I, along with Laura Timme (the other CDES intern-an M.A. student at Columbia), arrived at Hostería Hachacaspi just as a powerful rain was letting up. The Hostería Hachacaspi is several kilometers outside of the center of Puyo, the capital city of Pastaza Province in central/eastern Ecuador and also the gateway to the Oriente, or Ecuadorian Amazon region. More importantly for CDES at this time, however, is the fact that the Hostería Hachacaspi is also where the classes for the Amazon School for Human Rights and the Environment, co-sponsored by CDES and Earth Rights International (ERI), are being held this year.
Traveling to Puyo for the Amazon School marks the first time that I have ever visited the rain forest, but for the majority of the students attending the six-week course their trip to Puyo marks the first time that they have left their hometowns. And for some, the journey was quite long-the Amazon School boasts students from all five of the Andean-Amazonian countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia. And, the students not only come from different countries but from different indigenous groups as well. It was intriguing today to listen to each of them introduce themselves both in Spanish and in their native language.
The introductions were not the usual “Hello, my name is . . .” either. Instead, showing the pride that each of these people has in his or her heritage, work, and acceptance to the school, they took turns explaining about their culture, what organization they were representing, and what they expected from their six weeks with CDES and ERI-from their teachers, themselves, and each other. Their eagerness to share and learn from everyone present was overwhelming-but also very comforting, as I had been a bit nervous about how my presence there would be received.
It quickly became obvious when it was my turn to introduce myself, however, that all of the twenty students were prepared to open themselves up to me as well-so long as I did the same, which I gladly did right away by asking them if they had any questions for me about the US-politics, current events, or even just what kids do for fun there, seeing as how the majority of the students are in their early twenties like me. Some of the questions I got, however, really made me think.
For example, Diego from Bolivia asked if there are poor people in the United States. Yes, I answered, there are. But, considering the fact that Bolivia is the poorest country in the Americas, Diego’s definition of poverty is much different from mine-and from that of economically disadvantaged people in the States.
Lourdes from Ecuador asked if the US had any sort of territory like the Ecuadorian Amazon. I told her about our national parks, beautiful in their own right, but quite incomparable to the wilderness that is the Oriente.
And now, what do I want to learn from them in the week that I will spend attending classes here in Puyo? The list is too long to be included here, so I will just say: as much as I possibly can.
Posted By Christina Fetterhoff
Posted Aug 2nd, 2004