As we wrap up the second week, we finally feel at home in our communities. Adapting to a way of life so different from our own was difficult, and not without bumps in the road, however, after two week we have grown accustomed to the Kichwa way of life. One of the hardest things was that we are unable to communicate with our families and friends because we only get internet and phone service closer to the town. In addition, we are also far removed from technology and chaos of world events. Despite these shortcomings, our host families have treated us as if we are one of their own, if not better. Just this morning a seven year old boy ran up a mountain to stop a bus that was quickly evading us, as several other people yelled and whistled to catch the drivers attention. We had never previously spoken to any of them and yet they went out of their way to help us. That is one thing that is very special about Kichwa culture, their sense of community. Another thing we have noticed about the culture here is that the people all seem to have a sense of simple happiness. They work extremely hard to feed their families and go through the trials and tribulations associated with living in the jungle such as fighting off a Watusa (the largest rodent in the world) with a machete, or accidently encountering a group of Boa Constrictors on their way to work, and yet they never stop smiling. This may have to do with the importance they place on relaxing and spending time with their families. After a long day at work or school, they always make time to sit and share their stories with one another, to laugh and enjoy the presence of their loved ones.
This week, we had a charla (meeting) with the Padres de la Familia (the parents association at the school in Santo Domingo) to discuss planting a chakra (plantation) of Guayusa behind the school. They all seemed excited about the idea, as it would bring in more funding for the school and its students. We also discussed the possibility of implementing a compost system at the school to provide a place for organic waste as well as improve the quality of the soil in the chakra. In addition, we brought up the idea of planting a vegetable garden to provide the students with new nutritious food items. After the charla it was decided that at 7 AM this coming Monday, the Padres would reconvene, and we would all begin the preparation for the 300 Guayusa plants Runa plans to send. While teaching English and computer skills has been incredibly rewarding, we are excited to begin these new projects!