Monday, December 20, 2010

NHESP Update 12

Michael and Marcela, our inspiring teachers

 Dear readers,
Our journey has come to an end. Changed forever we are back home after many heartfelt good bye's. 
A big THANK YOU to our teachers Michael, Marcela and Carina. You were always there for us when we needed you, inspiring and teaching us so much. You have changed our lives and we will forever keep you in our hearts.  

Carina, our ever helpful assistant teacher

Julia and Shiram
            “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be       done without hope and confidence.”
-Julia Daniel

“From the very beginning, from the time we met the teachers and each other, we started learning. We learned throughout the first weeks and months and through the whole semester. All this learning was a gift for us that was given from all the people that we met during the semester. On top of all of it we especially learned from the animals, mountains, valleys, rivers, and all nature around us. Now the semester is coming to an end and we can start using the learned knowledge in our future and everyday life. Just then, when we start using the new knowledge we complete the semester and can feel the true graduation.”
-Armin Weise
  “Hello snowy winter, I love you. My hide is thickening and my antlers are starting to grow. The fear of the future can be transcended, life is beautiful.”
-Pedro Weidner

Tupack and Hannah
           “The art of ending forms in the challenges that we withstood, and the new limits that we reached. Our success is defined by our accomplishments, thus we walk the final walk, and praise our fortunate adventures.”
-Hannah Gelb

           “A finale is what has come, an epic adventure that started so new and ended so old. We thank everyone.”
-Dylan Herman-Dunphy


       “We should not focus on the end. We should focus on the beautiful experiences we’ve had and the beautiful people we experienced it with.”
-Jake Guarino

          “In the beginning we are focused on the vision of the future. In the end we reflect on the knowledge and love of the past. Now, I find myself at the end, but also a new beginning.”
-Gabe Allen
 “I have learned so much from this semester. I have gained a greater perspective on life, and learned to truly appreciate what I already have.”
-Connor Myers
  “A dream we were, a dream we are. Home we go to the ones who love us and there the world waits, open armed. Asked of our adventures, what do we say, what do I say? Time has closed us, time has wrapped us. Only now our cocoon is broken, and out tumbles our beating hearts.”
-Iyla MacArthur

  “Bocas sewed, but minds hover, dive, and jolt. We are not on your level, no not at all. Fifteen brothers and sisters with wild ways. Shared the times. Let loose. Morphed souls.  Yet this story cannot be told in tales but has to be lived. And for this thank you. Where are we? This cold foreign land, comforting smells, iced ground welcomes us. No mass. Let’s soar. Loved ones want us back. But we are torn in two. Transition awaits. Let’s embrace the pain and with our experience, wisdom, love, and spirit change. We’ve soaked up the knowledge and it’s up to every one of us not to throw it away. Take it slow, create, observe, give, dance, balance, endure, and sing. Let’s flow.”
-Hakeem Lewis

           We are on our way!
Our journey has just begun

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NHESP Update 13

Ascent to Cotopaxi
            Mountaineering and mountains go together like dumplings and soy sauce. “Layers” is the mantra for any mountaineering expedition. The meaning of layers is threefold:  mental layers, layers of clothing, and the layers of snow. While you're ascending a colossal mountain your mind tosses around a myriad of emotions and thoughts. For example, "Michael, don't you think this is a little fast-paced?" or "Everyone, this is not the time to express yourselves by laughing, I'm already struggling for oxygen" or simply "I’d love a hot chocolate right about now." Climbing a mountain is not a physical battle but a mental one. As Pedro wisely said, "Mountaineering is 98% mental, and 2% physical." Knowing how to properly regulate one's layers can help deal with the 2% physical effort. Being too warm causes you to quickly perspire. Though you might not feel the cold while moving, as soon as you stop the temperature will overtake you. Being cold can immobilize you. In terms of the layers of snow, you have to know how to interpret the mountain’s conditions. So here's what happened after learning about the significance of these various layers.

Cotopaxi in the background

            Our group embarked on a 3 day and 3 night group solo through the Paramo and plains around Cotopaxi. Though we had a lot of rain and hail, we trekked strongly. The Paramo looked like a giant graveyard scattered with the bones of sheep, wild horse, llama, rabbit, deer, and birds. Sometimes we found half-eaten carcasses, and Tupack also snagged an intact deer skull with huge antlers. After three mellow days of trekking, singing, expedition meals, wildlife,  mud painting, laughs, and special times with just each other, we reunited with Davicho, Marcela, and Michael who were on their own solo. Carina had driven back to Palugo for resupply, and she met us with Francisco. They arrived with resupply food and mail from home. Francisco, like always, spoiled us with "manichos," the Hershey bar of Ecuador. We all deposited rocks, bones, and other collectibles in his vehicle. It seemed like the group was comprised of a bunch of archaeologists and grave robbers. So we said "hasta luego" to "the boss" (Francisco) and started our trek for the day. During the hike, we shared our solo experiences and it felt good to once again walk as one. We ended up camping in a magical ravine surrounded by ash and basalt walls. There, people played "Hearts" and other card games, and explored the nearby sand dune. We found more antler, and Gabe and Dylan discovered a new creature more like a leviathan called a "Horse Fish". The next day would be our last day of hiking as we traversed across the east face of Cotopaxi to "Cara Sur"-the South Face. After a long day climbing up and down the

At the Refugio "Cara Sur" with Eduardo, our host

steep slopes, we came to the Refugio Ecuador lodge of Shiram's father, a 2 hour hike from the glaciers of Cotopaxi. There we were provided with beds, shelter, food, and a warm feeling of home. It was nice to see a slice of Shiram's life. Her father has summitted Cotopaxi over fifty times and knows the mountain better than anyone. We filled up on quinoa soup,more manichos, and enjoyed games of chess and rested. Man, how we were spoiled. After

our layover day, we hiked from "Refugio Cara Sur" to highcamp, our final base camp until the 12:30 a.m. ascent. We pitched tents and all huddled into one big one. There we sang any song that came to mind and mentally prepared for the climb. We sent out good vibes because the mountain had not been summitted for two weeks because of snow conditions. The night before, 4 towering Austrians were unable to climb up because of exhaustion. The plan was to sleep for 5 hours, wake up, pack up our self-sewn daypacks, eat a light snack, gear up, and begin the 7-8 hour climb. It was hard to sleep because of the sheer excitement, but we did just that. The reason you climb at night, especially in Ecuador, is because of the danger of the sun. The sun combined with a fracturing glacier and a lot of snow creates prime

Armin leading our pack horse to high camp
avalanche conditions. As always, we lucked out, the moon was bright and enabled our group including Eduardo and Shiram's 14-year-old brother to climb by the moon's silvery glow. As it reached 3ish, the most frigid part of the night, times were tough. You couldn't feel most of your extremities, and a feeling of nausea and sleepiness were induced, but by then we were in a good rhythm. The conditioning we’d had climbing and working at over 14,000 feet helped, but not even five layers of clothes stopped the burning wind. At around 5, the sun was beginning to pop out, and a feeling of pure joy ran through our bodies. The sun provides us with so much energy,and on this semester, we have learned to appreciate its many treasures. So in the end, because of avalanche factors, we reached 150 meters from the crater. Surprisingly, when Mico informed us that we couldn't go any furthur, we all seemed very content; you have to enjoy what you've got. It was such a special moment

Pedro on rapid descent

that we just had to take a full breath, and respect how far the mountain let us step. We had gone the farthest in two weeks than anyone else, and the highest elevation ever that our entire group had made it. "The mountains are the means, the man is the end, the idea is to improve the man, not to reach the top of the mountain" -Walter Bonatti
            So we're back home with a mere 9 days left in Palugo, filled with cooking, academics, the market at Otovalo, crafts, and each other. I'll be sending the next update when we have landed in Marlow once again.

Snow, snow, snow........magical

Total Mountain Expedition distance: 120km
Total elevation gain: 3050 meters (more elevation gain than Mt. Everest)

Armin, Tupack, Gabe, Jake, Pedro, Dylan, Connor, Hannah, Julia, Shiram, Iyla and Hakeem love you all.
See you soon

Happy Birthday Rebecca!-Hannah

Yes please Mom acting class- Hakeem

A dormant yet fiery mountain

By Dylan Herman-Dunphy

A luminous figure in a darkening sky

Its white peaks glaze the very tips of the atmosphere

Birds do not dare fly as high as its summits

Only people, people withought fear, can reach as great a height as it's glacier tipped ridges

at night it is a dormant cone surrounded by a field of smaller children

but in the day it rages snow, rain, and hail from the heavens

only the volcano can accomplish all that it is

Monday, November 22, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 10

Leaving Muerte Pungo

It’s crazy how our group has grown throughout our time together. There are actions that have just become innate, such as setting up our expedition tents and taking full responsibility of our chores; ranging from digging poop holes to keeping our eyes peeled in search of scarce firewood.

            This is officially the final countdown, with no more than 3 weeks left.  We have to really step back and lovingly appreciate each other and cherish the ups and downs of each day.

Now for our mountain adventures:

            Before reaching the base of Antisana volcano, we trekked 10 hours a day for three days from Palugo. The first night, we slept in the Paramo.  The following night, we slept next to Laguna Muertepungo (Place of Death Lake).  Then, after a 13 hour day, ascending and descending the many hills of the Andes cordillera, and meeting a white-tailed doe, we reached the foot of the beautiful Antisana.

Our base camp at the foot of Antisana
            The next day Davicho, a friend of Michael and Marcela, welcomed us. He is an experienced rock climber and is on his way to becoming a licensed mountaineering guide. He brings much energy, laughter, and wisdom to the group. He saved Marcela from being the singleton of the pack in terms of nationalities - we now have two spirited Columbians. Davicho brought with him gear, clothing, and a resupply of food. Our food and kitchen managers, Shiram and Julia, organized all the food for the next few days, while our gear manager, Connor, suited us all with helmets, harnesses, carabiners, ice axes, and crampons. The next day, we would head up, another vertical hour and a half, to glacier school.

            We said our goodbyes to the Andean starlight hummingbirds, llamas, wild horses, and Andean
A snowy day in the Paramo
wolves, and headed out. We knew our base camp would become their new abode. On the glacier, Michael and Davicho taught us so much. First, we started getting comfortable walking on the snow with our crampons. We then learned how to wield our ice axes and use them as sensors, testing the strength of the layered snow, and how to properly self-arrest (digging the blade into the ice in case you or your rope team fell into a crevasse). We then learned more about the layers of snow and how to read and test for avalanches. Next, we put our recently attained knowledge to the test. We roped up in fours and trekked, crossed crevasses, and practiced self-arresting. We could not spend too much time on the glacier because there was more than 7 feet of snow.

Trek from Palugo to Antisana
            Right now, we are preparing for our 3-day group solo. We will trek around lakes and through hills and finally reach Cotopaxi, our last hurrah.

We cannot wait to fill you in on the remaining week of the expedition filled with snowball fights, wildlife, and sharing time with each other.

If you have to take a long journey, you just carry very little. If you want to climb to a great height you must travel light.

Hasta Luego! The NHESP 2010 Semester!

Connor, Marcela, Carina, Tupac and Hannah

Pedro trekking in the Paramo
Packing up

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 9

Our rock climbing day near Palugo

There have been tranquil vibes all throughout this week. Every one of us is finding the right space within the group. What’s so amazing is that when there is disagreement, of some sort, harsh feelings don’t seem to linger; what a relief.
Spanish lesson with Marcela
We began the week with an opportunity to see a play that Marcela wrote, produced, and starred in. We took a bus into Quito along with friends from Palugo Farm. The play was called Sed and it starred Marcela, a friend, and the talented musician Nandino, Isolina and Samuel’s son from Shiwacocha. The play was in Spanish and was about the tangible qualities and the spiritual essence of water. It definitely made your mind work, and it was quite unique and inspiring.
Economy lesson with Gino at the Dammer house
            Throughout the week we’ve been working on the many projects that we have dedicated ourselves to. The two main projects of the week 
have been felting and ceramics. Marcea taught us about felting and gifted us with her knowledge and easy-going energy. Some of us are making hats, gloves, pouches, and slippers out of sheared wool from alpacas, llamas, and sheep. Next, we crafted red clay pieces with Adela. She taught us various techniques and how to really work with the clay. Sometime before we leave on our next expedition, we will experiment with firing our mugs, bowls, plates, and figurines in a hay pit. The day we worked with clay, we were lucky to have Shiram’s family come for dinner. They made a traditional meal in honor of the Day of the Dead.  The dinner included bread shaped like children, rice with mushrooms, and a very popular drink called Colada Morada, made out of sweet fruits and purple corn. Shiram’s mother gave a brief talk on the history and importance of the holiday.
            We spent a day dedicated to working on semester pages and finishing up various projects. Armin, our semester book manager, assigned everyone a page, ranging from: the process of making Oyacachi bowls and pilches, herbology, leatherworking, ecology, etc.  After the pages were thoroughly completed, some people dried herbs for cooking oils and medicinal uses, some made bamboo flutes, and some collected firewood. Marcela taught a Spanish class.
            Then the day arrived when we would start our solos. We woke to an early start and began chores. Then we had breakfast and talked about the philosophy of what a solo is. The process was to find a secluded spot on the upper fields of the farm to go to with a liter of water, clothes, and a sleeping pad, and to just think and enjoy being. The solo was for three days and two nights. You had to remain in the circle you had made and feed yourself through your thoughts. It was an interesting and difficult time with some moments of enlightenment; the days were long and warm, and the nights were longer and cold. After coming back from solo, we all seemed to be in a peaceful space. We shared some of our stories; some people said they sighted foxes, humming birds, and lizards, for example.  Then, we headed out to the hot springs in Papallacta to finish the cleansing process. There we swam in the hot pools, had lunch, and simply relaxed and looked at the towering mountains surrounding the springs.
Tatoo, waiting for work
            The next day, Carina and Nicole took us to Tatoo Adventure Sports where we met Mauri and his  spouse Gaby, friends of the three Dammer brothers. Tatoo is a local outdoor company based in Ecuador.  It’s been around for about fifteen years and was started by Mauri and his wife. Tatoo began when Mauri starting to do screen printing in his room. Within a year, word got around, and now Tatoo is a successful local and sustainable outdoor company that makes mountaineering gear and wear. Its branches are solely in South America. We met Tatoo’s workers, who helped us make quick-dry trekking pants for Cotopaxi. The day was amazing, and showed us all how something is built from the ground up. “You can’t grow (a business) from a desk -- you have to be in the frontline.” –Mauri.  
After we said goodbye to Mauri, Gaby, and the workers, Carina and Nicole treated us to ice cream in the idyllic city of Cumbaya. The ice cream parlor had more flavors then you can imagine. Something interesting happened while we were devouring our ice cream. Often in the U.S., you see homeless or begging grownups, but when we were eating two little girls, no older then ten years old, walked around to each one of us and begged us to buy candy. They pleaded and pleaded and pretended to sob. This really took us aback.  From then on, everything was dead silent and a sadder, but necessarily more sober, tone permeated the group. That night, as if we didn’t have enough sweets, Marcela baked us a chocolate cake to simply celebrate being alive.
Spider on the wall
            The next day we had breakfast without Carina, Marcela, and Michael. The cooks made a delicious breakfast of tiestos (flat bread) with jam and moracho, a corn-like oatmeal dish. After breakfast, we met up with the teachers and Thomas, and headed down to the bodega to prepare for a day of climbing. There we gathered ropes, harnesses, helmets, and shoes, and took off to a local rock face about ten minutes away from the farm. There, we set up four routes on the basalt and climbed all day. We learned techniques from the experienced brothers, and all belayed each other up and down the face. The grade of the routes ranged from 5.6 to 5.10 A. After climbing and fueling up on snacks, we decided to walk over to the Jose’s Nursery.  Jose is a good friend of the farm. There we learned about various trees and their uses. We each bought two trees to plant in our solo spots. We also caught trout with a rod and doe, and learned how to properly gut a fish.
Where is the next foothold?
            It sounds like a lot of activities for a week, but I assure you we did them all. These remaining days we will do our best to keep in good health and prepare for our two-week expedition. Let’s see what the rest of our time has in store. Hasta Luego!

Happy Birthday Sis- Connor

Spanish with Julia
Tragar-to devour
Holer-to smell
Ensenar-to teach
Shiram, cleaning up after milking

Quechau with Tupack


Monday, November 1, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 8

Preparing our Cataraft for the Jatun Yaku

A Poem by Julia

Every night my feet are reminded,
Reminded of the earth and how
Close we have been to it.
The sky over this river is a grey
Pad of simplicity: moon full and
Its rays coat the perfectly rounded
Stones like fresh dew.
The water’s rapids sound
Distant but we play, we enjoy,
And we learn here.

We’ve arrived back at Palugo Farm from our month long expedition experiencing the flows of Ecuador’s culture and diverse topography. Through our various trips into remote communities and lively cities, we got to see and feel the true Ecuador. Our trips were richer and more genuine than any voyage a tourist could take. So for this, our group would like to say a resounding thank you to the Dammers, to Kroka, and to the nourishing parents, siblings, friends, family, and schools that made this possible.

Checking out the maps with Thomas
Going downriver

From our luxurious stay in Tena, where we saw monkeys and parrots, ate from lime trees, played street soccer, caught snakes and lizards, played billiards, and ate juicy fruits, we said goodbye to our more than comfortable stay and drove to the river. Catarafting down the Jatun Yaku was the second chapter of our expedition. We got to our campsite and met up with Thomas and the Dammer brothers’ friend, Anjo, a fellow guide and experienced kayaker. We prepared the cataraft, which Thomas had engineered, and practiced paddling and swimming white water rapids. We woke up the next day and rafted down through class three and four rapids to our next camp on a beach. Michael and Anjo scouted out the nearby areas and found a local charka (a nomadic Ecuadorian farm) where they uprooted yucca (a common Ecuadorian crop, kind of like potatoes) and chopped a head of green plaintain with machetes. We ate more than we should have (boiled yucca, fried yucca chips, plaintain chips, and guava, a sweet fruit) and called it a night.  The next day would be a layover to catch up on rest and explore. The next day, Anjo gave kayaking lessons. Hannah, Dylan, and Armin successfully did a combat roll, a maneuver used in kayaking when one capsizes. Next, the whole group ferried across the strong currents to a vine hanging from the trees.   There we all climbed and saw how far we could swing, then released and fell into the soothing river. Then we ventured into a canyon and trekked around. Nicole taught a class on biodiversity and we learned about walking trees and sleeping plants. This eco-region is home to a diverse web of species from Conga ants that can put you in bed for a day, to the most colorful butterflies. We finished off the day with hacky-sack, fishing, and preparing for the next day on the river.
Our home for the night
With an early start, we paddled the lower section of the river. Carina, Pedro, Armin, Dylan, and I kayaked the flat-water section and a few lower class rapids with Anjo and Thomas. We stopped in several places to climb rocks, vines, and trees, and to cliff-jump into the water. The following day, we made it to Puerto Misahualli where we said our goodbyes to Thomas, Anjo, and Nicole, and welcomed Marcea into our crew. There we took hired pickup trucks to Capirona where we hiked with fifty-pound bags and the disassembled cataraft. We hiked for about 3 ½ hours to a remote community called 
Shiwacocha; there Isolina and Samuel greeted us. We rested the remainder of the afternoon and had scrumptious fish soup for dinner. The next day, we worked in the charkas, did various other chores, and began our next project of making bowls and cups out of pilches, a native fruit. We harvested the pilches and began to carve and engrave. Then we went into the bush to cut palms to fix Samuel’s roof. We got our faces painted with Huito’s friends and family with paint used for festivities and war. Later on, we ferried the river and went to Isolina and Samuel’s 
main charka to harvest papaya, plaintain, bamboo shoots, cocoa (chocolate), and bananas. For dinner we had fish and chichi, a drink only made by women.  They chew the yucca plant, spit out into a fermented paste, add boiled water, and serve. The next day, Hannah and Dylan woke up with Isolina and Samuel at four in the morning and began the day by drinking wayusa and cinnamon tea for a couple hours in complete silence. When the rest of us woke up, we had breakfast and went on a hike to learn about medicinal trees, harvest oily nuts, and explore waterfalls with bats. The next morning, we woke at four and said our goodbyes to Isolina, Samuel, and the rest of the friends and family. After catarafting for six hours, we canoed to Puerto Misahualli. From Puerto Misahualli, we took an hour long ride to Tena, and then a 6 hour bus ride into Pifo, where we met up with Francisco, who drove us home. These next two weeks will be filled with crafts, cooking, and preparing for our next expedition to Antisana for glacier school and mountaineering to prepare for Cotopaxi. It is key to take advantage of every second because unfortunately we only have about five weeks more in Ecuador.

Jungle life
Words with Tupac in Quechua

Amaru- snake
Atuk- wolf
Ruku- finger
Inti- sun
Nuka shuti mican-my name is…

Dylan’s Ají Recipe

Trekking to Schiwakotcha
-       7 Ají (seeds and all)
-       ½ Orange for juice
-       1 Lime for juice
-       1 Carrot
-       1 Onion
-       2 Cloves of garlic
-       Pinch of achiote
-       1 Tbsp salt
-       1 Tbsp paprika
-       ¼ cup Ají powder
-       2 Tbsp vegetable oil
-       Pinch of ginger powder
-       1 tomato
-       1 cup of water

1.     Chop up all the vegetables and put into a bowl
2.     Add all the dry spices and mix thoroughly with all of the vegetables
3.     Add orange and lime juice and mix again
4.     Mix in oil and water and mix thoroughly
5.     Let sit for around 30 minutes in a cold region
6.     Mush the entire mixture to get the vegetable juices to go into the water and oil
7.     Let sit for another 5 minutes
8.     Enjoy!
Options to change:
1.     more Ají=spicier
2.     instead of mushing the mixture you could put into a blender

            Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 7

Left to right standing: Hannah, Jake, Dylan, Hakeem, Gabe, Shiram, Armin
kneeling: Michael, Tupac, Carina, Marcela, Pedro, Julia, Connor, Iyla

Dear readers,

It was tough saying our farewells to the families in Zuleta, especially to German and Antonio. They were a goofy duo who were highly amused by teasing and playing pranks on every one of us. Just as our group began to settle into the rhythm and comfort of home in Zuleta, having just unpacked our bags 4 days ago, a bus to the city of Cayambe -- the city of bizcochos -- was awaiting our departure. This nomadic pattern of 3 to 4 days here and 3 to 4 days there, was preparing us for constantly moving through the bush jungles. Hugs, shakes, and some newly acquired gestures were shared before  we set off.
With heads out the windows, as if we were dogs licking the wind, we looked back at (the not quite discovered) town of Zuleta, wondering if we would ever experience a moment of showing up again one day and seeing German artfully crafting his leather and saying, “Buenos Dias!” The bus ride to Cayambe was not much fun. Some of us had queasy stomachs due to a recent fast followed by a feast, which we undertook as a group when we took part in slaughtering a pig. In Cayambe, the buttery scent of bizcochos lit our nostrils before our “venus llanera” (Ecuadorian made boots) took us around a corner to a courtyard. Some indulged in numerous trips to the toilet.  However, we all indulged in plates of Cayambe’s traditional dish of sugary, fluffy, floury bizcochos.
Bathing in the hot springs of Oyacachi
Much to our surprise, a familiar face arrived in the courtyard where we were gorging. Francisco Dammer (Michael, Thomas and Mathias’s father) brought letters from friends and families to our crew. (Thank you all for writing!!) While letters, postcards, and memories floated around, once again it became time to go, so we relocated our meandering minds and found our space in the present. We loaded up two hired pickup trucks with packs, new supplies, and ourselves, said our goodbyes to Francisco, and were off. We went onto a gravel road. At one point, our highest elevation on the narrow winding roads reached 4,000m., a little less than Mt Pasochoa.
We soon reached the land of water and the small, isolated town of Oyacachi. Cold, fog, dense foliage, and flowers welcomed us to the stunning town, along with Carolina and Frankilins (our hospitable hosts). We settled in quickly and made our way to Oyacachi’s well known attraction: natural, volcanic hot springs. There is a rule of thumb when you bathe in Oyacachi’s volcanic springs; you have to make your way into the rumbling river 7 times after coming out of the hot pools. This is said to purify your body with minerals and strengthen your immune and nervous system by going in and out of the polar temperatures. After drying off and getting into our comforting, warm clothes, we made our way to a local restaurant where we were served trout alongside sweet onions and tomatoes for dinner. Shortly after, we called it a night.
Connor's first attempts at creating a bowl
The next morning, we woke with the sun and went right into chores helping Carolina around the house and garden and milking the cows. We had a delicious breakfast of pristinnos (doughnuts), typical at an Ecuadorian breakfast, and colada de avena, an oatmeal-like food. After washing our bowls and group dishes, we had a lengthy chunk of solo time; three hours to roam Oyacachi. People came back with adventurous tales of stalking deer, climbing mountains, crossing rivers, and meeting old wise men in the brush. After sharing our experiences, we had a brief pop quiz to review permaculture, Social Realism, Spanish, and Ecuadorian anthropology.
Bowls are taking shape
Next we started our project carving wooden bowls. We met Hector, a sculptor whose artistic career has taken him as far as Quito. He has expositions in the capital, making life-size carvings of spectacled bears, the revered animal of Oyacachi. We met Messias and Alejandro, two other sculptors, who are mute and deaf. It is said there is a bacteria in the water that often results in deformation or other disorders among the local people. The aliso tree, we would use for our bowls, was cut and then halved the day before carving. We started by drawing the basic shapes of our bowls, then used axes and axed out the shape as much as we could.  When we found the appropriate shape, we used machetes to separate each bowl from the larger piece of wood. The next step was to use a sculpting tool called an azuela to gut the bowl. Much help came from our talented teachers. The finishing step was to sand and wood-burn a design. It took us each a day and a half to make a single bowl. Messias and Alejandro said they could bang out 20 a day. We wrapped up our final night by having a wonderful dinner at Carolina’s of chieppers, onions, ice, and the remainder of the pork, we had brought from Zuleta.
Hiking through the jungle
The next morning, we had an early start, said our farewells and began to hike. We first hiked 11km out of Oyacachi, joined another trail and did another 11km. In total we hiked 14 miles, then camped on the Cedro River. Here we had a day layover, where we unsuccessfully fished, then cooked and explored the nearby cliffs. The next day, we hiked 4 ½ miles through pretty rough terrain. We crossed a few decaying bridges where we had to harness and rope up. It was a long day and we hiked for 12 hours into the night, each time descending more into jungle terrain. We slept near the Santa Maria River, ate a late dinner and had a thorough sleep. This week, we will be catarafting and kayaking down the headwaters of the Napo River and then doing a half day trek to the native jungle community of Shiwacocha. You will hear from me next when we get back to Palugo, next Thursday, after this first month-long expedition.

Hasta Luego!  Hakeem

Poem of the week
By Dylan

More than a simple forgotten walk, an adventure filled with joy exhaling out of the souls of one another. A mesmerization of wonder to see leaves as big as people and trees as tall as buildings and birds just as colorful as a painting in a museum. It was more than a trek, it was a voyage of learning.

Iyla, Hannah and Shiram ooling off

A drenched but happy Jake

Spanish 101
River: Rio
Bridge: Puente
To fish: Pescar
Jungle: Selva
Tree: Arbol
Monkey: Mono

Friday, October 15, 2010

NHESP 2010 Update 6

Proudly showing our leatherwork in Zuleta

Dear readers,
More than a week ago we packed our bags and started our expedition.  San Clemente seems long ago, but I know our group has preserved the teachings, emotions, and feelings of enlightenment that we all experienced.   When we arrived, we split up into groups of two, and one group of three, and each group joined a family.   San Clemente is a beautiful place hugged by the extinct volcano Imbabura.

Embroidering in San Clemente's Community Center

            Every meal was rich, and we were served like kings and queens, superior to any five-star restaurant in New York City.  To give you a taste of some of the divine food we all indulged in here is a description of a typical San Clementian breakfast we were served:  deep fried empanadas, queso (cheese), scrambled eggs with onions and leeks, warm leche (milk) coffee, tea, arepas(flat bread) with marmalade and butter, and a colorful fruit salad made up of bananas, melón, pina, and mango.
Construction of the adobe house
We talked about the equinox and solstice, and when it’s best to plant and harvest.  We moved a huge rock that was originally carried from the mountains by four men.  It took our whole group and a few more to move it to a garden as a table.  The next project was to construct an adobe house for a 105 year-old woman.  Pigs, scorpions, dogs, and chickens roamed the cobbled roads and green fields of San Clemente. Michael and Iyla had an intense match of mud wrestling, and soon we all were involved.   We saw Tupac´s beautiful house and met his mom, dad, and brothers.  The local women showed us their embroideries on tablecloths, scarves, and shirts.  After some brief lessons, we got started on our own detailed shirts.  At one point while we were embroidering,  Kichwa (the native tongue), Spanish, German, and English were all being spoken at once.  You can imagine the atmosphere.
Jake and Tupac ploughing
The next day, we worked a field with two oxen, and played a huge soccer game down at the local school with family and friends.  Dylan and Gabe scouted some future Ecuadorian National team players and started to train them.  We then ended our day with a delicious dinner of creamy soup with queso, papas (potatoes), peas, and sweet tree tomatoes for dessert.  We went to bed to the loud talk of the sapos (tree frogs.)
Our finished leather work: machete sheaths, book covers
and handbags
Marcela, Michael, and Carina then said farewell and we went on a group solo hike up half of the mighty Imbabura and up to Cubiche --  a mostly vertical climb.  After two hours of hard climbing,  we reached the summit and our eyes were presented with four sapphire lakes.   We cooked, had rhyme sessions, played hackey sack, swam, and watched the sunset all atop of a volcano crater.  The next day, we hiked close to three hours down the face of Cubiche, to a neighbouring town called Zuleta.  Here we met the infamous Herman, a master leatherworker and skilled musician.  He crafts horse saddles, pants, belts, and pretty much anything you can make out of cuero (leather.)  We´ve been learning to use leather to make main lesson books for our graduation and machete sheaths for the jungle.  Working with leather is very intrícate and difficult.  As Herman says “the patience is the art.”  We bought a four-month old, red and white pig from some local farmers and then learned how to properly slaughter a pig from a 75 year-old farmer and his wife.  We decided to fast from the time it was killed to the festivities.  It takes a little more than a day to thoroughly cook a pig in a clay and cob oven.   
Iyla modeling Herman's artwork
Later this week we will be venturing into a remote town called Oyacachi to make bowls, to fish, and to go to some natural hot springs.  You´ll hear from me next as we prepare to cataraft down the Rio Napo.

Working with Herman

Happy Birthday Mom-Connor
Happy Birthday Dad-Dylan


Pedro and Hakeem studying the art of embroidery


-An acrostic poem by Dylan H.D.

"On the road again... "