I was greeted by Andy, the Amazon Learning coordinator on my first day and taken to Casa Runa. I was thoroughly impressed by how spacious and clean it was, and the location was simply beautiful with a stream close by and views of the local Chimborazo volcano. Hummingbirds and fireflies were always a delight to see around the jungle garden. The week of orientation was a great chance to meet the other awesome interns and get to know the local towns of Tena and Archidona which were easily accessible by bus. We were introduced to Ecuadorian history, environment, how to deal with culture shock and how to reflect on our time there. The support network was incredibly strong from the outset and all the interns within Casa Runa and those at homestays were very close throughout the duration of our stays, which I found very valuable. The locals were also incredibly friendly and willing to share their culture with us which made the experience all the more enjoyable. Even with my limited Spanish they were very helpful and encouraging!
My main project was focused around an incredible homestay experience at the local community of Mushullacta where my task was to create conceptual maps of the local chacra systems using GPS and create informative data sheets on what species they grew there. Coming from an ecology and conservation background, I found this very interesting! In addition to this, interacting with the local children, listening to historical tales from the family members and taking part in morning Guayusa ceremonies was wonderful and truly humbling to be a part of.
At weekends we also made the most of exploring the stunning local scenery, either going swimming in local rivers and pools, taking bus trips to the local backpacker town of Baños to go canyoning and hiking, going white water rafting with a local instructor or going salsa dancing in the vibrant bars in Tena. We were also there at the time of the Napo festival which was amazing to witness!
A big challenge for me was the language barrier as I was the least experienced at Spanish out of all interns. Thankfully, with help from my fellow interns and a few lessons from the lovely local Spanish teacher, I was able to improve my Spanish to a level where I could comfortably understand and interact at a basic level. Now, I hope to continue with my learning so I can keep improving!
I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who would like to experience a vibrant and beautiful place and learn about a different and valuable way of living. However I would say every opportunity is what you make it, and being proactive in project involvement would make it all the more worthwhile.