Ecuador Project Report: Christina Knott, Aug. 2004

Christina Knott, Volunteer
Planet Drum Foundation

Hola Chicos,

Let me start off by saying that I don’t know how Planet Drum managed for so long without the bamboo watering system that is now in place.  The work that used to take all morning can be done in about twenty minutes.  The pipes are placed in the ground beside young and newly transplanted trees.  The goal is to deliver water directly to the root system as opposed to around the stem of the baby trees where it runs and evaporates before it can soak in.  It’s much more efficient and I have already noticed the trees looking healthier than they did just six weeks ago. 

Recently we have planted several Fernan Sanchez at the Jorge Lomas Canal Site.  My understanding is the success rate of this particular tree is very low.  Keep your fingers crossed. 

The greenhouse is also doing well.  Recently, a group of students from Catholic University have taken it upon themselves to water the greenhouse for us.  I’m not sure what the motivation is for their newfound interest in ecology and Planet Drum, but it is definitely appreciated.  

We’ve been doing a lot of transplanting of developed seedlings at the greenhouse.  Let me tell you, it was overdue.  Some of the root systems have become so overgrown they’ve broken through the bags they were in and planted themselves into the ground.  Thank goodness we recently had the machetes sharpened.  I find the act of transplanting quite meditative.  Renée encourages us to give off positive energy while in the greenhouse and communicate with the trees.  Transplanting sessions have become a time for singing and joke telling.  (A section of my brain has devoted itself to bad jokes.) 

This coming week we will be adding soil to the seedbeds at the greenhouse and begin planting them with new seeds.  I’m hoping we plant Ceibo seeds while I’m here.  I don’t think we will, however, because we have a stockpile of other seeds that need to go into the ground.  I’ve fallen in love with the Ceibo and want to be a part of a Ceibo’s life.  That sounds pretty lame and maybe slightly obsessive, but it’s true.  I find the Ceibo so interesting. It has a majestic, selfish way about it, but at the same time seems to give off a warm energy.  I want to learn all I can about the Ceibo.  I wish they were native to Northern California so I could grow one in my backyard.  If I had a backyard, that is.   

On a more personal note, a few of the Planet Drummers, along with other gringo volunteers and some locals went to a futbol (soccer) game this past Sunday.  It was definitely a great experience even if a bit nerve-racking at first.  There isn’t much respect in public for personal space in this part of the world and virtually none for waiting in lines.  Going into the stadium people kept shoving and pressing as close as possible.  Gotta get there, gotta go. The game itself wasn’t that good and the end was anti-climactic, but the energy of the crowd was both exciting and entertaining.  I recommend a futbol game in Ecuador to anyone.

Sol (one of the other volunteers) and I went on a five-hour mule-back tour of the humid forest last week with Marcello Luque, the head of Cerro Secco.  It was the trial run for an eco-tour that is in the works. It was amazing.  The forest was so thick and green, a stark contrast to the dry tropical forest just an hour away.  We could hear monkeys and ate fruit right off the trees.  A guide who was very knowledgeable about the area led us.  I should say he tried to be a guide because I don’t understand much Spanish and he didn’t speak English.  The view from the top of the hill was breathtaking.  We had the forest in the foreground and the ocean in the background.  One thing I learned on the tour was that mules smell incredibly bad and pooh a lot.  Also, mules don’t like me one bit.  Mine was not cooperative and would deliberately walk under very low clearings so I would smash my face.

I’ve gotten over the inexpensiveness of everything in the area since I got here in June.  When I first arrived in Bahia I was thrilled and amazed that bananas were two cents each.  Now, if someone tries to charge me three cents I argue with them and they are off my good place to buy list.  Cigarettes are only a dollar twenty five a pack, which is very bad for my lungs.

Since I’ve been in Bahia I’ve decided to teach myself to surf, am practicing Poi style dancing and am taking Spanish lessons.  This is a great place for personal growth, in my opinion.  Maybe it’s because there aren’t any coordinated activities outside work and consequently you have to make up activities for yourself, or because of the supportive, usually non-judgmental vibe in the apartment.

We’ve been making a lot of improvements to the apartment.  Sometimes we even have hot water. Volunteers and local artists have painted many of the walls and windows.  It adds an element of personality and history that I haven’t seen in other apartments where I’ve lived.

I’m having a hard time understanding the implications of a few things.  I have seen no homeless people whatsoever in Bahia.   I don’t recall seeing any in Quito either.  Why is that?  Why is there no or very little absolute poverty in a very poor country?  Have the people here come up with a better system of caring for one another then we have?  Well, who hasn’t, I suppose.  It’s not a socialist country.    Also, why is there no chocolate or real (not instant) coffee in a country that produces an abundance of both?  Where is it going?  The States?

One definite drawback to living and working in Bahia is that people are always coming and going.  I feel as if just when I am making a connection with someone they leave.  There are several volunteer organizations in Bahia and volunteers are always arriving and leaving.  Oh well, such is life. 

We have made contact with the Los Caras soya cooperativa.  We now have soy products and can live as vegetarians and vegans without worrying about our teeth falling out.  They make soymilk, faux meat, soy yogurt, and soy mayonnaise. It all has a taste I am not accustomed to, but is wonderful nonetheless.  I’m not sure, however, that I will be giving fish up again any time soon.  The fish here is pretty tasty. 

Report #17

Christina Knott, Volunteer
Planet Drum Foundation
August 16, 2004

We are back down to one group. Several volunteers have left this week and more are leaving next week.

Greenhouse:  A lot of work has been done at the greenhouse this week.  The hillside and the greenhouse plants have been watered. I believe the greenhouse itself is being watered on an almost daily basis thanks to the university students who are helping out.

Tuesday we went to the market and collected banana stalks and corn husks to begin mulching. We transplanted most of the greenhouse Algarrobos  in the seed bed into plastic containers. We then turned up the seed bed and will be adding new soil later in the week in preparation for planting  Colorado seeds, which is scheduled for next week. In addition, we mulched the entire site on Wednesday. 

Jorge Lomas Casas: We had water put into the cistern at Jorge Lomas last week. Watering is getting easier by the day. Now, not only do we have the bamboo pipes in the ground, but we no longer need to carry huge jugs of water to any of the sites, besides the Bosque. Monday we watered at Casas and installed a few more cribbing bars. We are mulching all Jorge Lomas sites Thursday.

Jorge Lomas Canal:  We still have not heard from the man who says he owns one of the sites we are planting in Jorge Lomas Canal. We are still watering there and are slowly fixing the fences. We successfully fixed the fence at the site in the back of the canal, but not so successfully at the other . It is a work in progress and should be completed early next week. Fortunately, I have not noticed any new animal droppings at the site.

Bosque: The community day at the Bosque was a mild success. A few adult members of the bario and several children came out. Planet Drum will be hosting a workshop at the Bosque in the coming weeks for some of the children attending Genesis schools. We will lead them on a tour through the Bosque and are working on educational games, like identify the plant leaf or something similar, to peak their interest.

Seed Bank Project: Research is scheduled for Friday. Right now a spread sheet is coming together very nicely and we are slowly, but surely, gathering information on more than twenty five trees. We are also working on translating a lot of existing information from Spanish to English


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