Posts Tagged ‘Tena’


Brittany: The end is here

December 23, 2010

Soo….I am back from the beach. It was amazing—really relaxing and I got a lot of sun (maybe a little too much…)

It is hard to believe I have been here for 3 1/2 months! I am excited to see everyone, but am worried I may die from the cold! After the Amazon and then the coast I have lost all tolerance for cold. It is 50 degrees in Quito today, and I am freezing!

I´ll leave you with two quick lists…

Things I Miss from the USA:

  • Good chocolate
  • Real coffee
  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Driving myself anywhere
  • The food
  • Spices of any kind—anything but salt!
  • Drinking water from the tap
  • Having more than one week´s worth of clothes
  • Eating healthy
  • Independence
  • American boys
  • Animal Control
  • Brownies and cookies

Things I Will Miss from Ecuador:

  • Traveling on a whim
  • Fresh juice in the morning
  • Raspberry-coconut batidos (juice with milk)
  • $1.25 beers (and they´re nearly twice the size of the standard US bottle)
  • The music
  • Waking up to mountains or jungle or ocean
  • Cheap fruit (especially $.20 granadias)
  • The flowers
  • Kissing on the check to say hello and goodbye
  • Magnum icecream bars (yes, that is really their name)
  • So few responsibilities

Brittany: Leaving Tena

December 11, 2010

Photos with my family from my last day in Tena.


Brittany: Adios Amazon

December 3, 2010

I am leaving Tena tomorrow! I am ready to move on, but the time flew by. I will be in Quito for one week, and then Friday, Dec. 10 is the last day of the program! I will then be traveling with a friend until Dec. 20. Can’t believe it is almost time to come home!

Some observations and random thoughts from being in Tena:

  • I have had regular Internet access in my house while living in the Amazon, but have gone days without running water.
  • There is nothing discreet about breastfeeding here. When it is time, women just whip out a boob, no matter where they are. A good example? The other day I saw a women breastfeeding while riding a motorcycle.
  • It is very interesting/hilarious to watch the news. The national and local level regularly bring out a newspaper and talk about the stories published on the front page. The camera even zooms in on the paper in the broadcaster’s hand.
  • Tena is a cute tourist town, but also has alarming rates (at least in my opinion) of suicide, teen pregnancy and drunk driving.
  • There are a ton of government commercials on TV. They are about eating healthy or people with disabilities or being proud to be a black Ecuadorian.
  • There is this horrible show called “Heroés Verdaderos” or “True Heroes.”  It is on Sunday nights and my family loves it. It is about famous people—actors or models, although once they had the captain of the national police—who go to really poor neighborhoods in Ecuador, find a family, and then live there life for a few days. So basically, they just talk about how rough these people have it in a really condescending way. Of course, they do have it rough—no indoor plumbing, living in shacks, one bed for the whole family. One guy had to work like 20 hours a day; his kids even help. At the end of the show, the family comes to the TV studio where the host, a model, gives them things to make their life better. They give out each prize one by one—silverware, sink, beds—until the end where they give them a house. It is like Extreme Home Makeover…but way worse. Of course there is no discussion of the fact these people will still make maybe $5 a day, even with a nice new house.

–Brittany Libra


Brittany: Boys, bugs and beer

November 21, 2010

It is getting to that point where I really need to write my final paper for the semester, and I really don’t want to.  I have been interested in oil the whole time I’ve been here (and before), but a few days ago I got it into my head I’d rather write about teen pregnancy and compare cities to rural communities.  But it is too late to change and so oil it is…

I’ve accepted the fact I am just going to have a lot of mosquito bites until I go back to Quito.  I wear repellent, but there is no way to avoid them completely.  The worse is when you sleep.  My sister closes the windows—there aren’t screens—but it is too hot and stuffy for me! I have to sleep with them open, so that means sleeping with whatever flies through the window too. Yesterday I saw this flying beetle/cockroach thing. I swear it was at least four-inches long.

The food has gotten better.  Not healthier, but better.  I made a joke about Ecuadorians eating a lot of rice, which my family found hilarious and brings up daily, but since then they have been giving me a lot less.  That wasn’t my intention, but it works! There have been fewer boiled potatoes lately too.

I have been running a lot. The thing to do here is exercise at the airport.  It is really small and planes only come a few times a week, so everyone runs up and down the runway.  If a plane comes, the siren goes off and you just move.

Boys are the same as in Quito.  They don’t whistle at girls, instead they hiss!  They make a series of short, little weird noises with their tongues against their teeth.  I’m guess I should be used to it now, but I am always going to think it’s totally creepy.

Water is sometimes an issue here.  It will just randomly stop working for a few hours.  I am not sure what the causes are in those instances, if it is just basic infrastructure problems or what.  Last week there was construction on the road near us and they accidentally broke a pipe.  There was no water for two days!  I had to shower with a bucket in the yard where they do the washing, which actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

I think I may have given some people the impression I am living in a much smaller town than I actually am.  Tena is small enough that you run into people you know all the time, but big enough that there are plenty of things to do. It is becoming a destination for ecotourism too, so that helps.  Tomorrow for example, we’re all going out with Francisco’s family to this touristy thing where we can swim. We have found some pretty good restaurants for lunch, although Anna and I also make sandwiches a lot and sit on the boardwalk by the river and eat.  There are a decent amount of bars and places to go dancing.  I am going to have a hard time going back to the US where a beer at a bar is $3 or more! We went out yesterday and I spent $6.50 the whole night, including two taxi rides and a few beers.

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!  Everything here stays green all year, and so sometimes I forget it’s fall-almost-winter in the US!  We have Friday and Monday off of work Thanksgiving weekend, so the people in Tena are probably going to travel somewhere.


Brittany: Life In Tena

November 10, 2010

I’m getting used to living in Tena. In a lot of ways, it is easier than Quito. It feels like a beach town minus the ocean. I can walk by myself, even after dark. It is small enough that everyone seems to know each other. Sometimes I can’t stand the hot weather—but it rains a lot so it isn’t unbearable all of the time.

I’m not necessarily enjoying the food. It is okay, but it lacks variety.  We have rice and scrambled eggs a lot.  And lately I’ve been getting a plate of potatoes for breakfast… We eat a certain type of sweet banana frequently too, which I do like. I have tried some interesting meats—armadillo and turtle!  They don’t have a microwave though…so leftovers are cold.  They tell me I can sleep in on the weekends and eat when I want, but cold rice and eggs isn’t too appetizing.

I’m settling in with my new family.  I could do without the religion thing, but I really like my host siblings.  They are all in their 20s and a lot of fun.  Only one sister lives in the house all of the time, but the other sister and my brother visit every weekend.

I went out with my sisters on Saturday night to this Queen of Tena/Guayusa thing.  It was at a stadium/concert hall with bleachers and a large stage.  It was a bigger deal than I realized; there were a few thousand people there easily.  They had a couple of musical performances: a salsa-ish singer, a strings/brass group, and these 20-something guys who must be pretty popular based on the way everyone under age 15 freaked out when they came on.

The actual show was a bit hilarious, but fun.  It was a full-on beauty pageant.  There was swimsuit/talent, formal wear and question-and-answer.  The swimsuits were super skimpy and their “talents” seemed to mostly just entail dancing and walking suggestively in their suits.  The formal wear was really funny because the girls walked around the stage and waved reeaally slowly.  For question-and-answer, all of the questions were about tourism in Tena.  Some were opinion and others were trivia.

Also during the Queen of Tena pageant was a separate competition for the Queen of Guayusa.  This was more cultural.  Girls wore indigenous-style clothing and their question-and-answer part was in Quichwa.  They switched off between a Tena candidate and Guayusa candidate.

All the girls had enormous banners with photos of themselves and their names hung up throughout the auditorium.  One girl’s banner was easily 10 feet long!  Beneath her photo were the words, “Nights of fantasy and glamour,” which I thought was strangely suggestive….

The show was super long so toward the end we went outside and talked with some of my sisters’ friends.  There were judges and everything, but I don’t actually know who won.  It’s hard to know what is considered beautiful here sometimes.  The girl my sisters liked was way too skinny and had hair that had been chemically lightened.

–Brittany Libra


Brittany: A new home

October 29, 2010

I am now living in the Amazon! Unfortunately things got off to a rocky start…

We left Quito at 7:30 am and arrived in Tena about four hours later. There are seven of us students here and we went to each internship site, dropping people off one by one. Mallory is working at a tea business; Julia is at a clinic; Kathleen, Francisco and David are at the Tena hospital; Anna is at a state park/island; and for me: an agriculture organization.

I was the last to get dropped off. We drove to my internship site and quickly realized we couldn’t actually drive there. We needed to cross a bridge, but there was construction. Instead we parked and crossed by foot and then walked 30 minutes up a gravel road to the organization. I was not prepared to take such a long walk and had on flip-flops and no bug spray, so now my legs are destroyed with bites.

The organization was actually a collective of farmers who live in the jungle. There was a meeting house, but really no central location. We went to the president’s house and talked to him and his family about the work I would do.

It was immediately clear to me that I did not want to work there. They had said they had an environmental education program, but the more we talked the more it seemed that was not really true. It appeared that if I worked there I would just be working in the garden every day and perhaps attempt to identify plants in the part of the jungle they own. (You know, since I´m an expert botanist and everything). Basically it was everything I hoped it wasn’t, not to mention it wasn’t really accessible… I would have to take a taxi from my house every day ($4 each way because of the rocky, uphill road) and then walk 30 to 40 minutes.

Luckily, my professor was able to see I was not interested. So now I am working for the same organization as Anna. It is a state park-like place on an island (technically a peninsula) in the river that runs through Tena. Its focus is environmental education, so it’s a place for tourists and school groups. For now, it is only accessible by canoe because a flood wiped out the bridge last spring, but it is definitely easier to get to than the other place…

I am hoping it will be a good fit. Today was a little strange because we just cleaned up trash for a few hours, had lunch, and then waited around for our boss before finally just going home. At the moment I’m feeling like it is going to be a loooong 6 weeks, but hopefully that feeling will change soon. There is one really good thing, though. The island has monkeys! So obviously I am quite excited about that.

I also met my new family yesterday. Everyone is very nice. I have a mom and a dad, a brother, a sister, and 2 nieces. There is also another sister that works outside of Tena but comes home on the weekends. It is definitely less comfortable than in Quito, but I’m hoping it will be okay. The only thing I am kind of annoyed about is that I don’t have my own room. Sometimes the nieces sleep in my room and that is where the sister sleeps Friday–Sunday. It is fine, but it hard feeling like I don’t have any space of my own.

I don’t have wireless at my house but there is an internet café across from work. It is just $1 to use the computer for an hour. So hopefully I’ll be able to update regularly, but uploading pictures might be tricky.


Britta: Moving to the jungle

October 27, 2010

We had our last day of classes on Friday.  Afterward we celebrated the Day of the Dead with special sugar bread and a delicious warm, fruit drink.  Then we all went outside on the terrace and danced salsa (or at least tried).

Now that the class portion of the semester is over, tomorrow I am headed to the Amazon to start the internship section!  I’ll be in Tena, a town of 100,000 people and one of the places I visited the first time I went to the jungle. There are six other students who will be near me (mostly public health kids who are interning at the hospital), and we’re being driven the 3 hours out there tomorrow morning.

I found a new internship, but I am still a little worried about it. Although my professor assures me this is not the case, I’m nervous it is too agriculture-based. I honestly am not sure even what the organization does…something about environmental education and cultivation. Hopefully it will be good!

Tomorrow I will also be getting a new family. Again, I know very little about them. I don’t know if I have host siblings or if it’s a single mom or anything. My professor did suggest, however, that they are very well connected…so we’ll see what that means.

I am a little sad to leave Quito and my family here. I didn’t like the city very much at first—and there are still things a dislike—but for the most part I am really comfortable here now.  I’m excited to move to a new place, but it will of course take some getting used to.  I am definitely worried about the change in weather!  Tena is hot and humid, whereas Quito has the most perfect weather.  It is like spring in the Midwest every day.

Wish me luck in the Amazon! I am not sure what my Internet situation will be, but hopefully I can post again soon.

–Brittany Libra

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