Brian Charles reflects on our time with the Cofan people:
Over the last week of the term, we had the pleasure of spending time in the community of Zabalo, a Cofan village. We took a three hour boat ride to this community from the nearest town. So we were really “out there”. Part of our experience in this community was to go camping in the rain forest. Our tri-lingual guide, and the president of the community, Felipe, took us another three hours up a black water river to our campsite. We were set up right next to the river and for the next two days we lived there. We adventured into the water, went canoeing and fished for piranhas. Felipe also took some groups out at night on the boat to find caiman and to hunt. We got to hold a wild caiman! My favorite experience from those two days was swimming in an open area of the river, where the current was weak. We swam and our guide, Romo, climbed a tree and cut off the plants on an overhanging branch and we jumped from the tree into the water.
Being out in the wilderness also made me realize the importance of practical skills. Our guides could make perfect boards from trees by using a chainsaw, catch a lot of fish, and live from the land, while we were standing there helpless. In America, we place value on knowledge and academic skill, which is okay, but this trip inspired me to become more practical and learn how to be a little more independent. Our academic minds were fairly useless in the middle of the rain forest. I hope to carry that inspiration with me into this next school year and beyond. Overall, our camping was a great way to bond with the group and connect with the local people.