I wrote last time about feeling guilty, but in a lot of ways I am also very envious of people here. For one reason, people are able to live much more sustainably. They eat food grown from their gardens, make juice and tea from the trees growing around their houses, and get a lot of medicines from plants in the rainforest. The river is clear and cold, and people here can bathe, wash clothes, and brush their teeth in the river without being wasteful or using electricity to power washing machines.
Even though the grade school is very under-funded, the kids have a richer experience in many ways, such as the opportunity to have a bilingual education (Spanish and Kichwa) and even trilingual in the high school (Spanish, Kichwa, and English). They have traditional Kichwa dance classes, and smaller class sizes (10-15), and all this in a school that only has an 8-square-foot library, 7 to 8 open air classrooms, and three toilets that the kids have to bring their own toilet paper to use.
The kids have the forest as their playground. They knock leaf-cutter ants down from the trees, go on expeditions to find sloths, slide down rocks in the river on just their bottoms. They are also always showing me strange insects. This place is an entomologist’s heaven, and I am enjoying that about it. Even though I have a lot of bug bites all over my legs, I have also seen a giant praying mantis, beautiful butterflies (mariposas) and all sorts of strange beetles and spiders. I actually feel comforted by the tarantula living under the porch.
I am still working on Spanish. The little girls here are always braiding my hair, so when they find gray hairs they ask me why I have white hairs. I wanted to make a joke with them, so I tried to say “I’m an old woman” in Spanish (Soy vieja) but I accidentally said “Soy viejo” (I’m an old man.) I realized what I said after I got some really weird looks…but at least I have two more months to try to make another joke.