August 14th, 2012

I wasn´t sure what I was going to blog about today until I got to the computer lab and ended up sitting next to some American guy skyping with his dad. He is trying to convince his dad not to come to Ecuador because ¨there´s nothing special about it¨, because here, ´´it´s just an Amazon and this is just a town on the edge of the Amazon.¨ He also said that the indigenous areas were just ¨slums.¨ I literally laughed out loud when he said that the land he visited was totally overgrown, that there wasn´t even a trail to walk on. The main reason that his conversation is ridiculous is because he only got here five days ago, and because if you can´t see the beauty of the land itself, then it would take you much more than five days to understand the complicated culture of the rainforest. I feel like I barely understand it when I have been here for almost two months.

What I do understand about indigenous culture is that there is no such thing as ¨overgrown trail¨ because they make the trail as needed with machetes as they walk through the rainforest. They don´t need a trail, because they know how to follow the streams and rivers to find their way through the forest. The forest is special because it is their source of food, medicine, and materials for houses. The river is really important as well. I think the river is the most important thing for the kids, who play, bathe, wash clothes, swim, and fish in the river. They are in the river most of the day, for hours at a time. Adults boil traditional teas and medicines with water from the river. All of the domesticated animals that the people own drink from the river. I have gotten to know these people and consider them a second family. What worries me is that people like the guy in the computer lab today don´t understand the culture and to them, these people are just in the ¨slums¨ and therefore they are not important. People like him don´t understand that every time they waste plastic or use their cars they are supporting a business that threatens to destroy the river, and the people who get their life source from it.

The community I live in will probably have visible oil drills in a few years. Seismic testing has already been done, and there is a contract from the government for the next thirty years. Other areas nearby are being explored, especially in the Napo River. The Napo river flows through thousands of communities just like the one I live in, and if there were an oil spill there, it would destroy many people´s lives. The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico threatens animals and tourism, and seafood, but imagine if we depended on the gulf for a lot of our food, or if all of our animals had to drink from the gulf, if we bathed and washed our clothes, and cooked food with water from the gulf. If something happened to the river here, it would not only harm people physically, but spiritually as well.

After the spill in the gulf it took me a year to be able to go back to visit it. I felt guilty because I am partially responsible by supporting oil companies. The same view is held here when people own cars or motorcycles they are sometimes looked down on because they support the oil companies that are invading people´s land and threatening their way of life. People in the western world should also think about this when buying gas, plastic products, foods and beauty products that contain petroleum. Every time we do, we are threatening someone´s way of life somewhere in the world.


About legoldstein

I will be embarking on a journey to Ecuador on June 24th, 2012 as a traveling Robert Pinsky fellow, thanks to donations made to the BU MFA program by Bob Hildreth.
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