Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Public Transportation: A Journey on Jumandy

One of the easiest ways to get around Ecuador has been by bus. Each city has at least one bus station and several bus offices over the town. There are many rewarding factors to taking the bus: price, convenience of snack, and the never-ending kung fu movies.
Buses cost about an hour for every hour you take them. From Quito to Tena, a beautiful drive crossing the Andes, is $6 for the approximate 6hours you are on the bus. Another bus from Tena to Agua Santa is $5 for the 5 hour trip and then you are only a short walk to base camp. The bus offers a large selection of high class seats. With no air-conditioning and sometimes functional windows, most seats recline back but normally to your disadvantage as the seat in front of you is practically in your lap. Aisle or window seat can always be a difficult decision. Aisle, you risk having a person who was unable to get a seat standing next to you for hours, at times practically sitting in your lap. Window, on the chance it rains, despite the window being closed, water will drip down from who-knows-where to splash on you with the turns of the bus. Luckily, I have mastered sleeping through the journeys despite the little bumps along the way, including the big bumps along the road.
Every bus station offers a variety of meals at the street side vendors that provide a small plastic stool for a nice sit down option. There are also snacks from fruit to ices in the stations. (I have even made short trips to the bus station just to eat some of the late night beef on a stick they grill and serve with mayonnaise.) But in case you decide to pass on all the food, there are vendors who board the buses for a couple minutes at a time throughout the journey who will yell everything they are selling at least three times before you realize they are speaking Spanish. One of my favourite vendors is the guy who is selling 10 oranges for a dollar. I’m always impressed by the speed he yells but more impressed by the buyer- what the hell are you going to do with 10 oranges that you spontaneously buy on a bus.
Almost every bus contains an old tv that has been put into the bus (threatening to fall from the ceiling at any time), in addition to the red fake velvet and virgin statues in honour of one of the travelling Saints. Ecuador might be one of the few places where people love Steven Segul films. And if it isn’t a Segul film that has been dubbed over in Spanish, its a Jet Lee kung fu movie- so you get to spend however many hours learning how to kick ass with only a plank of wood. When there is no movie, there is music- which has included a Michael Jackson CD on repeat for 5hrs, clearly trying to impress a bus full of gringos, a Spanish comedy radio station that wasn’t funny by any means, and a Spanish meringue CD that continuously skipped.
I have appreciated the buses and their helpfulness though. The buses do better off-roading than my 4x4 Jeep Grand Cherokee and cross bridges I wouldn’t dare jump on. The guy who collects peoples tickets/money has often told me when my destination town was getting close or has helped with the loading/unloading of my bag- and in one instance even pleased me by taking over driving for a bus driver that insisted on driving way too fast for the curves on the road. I am still amused that a guy gets paid not to just collect the tickets from people, but to hang out the door as the bus is speeding along, yelling the destination at pedestrians repeating the town name at least 10 times in 5 seconds. But in all honesty, travelling via bus has been one of the easiest things to figure out in Ecuador. And, if anyone ever wants to travel from Tena to Agua Santa, I know a guy who has offered to chauffer me anytime- now that’s networking!

My Birfffday

A year ago, I never would have guessed I’d be spending my birthday while living in Ecuador. In the past year, I have gone through relationship trouble, confusion about my ‘next step’, the rewards of graduating from university, bettering friendships, development of leadership, appreciated moments for what they offer, loved, laughed, cried, and all that other stuff- but as I said good-bye to 21 and hello to 22 over the weekend, I knew in my heart it all is a part of life, made me better, and I wouldn’t trade my year because I am happy, in Ecuador, and enjoying it. So, a quick thanks to the family and friends who were there to support me through my struggles and encourage me in my achievements.
Now that I’m through the mushy stuff...I’ll tell you how to celebrate a 22nd birthday in the jungle. This phase with enough staff members, we’ve been able to pick from a couple weekends to have one weekend off in Tena with another staff member. I originally picked week 3 of 10 because I knew in week 7 and 8 I’d be close enough to leaving I should power it out, especially with a weekend in Tena at week 5. When I realized week 3 weekend contained my birthday, Caroline, my roomie, picked that as her weekend off too. We left basecamp on the last bus to Tena that passes by at 2.30 generally. $5.00 and 5 hours later, we were arriving in Tena. We walked into the hostel GVI always uses when we pass through and got a room for 2 nights ($8 each per night) with no problems. With ambitious plans of partying the night away, after an hour of internet, some chicken, and a pina colada each, we retired to the room to watch 500 Days of Sumer at 9pm. Saturday morning I woke-up and read the birthday cards my parents and brother had sent me a head of time, went to breakfast, dropped of laundry, and sat in front of internet again for another couple hours. With a chicken lunch and avocado milkshake (which are surprisingly un-avacado-tasting) and grocery shopping done, my afternoon contained more internet time. Dinner was at Pizza Hilton, where we enjoyed more meat and after dinner drinks consisted of a 1.25L bottle of Coke and a new bottle of rum. Caroline and I went back to the hostel to start drinking and eat some slices of chocolate cake she had bought for me. At the bar we met one of the rafting guides from my ‘Thanks for Survivor’ experience who was happy to see me still alive and well. We got hustled into going to the local club where we showed up all the other gringos with our meringue moves. After dancing the night away, we returned to the hotel room where I proceeded to make a fool of myself on a skype video call to England to talk to Edwin, but not before I planted my face in my remaining cake and chugging rum straight from the bottle. I normally wouldn’t admit to such acts, but the pictures are already on Facebook. Sunday consisted of recovery via sleeping before getting on the 3.30pm bus back to the reserve. All in all it was a simple and fun weekend with the main factors of chicken, alcohol, and internet- all of which you can’t get in the jungle easily...

Hector's Island Vacation

As a volunteer last phase, I got to take a field trip out to Hector’s Island- stopping in Coca on the way there and back for pastries, chicken, internet, and other grocery shopping. This phase on staff, 3 staff members went, leaving Jenn, Jas, and myself to take care of base camp- and boy did we live it up. Let me start by saying, meat is very hard to come by. With no electricity and the lack of land, time, and ability to raise chickens- we are limited to the option of a local plate of seco de pollo- a chicken dish with rice at the market on Saturday mornings. However, when you no longer have to cook for 30 people and vegetarians: the statement ‘when there is a will, there is a way’ takes on a new meaning. Thursday morning I briefly woke up at 5am as I heard the volunteers making their way to the road to catch the morning bus to Coca. I woke up again at 8.30 which was a lovely sleep-in from the traditional 6:30am morning. Having a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fruit, I was absolutely thrilled to not eat porridge. I got ready to teach TEFL down at Puerto Rico for the Thursday lesson. Still on base camp were a couple of graduates from the Yachana technical high school doing internships. So, they helped with teaching the lesson and more importantly buying a chicken from the small shop.
It was really neat actually. We looked at a couple different hens outside before deciding to look at one. The store owner said she was going to call Tyson. I was expecting some teenage nephew or farm worker to appear, but instead it was a slim german shepard. She picked up a pebble, threw it at the hen, and told the dog to catch it. Tyson took off like a rocket, tail wagging, and with a playful bark, the dog had caught the hen within minutes despite its attempted escape up the hill side. Listening to the command to drop it, the Ecuadorian students took the chicken form the dog and we paid our $15. To skip the details of killing and gutting the chicken, it ended on our plates for a delicious dinner of seco de pollo and produced a delicious chicken noodle soup the next day. Some afternoon swimming on Friday complimented the pancake breakfast well- this is life in the jungle. Saturday morning at the market consisted of eating chicken, buying chicken tuna, and enjoying a scenic bus ride back on the bird watching top of the tourist lodge’s vehicle as oppose to the traditional canoe we take. For lunch, we had fried chicken, dinner was tune, and Sunday we enjoyed chicken soup again. We made a couple of jokes as we put lentils on to boil Sunday afternoon because the volunteers would be back for dinner which meant we were back to eating beans. We did accomplish a lot of dirty work consisting of attacking termites every day, repairing broken boardwalks, and hauling gas tanks around for cooking- but why dwell on the bad when there was so much good food.

This is my son

There have been tons of fun and rewarding experiences out in the rainforest. But one of the great things we do to build community relations is teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) in a few small communities all within a couple hours walk. We teach in Puerto Rico on Tuesday and Thursday, the closest community which also has a shop selling a few types of sweets, chips, and sodas. We teach in Puerto Salazar on Saturdays, playing a bunch of games with the kids which normally includes a few random kicks and slaps from the kids as they make the others laugh. Then, there is our newest community- Rio Bueno. Since that school had never had English before, we decided as a staff that one member should go to it for the first several weeks to keep some consistency.
Rio Bueno is the furthest of the three communities and the only one that we go to on the north side of the reserve. At 7am the TEFL group waits on the road that goes through the reserve which is just a rock, one lane road. We catch the daily morning bus that goes to Tena for 25cents each. The bus passes anytime from 6.50-7.45am. We get off the bus 10minutes later as it turns to go to Agua Santa, a community on the west side of the reserve. We could stay on the bus, because it turns around and drives back on the same road but it saves time as we walk the next 15 minutes to the school. The school is located along a narrow path in the forest. The small building contains one classroom, one teacher and 11 students about 8 years old. There is a small field behind the school with two make shift football goals. The students at this school are particularly well behaved and keen to learn English making it a rewarding experience. A majority of the hour lesson is taught in Spanish with a lot of repetition and simple games to entertain the kids. I just finished the 3rd class and they have learned Hello. My name is...This is... How are you? I am happy, sad, tired, good and numbers 1-10. You find innocent amusement while teaching at the mispronunciation of the students when the students say sex instead of six, for example. But my favourite has been practicing introductions. Mason’s name has a pronunciation similar to my-son. So, I have now successfully introduced Mason as my son to the class numerous times, but of course they don’t see the joke in it.

Destination: Agua Santa

In the jungle, meals consist of lots of veggies that we order in every Friday, rice or pasta, and a type of bean: red, white, chickpea, lentil, occasionally black-eyed peas. Once a week we get eggs, soya, tuna, and bread with a rubbery cheese (that I swear is made from powdered milk, but doesn’t taste that bad semi-melted on toasted bread). Milk is made from powder. Water is room temperature and either chlorinated or filtered. Lighting is a candle on a rock. Snacks are brought in with volunteers from Quito or Tena or some chips and chocolate can be bought from a small shop on the first floor of a house 20 mins away. Then there’s Agua Santa.
The local community is located 15mins up stream by canoe or can be accessed via the road that cuts through the reserve. And, on a Saturday, its the place to be.
Every week we ask for a canoe from Yachana to pick us up at port at 7.30am. Every week it is at least 20mins late. Which double serves as a form of entertainment and quick money as we take bets and buy in to the pot of what time the canoe will arrive, the winning time being when the canoe rope is grabbed by someone on the port.
Typically when we go to Agua Santa, I make a fashionable effort to impress people. Wellies (that is short for wellingtons, also known as RAINBOOTS to all the non-Brits) are very helpful as the beach access to the market can be muddy or require you to step in some river. Shorts are worn to avoid overheating. A t-shirt of any sort is worn- preferably with some large tacky American brand on it to reassure everyone that you are in fact a foreigner in case they couldn’t already tell. A backpack for all the crap I buy. And lastly, a lifejacket which is mandatory, that I strap to my backpack when on land.
There are a few permanent shops at the market and the rest are regular vendors- generally between 7-10 stands. You can buy soaps, batteries, shot gun shells, willies, underwear, bracelets, paper and pen, and shirts. The permanent shops sell bread, cheese, eggs, soda, pasta, veggies, sugar, coffee, beer, chips, and candy. Additionally, there is a lady who sells seco de pollo, a delicious dish with rice, yucca, and a sort of chicken stew for $2.00, and a local bar that is surprisingly busy at 8am (and stays busy as often times on Saturday nights you can hear the loud pumping of music from the insane parties Agua Santa must be having).
It is nice to get to the market and have a presence in the community. Tour groups from the nearby Ecolodge occasionally stop through as well. At the market it is nice to see the guides from the lodge and briefly catch up with them or to buy ridiculously stupid/useless items. I have witnessed the mass buying of little boys underwear for big boys to wear around camp, bracelets decorated with pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, and t-shirts to be cut into Steveis (no sleeves, with large arm holes originally sported in the jungle by the one and only Steve Guidos). Regardless of the random things accumulated on a Saturday, the cold coke and chicken are appreciated. [The optional Saturday night warm Pilsner beer and box Peach flavoured wine are bought at Agua Santa as well, to the enthusiasm of the volunteers].

North by Northwest: The Ecuador Version

To be back at base camp as staff is something I was really excited about. Nervous too. I had just spend the past 10 weeks learning the trails, projects, and lending a helping hand. I knew I was capable, but when it comes to leading 5 other people through the rainforest who have never been it before- you can’t help but feel pressure. Because, the truth is I didn’t know where we were going either.
Ok, well that’s not entirely true. Compass in my left hand and GPS in my right, I knew we were going 400meters further north. But, I had no idea how well we were going to get there. And again, not because I wasn’t capable, but because I had never done this route and the terrain could contain anything from massive tree fall making it difficult to pass, to steep ravines requiring careful footing.
GVI has several different research projects that the volunteers help collect data for including mammals, birds, butterflies, and amphibians/reptiles. I was presented with the amazing opportunity of writing the project proposal for the butterfly project- meaning I would be fine tuning the research and details of how to conduct the project and collect data on road impacts on the reserve’s butterfly species. The project was too be conducted along 4, 400meter transects running north of the road, evenly spread out. Each transect would contain 5 trap sites- 0m, 100m, 200m, 300m, 400m from the road. Each site would contain a ground butterfly trap and an aerial butterfly trap. But, in order to do the research, we first had to get the traps up.
The compass was pointing us in a Northward direction. The GPS was telling me how far we still had left to go until reaching the computer plotted points. 10 traps, 5 rolls of string, 2 rocks, and one machete- that is how real science starts. The slight change in the project to look at road disturbance specifically on the butterflies meant we wouldn’t be using pre-cut and used trails. So we macheted (minimally) our way to each point to put up the traps. The thrill of finding the location to place the traps was only replaced by successfully throwing rocks over 20meters high branches and hoisting up the aerial traps without snags.
I would end up leading a lot of surveys in the jungle- but for such a unique start to go well- left me really excited for the next.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Basecamp was left clean and packed up as we all left on Thursday morning. The ten week session came to an end, giving the staff a couple weeks of break before returning out for another ten week session. Thursday morning we loaded up and headed to Tena for the night. Being one of the last nights we were all together as a group, and the first night we have been out of the jungle in 5 weeks, we all made solid attempts to have a good time. We headed to Quito the next morning, a 6 hour, winding, bus ride. Once in Quito, I checked into the best $5.60 hostel you can find in Quito, Ecuador, Central del Mundo. Sharing a room with Sam and Iggy, we organized our few days together that we had in Quito. We grabbed the 2hr bus to Otavalo on Sunday and made our way to our host family´s house.
We met our host mom, dad, and their three kids- a 2yr old girl, 6 yr old boy, and a 9 yr old boy. The house is an easy 25min walk from the town center, in a residential area of Otavalo. It is a two story house, with each of us getting our own room. Our host mom cooks every meal for us, but if we want to eat out, we just need to let her know not to expect us. We each have one on one Spanish classes starting at 8.30am until 12.30pm Monday to Friday. Other than that, we have the freedom to do what we want and come back to the house when we want. Our Spanish classes usually consist of an hour or two of conversation or work, depending on what you want to improve, and then we will all take little field trips to different areas around Otavalo. We have been through the clothing market, the food market, to a giant cross on the hill side, a local textile maker, a local artist´s gallery/home, and seen demonstration on creating and using local instruments.
We were each given a map containing some local highlights, which ofcourse was mainly restaurants. In addition to eating meals from my host mom everyday, I also eat at a local pie store. They have fresh blackberry, strawberry, apple, lemon meringue, orange meringue, and chocolate pie everyday…and take my word for it- they are sooo absolutely amazing. A warm slice will cost you $1.40, which is beyond worth it. A little bit of satisfaction comes from the pie lady saying ¨See you tomorrow¨ in Spanish everyday when we leave, because its true, we will be going back the next day. There are also a few different hamburger places that we have enjoyed. Iggy has been set on having a hamburger everyday, so definitely enjoy those as well. Little snacks of green mango, toasted corn nuts, or French fries with sausage are also occasionally picked up. Sam has made the goal (unintentionally ofcourse) of buying a musical instrument every other day. Thanks to Iggy and Sam, I have been in more music stores in the past week than the past 4 years. And between the two of them, they could open up a music store and sell all their instruments. 4 harmonicas, 2 flutes, 2 clay hand flute things, a keyboard that you blow into via a tube to make noise, a small guitar, a local ukulele type thing, and two music books- the best thing owned though isn´t a musical instrument. It is the rare find of an album that contains tributes to Michael Jackson, all done on wooden flutes local to the Andes region- one of the most amazingly, amusing things I have heard.
Otavalo is a smallish town located in the Andes mountains. It is in a valley, and doesn´t seem too cold. The days can get pretty hot, especially since the sun is so powerful, but the nights definitely are easier with a sweater and pants. There is a strong presence of the indigenous tribe, Quechua , who are spotted wearing traditional clothing around town. Depending on the morning, sometimes snow covers the nearby volcanoes (there are two- both dormant) and sometimes it’s a little drizzly, but other then that the weather is very dry. It actually reminds me of Alberta, except the surround mountains are nowhere near as rigid and intimidating as the Rockies- but that’s not to say it isn´t still beautiful. Also, Otavalo, like the rest of the area, doesn´t go through season due to such a close proximity to the Equator, so it is weird to think the weather stays like this year round. The town center is grid-like and is based around the Plaza de Ponchos, which is where you can find the Saturday market, daily in a much smaller version, and the Parque de Bolivar.

ohhh Staff

Being a longterm intern (6 months) with GVI includes quite a lot. The overall program means that I spend 10 weeks at basecamp in the jungle as a volunteer, helping conduct research projects and teaching English in local communities. Then I spend 2 weeks living in Otavalo with a host family, taking a total of 40hrs of one on one Spanish classes. I then have a little bit of time off, almost a week, before going to my work placement for the remaining ten weeks. GVI has set up different work placement opportunities with local partnership organizations. One option is going to Hector´s Island, who is a well known Ecuadorian guide who has setup a refuge island for monkeys known as Sumak Allpa. Another option is to work at the Yachana Technical High School on the same reserve where basecamp is, but is located about 20mins up river near the ecolodge. The final option for work placement that GVI offers its interns is a position as a member of staff with GVI.
Interns meet weekly with a staff mentor in order to reflect on self progress and professional development. As interns, despite being volunteers for ten weeks like everyone else, we are expected to help around basecamp more, volunteer to go on extra surveys, and take a leadership initiative in helping other volunteers, particularly new ones, acclimate to basecamp life. So through taking these initiatives, staff give feedback on areas of excellence that interns have but also areas for improvement. My staff mentor has been Jenn, a fellow Canadian, who has an amazing knowledge on birds, but particularly birds of prey. I have enjoyed meeting with her a lot, and I have really gained a lot from our meetings and reflections. She has encouraged me and has helped me finding ways of taking more initiative on basecamp.
I have really enjoyed conducting the variety of surveys, interacting with members of staff and volunteers, and the general life of living at basecamp. GVI looks at each intern´s best opportunity in placement, to make a compatible workplacement. So, I was very happy when I got my work placement with GVI as a member of staff. The other two longterm interns, Iggy and Sam, will be going to Hector´s Island and helping with community programs and monkey research over the next ten weeks, which is an amazing opportunity. I will be returning to the jungle in the next couple weeks, with a new group of volunteers but in a new position. I will share a room in the staff cabin with another member of staff, Caroline. I will lead the volunteers out on surveys, hopefully without getting lost, I will take on new responsibilites with helping basecamp on food orders and taking care of other basic needs, and I will be a source of information about local tropical habitat and species. So, needless to say, I am loving my time in Otavalo right now, but I am ready to be back in the jungle again!

A weekend at Yasuni

Every five weeks, we take a field trip/vacation from basecamp. The first five weeks we went to Hector´s Island, which is an island owned by an Ecuadorian guide, who has started a monkey reserve and set-up a small school for the kids in the area. The second five weeks we went to Yasuni National Park with Hector as our guide. I loved Hector´s Island and I think it is a great place, relaxing, beautiful, and a great monkey reserve- but I figured I would write my blog on Yasuni, since it is internationally well known as the most biodiverse hotspot on the planet. The amount of plants found in a hectare of the park, totals more than the plant population of the United States.
Packing for Yasuni takes a whole day, as it is important that we remember everything we need. It is a team effort, as lots of kitchen gear, food, and general living things need to be packed in addition to everyone´s personal items. Two staff members and 12 volunteers equaled to 2 crates filled with everything from dishsoap to candles, four big containers of water, and two massive pots. We had the option of sleeping in a tent or a jungle hammock, but everyone opted for a jungle hammock, and I can´t blame them because it is such a unique experience.
We are in the dry season of the rainforest, which is very obvious when it doesn´t rain for a whole week. Ofcourse we had been anticipating rain for a few days, because a week and half without rain is very dry. So, such is life, it would open up raining the night before we leave. And when I say it was a massive storm, Im not exaggerating in any way because I have been through some big storms, hurricanes, typhoons, etc. The thunder and lightening started about 20 minutes before the actual rain. The lightening was so bright, it let up the whole basecamp for a solid second, and allowing clear vision for at least 20 meters on a dark, electricity free, night. A group of us sat in the commedor hammocks, after all, without TV, so many things become entertainment. Once it started raining, it rained so hard on and off, but mostly on all the way up until 4.00am, which was awesome luck, as we had to be up and at the road waiting for the bus by 4.45 which means we needed to start moving gear by 4.15am, since it would take a couple trips. Also to our good fortune, the bus arrived at 5.15. Being a bus that regularly runs to the route from a local town to Coca every morning, the time of arrival by our basecamp could be anywhere from 5.15 to 6.45. Shortly after getting all loaded on the bus, it started to rain again- which was bad news to anyone who didn´t have a waterproof bag or cover, as all of our 14 large backpacks were strapped to the roof of the bus.
Once we arrived in Coca, we had a few hours and a few dollars from GVI for breakfast and lunch. This is the first time we have been with electricity, hot varieties of meat, and basic civilization in 4 weeks. So, naturally, we spend our time between internet and endless amounts of chicken. By 1pm, we meet at the boat terminal and load all of our stuff on to Hector´s motorized canoe as we head off on the 2.5/3 hr boat ride to Yasuni. We pass his island along the way, and briefly point it out to the volunteers who weren´t here for the first five weeks, but we can´t stop because we are only an hr into the boat ride. Upon near arrival at our basesite at Yasuni, due to the minimal rain the region has been getting, there is a desert-look-alike bank we need to walk across, while Hector tries to go around a back way to the dock with his canoe, and all of our stuff. After walking 10 minutes across the beached bank of an island in the river, we get to a deeper channel with a width of about 15 meters, that we need to cross to be at the base of the stairs for our campsite. Carrying our day backpacks, containing money, electronics, and passports, we start to walk through the water, which was too bad because it was only up to our knees. But, ofcourse, it was only getting deeper. There was only a section of about 1.5 meters where we couldn´t walk, which was just enough for each of us to attempt to place our bags in the area above our head and swim, failing under its weight, and dunking in, soaking all of our items, some more important than others. As we scrambled out of the water, one by one, we found nice spots of sun to dry our items, while we waited to see if Hector could find a way through with the canoe. Our stuff arrived drier than us, and we set-up camp, unpacking cooking items, and finding good spots to tie our hammocks. We spent the next couple days taking trips to local community centers, that show how local tribes live in Yasuni and learning a bit about their culture and way of survival. We took group hikes, which consisted of attempts to climb a tree in an indigenous way. We also went to parrot claylicks, where parrots fly everyday to lick clay (I bet you couldn´t have figured that part out…) with minerals to counteract the poisonous enzymes that they ingest from seeds. On a hike off from the claylicks, we saw tracks for multiple types of mammals, wooly monkeys, and hog-nosed viper. We truly enjoyed our time at Yasuni as relaxing break away from daily surveys before returning to Coca on Sunday morning for a few hours along our way back to basecamp.

BTEC Program

Included in my internship, I have been working on a certification program called BTEC. It is based out of the UK but is internationally recognized. There are different types of BTEC and different levels that one can earn. But, it is basically a practical assessment of skills that are learned. Out at basecamp, two different BTECs are offered. You can work towards a leading biological surveys and/or a leadership certification. My program offers me a leading biological surveys certification, which I spend additional time working on each week. The group of volunteers doing the biological BTEC get weekly assignments that force us to learn general safety, environmental safety, information about local partnership organizations, how to lead surveys, and information about the surrounding environments. All assignments were encouraged to be researched in our library that contains multiple scientific books, and allowed the use of basecamp´s actual outlines and staff as sources of reference.
The first week we each had to create Environmental Assessment Plans, with using the basecamp´s real EAPs as guidelines, to show safety procedures and steps in the result of different potential threats. For example, I did an EAP on a snake bite, which included the step by step procedure of what to do in the event that someone is bitten by a snake. We also needed to do a risk assessment, listing 15 potential hazards, their likelihood, and what to do to avoid them or how to handle them, such as dehydration, bug bites, and slipping on trails. The second week´s assignment included a description of what a target species is and an indicator species. We also had to pick what area we wanted to specify when doing our research, amphibians and reptiles, butterflies, or birds. From that selection, we had to list ten families of that area and describe their habitat, life cycle, identifying characteristics, and other important information. The third week we handed in a rough draft of an essay that is to identify characteristics of the three types of habitat we find on the reserve, including riparian, secondary, and primary forests. The fourth week we turned in our final essay of approximately 5 pages. And the fifth week, our assignment was to describe potential environmental impacts of surveys on the species we are studying, and a description of each of GVI´s partnerships with local organizations and communities and how its locally beneficial.
Meanwhile, being a certification based on practical demonstration, we were also all preparing to conduct a survey in our area that we focused on for the assignments. The location of basecamp provides access to tons of different species in each of the three areas of focus. However, I noticed that almost immediately that I would struggle with learning about amphibians the most. Their scientific names and difficulty to identify, made them an area that I knew I would have to force myself to become more familiar with. So, I picked my area of study to be amphibians and reptiles. I went on extra surveys for amphibian and reptiles and became familiar with the project proposal that GVI has created in order to receive permission from the reserve and the government in order to conduct the survey. When leading a survey, although a staff member is still supervising, you are in charge of preparing everything needed. Every survey always needs to take a medical kit (already packaged and filled in the staff cabin) and an operating radio. Additionally, I needed to prepare equipment for my specific survey. I led a visual encounter amphibian and reptile survey, so I needed to pack small plastic bags to catch the frogs, a scale, a caliber for measurements, a clipboard and data sheet for the data collected, a weathermachine, a container to bring back any unidentified species, and plates which contain photos and a description of the species to help with identification, all in dry bag to be carried by someone. I needed to write the names of everyone going on the survey, location, and a time of return on the whiteboard in the commodore so everyone was aware we weren´t on basecamp. Also, I had to give a safety talk and briefing of what, how, and why we are doing our survey. Finally, I needed to be the main overseer of the survey, making sure we were keeping on time and doing things correctly. Volunteers working on their BTEC get a practice survey first, where they will get constructive feedback on how to improve and any information that might have been left out. In order to pass the actual BTEC survey, only a few minor mistakes or bits of information can be missed, but feedback is still provided after the survey, and you are encouraged to lead more surveys with staff supervision in the future.

Lagoona SAT Camp

One of the experiences that I have enjoyed the most while being out in the jungle is SAT camp. SAT camp is basically a satellite basecamp we set up to help with conducting one of our surveys, mistnetting, for birds. We have four different location on the reserve that we do mistnetting at. In consists of opening up four different bird nets that are very thin and difficult to see. Birds are most active in early morning and later evening, avoiding the heat of the day. So, we need to open up the nets at 6am…-_- which definitely isn’t what I enjoy about SAT camp. The nets stay open until 10.30am and we check them every half an hour and take out any birds that may have gotten caught and record their information and place a lightweight alloy band for identification on them. Three of the netting locations are about an hours walk away from basecamp, so instead of getting up at 4.45am to walk out to the sites in time, we head out to the location the previous day and campout, so the next morning we only have to get up at 5.40.
The nets are used every morning for a week, so everyone at camp gets an opportunity of going out for the night. Which means, the first group going up takes all the camping stuff and sets it up for the week, and the last group of the week brings it all back with them. Items include jungle hammocks, kettle, tarps, and birding equipment. Each individual group takes up a previously prepared dinner, a package of cookies for the biscuit challenge, granola (which is an AMAZING change from the daily porridge), potatoes for a late-night baked potato snack, a spare hammock, and firewood- in addition to all the personal items needed.
We leave for SAT camp after lunch, and normally we stop at a nice place to swim along the way- either a low waterfall, or a semi-deep stream, depending on the location you are going to. Once we get to the sat camp, everyone picks a hammock, or sets up a new one, if needed. We unpack and settle in, and then maybe do a bit of birding. Honestly, birds are not my favourite- I seem them, I respect the fact that they fly and all of that, so I don´t normally have the enthusiasm to look at them through binoculars, but we have seen some really neat birds including toucans and birds of prey- which make it more exciting. We eat dinner at the campsite and then head out on a night walk. Again, we have seen some really neat things including glass frogs, caymen, and a fully grown fur-de-lance, which I stood within a couple meters and walked past with absolutely NO idea. When we get back to the campsite, we get a fire going for tea/coffee, and our baked potatoes. However, the last time I went to sat camp, it was along a trail called Lagoona. I partook in the most fat, sugar indulgence, I have in a long time. Not only did we eat the typical jacket potato, but Edwin, a member of staff, brought a couple bags of marshmallows, which I had a leading role in demolishing, as well as a couple chocolate bars, a ripe plantain, and I additionally added a can of tuna and cheese to my baked potato, and I also had the extra baked potato.
An early rise at 5.40am to open up the nets located a couple minutes from the campsite, but after we are able to talk quietly and relax at the camp. When birds are caught, they are bagged, weighed, and then taken out to have all their additional measurements taken. We make the process quick, because they birds can get stressed really easily. If a lot of birds are caught, we will skip taking a bunch of measurements, but band them, so we can let them go about their morning business. During the breaks of checking the nets, we also find the time to do the biscuit challenge. Ofcourse you just enjoy the snack, or you can partake in the challenge, even if its just for a personal best. The rules are that you can only use whole, unbroken cookies, you can´t crunch them until you can close your mouth around the cookies, and none of the cookie crumbs can fall out. The record was held by Edwin at 11. However, I got to witness the intense competition between Edwin and Fabian, another volunteer, at an attempt for 12 cookies. It took about 20 minutes, and the look of defeat on both of their faces was simply amusing. But, in the end, Fabian ended up beating the record, by completion, as Edwin came close but lost (although he still manages to find excuses/ and believes he was cheated). I did a personal best of 8, to be improved over the next sat camps. Once we close the nets at 10.30, we pack up our stuff and head back to basecamp to be back in time for lunch.

Surveys, Surveys, Surveys

As research projects run constantly, GVI Amazon base camp can’t be all play and no work... who am I kidding – catching frogs, butterflies, and birds is every kid’s dream. And over the past couple weeks there has been a lot of hopping, fluttering and chirping. Amphibian and butterfly surveys are for 10 and 14 consecutive days respectively every 5 weeks for a year. Bird mistnetting is totaled to 70 net hours at each of the four locations, four times a year.

Two different amphibian surveys are conducted. The first, pitfalls traps, consists of four buckets placed in the ground separated by 8m of black plastic baffle in a line, per location. The idea is that the frogs will get to the plastic and follow it until it opens over the bucket and fall in. There are 10 total locations in two different types of habitat which looks at species diversity. To avoid the biases of catching only ground-dwelling frogs, a second survey is conducted along 75m transect lines at night, recording all species seen. This is also done at various locations. There is nothing more rewarding than spotting a 3 cm frog in leaf litter in the black of night with a wimpy head torch - trust me.

The second most rewarding thing is managing to keep hold of a healthy Nessaea butterfly. I wish I was kidding, it’s embarrassing when a delicate-looking butterfly masterminds its way out of your hand. Butterfly surveys are conducted with 10 traps sites along two trails each. We bait the traps with three day old mashed bananas. We catch a variety of butterflies from tiny tiger-patterned Tigridias to large black and blue Morphos. Traps are located along the road, on the trails and in the forests to monitor the effects of disturbance on the butterflies.

Finally, bird mistnetting surveys are conducted to record information on species present on the Yachana Reserve, as well as collecting information through taking measurements. There is definitely no shortage of things to do, and you gain valuable experience conducting research and leading surveys. (No animals were harmed in the making of this blog!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Thakns for Survivor

Everyone has had moments where they have seriously questioned their safety, if only for a split second. I am absolutely no exception, despite my tendency to exaggerate. Really bad turbulence, severe heat stroke, driving during heavy rain. But, this experience tops them all. Without any exaggerating, I thought my life was going to end.

We arrived at the river around 11am. Looking down at it, we chuckled about being over charged for a river that wasn´t really worth our time. Shrugging it off, we decided that maybe it was more challenging then it looked. Myself, a few friends, a safety kayaker, and our river raft guide prepared to white water raft the next 15km of river. Class 4 rapids weren´t too intimidating from the hill, but the first sign that I was wrong was the extensive amount of time spent on the details of how to get back in the boat and rescue methods. Shortly after setting off, we were in the middle of the rapids following intense intruction from the guide. The next 3 hours would be spent on constant rapids, without any calm water- we were prepared for that. But, we weren´t prepared for the lower than expected water level which caused us to get stuck on the first few rapids. Shortly after our guide pushed off our boat again, I saw the rapids get more intense immediately ahead.

It is a horrible anticipation knowing something bad is going to happen, but having to wait for it. All I needed to know we didn´t really have hope was the guide´s voice. He sounded manic as he yelled at us to paddle hard. Everyone sensed the urgency in his voice, and from my seat in the back row of the boat, I saw chaos take place. People were paddling forwards, people were paddling backwards, people were getting hit by others paddles, someone had already abandoned paddling and was seeking the safety of wedging in the boat. I knew because we weren´t in sync, we weren´t going to make it. And, we didn´t. The whole boat capsized. I was in the water before I even realized how we flipped. The boat was turned over in front of me. And, I was moving quicker than it which caused me to repeatedly bump into it and end up under it. What is worse then going class 4 rapids on your back, is not seeing anywhere you are going because a giant, yellow, inflatable boat is blocking your vision. I finally managed to somewhat orientate myself, pushing off the boat, and trying to keep my feet up infront of me. But, I was utterly surprised at how quickly the water was moving me, and how much the rocks hurt. However, all I could do was try to look around to see where the boat was and where I could try to stand up. I got far enough over to the bank where the water wasn´t as swift. I managed to get my feet under me to stand up. I watched as the river raft guide passed me standing on the boat upside down, flipping it over with a swift motion that he had mastered. He controlled the boat enough to pull it off to the side and those near-by climbed back in. The safety kayaker had rescued someone and they were stable on a rock in the middle of the river. The guide had to carefully walk through the rapids to bring the guy back to the boat, as another rafter stood holding the boat in the rapids. Once back in the boat, we realized we were now a paddle short- which was lost in the rapids somewhere. We took a few minutes to recover from the shock that had just occurred while our rafting guide assured us that had been a really difficult rapid, especially coupled with a big boat and low water.

We continued on our way, making some quick jokes about our newly accummulated scrapes, missing shoe of another, and the person now required to sit in the boat without a paddle. However, I wish we had had more of a break. We continued through the rapids, and as we rounded a corner, our back end of the boat wedged in between two rocks. Myself, another paddler, and the guide were all sitting in water as the river swiftly swept through our seats. We tried to wedge free and reposition ourselves so as not to sink down the back side of the boat. But, as soon as we got stuck, we freed up and hit the next rapid, with surprise. The boat wasn´t straight and flipped front over back. And just like that, we were all in the water again. I was infront of the boat already this time. And surprisingly more calm, but still convinced I was going to die or come out the rapids seriously injured. Despite the lifejacket and helmet, I crashed into rocks and struggled to keep my head above water. I really can´t explain the time length nor the feeling of being tossed around without a definite understanding of when you are coming up for air nor how to get to saftey. But, as I felt it get slightly shallower, I risked standing up- which could have ended very badly. My feet could have gotten stuck and the strong current push me over on my front side causing a likelihood of drowning. But, I managed to keep on my feet and quickly moved over. By the time I realized what was going on and got my orientation, I noticed the raft and kayak abandoned on my side of the river about 15 meters ahead of me. I continued to lookd downstream to see both of the guides running after a bobbing helmet in the water. They had the rope out, telling me they were attempting to do a swift-water rescue to get the person out of the water, which meant the rapids were only getting worse ahead. I waited by the boat as others started to make their way over. About 20 minutes passed by before I saw the guides appear with an individual between them with a cut leg. He had been in shock while going down the river, he had been inable to catch the rope attempting to rescue him. But, he had passed by the guides close enough to where they were able to throw the rope right at him, hard, forcing him to pay attention. We weren´t even done with 2km of the river, knowing we had already capsized twice, and we had a person without paddle, and a fear in all of us that we weren´t going to make it through to the end- and we did NOT want to end up in the water again.

The person who had fallen out wanted to be returned to the car...which we could only meet another 10 minutes down stream. The guide explained to us that after that point, the next spot to stop for the car will be at the end and the rest of the way we would be in the thick of the jungle so we had to decide if we wanted to continue. Deciding that fighting for our lives on the remaining 13km of the river was not our plan for the day, we asked to switch to a different river.

We managed the next 10 minutes fine and had to carry the raft through some forest to the road to meet the car. We dropped off the brusied and battered at the hotel, but the rest decided to continue on. The second river was honestly almost an insult after what we had survived. The class 3 rapids were fun, and clearly didn´t pose any serious threat to us as there were extensive calm parts between the rapids. We played fun games like cowboy, where someone sat on the very front of the boat and road through the rapids sitting with their best balance. We stopped for a short mud spa, and the best part- I even got to learn the basics to guiding. The guide had me sit in his spot, explained the motions to me and spent the next 20 minutes pointing to a location and said, the boat needs to point there, make it happen. I spent some time getting a feel for it, before he would stop telling me where to point it and expected me to wing it and make it work. I even led us through rapids. The scenery was beautiful as we were the only ones around and near a national park. But, the water was fiercly cold as it was flowing from one of the tallest mountains in Ecuador. In all, I ended up having fun. And luckily, only walked away with a bruised body, and battered left leg. Thanks to the cold water of the second river, my swelling has stayed down, but as expected we are all extremely sore still. I truly believe the guides did the best of their ability and that is the reason why no one was seriously injured.

We made plans for 9pm and met at the local bar for some needed drinks. Accompanied with the guides was a CD of photos thats read ¨Thakns for Survivor¨truly showing just how appreciative they are that we didn´t die either.

sn: Photos will be posted in time.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The new species of Screaming Peha

As most of you know- I hate (am terrified) of cockroaches. Normally, I handle it fairly well- unless they are near me, running towards me, or are generally massive. It´s weird because it has developed over time- living in Thailand they didn´t really bother me. So anyways, I wouldn´t say the are abundant- but I see them on a daily basis. I´m not bothered to see them cross a trail or over on leaf-litter, but in my personal space or threatening to attack by running at me isn´t cool. So, I was on an afternoon survey witha couple of other guys when the staff leader stops and starts shifting through some leaf litter. Knowing the intrigue boys have for frogs and lizards, I took the opportunity to get some water out of my bag. As I look up, there is a cockroach, not particularly big nor particularly hungry for my flesh, but RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE. This breaks the rule about personal space. This cockroach was all up IN my personal space- not cool. From my mouth left the most blood curling scream. Now, at this point, I wish I was either exaggerating or have the opportunity to save some embarassament...but there is no way around that scream. It was the most un-girly, life threatening scream I´ve left out, probably in my life. I dropped my backpack, and the cockroach fell on top of it, after wiggling its way out of the staff member´s hand who knew my fear of the ugly bug. I provoked intense laughter from the boys, as I had my hands over my face half sobbing half laughing at the sheer reaction the creature got from me. After half a minute of silence from me, due to laughing so hard, the boys stoped cracking their jokes because their worst nightmare was near reality- making a girl cry. I almost received the guilt-provoked apologies when I finally gasped for air and removed my hands showing I was laughing despite the few tears that had built up and came down. This ofcourse was a green light for the jokes to continue taking place, which I accepted with full responsibility. The funniest joke being the discovery of a new species of Screaming Peha, which is a bird that we frequently hear in the jungle that makes a human-like whistling noise.

My name is (YOUR NAME)...

I realize I said of the stories I´m going to share, they normally happen regularly, but this is the only exception. I hope. So, after sitting through two days of Emergency First Responder training, including a video that obsessively demonstrated the importance of blue gloves and the opening line of asking if you can help someone, ¨Hello, my name is (YOUR NAME) and I´m an emergency first responder. Can I help you?¨ We continuously joked with the slightest slip, bug bite, or complaint by saying our opening line. During dinner on a Wednseday night an emergency radio call came in from a staff member who had been leading a couple people on an overnight excursion. They had been doing everythinga ccording to a planned schedule which as a night walk at the top of a waterfall. While walking up the steep trail to the waterfall, the overcorrection on the slick trail caused someoneto slip through some steep brush and over the side of a 20meter waterfall, landing in very little water. The possibility of serious injury prevoked a very careful rescue plan as the group was an hour walk away- in the darkening jungle. The first froup of guys headed out with the spinal board, putting our training to the test. 45 minutes later, a second, larger group left. The quickest trail to the road was noted, the volunteers constantly and carefully witched out carrying the victim on the spinal board. Being on of the only Spanish speaking volunteers, I waited by our access to the raod for the truck that was going to drive the guy and a staff member to the nearest hospital. I rode with the truck to the pick-up point where head torches of 20 people finally emerged. Straped in the back of the truck was a possible spine injury about to drive two hours to a hospital- one of which would be on an unpaved ropad. It took four hours to extract him, three different towns, one week of recovery- but amazingly NO INJURIES!!

A day in the life...

The alarm went off at 6:15am- just enough time to get ready for breakfast at 6:30am. I was tired. very tired. Not because of my wake-up time which is considered a ´sleep-in´but from the 4.5 hour nightwalk I went on that got back at 1º1:30pm the night before. The walk consisted of wading through knee deep water, climbing over tree fall, and sear4ching for a swamp in the thick forest by way of a headlamp. The night was deemed successful by the sightings of numerous frogs, a couple birds, and a new friend- a whipless scorpion! Friends!!! This experience hasn´t been anything I expected but has been beyond what I thought I could appreciate. I coupld probably throw-up on cue by hearing the word ¨porridge¨too many times as that is our breakfast everymorning except Sundays. But, I can also easily identify a Eldorhina perezi before most realize its a frog. I knew I would encounter a lot of bugs- but I didnçt know I had the physical and emotional strength I have. Don´t be fooled- I´m still a weakling and couldn´t do a pull-up if I tried, but I can definitely walk for long amounds of time through harsh conditions- downpour to hot sun.

6:30 Breakfast
7:00 Leave for pitfall survey (amphibians)
ETA: 12:00pm
12:30pm Lunch
1:30pm Butterfly Survey
ETA 5:30PM
6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Nightwalk
ETA 10:00pm

The schedule changes from day to day, but that was just a sample of what I did. Meals are generally vegetarian, we get tuna about once a week. The rest of the time, its a type of beans, veggies, and either past or rice. But, I indulge in chicken at the market on Saturdays :-)


So, I´m a few weeks into my long experience- and I´ve truly acclimated and have enjoyed it so much! I have a few good stories, but in the daily life here, they seem fairly normal. I will blog the stories sepparately- to reduce reading size. But, thus far I have received my Emergency First Responder certification- which was used/tested shortly after completion, been trained on the surveys: butterflies, birds, and amphibians, been on numerious surveys collecting data, spent Saturday mornings at a nearby market that we travel to by canoe, picked up British words such as ´wellies´(rainboots), ´bonkers´(crazy), and ´fuck off´(no way), taught English at a local school, cooked for 30 people using only a gas stove, and ran out of deodorant- not that means too much here. This environment is very hard to describe due to its complexity and I love staying busy- but if inquiring minds want top know something, just ask :-)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Well, to kill the suspense, I have arrived safely. I flew to Miami with just enough time to get from one gate to the next and sit down for a few minutes, then I boarded my flight for Quito. Luckily for me, I sat next to a fellow university gradúate from Texas, Alejandra. Conversation included university studies, job prospects, Twilight (Im very serious), and meeting up in Quito in a few days. So, Ill have my own tour guide through the best parts of the city, in meantime I will probably end up in the worst parts of the city alone…ha ha just kidding, I have better street smarts then that- lets hope. Alejandra, my new life line, and I tipped a guy pushing a wheelchair a couple dollars to get us through the horrible customs line. Yes- we are skilled, and it was well worth my dollar, especially since- mind you, I was carrying my 40lbs backpack. Anywho, she and I said our brief goodbyes once I found my hotel car waiting to drive me safely to my sanctuary. Imagine my surprise when I saw a nice BMW waiting to take me….SIKE….I saw a lady holding a less than official pen sketched sign reading “Melanie- Villa Nancy” who whisked me away and put me in the back of the taxi, and without a word, she turned back to the airport and I was driven off in the taxi. I have a lot of trust in people. I immediately noticed the altitude effects on my body. My heart felt like it was working overtime. And, I also immediately noticed the American influence with an eatery named “American Deli” and the perfect place to rend a car- “Nazcar”.I arrived at my “hotel” about 15 minutes later. Its more like a hostal really. Its the size of a big house, very casual, but at least I have my own room (and bathroom for that matter) because in a week- I´ll be bunking it up. My sleep was occassionally interrupted by the gate buzzer, as it is required to be manually unlocked in order for you to enter the property. With my early morning rise, I noticed that Quito is very urban, with lots of traffic and buildings- but I have a beautiful view of the mountain side from my hotel. Quito is nestled right along side it and in the valley- so the cool air is very welcoming after leaving Wilmington´s ridiculously stupid-hot summer weather. I really didn´t intend to ramble this much so- I´m alive and I am about to search for lunch!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Score is 1-0 Nature

The weigh-in occurred, and it is official… my back WILL break.

Backpack: 19 kg ~ 41 lbs
Melanie: 52 kg ~ 114 lbs

So, I have spent the past couple weeks packing and re-packing my bags. Yesterday, momma sat down with me and went through every part of my bag to make sure everything going to Ecuador was absolutely essential- after all, I would be carrying around my luggage on my back. Her ruthlessness caused the removal of a battery powered hand fan, cooling mist, an extra toothbrush, batteries, a pair of jeans, and numerous other small items. I guess I can manage without the cooling mist, but a little luxury would have been nice when living 6 months wearing the same 6 shirts and 5 shorts in rotation. I started to think that I wasn’t tough enough to take on the Amazon.


I was reading a book yesterday. A good book. Minding my own business. I had a lamp on to assist my reading. And, out of no where a moth came crashing into the light, bouncing into my face, and getting caught in my hair. The moth had surprise on its side. And I freaked out. Dropped the book, losing my place, then wiggled in ways I didn’t know was possible. It was a test to see if I was ready for the jungle, and I failed. No other way around it. Nature won. I thought I was ready, but that simple episode caused me to re-think the entire trip…again. Maybe I am just too much of a “girly” hard-core girl. I can manage 900 lbs horses, jump 50ft cliffs into the ocean, go without showering longer than I’m willing to admit, but I like my blow dryer, my earrings, my flats, and my cooling mist! I’m still going- surprise, surprise- but I have started to mentally prepare for the endless sneak attacks the bugs will have planned for me. I am prepared….prepared to exterminate and disappoint the bugs with my malaria pills and 45% DEET- ha, take that!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dusting off the Passport.. the American one

So, I never thought I would see the day…me…blogging. eek. I apologize in advance for the pain you may suffer while reading scattered thoughts, horrible spelling, and my attempt to explain my experiences in Ecuador. But, hopefully as you read my blog, it will stay true to Melanie Forbes (and not some failed dream of being intellectual and witty) and you will hear my familiar voice. (clever, right? ...for those of you who missed that- that's the inspiration for the title of my blog)

Here I am- a week out from my big adventure, and like many of you- I have tons of questions. The most forefront right now is- how often will I be updating this? After all, I will be in the middle of the jungle, without electricity. I will make this promise: every chance I get to a computer- I WILL update my blog, facebook photos, emails, whatever. Those updates will probably be few and far between though. But, why worry about the things I can’t control, let alone don’t know? So, moving right along- I will tell you, my interested reader, a bit about what I will be doing in Ecuador.

Like many recent graduates, the immediate pressure of figuring out my “next step” hit me hard. I am young, ambitious, with the world at my finger tips- which left my options far from limited. With majors in Environmental Science and Spanish, one of my thoughts was to fully develop my Spanish. You would think that taking Spanish classes would keep me from stumbling in basic conversation, but thanks to the structural set-up of classes taught by “doctors” I am more of a listener than a talker (which doesn’t happen often). Needless to say, practice makes perfect- so I might as well practice more. I had bookmarked a web page back in the fall; a few weeks ago I was refreshed as to why- the organization Global Vision International offered a variety of opportunities, long term and short term, in numerous countries. I applied for a 6 month internship in Ecuador that focused on rainforest conservation, and a week later- I got a call saying I had been accepted. Although I was excited, I definitely had some hesitations as well: mainly the time frame. I was accepted June 8 and was told to be in Ecuador by June 28. The past couple of weeks have been hectic with visa applications, hotel reservations, and immunizations…FOUR to be exact- and they were horrible. I will be leaving Raleigh, NC to arrive in Quito, Ecuador on June 28. I will be in the capital for a few days before I’m off to the jungle for 10weeks. I will be in the Yachana Reserve, roughing it without electricity and rocking quick-dry clothing. I will then have a couple weeks off before returning to the reserve for the remaining 3 months, where I will be volunteering at a local high school and interning in the afternoons doing biological surveying.

Anyways, I know its brief- but you will be getting the full details in time. Mom made me promise not to blog anything that would make her worry about me- but that could just about be everything, since I am her baby girl. But, I feel like I would be doing a disservice by not mentioning the random snake I may cross or the local delicacy I probably shouldn’t have tried- so don’t worry, I won’t spare too many details.
Happy reading!