In the Season of Rising Expectations

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

It is a particularly hard winter of blizzards this year in the Northern Hemisphere and a hot summer marked by forest fires in the Southern, but in Ecuador where sharply defined seasons elsewhere are equatorially ambiguous it is the time of rain at night and, if there is no blanket of gray overcast, baking sun during the day. Downpours range from nightlong steady plinks as regular as a clock’s second hand off the house eaves to waterfall torrents that make tin roofs throb and roar from thousands of heavy pelting drops.

Because of the intense greenhouse-like effect of night rain and day sun our revegetation activity has the best possible opportunity for success, and fortunately it is booming with helpers. Seven temporary Swedish student volunteers who were added to three longer-termers from Canada, US and the Czech Republic are making quick work of the scheduled planting. It is already two-thirds completed on eleven sites chosen for this year. Clay Plager-Unger, Planet Drum Foundation’s resident Field Projects Manager, and Revegetation Foreman Jaime Andrade have made by far the best effort in seven years of revegetation work. They selected about twenty different indigenous Dry Tropical Forest species for growing, tended three thousand of their seedlings for at least nine months (click to see Jan 1,’09 greenhouse & sites inventory), located sites and negotiated with their owners, laboriously made trails up eroded hillsides where trees will be carefully placed, and now oversee the planting process aided enormously by so many volunteers. The students have two more weeks of their class tour in which it will be possible to nearly complete this year’s planting, slogging slowly up muddy slopes with the more permanent volunteers and slip-stepping down to carry another round of seedlings uphill. It is much harder and dirtier work than most visitors experience here, but they can take pride in practicing the most genuine form of eco-tourism, benefiting the bioregion and Bahia community while providing themselves with authentic exposure to this unique natural environment.

Carnaval is a week away and has at this point become a subtle sub-theme nearly everywhere. All the hotel rooms and some houses are already booked mainly by vacationing Ecuadorians in their annual migration to the beach. Some vacationers who have taken off for a more serious amount of time than the official week are appearing on the Malecon. There even seems to be an increase in the number of local people on the street, and they are discernibly happier than usual.

The tenth anniversary of Bahia’s Eco-city Declaration occurs February 23rd in the midst of Carnaval. For some years the Eco-city has been celebrated with the only parade held during the holiday. This year there will be prizes for the most attractively decorated triciclo pedicab and best eco-spirited neighborhood (San Roque barrio will have a local school’s huge resident Galapagos Tortoise on its own cart with a ramada to keep out the sun). After parading through town, marchers will gather at the oceanfront Malecon to hear speeches and music. There is a breezeway under City Hall where eco-organizations will publicly display evidence of their work and explain what they do. Litter clean-up parties are slated for various parts of the city.

Clay and Patricio Tamariz (Centro de Educación Ambiental Eco-Bahia) began the process to rescate(rescue) the Eco-city from what has become almost total disregard by the municipal government by holding meetings with members of Amigos de Eco-ciudad (Friends of the Eco-city), an informal collection of other groups’ representatives and private individuals. At last week’s meeting led by Clay in City Hall, the head of the Department of the Environment and ten Amigos created the program and an agenda that included writing a letter to request parade prize money donations from local businesses and individuals, informing Mayor Mendoza of the need to sign a proclamation at the culmination of the parade, and determining clean-up sites.

This is the season of optimism. Rain is a forerunner of good harvests and adequate household water during the nine months-long dry season that lies ahead. Pointing out the window at the beginning of a heavy shower, a woman exclaimed “Que rico!” (Difficult to translate exactly in contemporary English but definitely equivalent to the more old-fashioned “How rich!”). Birds talking in the protection of tree canopies make the sounds of rain squeak. 

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