Saturday, July 19, 2014

Return to the rainforest

Return to Kapawi 

The rainforest calls to me. Once a person spends some time so close to nature, it attaches itself to you at some level. I feel this longing to stand among the ancient trees. Perhaps it is Arutam, the ancient wisdom residing in the forest.   

Post written in 2014
I am returning to Kapawi Ecolodge. This will be my first time back since publishing “The Achuar of the Pastaza River”. I will be doing further research. I have in mind to visit with my acquaintances in Kusutkau, Kapawi and Wachirpas communities. They are lovely people and it will be good to see them again. They were helpful in providing me with the information needed for my book. The same can be said for the staff at Kapawi Ecolodge. I am quite excited to be returning to see my Achuar friends there. 

I will be visiting a new community this trip. Remigo invited me to visit his community, Ishpingo, when I was in Kapawi in 2011. He has since moved to a new community, Pukuan, formed with his brothers and nephews. I am honored to be their first outside visitor. 

I will also be doing further editing and research. So there are several reasons to return to Kapawi. 

As exciting as the prospect of returning to Kapawi is, there is the reality of preparing for the trip. Setting the dates to be in the lodge was the first hurdle. Then the preparations began. First to consider are health precautions. I checked the CDC website for information. Check 
In addition to being up to date on routine vaccinations (polio, MMR, DDP, chicken pox, and flu) the health risks in Ecuador indicate the need for the following vaccinations: hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, rabies, and yellow fever. For malaria prevention, I will be taking one mefloqunine for the next 8 weeks. Then there are other health risks to prepare for, too. I have to filter my drinking water, or boil it. I need mosquito netting over my bed while in Remigio’s community. I will be buying the netting in Quito, and am taking a water filter. 

I know I will have to keep in mind the mantra “cook it, peel it or don't eat it” while I am visiting the communities. The most challenging is the chicha (manioc beer). Since the preparation process involves saliva, it is on the “should not” list, but it is cultural protocol to drink it when offered (which is often). This does cause a dilemma. To be socially correct, I must accept it. But my physician told me it is not a good idea. When I last visited the communities, my interpreter explained that I was allergic to alcohol. In fact, medications I take are contraindicative for alcohol. But this was not understood, and I was served chicha anyway. At first I just politely held the bowl. But eventually I did partake, even if small sips. The bowl is constantly refilled, so you can never get to the bottom any way. Fortunately, I escaped any illness that might come  from drinking the chicha. We will see how it goes this trip.

So, the prep for the trip goes on. I created a medical kit containing any items ordinarily on hand at home. There is no drugstore in the rainforest. Hopefully I will not  need most of the items. But I will be prepared! Cuts, burns, bites, fungus, headaches, sore throat…
With the health considerations taken care of, now I will pack my clothes. Since part of the travel to get to the lodge involves a small aircraft and a large canoe, I am restricted to 25 pounds. 

More on how this all worked out next time.

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