Nestled deep in the pura selva (pure jungle) of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest is the incredible Tiputini Biodiversity Station. Founded by professor, scientist and Pachaysana collaborator Kelly Swing, with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Pachaysana’s academic partner) and collaboration from Boston University, Tiputini boasts an untouched array of Amazonian flora and fauna. And yet, it’s just a glimpse into the myriad of species the rainforest has to offer.
(Stephanie in front of just one of thousands of enormous trees in the Ecuadorian Amazon)
For over 20 years, Tiputini has served as a site of research for ecologists, biologists, and “-ologists” of all kinds. However, this year, Tiputini served a new purpose for an unexpected group of visitors. It became a site of change…
… Rehearsing Change to be exact, just like the title of Pachaysana Institute’s Fair Trade Study Abroad program. From March 14 to 18 of this year, our group of local counterparts from the communities of Tzawata and Mariscal and international students had the opportunity to adventure, explore, share, and reflect on the wonders of Tiputini.
(Our group eating lunch.)
While nature surely impressed, our group’s greatest takeaway from this experience was the sharing of cultural and local knowledge. Tiputini is more than a site for research, it more than an educational platform to teach about our world’s biodiversity. It is a place that allows for the intermingling of local and universal knowledge. During our hikes into the jungle, led by Tiputini’s fantastic guides, we engaged a true exchange of knowledge. Our Kichwa counterparts exchanged their wisdom, for example local names and uses of plants and animals with our mestizo counterparts and internationals, and our mestizo counterparts, in response, shared other bits of knowledge and experience. Each night, all of us would gather together to reflect on what the jungle means and represents, rather than just what it has to offer. For us, Tiputini was a place for witnessing nature’s community while building our own human community. We even got the workers on site involved, sharing stories and soccer games with them.
(Creating community with the amazing people who work at Tiputini.)
Our Rehearsing Change-ers didn’t come to Tiputini with equipment or plans to research, but what we did bring with us were our stories and our ways of life. And in the middle of this untouched piece of jungle, we found intersections where they all connect. In my eyes, these discoveries are just as important as finding new species and are the perfect parallel to the beauty and wonder of Tiputini.
(All of us floating down the Tiputini River.)