8 weeks in Archidona have flown by faster than I ever imagined possible. And yet, as so often is the case, I am astounded by how much fit into these short weeks. Since making the drive down from Quito in the beginning of April, the once-mysterious and intimidating tropical cities of Tena and Archidona have become another home for me. I have gotten to know so many wonderful people, experienced completely different ways of life and been exposed to new and refreshing life philosophies, gotten out into breathtaking places and pristine rivers, and found a clearer picture of what I want to pursue in this next chapter of my life.
What has made this place so special for me is the combination of community and the incredible natural environment. From my first week in Tena, I felt welcomed into the community—by the other interns, by the Runa team, by my host family, and by Tena at large. As a whitewater kayaker, I had come with the hope that I would be able to do some kayaking during my time here, but had no idea whether I would be able to find a community of kayakers to paddle with. To my pleasant surprise, I found a group of paddling friends during my first week, and in the last two months have gotten out onto some amazing rivers and made deep friendships. I also spent 3 weeks living with a Kichwa host family in the community of San Luis, about a 20-minute bus ride outside of Archidona. During my homestay, my family taught me some basic Kichwa phrases, showed me how to cook and harvest traditional Kichwa food—like chicha, maito, and even giant snail!—, taught me to weave a traditional “chigra” bag, and welcomed me open-heartedly into their home.
I also learned a lot from my work in the Runa office. This was my first experience with office work, and I think I was able to develop my ability to collaborate with supervisors, work efficiently, and take initiative and responsibility to complete projects. I really enjoyed getting to know the Runa team, especially the other interns. Getting to cook, talk, and hang out with Isabela and Romain in the evenings at Casa Runa was a highlight of every day and something I’m going to miss a lot.
Saying goodbye to Tena is hard, and now that the reality of leaving is sinking in, I am starting to appreciate its magic even more. But rumor has it that anyone who comes and drinks guayusa is bound to return, and I know it’s only a matter of time until I’ll be back.