Aside from our Ecuadorian guide the lodge was entirely operated by the Huaorani, which we loved. We gathered in the dining area where it was an honor to meet all the Huaorani who would be working the lodge that week. Different people rotate working at the lodge allowing them all to learn this new "business."
We then ate the first of several delicious meals, got settled in our screened cabins (loved), and went for a hike to a beautiful canopy lookout at sunset. Pretty awesome first day! We fell asleep to the incredible, LOUD, sounds of the jungle. Birds, frogs, insects, lizards, dew dripping...it was amazing to hear.
At the end of the 3 hour hike we emerged at the far end of the airstrip where we first arrived and visited Moi's house. Moi is an elder and the most "famous" leader of the Huaorani tribe. He travels around the world speaking for the Huaorani in efforts to preserve their forest and way of life from the increasing advance of oil companies into their territory. Moi shares the stories of his incredible travels with the rest of the Huaorani who have never left the forest, describing stores in the states with "piles of food you can just walk in and take," and the ocean where "the water rises up to bite the land." He plays a leading role in the book "Savages," that Geoff and I read in preparation for the trip, so we looked forward to meeting him.
The next morning we followed a Huaorani hunting trail on a hike to learn about some of the Huaorani's most useful plants and trees. Deeter, the other guy on the trip, wasn't up for another hike with his bad knees so Geoff and I got a private tour! We learned about everything from medicinal plants to the trees best for canoes, tools...even sleeping in!
At one point Bei stepped off the trail, walked into the undergrowth, and selected some plant leaves (left). Then he showed us how to bend and remove the string fibers from the inside which are used to make a stronger than hemp string. Weaving with this material is a favorite pass time for the Huarani as they share stories. This is the same material used to make the cords Bei wears on his chest that they used to wear in place of shirts...some still do. Bei quickly twisted and wove the plant into string, crafted a design, and then tied it on my wrist. I am now wearing a bracelet made in the forest by a Huaorani elder...I may never take it off!
The inconsistency, and quick turn around is understandably hard for the kids. I want to go, and stay. I have to speak fluent Spanish to do this, as the kids are sadly already accustomed to learning in Spanish, instead of their native language. I am now inspired to study more than ever to be able to pursue these kinds of opportunities.