A Week in the Amazon Basin

Colby Schweibenz ’18 studied biochemistry with a Spanish minor at Elizabethtown College. While pursuing her dream of becoming a disease research biochemist, Colby had the opportunity to study abroad in Quito, Ecuador.

While living in Ecuador, Colby spent one week in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin. Her trip started with sightseeing. She and her group hiked to the overlook at Cascada San Rafael, Ecuador’s largest waterfall. Next, the group traveled to Lago Agrio. There, they met the leading Ecuadorian lawyer in the Chevron-Texaco case about the pollution left by petroleum dig sites and dumping pools.

Learning the background of the case prepared the group for their next day. They embarked on The Toxic Tour, a tour focused on the impacts of pollution. The guide was able to bring severely contaminated soil to the surface to show the impact. In addition, the group walked along the old dumping pools, which were polluting the native population’s water sources.

The following day, the group traveled to a Siona Village to run a workshop about leadership. Upon arrival, the village president’s mother painted the groups faces with traditional Siona markings. After the group presented on what good leadership looks like, they were able to swim and eat with the village children. They also had the opportunity to meet the villager’s pet capybara, the largest rodent in the world.

On their fourth day, the group traveled to La Mariscal. This is a community tourist village, where locals take visitors to show them what their lives are like.  The group would be staying with host families for four days. The first day in La Mariscal was spent hiking to a hidden jungle waterfall.

On the next day, the group traveled to Tzawata to have the traditional lunch of maito. This consists of tilapia prepared a specific way. The entire fish is served with the rest of the meal. Most individuals eat all edible parts of the fish. The group then visited the medical garden. They saw how the starch yucca was harvesting and eventually tasted the fruit inside cacao plants. Besides their foodie adventure in Tzawata, Colby and her group were able to visit the petroglyphs. These petroglyphs support the fact that the land belongs to their people. On the way back to La Mariscal, the students stopped to visit a sugar cane refinery.

On her last day in the jungle, Colby spent time with her host family. After breakfast, she went fishing with her host family. Before leaving, the group visited an animal rehabilitation center where they were able to meet squirrel monkeys.

Although the group did go sightseeing, their trip’s primary focus was meeting the indigenous people. Colby believes this experience was eye-opening and allows her to understand Ecuador in new ways.

*Click on the hyperlinks above to read Colby’s original blog published by BCA Study Abroad on November 11, 2017.

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