Almost Summer News
Amazonia - Colombia
The water was clear like glass and black like the night underneath
"How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-living things both large and small. (Psalm 104:24-25)
Over the last couple of months, we have been able to see a lot more of Colombia,
from one end to another! I hope you enjoy the pictures and commentary.
Photos and News
While we were in Puerto Narino, we got to see a local parade that involved three of the local tribes. The increase in tourism in the Amazon does bring money to the area, but it also brings modern technology and trends and it seems to be becoming increasely dificult for the old traditions of the indigenous peoples to continue.
You never know what you'll see while you are out and about in the world, from Macaws to
lovely recycled gardens! Puerto Narino was a little town on our Amazon trip that can only
be reached by boat, and was about 15 meters more underwater from the Amazon rising this
time of year than usual. There were no cars, motorcycles, or even bicycles and the town was
really friendly and clean. If it weren't for the humidity of 100% or more (if that is possible)
all the time, I could live there, though I doubt anyone would come that far to visit me!
The Amazon in Colombia changes characteristics as you travel up it. At the corner of Colombia, you connect with Peru and Brazil so you get a lot of cultural influences. The city of Leticia itself, where we started, is actually half in Brazil and half in Colombia, so you can cross the street and lose/gain an hour and change from Portuguese to Spanish.
We were able to go swimming in the afternoons to cool off where we saw quite a few
pink and grey dolphins. They were hard to get in pictures though!
Most of the people in Puerto Narino were fishermen or farmers so there were fish
for sale everyday. There were lots of birds as well that had pretty songs
in the mornings, except the roosters that woke up at 4:30 AM.
In case you've never seen it, this is a nicely roasted armadillo!
Visiting these types of places always reminds me of how little we really
need to live and that it doesn't take stuff to be happy.
I went with a group of 24 seniors for six days to the Amazon and I don't think that I stopped sweating until we returned to Armenia. The heat was hotter in la Guajira, but the humidity in the Amazon was incredible.
Verses I called upon while I was alone hanging in the trees because everyone else had gone on ahead
without me. I knew God was there though and called upon Him!
(Philippians 4:13) I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
(Psalms 46:1) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
One of the adventures on the trip was to climb up a cable about 100 feet in a tree, walk across a rope
bridge 50 yards, and then rapel out another tree back to the ground. It was hot and more than a
little scary, but I did it with a minimal amount of tears.
Nature of course is all around you in this part of the world and we saw plants
that were very interesting. I don't know that I'd ever seen a leaf that grew leaves in the stem before.
We tried a lot of the fruits we found on the trip and most were a little sour and melon like,
kindof an odd pumpkin taste.
I think our guide thought we were on Survivor and took us through
the most challenging parts of the jungle. We
were either up to our knees in mud or sinking into watery holes.
The other obstacles were the spiny trees and
insects because you couldn't just grab anywhere without looking for danger!
We saw lots of sights by day and night. You had to be careful at night not to walk with your hand
on the handrail because that seemed to be a favorite spot of a variety of spiders and insects.
There were tarantulas everywhere,
like beetles, and you just had to be careful and brush them away if they got too close.
In Puerto Narino, it was wintertime so the Amazon had increased by about 15 meters so
the soccer field had become a swimming pool! It was hilarious to see the kids playing in their homemade waterpark. The kids in the town had to take firewood to school with them to prepare the
lunch and as the area is considered strata 0, the government provides
extra assistance to this area.
There were various bridges around town to walk around the water and everyone had a dugout
type canoe in which to travel around the area. They were pretty low and sometimes would
just start to sink as they seemed to take on water frequently!
We also traveled to several indigenous villages to see their various traditions.
We saw different dances and saw how they made their handicrafts. We brought school supplies to
hand out at the various locations for the kids as well.
All the clothing you see in these pictures was actually made from the tree you see above. They cut back the bark and peel back what looks like fabric. The bigger the tree, the bigger the pieces. It was very cool. They then used local plants to create the colored dyes they used to decorate the fabric.
In case you wondered where you stay in the Amazon, all places had mosquito netting -- though I got more bruises and scratches than bug bites -- and had limited electricity. One place only had it only every other day while the others only certain hours a day and a generator. We did have a variety of bathroom/shower
facilities so you could be fairly clean if you ever stopped sweating and got out of the mud.
I would not recommend the last place (above, right) and have to admit I was waiting for the rooster
to tell me the sun was coming up because I preferred the day to start than to stay in
that hammock another minute. I think it would've been better to take my
chances with the trantulas and giant cockroaches on the floor!
At one stop, the kids would bring their containers in for lunch and then head
back across the water by canoe. The villages were friendly and I'm sure the tourists help
with their finances, but I think it creates some negative conflicts and animosity when
you see what others have and think maybe it is what you want too.
The river is what provides life to the area as it is used for everything - fishing, cleaning,
and transportation. The area provides all you need to survive which is why so many tribes
have existed within it for years without any contact with other groups.
One of the fruits that is used to create color is the chote. You can see that it is quite red but luckily
wears off your skin fairly quickly. The kids were appreciative of the school suppplies
and shared them with each other.
The last village we went to was very odd in that the kids had "pets" that they bring out for the tourists.
It didn't seem that they actually cared about the animals and the kids all had vacant and
indifferent looks on their faces. I don't know if that was characteristic of the tribe,
but if was really sad and we all noticed it. The students enjoyed getting to hold and
pet animals since we didn't see many on our hikes.
We saw quite a few frogs and many of them were posionous, as well as just interesting nature.
One of the foods that many of the people ate was a type of grain that was actually toxic and they
had to cook it a certain length of time in order to cook out the toxins.
The large trees were so huge that I can't even put them into perspective. They are used by the
locals as "telephones" as you can beat on them like a drum and hear the sound a long way away.
This was my favorite frog as he looks like something prehistoric. In the leaves, he was really camouflaged.
There was a great variety of spiny and prickly trees as well, along with exotic flowers.
Leticia is a place you can learn several language and take advantage of customs and traditions
of three countries. It was equally hot and humid on both sides of the border!
You definitely have to have boots and be willing to smell like a rotting log to take a trip through the Amazon.
I'm sure there were other tours that were less intensive, but then could you really say that you
"survived" the Amazon? I can honestly say I never thought about what might be under or in the
swampy muddy water and you shouldn't either if you decide to come!
No one ended up with any creatures in their boots.
It was a great trip for the students to see another part of their own country and to see cultures that
they read about in their history books in person. If you don't come away from the experience
with a new perspective on life, you weren't really paying attention or living the trip.
Our Rafting Adventure!
Rafting on a balsawood raft is a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Semana Santa - La Guajira and Taganga
In the opposite corner most northern of Colombia from the Amazon is where we went for spring break. We stayed in a small beach town of Taganga and visited several beaches and the National Park Tyrona.
One interesting part was the stop for legal bootleg gasoline up by the border of
Venezula. It was 1.50 a gallon compared to our 4.50 a gallon back in Armenia.
There was also a salt mining area along the coast which took the salt from the ocean and processed it. Each local tribe had been given a section of the operation to run. I couldn't believe the amount of trash that was in this part of Colombia along with the herds of goats we saw all along the highways that were also
maintained by local tribes.
This part of Colombia is popular for beaches, fishing, and hiking, though the heat
was intense and I felt like no amount of sunscreen was going to offer proper protection.
The national park had some fun wildlife from birds to lizards to crabs!
Traveling up through the northern coast of of Colombia gives you a variety of landscapes and scenes
The idea of sleeping in a hammock on the beach may seem exotic when you read it in the travel
brochure, but the reality is it really isn't that comfortable. These hammocks were extra large
though with flaps to cover yourself like a blanket so at least you could sleep different ways.
Our"Room" - Steve in "bed"
I guess because of the heat during the day, the locals get up at around 3:30 in the morning
to start working. I was trying to sleep and they are talking and doing laundry and trucks are
coming by to pick up workers.
Again, I was just waiting for the dawn of a new day.
I can imagine that being the ice cream guy on this route would be a little challenging!
Colombia really is a beautiful country. I kid my students that God created the Garden of Eden
in Colombiabut had to kick Adam and Eve out because they were loud and wouldn't stop talking
and He just wanteda little peace and quiet every now and then. We have a little less than two months left
here and are trying to make the most of our time left, as well as prepare for the future.
I know God has high expectations of us and I pray that we will follow Him and
refocus our energies where He would have us.
Prayer and Praise
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour,
if we will only tune in. ~ George Washington Carver
- more opportunities to support God's work and people here in Colombia
- David Sloan's recovery from his accident
- Tim Goode for his health and recently discovered tumor; thank God for the accident that allowed it to be found
- The Tulcanza family in Ecuador - financial struggles; finish the church building in Cheka
- Cathy's biopsy next week to show nothing is wrong
- Good transition from Colombia to Guatemala
- Pastor Julian from PIBA as he heads out in a new direction from church pastor to a new ministry
- Good end to the school year
- Recent pregnancies of friends that they have no problems and remain healthy
Late afternoon on the Caribbean - Find the shade!
- pre-selling a lot of our stuff so we have a smooth departure at the end of the year
- surviving the trip to the Amazon with limited illness and injury
- safe travels of ourselves and our family
- no more flooding or water at home or at school
- opportunities to talk with others about faith and direction in their lives
- safe return and experience for our students visiting the states
We took our "pig"out to dinner and after saving our change for four years, we had close to $50.00, enough for
a nice meal at el Solar.
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