Quito- New Jungle Lodge

From December 4, 2009

DAT loves our relationship with the La Selva Jungle Lodge where we’ve worked for two years, but we feel our project would be a more rewarding experience for everyone if we could spend more time with communities in the jungle.

Our travel agent and friend, Lorena from Tierra Del Fuego, has been working with us for two summers now and has heard all about what we do.  When I told her were were looking for a second jungle lodge, she suggested we meet with Edwin, the owner or the new Siona Lodge.

Located in the Cuyabeno Reserve in North Eastern Ecuador, this new lodge works with the Siona Indians.  This native tribe is located in the middle of a nature reserve, so they don’t have the oil money/destruction coming in, which is a blessing as well as a disadvantage for the community.  One of their blessings is that they have been able to hold on to a lot of their native customs.

Edwin has invited Jesse and I to visit at the end of December and speak with the current President of the tribe about our program and if he would like our group to visit, we will add this lodge as a second lodge during the jungle experience for ACTion: Ecuador.  We also plan to spend a day engaging with the local artists to see if there are traditional dances, etc. that our artists can learn and take part in.

When speaking to Edwin about the traditional dance and dress he told us the elders of the community still hold onto the traditions, but the younger people yearn to be a little more modern.  I was reminded of the experience learning mask dance in Quilotoa.  Company Member Mady Spiegel explained it really eloquently in her piece for ACTion: Ecuador last year.

Our second night in Quilotoa we all piled into a one-room building; a classroom, where we pushed apart the desks, took off our shoes and socks and stepped on to the freezing stone floor. We laid down our masks and started exploring these strange creatures. The masks inched their way up our bodies slowly taking over, and then settled decisively on our faces. Each person embodied the character of their mask; many of us emerged as animals battling in the wild.

At one point during the workshop I looked up and saw a group of children from the community peering through the windows at us. They stayed there, out in the cold, dark Andean air for the entire 2 hour workshop. They shared our journey with us, laughed when we laughed, and clapped when we clapped.

After the workshop was over, the most flattering and interesting thing happened: all of a sudden the kids started scattering into the space where we had been. They rolled around on the floor imitating us. They looked at the masks with curiosity, wondering if they were allowed to pick them up and explore them as we had.

It made me think: aren’t these the masks that these same children sell at the market? This is the art of their ancestors, but do they get to learn about it as we did?

We were all moved by this experience of the children imitating us and in our discussions of this event an interesting point arose: How much creativity are these children exposed to? How often do they get to see adults play?

Are they so curious and eager to imitate because even though it’s part of their culture, it’s something they are unfamiliar with? Or is it interesting to them because we are silly gringos playing in their classroom? Maybe through our interest in their culture, we’ve encouraged an interest for them in their culture that has been lost.

It’s possible that we have reintroduced them to their own culture through their imitation of us. Copywrite: Mady Spiegel, 2009

I also remember experiencing this during the group I was there for.  I brought this up with Edwin.  Maybe it would be a good opportunity for us to encourage the young people simply by bring in people who are interested in learning and sharing this art.  And who better to be excited about something than groups of Theatre Artists!?  Am I right?

More news from the lodge after our visit, for now check their websites, La Selva and Siona

The night the lights went out in Quito

From December 3, 2009

Jesse and I have been having a great time networking in Quito and setting things up for next year!  We love coming back to a place that feels so familiar.  We’re staying at the Grinn House (Pronounced GREEN House), where our artists stayed last year, and eating at the “fish place” and the Mongolian BBQ- places we know and love.  But, one thing is different this time around..

Electricity Cuts!

Quito gets a lot of rain-  47.5 inches Average Annually- so they have installed a hydro-electric system.  It’s pretty cool, and very smart in my opinion, that they’re using their natural resources.  Unfortunately, because of global warming, their rain fall has severly plummeted in the last few months.  J and I have found ourselves in two extremely heavy rainfalls since we’ve been here, but that still doesn’t seem to be enought to get the power working again.  Luckily, in most of Quito, water is heater and food is cooked with gas, but still many businesses run on electricity.

We spoke at length with our travel agent, Lorena from Tierra del Fuego, about how the cuts effect her and her business.  Different districts have different cut times, for example The Grinn House gets cut from 8-10am.  Lorena’s business is in a district which gets cut from 7-9am and her home district cuts from 6-11pm.  This means she is effected by the cuts twice!  There was no choice for her but to find a generator– which, of course, in the height of electricity cuts is impossible.  She actually called out to her employees in the Galapagos who found ONE, the last one in the shop, for her.  They cost from $900 to $1000 bucks.  She said the government is currently purchasing a bunch from Colombia and Peru and getting them shipped in, so hopefully that will relieve some of the strain.

We also had to visit DAT’s emergency dentist, Dra. Karla, because Jesse was having a lot of pain which resulted in a wisdom tooth removal.  Dra. Karla’s office is in a district which gets cut between 10 am and 5 pm.  Can you imagine?  Her office is only open from 9-10 am and 5-7 pm!  How can she get any work done, I asked her?  In order for us to get cleanings, a filling repair for me and his extraction- we have literally been there 4 times!

But, what is there to do?  Simply wait for the lights to come back on.  Jesse and I might grab a rain stick at the market and do a little rain dance in Quilotoa!

Quito- Market Day

From December 2, 2009

This is our third time in Quito and when you walk down the isle of market stalls, things begin to look the same.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s full of little gems, it just gets harder and harder to find something new and interesting.

We bought a christmas tree at the market

I actually think there’s a hump.  You keep climbing and climbing until all of a sudden, all the normal market things blend together and you start to only see new things.  (For example, we bought our x-mas tree today.)

The newest thing in the market is the giant shell in which the tagua seed is found.  After being astounded by the amount of these giant shells we were seeing, we finally had to take a photo.

I see this as one of the benefits to really dedicating a large amount of time to a particular culture.  We’ve spent a lot of time here, but I think any of our artists would say they learned more than if they had only traveled here as a backpacker.  When you take 3 weeks (in ACTion: Ecuador’s case) and commit your time and mind to experiencing a new culture, that’s really the time when you find those little gems.

Mary K with the Tagua Shell