Thoughts from Ecuador Group's experience with Tsachila Tribe. . .

Siena '16, Ecuador, 4/20/2015
Today we began our volunteer work at the community Bua  in the stifling heat and humidity. A Tsachila man named Don Alfonso led us to the botanic gardens and gave us each a large stick or machete to help clear the small plants.  Whether we raked leaves with the big stick or created cuttings with our machetes, we all would drop what we were doing every time we felt a small crawl on our necks or backs. Most of the time it was just sweat. We cleared lots of leaves and spotted many snails and centipedes during the course of the morning.

After lunch, Wu Kela took Nikki, Cole, and me to the Shaman's house so we could get seeds called huito to paint tribal stripes on our arms and faces.  When we arrived at his house he showed us this really tall skinny tree with more skinny branches peeling off.  The Shaman already harvested the fruit so we didn't need to climb and get it. As we waited for the bus back, we observed a little boy with a maxipad stuck to his face running away from his mom while we were drinking refreshing Gatorade and chips from the convenience store behind us.
    
Wukela laid down a big leaf when we got back to camp and started picking away at the fruit that looked similar to a pomegranate but with a lot more vibrant red color. It is called achiote. When all of the seeds were in a big pile, the boys, Nicole and I lined up to dye our hair. The seeds felt like wet crayons as we took handfuls of it and smeared it on our hair.


Eventually, the paste felt weird in our hair so we walked down to the river expecting to wash it out really easily. However, it was definitely not that easy.  We were surrounded by red clouds of dye in the water with baby fish alertly swimming around us. After scrubbing, rinsing, and repeating over and over, we still had red paint not only in our hair but also all over our bodies.

Wukela brought out the huito used to paint skin. The fruit is small and round with seeds that at first are white but then turned to a blue  liquid like pen ink after cooking. We started off just painting like the tribes do, but after dinner, we went crazy with it.  We painted designs everywhere on each other.

The traditional things we did today helped us focus on the present and actually engage with the Tsachila culture. Not only did we witness the tribal traditions but we were able to experience them. These kinds of experiences are part of what make this trip so great!