I want to preface this post with a reality check: We live in the rainforest, in Ecuador, near an Indigenous Community, at a research station, on a river bank, in wooden huts, without a car, without a boat (more importantly), with just each other, in the jungle. Like if you saw our location on a map it would just be a dot in the green bit that covers some of the East of Ecuador. This place is isolated. To get to the nearest town which is a very basic, very small, very local little place takes 3 hours. To get to the nearest town with a bar takes 4 and a half hours. To get to the nearest town with English speakers takes 9 hours. To get to a city takes 14 hours.
In my opinion, that is fucking cool. We are separated from civilisation (apart from through the internet of course – thank god for the internet), out in nature, surrounded by beautiful wildlife, cooking from scratch, doing ‘science’, living a life (almost) free of social pressures and expectations and best of all living and working closely with a community of people who are from a completely different (metaphorical) world to us. It’s fascinating…
But wow! Does it get boring. It is effectively our job to run and maintain the station, that requires being here 24/7 funnily enough: in this small little patch of land, with a finite amount of things to do and people to talk to; for days, and sometimes weeks on end. Also, now we’ve started our projects we are tied to the station for at least 2 or 3 days a week to collect our data from the forest, there is 0 flexibility here so that our projects are valid and our results usable. And like I explained in paragraph 1, it takes a hell of a long time to get anywhere from here. There’s no ‘popping out’ from the station. No, no. There’s ‘right we have an appointment in Tena at 9:30am on Thursday for 20 minutes so we’ll need to leave 2 days in advance and we’ll be away from the station for 4 days okay let’s pack up every single item in the whole station so the community can’t steal anything, umm order a canoe a few days in advance, pack a weeks worth of laundry and clothes, book accommodation, write a shopping list and then yeah, good to go’. So, as you can (hopefully) see, unless we have a visa office to visit or a document to retrieve, we are stuck here.
Most of the time I think I have more freedom here than anywhere else in the world. I can get up when I like, I have enough time to read books, watch movies, eat leisurely and work at my own pace. I don’t have a myriad of lectures, meetings, shifts, matches, events that lead my life for me; I lead my life here, not the timetable on my outlook calendar. But sometimes I feel caged in and bored. Bored bored bored. And when I get bored I get tired, which just perpetuates this boredom cycle and I loose motivation and sometimes when it gets really bad, I loose touch with reality a little.
I don’t mean to undermine the life we have here (I actually think sadness and challenge augment our reality as we learn and grow through these hard experiences) but understandably we get a bit stir crazy every so often! This manifests in many different ways, some weirder than others, I won’t go into details. We haven’t yet had the time to take a holiday in Ecuador and go and have some fun. Every time we’ve left the station previously it was on visa or food related errands which are crazy-frustrating and boring, in that order. I think Heather and I deserve some real credit here, for all intents and purposes we are managing extremely well under the circumstances. We chose this placement in the first place (separately) knowing it would be challenging and isolated, so we also knew ourselves well enough to know we would probably be fine with it. Which we are *insert earnest smile*. However… we really ought to get out more.
Which we will: back-at-the-station-after-christmas resolution number 1 was to take some time off ‘work’ (go on holiday) every month; and Heathers 21st birthday is fast approaching so we are taking our first fun trip in Ecuador and going to Banos (Ban-yos – Baths in Spanish because the town is built on the side of the tallest volcano in Ecuador and there are lots of thermal baths there) for 6 days which will be mega fun. Lots of canyoning, hiking, rafting, zip-lining and thermal-bath bathing in Banos. We leave this Friday and will shun all responsibility until we get back the following Thursday, and it’ll be great. We will come back renewed and full of life, I’m sure.
Anyway, the day is running out and I’m actually procrastinating a little right now – I should be reading Fungi Biodiversity papers.
So, signing off – from the hammock near the wifi router, wooden hut, river bank, Payamino, Ecuador.