Wes Brown is studying Bioresource Research through the College of Agricultural Sciences and International Studies. Last summer, he participated in the IE3 Global International Internship Child Family Health International (CFHI) in Ecuador. This entry is an excerpt from his blog post for IE3 Global about a particular experience that stood out and made a lasting impression.
Me and two other students in the program set off on an 8 hour hike through the Amazon Jungle. It was possibly the most difficult backpacking route I have taken. A foot deep layer of mud constituted our trail for a majority of the trek, we got stuck in the mud and our boots pulled off, we walked over steep hills and through rivers, and even got our path blocked by a poisonous snake that can jump a meter.
We hiked all this way because we wanted to stay with a Shuar family and learn about their lifestyle and culture. It is humbling to have learned that the same trail we hiked in 8 hours, a Shuar family will hike in 3-4 hours, carrying a box of chickens, and children. When we arrived we were greeted by a Shuar man named Gustavo and his family. Gustavo has a wife and 8 children. Once his children grow up, they get married and make a home next to the original so the children and their families all live together. Needless to say, we were surrounded by adorable children.
They let us stay in a beautifully constructed Shuar hut and provided our meals, which consisted almost entirely of bananas. The first day we spent trekking through the jungle to a sacred waterfall. The Shuar have an interesting ceremony they use when they want to know what the future hold. The person must fast for about 4 days then journey into the jungle to the waterfall. At the waterfall he/she must drink a prepared concoction of herbs and jungle plants that act as a hallucinogen. They sit at the waterfall and say that the user can see visions of themselves in the future or potential future husbands or wives and children. This is in fact what Gustavo has done before and found out who he was to marry. We said goodbye to Gustavo and his family and headed back to Puyo exceptionally dirty and covered in mud from the hike.
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