Living and Giving

The Wisdom of Ecuador: The Beauty and Danger of Rice and Books (Part Four)

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This is the fourth of an eight-part series on my volunteer trip to Ecuador. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™. 


The Beauty and Danger of Rice and Books

Balanced with this beauty and almost danger – is the “beauty and danger” of giving.  There’s a company which offers its resources – quick food and reading books – in accompaniment with their development of the land. What a decision.

And that is one of the major pieces that the Aschuar community is facing… encroachment by the oil companies who will offer an isolated tribe a bag of rice and some books in order that they may pump the earth for oil. 

With the Pachamama Alliance – it is called such because it is an alliance – not a one-way giving – we have given technology in the forms of radios so that each community and tribe can communicate if approached by a company.  Often the tribes and communities are 2-3 hours walking from one another. They need this open dialogue so they can band and join together in their responses.

Additionally, they have also formed FINO (Federacion Indigenas National Organicion) which is an interest group for all the tribes, with one voice and communication. They have just now gotten the first indigenous representative elected in a major position in the government!   So that will be a huge step, as they learn to exercise their voice…

In one of the most beloved communities, I was so touched, conflicted, by our talk.  Don Rafael Taish is such a dear, kind man.  His face crinkles with kindness as he listens, shares his community and home with us.  In the back of the hut, which is sacred and for the wives only, they all support one another making meals, providing wares and taking care of the children.  It’s very harmonious and a bit shocking to see polygamy so widely accepted!  And it is a sign, similar to that pressure we sometimes face in the United States about provision – that it demonstrates a man’s ability to provide.  Polygamy and all its ramifications is it right?  Literally, push yourself to ask that question.  Is it natural? Is it right?

That’s one of the main reasons I came on this trip – was to answer the question – what parts of our civilization are right and progressive? What parts of their civilization, 2000 years old, are more advanced than ours? Is polygamy natural?  Even if it isn’t, is it ok if it is accepted?  Is technology beneficial? In which circumstances?  Does it contribute to a stronger community?  Increased communication?  Is that always good?  More or less peace?

Back to the hut after our work with the community. 🙂  So when we arrived we are each given a bowl of chicha(sp?).  It is a grain, it seemed as if barley to me, which has been chewed on by the women and spit back into a big pot.  It tastes like thick, fermented beer or a waterier yoghurt a bit dour.  And then we all introduce ourselves, asked to provide our age as well…wisdom.


You can take action.  Support projects in South America:

Give $10 to plant a tree in the rainforest
Give $25 to give water to a villager
Give $115 to give light to a villager
Volunteer in conservation in Ecuador
Spend the summer teaching in Ecuador