As part of my family’s vacation in Ecuador, we visited a small local Ecuadorian community. The community is called Pilchi, and it’s located two hours away by motorized boat from Coca, the closest major city. Some members of this community work at the lodge where my family stayed. The lodge helps the community with sustainable farming and business advice.
On the day we visited, we arrived at the Pilchi community by boat.
The first thing I noticed was there were no streets. There’s no electricity, so this is how the community cooks meals:
Everything about the people’s lives seemed different. They live in huts. They had only a single elementary school for the village. Older kids have to travel across the river by boat for middle school. People in the community kill animals for food by using a blow dart.
My brother and I got to try blowing the dart a target, which was very fun. That’s Jack in the white shirt.
I should also mention the food. The community served us a typical meal, with fish, plantains, and beetle larvae. Yes, beetle larvae! It was not appealing to my taste. There was also some sort of tea, which was mostly drinkable. They also served a fermented yucca drink, which was definitely not my cup of tea, so to speak.
Since there is no electricity in the community, there’s no television or stove or refrigerators. But, there was something surprising: internet! The government provides it for the children, to help them learn. It’s powered by a gasoline generator.
We were very fortunate to visit this village, because they only started allowing outsiders to visit 2 weeks prior. The Ecuadorian children were very curious about my brother and me and another little girl who was part of our group. They kept staring at us, and I assume it’s because we look different from them.
But they were so happy to meet us they offered to perform their Christmas dance for us.
The guide from our lodge explained that most of the kids have never been on a vacation or to a big city.
However, the Ecuadorian kids didn’t look particularly different to my brother and me. They were wearing sweatpants and a regular t-shirt. Maybe, because we live in New York, we are used to seeing all different types of people.
Overall, I was very intrigued by this community. I asked my family if we could donate some of our holiday gift money to help this community. The people we met were all very nice, and I could tell a little bit of money would go a long way there. Maybe it will be used for food? Maybe medicine? Who knows?
We also bought some handcrafted jewelry which helps the community indirectly.
When we returned from the visit, my mom challenged my brother and me to think about ways those kids might be more fortunate than us. We came up with a few possibilities. First, they have a different kind of friendships– without iPhones and xbox and other distractions. Second, life is more simple. They grow up not worried about walking in the wrong part of town. And finally, they have a different sense of community. They rely on each other for food, medicine, education and sometimes even survival.
All in all, I’m glad I live in New York City. But I’m also glad that I was fortunate to meet the Pilchi community and spend a few hours learning about their way of life.