married and very happily so…. but I just can’t do it… I am a bad liar and I think that’s kind of a good thing…

Anyway, the marriage question has sometimes led to questions about religion and it has forced me to put into words what I do and don’t believe. I think the first time the topic arose, I just kind mumbled something about being “spiritual” but not religious, even though people that call themselves “spiritual” have always made me kind of itchy… So when confronted with the question again by Bertila, the most outspoken Kichwa woman I have met so far, I decided to formulate a more accurate answer.

I am definitely not religious, all though I went through a phase of admiration as a kid. My parents read the children’s bible to me as a bedtime storybook and I attended church on various Sundays with friends. As I was talking to Bertila the other day however, I came to the conclusion that I think being a good person is very important but I don’t need to be threatened into good behaviour by someone who claims to hold some special truth they have learned from some cryptic scripture. I want to be a good person and I think that is better motivation than whatever any cleric of any religion can demand of me. If at the end of all of this, some deity turns up to judge me, I think I will be OK…

All though some of Bertila’s friends gasped when I said the words “I do not believe in god”, Bertila nodded eagerly and said that she agreed with me completely because she knew some priests that were sinners themselves and the hypocrisy had always bothered her. On a sidenote though, I must say that I kind of like this new pope! I know I am not the target group and it is quite paradoxical for someone like me to be talking about what is good for an institution I have consciously chosen not to be a part of, but I really do think he is genuine and that he could make a positive contribution to the world, which I am very much part of!

But I am completely steering off topic here… I was trying to build some sort of bridge to another anecdote Bertila told me about an enormous boulder that sits beside the road, just outside the village of Cotundo. She told me there is a legend that this boulder holds two enormous boa constrictors captive beneath it, after they were trapped there by smart villagers. These two boas had been tormenting the area and legend goes that on judgment day, these two boas will return as apocalyptical creatures with seven heads to takes all sinners down to hell with them.


After hearing this, I realized that boas are a major part of the culture in this region. I hear boa metaphors here almost weekly and practically all the kids I have met are terrified of riversides, deep pits, wells and caverns because of the possibility of being eaten by a boa. I doubt this actually happens as often as their parents would like them to believe, as boas seem to be used as some sort of “boogeyman”-threat to keep kids away from dangerous places. Also, I have heard stories about people being swept away by the river and drowned but in many cases, people were convinced the deceased were attacked by a boa first, because “they would never have drowned otherwise”…

I think this is very interesting and I can’t really explain why boas are perceived as such an enormous threat, even though they are rarely spotted in the wild. I wonder if this fear of boas is pre-columbian or if it is something the colonizing Catholics created and nurtured, as there are some convenient biblical serpents to link the local ones to. If I had more time, I would look into it, but my time here on the equator is starting to run out…… *gulp*….


Daily Prompt: In good faith