Hi everybody!

The Ecuador team is now home safely and extremely grateful for our experiences. I’m sorry we weren’t able to blog while on the trip but I will try to recap the moments that stood out most to me. One of the first things the Shuar people shared with us upon our arrival was “Nothing is impossible for the Shuar.” That was the theme of our trip and just as nothing is impossible for the people we were working with, it seemed as though nothing was impossible for us. We faced physical obstacles that on paper seemed implausible. We carefully climbed up and down the side of a mountain to reach a beautiful waterfall. All 11 of us successfully made it to the waterfall despite the fact that there was no clear path and only a rope (and inspiring words) to guide us up and down. We carried large pieces of lumber through marshy fields to be the base of a welcoming center for future volunteers. We carried bags and bags of sand, soil, and rocks to build a bathroom. We used machetes to clear a safe path in the jungle where we spent a great deal of time learning about plants and animals. We swung on branches like Tarzan,  tried larvae, and slipped and fell on out butts (that was mainly just me) while exploring the Amazon. We learned traditional Shuar dances at night and listened to historical stories about Shuar beliefs. We bonded with the children and adults over origami, a craft that side-stepped any language barrier we faced in other situations.  Every day we climbed a muddy hill to reach our humble abode which became home to us and an assortment of insects that were as colorful as the Amazon and as big as our hands. 

This past week was the craziest week in my life. And I spent it with some of the most interesting and amazing people I have ever met. I should not have been surprised, but I was continuously amazed by how supportive my peers were of one another. It was inspirational to see how dedicated the Shuar were to preserving their people’s culture and land. The people we worked with loved everything about their land, their family, and their way of life. The Shuar people opened up their home to us and made it clear that we would always be welcome. Our group agreed that we all found a type of serenity in Arutam that is hard to find in our overly stimulated lives at home. It was so refreshing to have no access to cell phones or Internet. I felt so focused on who was around me and truly enjoyed the company and the work. Ecuador is a beautiful country filled with energetic and warm people and I feel so lucky to be part of a trip that was exposed to fulfilling service and unique culture. 

Thank you to all those who are posting- I am really enjoying reading about your experiences!!!