One week ago, a few friends and I decided to visit Baños, a small town nestled in between an active volcano and a deep gorge. In twenty four hours, we visited a zoo, tried to watch the volcano erupting at night, wandered a strange town, saw waterfalls, crossed chasms, had one birthday, and risked our lives in at least one unreasonable way to be discussed some other time. And now, an assortment of pictures that chronicle the journey:
The volcano began erupting as our bus was pulling out. Our travels complete, we returned once again to the field school for one last week in the Amazon jungle.
Passionfruit is arguably my favorite fruit. This is arguable because you can talk about favorite in terms of how pretty it looks, its shock value, personal significance, ability to keep you fed, or just overall deliciousness.
In terms of deliciousness, passionfruit is the best. The first time I had it in Honduras, we didn’t really know if you could eat the seeds, or that juice could be made out of it, or things like that—so it was just OK and tedious because of all the seeds. In Paraguay, I learned everything was edible, even the spongy exterior.
In Paraguay it is rumored any amount of passionfruit will make people sleepy after they consume it. I knew many missionaries who regaled me with tales of how they HAD to take a nap after imbibing the juice on a hot day. It is more likely they were just lazy or suffered from narcolepsy—you see, the Flying Welshman and I once disproved this claim. A particularly noisy missionary, Stonetwig, was visiting us on a preparation (rest) day and disturbing us as we tried to cook in our kitchen. Now, missionary life is stressful. You get to know a lot of people and their problems all too well, At times it was a great burden. In a world where so much went haywire, the kitchen was a place where we could predict things, a place where amazing culinary creations were created and a place where we could just chill out. Now our sanctuary was under threat, and Stonetwig wouldn’t take a hint. Welshman and I were at a loss of what to do. Inspiration struck as we saw our passionfruit sitting out on the counter. Our eyes met and without speaking we knew what had to be done. Cracking open a fruit, we poured the frog spawn-like contents into a blender with ice, water and ample sugar. Stonetwig loved it, downing almost half a pitcher of the yellow liquid. We waited some, and we waited some more.
Pity. We’d have to resort to less, er, refined methods. Welshman slowly walked over to the corner where he kept an assortment of sticks he’d collected on the streets and selected a hefty one. He let out a long sigh, resigned. Stonetwig noticed nothing. His eyes were fixed on me. His monologue had gone unbroken for the last thirty minutes. The Flying Welshman raised his stick up high—
All right, fine. That last part didn’t happen, but we really did consider it. We probably didn’t because explanations could get so messy and besides, it was our day off. Where were we? Right. Passionfruit. It is called Mburucuya in Guarani, maracuya in Spanish and maracuja in Portuguese.
It makes awesome juice and incredible ice cream; I love making a simple passionfruit mousse now and again when I for some reason have money. It is also fun to eat raw, because you can pretend you are a dinosaur.
The savage Utahraptor plodded through the prehistoric rainforest. He’d been been trying to go gluten-free lately and was been pleased with his total success—why, the plants that contain gluten hadn’t even evolved yet! To reward his stellar efforts, he’d gone on the prowl for his favorite snack: the egg of the Maracuya dinosaur. Slashing through a tangled mess of vines with his cheddar-sharp talons, he arrived at a clearing and discovered a nest of Maracuya eggs! He snatched one quickly before the nesting mother returned from her book club. Maracuya species were known for their vicious and creative ways of killing enemies. Currently they preferred to turn predators’ brains into a porridgelike substance with back-to-back episodes of ‘Jersey Shore.’ Not that that was all bad. Utahraptor didn’t mind oatmeal one bit. Now safely away from the clearing, he examined the egg in his claws before unceremoniously tearing into its leathery shell. Yolk dribbled out of his fangs and down his chin, its jellylike bits not unlike the pondful of frog eggs he’d snacked on the day before. A twig cracked behind him, snapping him out of his reverie. He spun and came face-to-face with a flickering blue and white electronic screen—Maracuya must have followed his careless trail into the jungle. Utahraptor tried to tear his gaze away from the boorish antics of some of the most worthless individuals in any era of geological time, but he found himself unable to blink. Utahraptor didn’t have eyelids. He felt his last vestiges of consciousness draining away, and marshalled the power remaining in his candied-walnut sized brain for one last thought:
Here’s some actual information about what is going in my life. It can’t ALL be about fruit EVERY day.
I am currently doing a BYU study abroad in Ecuador for the summer. I got to Ecuador a little less than a month ago, a couple days later than expected after I volunteered to stay in Atlanta twice in exchange for mucho airplane dinero. Upon arriving at the field school and after some introductory stuff, we began classes. The Andes and Amazon Field School is located on the easternmost edge of the Amazon basin, and as such could be considered highland Amazon. The trees weren’t as big and magical as I expected, but in the time since then I have been shown some staggeringly big trees.
The Field School is divided into two sessions, June and July. It has been in existence since about 1999, when it was a shed, a firepit and a latrine. It is much nicer now. It is basically the dream project of its director, Tod Swanson. Tod was born in this area to an American missionary couple. He grew up speaking fluent Kichwa and married a local Kichwa woman, he has four kids who are trilingual in English, Spanish and Kichwa. Anyways.
I was taking two classes the first session at the field school: Ethnobotany and Kichwa. Ethnobotany is the study of how different cultures use plants, be it medicinally, for food, for shelter, etc. Tod taught Ethnobotany. We had some lectures interspersed with a lot of visiting forests and fields where local Kichwa women told us not only how they used plants but stories and songs about them, or what they meant.
The Kichwa class was taught by a BYU linguistics professor. We would work on grammatical principles of the language for half of the three hour class, the other half being spent with native Kichwa speakers, some old ladies, some people about my age.
I got an A in the class. I do not speak Kichwa by any stretch of the imagination. Needless to say, I will be continuing to learn Kichwa as part of the second session which begins next Monday and continues through July 29. I will also have to decide between a class on Global Health and Nutrition or Ethnobiology, it probably depends on when the other BYU students decide to study Kichwa. It will be self-directed with Janis emailing us new material from Provo, as she has left with her family and returned to ‘Murica. I imagine we will have some time to interview native speakers.
I like to spend time in the kitchen at the field school, the women who work there (all Tod’s relatives) like me and they teach me Kichwa and how to cook.
Right now I am on a week break in between sessions. I am currently in Otavalo, Ecuador with the other BYU students.