I just arrived from the long awaited boat ride to the amazon communities of Ana, Atodi and Arimum. These communities are directly related to each of our projects and so we had the opportunity to finalize our field research with the locals. But perhaps more importantly we got to discover a new civilization and a new way of living that is absolutely remarkable. The people of each community received us with such warmth it was contagious. They may not have much in terms of basic luxuries, but suddenly it felt that everyone’s mood just improved 100 fold. I have heard through the grapevine that some other CAP had a running joke about our boat accommodation for our trip and yes granted I was also a little skeptical about spending 3 nights in hammacs, but let me tell you all, the boat was one of my favorite part of the trip. Sleeping on a hammac is not as bad as it seems, after a while you get the hang of it and learn how to move in it without falling off, and nothing could beat the beautiful sunsets, sunrise and night sky view off a boat in the middle of the amazon. My one complain is that I now know who in our class snores and I can probably recognize each one of my boat mates by their noctural sound.
While I opted for sleeping on deck, half of our group had the honor of being the first guests of the Atodi hostel complete with showers and bathrooms. They slept in a hut where they hung their hammacs. I hear that after getting over your fear of tarantulas hanging over your head the nights there are quite lovely as well.
The main purpose of the trip to the communities was to experience their tourist attractions in order to evaluate the quality of the experience so that we could provide accurate feedback. In Ana we saw both the fish and bee farming operations. Both consulting team had the opportunity to sit down with the leaders of each operations to do more research. For our team, the meeting turned out to be extremely successful. It reinforced the recommendations we had planned on making based on our research and it helped us identify an issue we had not thought about before, community incentive for replication of bee keeping process.
In Atodi, we got to experience the new hostel, a 5hr trek in the forest leading to a mini-lake where we could take a mud bath and a cultural night where the villagers showed us some of their cultural songs and dances and where we shared some “American culture” aka the Hokey Pokey and YMCA. Yes we had a terrible time trying to find cultural american music everyone knew! But while we were brainstorming however, Nana (from Ghana) treated us to an African song!
In Arimum, we took another hike, this time the guide showed us all of the medicinal trees of the forest and explained to us how they use the bark and sap to heal sick people. Then we were taught how to weave handicrafts with the ladies of the village. I made a basket…well I weaved a row of the basket and my 9 year old teacher finished it!
What was so striking in all of these villages, and throughout the whole trip in fact, is the presence of strong women leadership in all of the endeavors. There seems to be an acceptance of women as leaders and as equals coming from the men. Maybe my thinking was too stereotypical before I came, I assumed that the mentality would be much more “machisto”, but it is refreshing to see that it is not at all the case.
On our way back from the last community, it was time for us to start putting our papers together. It was quite an experience to type a report on a boat in the middle of the amazon, with very limited places to plug in and sitting in a hammac. Though to my surprise and relief no one got sea sick! Tomorrow we present our work to Davide and the rest of PSA…wish us luck!