The AMAZON!!! (Part 3 -- Waorani Dancing and Achiote Free-for-all)

Hello dear readers!

Here's the third installment in my series on my Amazon trip.  One day, we took the canoe to the Apaika community, which is also Waorani (aka Huaorani).  We got the opportunity to spend time in a traditional Waorani house.

Inside are Bai in the hammock and Beba (his wife). (And doesn't that little one look cozy?)

Peeling and boiling yuca, a step in the preparation of chicha, an important traditional drink.  Later, it will be mashed and chewed up to be fermented with saliva.

Cute groggy baby...

Beba was really kind-- she painted my face with achiote and gave me a palm corona to wear.  We had some interesting conversation later, despite the language barrier (I don't speak Waorani, and her Spanish is limited.)  She was the only person I met there wearing traditional clothing (hers are made from parts of palm trees.)  I spoke with Obe (another woman, in her twenties) about choice of clothing, and she said that she and other young women might wear their traditional clothes at home, but when they're interacting with tourists, they feel more comfortable wearing Western clothes... which is completely understandable.  The younger people (in their teens and twenties) are on Facebook (even though they can't access it often because of lack of Internet or cell service)... and I can see that they'd want control over their images online.

Here's Pegonka (my awesome guide), explaining how the poison from the liana is prepared for the blow dart guns.  Basically, as I understand it, the liana (a kind of vine) is ground up and wrapped in palm leaves.  Then water drips slowly into the top, and works its way down through the poisonous ground liana and absorbs some of the poison on the way.  Then the poisoned water drips into a container.  Then it's treated over the fire to create a kind of resin that Pegonka carries with him while hunting.

Everything in the house was very functional, except for these funny, random stuffed animals on a shelf...

The face paint is achiote, which is a bright red edible seed, used in many dishes in Latin America.  For face paint, they took achiote seeds and rubbed them in their hands with a little water, then rubbed in on their skin.  They performed a traditional wedding dance, which is done at the annual Waorani celebration when many different Wao communities get together for celebration (I think it's around early March.)

Here are Pedro and Pegonka (with Bai in the background), doing the dance. (The women danced first, and had me join in.)

They were chanting, laughing, and having fun with it, circling around the house.  This is Bai in front, and Fausto and Luis.

So, while the guys are dancing, the unmarried women are sitting on this bench.  The guys were supposed to be scoping out the girls as they danced, and choosing who they wanted to marry.  Fausto's buddies kind of shoved him in my direction, and decided that he was choosing me.  (I'm happily married already, but due to the lack of young maidens in our tour group, he had to settle for me...)  Fausto was very shy about it, but yes, it appears that ritually at least, we're hitched...


The mood during and after the dancing was festive and fun...

The young girls really got into spreading achiote over everyone...

Here's Obe-- a very smart, cool, determined woman, who has five kids, but is committed to graduating high school this year.  She has big dreams, and she has the highly motivated personality to make them come true. We spent lots of time talking in the canoe.... she's the one doing a fascinating ethnobotany project with Wao healers.  She suggested that I come back in a year or so and visit healers with her to learn about their techniques, an idea which I absolutely love.


I'm happy to say the digital recorder and camera I sent her actually arrived there in time for her to do the work she needs for her graduation in May. (I've had bad luck in the past with sending stuff to my friend Maria in Ecuador-- sometimes it gets there, sometimes not, sometimes months later-- so I felt really grateful my package got there on time!)

Since I have a background in writing ethnography and books, Obe and Pegonka and Luis were interested in my help in structuring and translating their own projects... another idea I love.  We've exchanged Facebook and email addresses, and I'm hoping that I can at least help from a distance, or maybe (hopefully!) even in person again. 

Hmmm... who should my next achiote victim be....?


Javier!  The English-speaking tour guide!

He was such a sport!  The girls attacked him with achiote and he had nowhere to run...  He's an all-around great guy (not Huaorani himself, but a supportive friend to them).  He's finishing his second degree in Quito now, and his research project is on sustainable tourism, focusing on the Huaorani Ecolodge.  He has a wonderful rapport with the local community-- you can tell they respect and appreciate each other.  I was really grateful to him for helping me coordinate getting the digital recorder and camera to Obe in time to complete her school project.... he worked with his awesome travel agency, Tropic, to facilitate getting my package to the community as fast as possible.

Okay, that's all for the moment!  If you haven't read my first two posts on my Amazon trip, you can read them here and here.  I have three more Ecuador posts that I'll share over the next few weeks, so come back soon....