Monday, August 2, 2010

Caminando El Puente Walking the Bridge

I’m sitting here in our home in the canyon on this post-ElPuente Sunday afternoon. Our chaco and the chickens have grown while we were gone, and I find myself thinking back to the chacos we’ve seen in our journeys: the Altiplano’s dry fields of potato and grain, Uncallamaya’s clearings and hard-worked wet soils, the well-tended sugar cane and yucca and coca plantings in San Jose de Uchupiamonas, the rainforest gardens of food and medicine in Madidi, the fishing waters of Rios Eslabon, Tuichi and Beni.

I’m thinking of the chacos of the spirit, as well. Through you all, I’ve grown in understanding of the meaning of service, adventure, understanding and possibility, and I feel El Puente and the Fundacion has set it’s roots deeper into the communities of the Beni.
I think I’ve nearly lost count of the number of journeys I’ve had the fortune to lead over the past 30 years; our El Puente #8 Walk for a Reason will always stand clearly as unified in purpose and goal, equally filled with meaning and laughter, tears of challenge and joy of understanding. Kind of flowery words, but true. Gracias a todos. What a time we had!
Now, I wonder where will it take us?

Cristobal and Crister will be sending a fundraising update this coming week.
Gracias parents for all your support. You should be so, so honored to have children who participated at such a deep level of understanding, emotional balance, pure fun and laughter, and all with an eye to their present and future contributions to a more just and equitable world. The people of the Beni have been touched by you, and you by them.

Jaime (Hombre Viejo/Viajero)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arrival Info: LAX 8:40, Thursday 29th

Just in case anyone needs the flight info, here it is!

July 29
American Airlines
La Paz - Miami Flight 922 departing 6:30am arriving 4:00pm

Miami - LAX Flight 231 departing 6:20pm arriving at 8:40 pm

They arrive to the domestic terminal, and since they clear customs in Miami, they are usually down to the baggage claim area fairly quickly.

I will see you there!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Photograph

I have covered my camera in paint while decorating water filters, allowed dust to collect on it while mud has been splattered on it by tires stuck on roads in the rainforest. I've gotten it wet in the morning dew and used it until the battery completely died. Not only to mention that I dropped it three days into the trip on a brick patio while getting off of a hamock. The lenscap and filter stuck together, not leaving each other's side until Jim used his can-do-anything leather man.

I have captured photos of the girls being themselves that will be put on Facebook. I have captured photos that will immediately go into the trash once on my computer. But I have also captured photos of the views and their amazment, the people and their beauty. I have even captured of photos that some say should be used in National Geographic.

But as many photos as I've taken (2575 on the eleventh day on a 4200 photo card) the beauty of all these things can not be captured, even with a high quality lens.

I would never be able to capture a photo of eight girls and children of all ages playing volleyball, not speaking the same language yet laughing at all the same jokes. I would never be able to capture of the fog moving over the foothills of the Andes in the morning. A smile from a toothless women when we came to fix her family's water filter. Drawing flowers and animals and houses with the children while lifting them up in the air and running around playing 'gato gato perro' (because none of us knew how to say 'duck' or 'goose' in Spanish). Dancing with the elders in San Jose. Hand prints of walls and pillers all around Rurre. Deep eyes watching us in wonder. Swinging on twisted vines in the rainforest. Playing volleyball with the local girls...and winning! Blue harrons and king vultures flying over our boats as we sped through the Tuichi river. War paint from orange fruit not only being applied to all of us, but our two guides.

All these things and so much more sit on my camera, but yet none of the were truly captured. In all these moments that I have lived, I have been trying to document so I can share with all my family and friends. But what I realized is even with all this amazing equipment, my photos don't express my experiences that I've had. They don't show the emotions, sounds, adventures, even tastes of my trip to Bolivia.

As detailed as they are, what I've experienced...what I am experiencing, can not be told in a photograph.

San Jose De Uchupiamonas

I have decided that I am going to talk about my experience in San Jose De Uchupiamonas because I felt a certain connnection to the people as well as the place itself.
We left the 21st from Yariapo and arrived about 5 hours later in San Jose. The walk was long, but it was stunningly beautiful and our guides where filled with unfathomable amounts of knowledge. They where able to answer any and all questions that we had. We walked and talked and laughed and connected. Just 15 minutes before we arrived in the community we stopped and waited for the other group so that we could walk in all together. As we were sitting down we noticed a long steep hill right ahead. We all just laughed and watched the butterflys fly around in cool patterns.
Once we reached the top of the hill there was a group of cheery men and little boys with all different types of locally made instruments. As soon as they saw us they started playing their music. They marched behind us all through town. After about 5 minutes we reached the community meeting area. A group of women with huge smiles came up to us and gently laid handmade garlands over our heads. They shook our hands and then gave us a hug and a kiss, just like they had known us forever. They danced for us, they played music for us, they cooked for us, they were always respectful and caring, they honored us in every way possible.
As soon as we got up from our seats all the little children jumped up as well. We stepped out the door and there was the group of men and boys playing music for us, as well as a group of 15 dangerously excited children. They followed us until we got to our tents. When we got there we immediatly dropped our jaws in awe. THERE WHERE MATRESSES IN OUR TENTS. Being a group of mostly all SBMS students, this was surely a dream! The same little kids where just waiting to be our new best friends and as time went by more popped up, out of no where it seemed. They stayed until it got dark and showed up before we had even woken up. We had the honor to wake up to this each morning.

Que Aventura!! Que Viva El Puente!

We´re back in Rurrenabaque after an incredible eight days in Madidi National Park and with the community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas.
So many experiences to share, but for now just an update on our route and the main themes of our journey--Las Wabus (the girl´s nickname) will be writing blogs later today with their thoughts and impressions.

We left Rurrenabaque eight days ago in the early morning by first crossing the river to the town of San Buena Ventura by taxi-boat. There we with a few guardaparques (rangers of Madidi) and then began driving westward towards the town of Tumopasa. After a few hours of bumpy driving through communities that the Rio Beni Foundation serves, we turned left and went up to the mountain outpost of Sadidi that marks the Madidi National Park boundary. After a wild ride in the Land Cruisers we got out of the cars and met many of the community members of San Jose who would accompany us on the hike as porters, cooks, and guides. We marked the beginning of our journey with a coca leaf ceremony as a payment to Pachamama (Mother Earth). And we were off! The rest of the day was spent walking in the deep rain forest and learning from Sergio and Yhovani our two wonderful friends and guides. After about four hours of walking we arrived at Yariapo Camp, which has been a traditional hunting camp for San Jose for many years. Descriptions cannot do this place justice--next to the Yariapo River with our tents and five star locally grown and prepared food: no hay nada mejor. Later today one of the girls will be writing a blog on our time their...
Our next day was spent at the Yariapo River fishing, writing in our journals, playing music and listening to the sounds of the jungle. Excelente to say the least.
Early the following morning we left on foot for the community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas. Our walk took us through dense patches of forest and up on top of a ridge called Wayrapata, which means ¨on top of the wind¨ in Quechua. After around six hours of walking we made our way into the community of San Jose and were greeted with music, drums, smiles, dances, and speeches by the mayor and cacique (traditional leader).
Later that evening we made camp on a lookout over the Tuichi Valley while meeting and playing with a wonderful group of children who followed the girls.
Our next day was filled with activities! Weaving, grinding sugarcane, horse riding, bows and arrows, dancing, and a highlight, our volleyball and soccer games with the community. We won the volleyball game, but it didn´t seem to matter as everyone had come to watch and was having a great time. The dancing at night was certainly a highlight as well! Everyone let loose and had way to much fun under an almost full moon!
Our next day we said a sad goodbye to San Jose and made our way down on the Tuichi River to Chalalan, San Jose´s community-run ecolodge in Madidi National Park. We spent the next three days, listening to the jungle, swimming in the lake, hiking and fishing at a magical place called Islabon, dancing with our new friends from San Jose, and beginning to reflect on the experience until now. Our time at Chalalan was unforgetable. We saw monkies, macaws, pecaries, cayman, eagles, leafcutter antes, giant matapalo trees, and so much more. Our guides knowledge of the rainforest is seemingly infinite.
Yesterday we boated down the Tuichi River and connected with the Rio Beni that brought us back to Rurrenabaque. A beautiful three hour trip that allowed us time to reflect on our adventures and pass by both the communities first served by Dr. Louis Netzer and his land that he lived on while here in Bolivia.

Today we have a meeting with mayor in recognition of El Puente´s support of the Rio Beni Foundation´s work, a visit to a local elementary school, time at the clinic to learn from the health team, and finally a BBQ to celebrate an end of our time here in Rurrenabaque. Tomorrow we fly to La Paz midmorning before making our way home on the morning of the 29th.
Look for updates from La Wabus later today!

Un abrazo!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chalalan Eco-Lodge

Crister called with another one minute update from the sat phone!
The group has made it to Chalalan! After almost a week of hiking, and camping they are happy to rest in the hammocks, and wonder at the beauty of the lake. They plan on doing nature walks, hearing the history of the eco-lodge from the staff, and seeing as many local wildlife as possible! Crister reports that the group is generally healthy, but weary. Good thing Chalalan is the perfect place to catch your breath and process everything that has happened!
They will be there for one more night, and then will boat down the river to Rurre. Hopefully then they will post some pictures before they make their way up to La Paz and HOME!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The group is in San Jose

I spoke with Crister on the sat phone again last night!
The group is now in the community of San Jose. They hiked in, and were welcomed with a celebration. They are now camped just below the village with an amazing view of the Twichi river. Today they will visit the community, play soccer, and have showers! Tomorrow they will travel down the river and hike the mile into Chalalan where they will spend a few days. Crister reports that the group is healthy, happy and lots of fun.