There is something so healing in listening to someone express how they connect to nature. Yesterday, we had the great fortune of talking with and learning from an Ecuadorian organic farmer, Javier. Javier carries a very humbling presence. He spreads an optimistic energy that instantly becomes contagious. The knowledge he shared with us about the way nature was built and how it thrives was more valuable than gold. Coming from the United Staes where most valued things can be bought, and nature is more of an exhibit than a cherished part of life, it was so empowering to learn from such an impassioned and kind teacher.
He taught us all the meaning of “Ayni”- a natural and beautiful way of human interaction that is treating an entire town or community as a whole, rather than broken up pieces. This is an important part of Ecuadorian culture. It is not as if many different families make up a community, but that the community is family. History has shown us again and again that divisions among people prevent full human potential. That is why the Ecuadorian communities have sustained this way of life.
We also discussed “ecophilia”. A term to describe the fondness of nature that every being is born with. Javier made a very critical point that society can rip this from us at birth. Most of the time we don’t even realize this. The overwhelming majority of people especially those in the United states, grow up being fed the wrong foods. The impact of this is only revealed when their bodies become prone to sickness and fatality. The organic farms in the local communities of Ecuador carry the most nutrient rich and soil-friendly plants that help the human body thrive. The healthy nature of Javier’s body was most prevalent in his glowing in healthy skin. Of course this sounds wonderful- healthy ecosystems and healthy people. But this did not just come to be magically. This took a lot of hard work, passion, and dedication. Ecuadorians really stand out in this perspective. Nobody is a stranger. When Ecuadorians recognize that there is progress to be made, communities come together and push for change. Javier left us with an important message. He looked at us with hope in his eyes and spoke “If we can do it here in Ecuador with such little resources and so much opposition from the system, then anything is possible for you”. Hopeful, inspired, and enlightened. This is how he left us. I believe I can speak for all of us when I say that we were so thankful to have Javier as our role model and teacher.
Today as usual we woke up to the sound of Demaceo pounding on the door and flickering the lights for our wake up call at 7:30am. After a great breakfast of french toast, eggs, cereal and blackberry juice we set off for a Kallari chocolate tour. [Kallari is a community-owned and operated enterprise, a cooperativo or cooperative in English.]
As Juan led us around as our guide, we went to a processing center where we saw cacao seeds fermenting and some drying out. Then we traveled by motorized canoes to a chakra forest where we tasted cacao fruit. While we were taking turns harvesting the fruit we came across rotting cacao. Juan explained to us that the rotting cacao is sold to major corporations such as Hershey’s. When we buy from major industries as opposed to local artisans we don’t really know what is inside.
We were served a traditional Ecuadorian lunch which consisted of fish, yucca, tomato onion salad, and guayusa tea. After lunch we swam in the Napo river and had a sampling of the chocolate: ají (spicy sauce), pineapple and coffee. All flavors including the 75% chocolate bar were muy delicioso!
We came back to Huasquila after an exhausting day to dinner and some chimney chat reflection time. What a great day!