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Saying goodbye to the Amazon

This is the fourth and final post in a series about my time in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador with MAF. If you missed the earlier posts, start here.

I’m happy to say that Timmy the tarantula, my roommate in the Amazon jungle, did not disturb me one bit. Honestly, I don’t think he even moved from his spot by the door while I was in Panintza, Ecuador.

Now that we have the issue of the spider out of the way, I want to give you a glimpse of what it looks like when Lem Malabuyo (MAF’s video producer) and I do interviews in a foreign context. On day two of our stay, we interviewed MAF teammates Sixto and Wilson in between their teaching sessions. A translator conveyed my questions for them in Spanish and then paraphrased the answers back to me in English.

Interviewing Sixto (left on bench) and Wilson (right); missionary brothers, Levi, left of me, and Daniel, left of the camera, help us with translation and manning the audio recorder. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

We also interviewed a few other people, including the schoolteacher, a former president of the village, and a young couple who walked for three hours through the jungle to be present for Sixto and Wilson’s teaching of God’s Word.

Some of the families lived on the other side of the river so, later in the afternoon, we crossed over in dugout canoes (another first for me). Then, it was a steep hike up the side of a hill on a makeshift staircase made of halved logs.

River crossing in Panintza. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

We were warmly greeted by one of the husbands, who treated us to some delicious fruit, which he knocked down from a tree with a stick. It looked sort of like a tangelo but, inside, the flesh was white and not pulpy (yay), just juicy. I had two and they were so refreshing, especially since it was quite warm and humid by then.

Next, we walked over to one of the homes and interviewed Olmedo and his wife, Nelly. We sat on the floor of a big front room. The entire home was covered by a beautiful and intricate thatched roof. Most of the houses were set up like this, with one closed-off room at the back, where I’m guessing they slept.

Conducting the interview with Nelly and Olmeda in their home. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Olmeda said that before MAF came to teach them God’s Word, “they were dancing, drinking, and doing everything in the world. That’s the way we were.”  

“Now we have changed. We have left the things we were doing and now we want to continue in the new life,” Olmeda added.

I thought you might enjoy this short clip from the end of the interview, where Olmedo recited one of his favorite verses.

Olmeda and Nelly in Panintza. Video by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Last-minute visits

On Wednesday, we expected the MAF plane to arrive late morning, so we hurried off to visit another family. They had invited us to their home for breakfast. So around 8:00 we walked to the other end of the airstrip and then stepped carefully through a wet, muddy, and slippery forest.

Once we reached the home, we ventured to their kitchen and watched them prepare boiled bananas. When everything was ready, we ate together in their front room.

Love this shot of the hammock in the family’s front room. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

After breakfast, we interviewed the husband (the wife didn’t want to be in the video). Then, we thanked the couple, said our goodbyes, and started our hike back to the center of the village.

Walking through the rainforest here is like a symphony for the senses. First, you take in the beauty; it is something else. Then there are the sounds, from the sloshing of our shoes as we walked to the chorus of bugs and the accompanying bird calls. (Click on the photo below for audio.)

Lem, and brothers Levi and Daniel (translators), happened upon a fallen log in the path and noticed leafcutter ants streaming over it. Of course, Lem had to capture that on film before continuing down the path. As we were exiting the forest, I heard a commotion behind me and turned around to see Lem crouched down. An ant was tugging on his shoelace so he was using a leaf to remove it before it could bite him through his sock. But as he did so, the ant bit his finger through the leaf and drew blood!  

That is one bug bite he will probably never forget.

Rain delays and goodbyes

Back in the village, Lem and I and the translators started packing up our stuff. Then, the rain really started coming down. We moved from shelter to shelter as we waited for it to let up, and realized our flight was going to be delayed.

Morning downpour in Panintza. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Morning turned into afternoon and things began to dry up. We had no idea if MAF was coming, because the village radio was broken. Since all our things were ready to go, we joined one last worship time at the church. The people knew we were leaving, so they asked the four of us to lead a few songs in English. They wanted to hear what it would sound like.

So we sang these two songs from their songbook.

Top: “I have decided to follow Jesus”

Bottom: “I have the joy, joy” (joy, joy down in my heart)

After the short service, we had some free time. Lem took off to get overhead shots with the drone, and I kicked the soccer ball around with some of the young women.

Finally, around 3:30 we heard a man shouting, “the plane is coming.” I couldn’t hear a thing, but somehow his ears picked it up from far away. We started grabbing our backpacks and the camera gear and headed down to the airstrip. Sixto and Wilson would have to wait until the next day to return, since only one airplane could make it in. We arrived back in Shell by 5:00.

Thursday and Friday we did interviews in the hangar, then Saturday was a sightseeing day. On Sunday, we made it to the Waorani church in the morning and then it was time to start our drive to the Quito airport. Sadly, our time in Ecuador was coming to an end.  


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