Saturday, August 30, 2008


Here I am wearing my grandfather's wardance regalia.

I'm holding my grandfather's picture. My uncle Richard is standing to my right. Father Connolly is standing to my left. Father Connolly was a good personal friend of my grandfather.

We made our first round on the dance floor. Pat Moses, Richard Eli, Barry Moses, and Father Thomas Connolly, SJ.

My uncle Pat announced the ceremony.

Standing with my uncle Richard after the ceremony.

My uncle Richard Eli gave me his wardance regalia, which he had received from my grandfather Gibson Eli. The regalia is more than 60 years old and required extensive restoration. He transfered the regalia to me in a public ceremony held today during the powwow on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It is a deep honor for me to bear this responsibility. I'm thankful to all my family and friends who supported me in this important new step.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Edwin's family...

Tomate de Arbol...

Tomate de Arbol...


The first student we saw was Edwin, together with his family. They received us with much affection and kindness. They brought us food from their garden and gave us a full dinner. They seemed to take special appreciation in our interest in their plants, such as the "tree tomato" and a form of white corn.

Sadly, our time with Edwin didn't last long enough. As we drove away, I felt a lump in my throat.


Flowers by the old hacienda church at Guachala...

Rhonda love...

Rhonda at Guachala...

Barry in the church tower at Guachala.

On the way to see the youth, we stopped at an old hacienda converted into a hotel. We climbed the old church tower and sang in its echoed halls. It was enchantingly beautiful.

True Center

Balanced egg...

Rhonda at the true center...

We got the chance to visit a monument dedicated to the true equator. Legend says the equator is the only place on earth where an egg can stand on end. When we arrived, an old man balanced an egg for us to see.


Wolframio and Valentina...

Rhonda with Eva...

As the days continued, our feelings of friendship deepened with Valentina and her family. Her children began to laugh and tease with us as if we had been part of the family for many years. We also got to meet Valentina's brother Wolframio. Something tells me these connections will live and grow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Don Casimiro

Casimiro's grandchildren.

Our greatest privilege during our visit to the jungle was the opportunity to meet Casimiro Mamallacta. He is a "yachak," or a "shaman" and speaks primarily Kichwa. He received us with much kindness and respect.

Amazon Sunset


Elias Mamallacta made a spear out of kili wood.

Elias made a "cast" out of chewed leaves.

A sample of medicinal plants.

Elias Mamallacta was our guide during our visit to the Amazon. He shared many medicinal plants and made souvenir weapons out of kili wood. He made a machete for me and a spear for Marcus. The wood he used is very hard, and withstands great pressure. In fact, he actually used the wooden machete to chop open the bark of a tree. As for the medicine, well, you'll have to visit Elias to learn more about that.


We visited the river during the heat of the day and took a cool, refreshing swim.


The Mamallacta family has a parrot they call Lora (the feminine form of Loro, which is simply parrot in Spanish). Strangely, Lora hates women, but loves men. From the moment she saw me, she literally followed me around the grounds. She climbed on my shoulder at every opportunity and squawked at Rhonda if she got too close. The family called her "jealous" and Rhonda called her my new "girlfriend."




Rhonda and Eva...

Eva and Marcus...

Rhonda and I spent our time in the jungle with Valentina and her family. We learned very quickly that she has the most delightful children.


During our first day in the Amazon, Rhonda and I took a self-guided tour of the local flora. Many of the plants were unfamiliar to us, but we didn't need to know their names to appreciate their beauty.

The House

The main family house...

The "front room" of the family home.

The Mamallacta family lives in the main house, which was the first place we arrived when the bats flew out. The family often receives guests from many places around the world.

Centro de Yachana

"Welcome to Center of Yachana Kichwa Medicine"

The entrance of one of the cabins.

Our view from the cabin.

Another view of the cabins.

The family kitchen.

As the sun finally rose, we got to see our surroundings more clearly. The main house is surrounded by a small collection of separate buildings, including two kitchens and several guest cabins. The main yard has a circle drawn on the ground with a fire in the very center.

The Cabins

Rhonda looking out from the mosquito net.

The view from our cabin.

Lying on a board doesn't help my sleep any. I was okay with the bats, the darkness, the bugs, the loud jungle noises, but as I lay awake until the early morning hours, I missed my soft, warm bed at home. For just a little while, I felt like a spoiled American missing the comforts "civilized" life.

But then the sun finally unveiled the magnificence of the Amazon. In fact, the sunlight literally penetrated our little cabin through the bamboo slats and open air windows. We arose to see dense green vegetation surrounding us, filled with loud birds and butterflies. It was literally a paradise on Earth.

Thankfully, Rhonda was much happier in the morning. She also thought it was a paradise.

Monday, August 25, 2008


The church in Archidona.

Another view of Archidona.

Our first meal in the Amazon: Bolon de Verde.

On Tuesday, we took the bus to Archidona, in the Amazonian province of Napo.

Travel to Archidona was very long and arduous, complicated by the fact that we left extremely late. Almost all the buses to Napo were full, so we finally had to go back to Quito to catch an empty bus in the terminal. Otherwise, we could have gone, but we would have had to stand for the duration of the five hour trip. This would have been especially difficult with Valentina's two young children who travelled with us.

The road to Napo is characterized by extreme contrasts. On the one hand, we witnessed breathtaking scenery unlike anything in Spokane. On the other hand, the road took many dangerous turns. Sometimes I held my breath thinking we would either crash into another bus, or fall off a cliff, especially when the driver started passing other vehicles around blind curves at uncomfortable speeds. Other times I marvelled at the beautiful mountains and waterfalls as we crossed the continental divide of the Andes Mountains.

We finally arrived in Archidona at around 8:00 in the evening. The sun had already set two hours earlier. We wandered through the streets for a while, trying to find our next contact. Valentina's friends met us at a street corner and invited us to take a light dinner.

We had a most interesting and different meal called bolon de verde (pictured above). As I understood their explanation, this food is made of green bananas or plantains that have been mashed to a pulp and then formed into a perfectly round ball. They fill the middle with cheese and then fry the entire ball in oil.

We also tried a couple delicious juices made from local fruits: guanabana and maracuya. I can't even begin to describe them, except that maracuya has a somewhat citrus flavor and guanabana reminds me somewhat of coconut, only sweeter. Nothing in English compares.

Then we took a taxi down a dark road outside of town.

After a brief trip through the darkness, the taxi stopped in a remote jungle area with no electric light or other signs of civilization; we saw only the black outline of palm trees projected against the moonlit sky. We all unloaded our bags and watched as the taxi lights drove away, leaving us in the night. I reached over to touch Rhonda's arm, and could feel her anxiety rising through her skin. She was none too pleased at that point.

Our guide was Elias Mamallacta. He walked at the head of the line wearing a small light on his head. Walking in a single file, we followed him up the hill, through the dense vegetation and tromping through mud. At one point Elias slipped and fell, which I'm sure did not inspire confidence in my poor wife.

After about twenty minutes, we arrived at a small opening in the forest where a tall house stood with a thatch roof and open walls. A small group of bats flew out from the house just as we arrived. Rhonda sat on the bench and closed her eyes tightly until a small dog approached and touched her hand with its nose. She screamed and I could only imagine the hatred she must have felt toward me in that moment for bringing her to such an isolated place.

I must admit we didn't know we were going to be in that kind of place. We honestly thought we might stay at a hotel with a swimming pool, because we were told to bring our swimming suits for the pool. We never imagined the pool was actually a river and our lodging was a guest hut near the main house. We finally lay down to sleep on board covered with a thin mat and a mosquito net. I only prayed Rhonda would feel better in the morning.


The view from Valentina's house...

A church in Tumbaco...

Another view of the same church...

Across from the park in Tumbaco...

A street scene in Tumbaco...

Some time in the past, Tumbaco probably began as a separate town, but the massive urban expansion of Quito currently spills over into the surrounding valleys, swallowing everything in its path. Nowadays, Tumbaco behaves more like a suburb of Quito, or perhaps an extension. A sign marks the dividing line, but one city street flows into the next without interruption.

Valentina lives in Tumbaco with her family. We were fortunate to stay in her home.


Related Posts with Thumbnails