The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Life at GVI Amazon

After nine weeks in the jungle, camp living is starting to feel normal, quirks and all. No one flinches any more when Boris the bat flies through our room in the evening and the dorm rat is more an annoyance for waking you up than for the fact that he’s a rat in your bedroom. Unless he chews on your shoes or steals your snacks. That’s pretty annoying.

The animals around camp have become a part of our everyday lives and their absence is missed. I heard several volunteers express dismay when we returned from our five-week break to discover the orb weaver spider from our kitchen doorway and the tarantula from under the dorm stairs had both moved out. Double abandonment! We had grown used to marvelling at our spider’s web reconstruction each day when one of the taller camp residents inevitably walked bleary-eyed into her overnight additions. Volunteers could be seen taking care when approaching the dorms in the evening, hoping to catch a peek of our tarantula before their steps frightened her into her burrow.

Despite the abundance of critters, it’s not just all animal watching at camp. We like to eat! Now it’s true that rice and beans are our staples, but you’d be surprised what we’ve learned to do with them. Add some veggies and spices, plus the occasion bread product (a good meal guaranteed) and you’d almost forget we haven’t had pizza in weeks. Some camp culinary favourites include deep-fried bean balls, tortillas, and porridge cakes. On Sunday mornings we get a breakfast treat of eggs, bread, and cheese. Except that one Sunday we got banana pancakes with spicy chocolate sauce, which was delicious! When we go to sat camp (like we did last week), we get treated to baked potatoes and s’mores. Yum! This expedition has also included several birthdays and we’ve mastered the art of cake baking on a stove top. We’ve had chocolate, pineapple, and banana…all big hits. You can’t really go wrong with cake.

In between eating, we’re out on survey, which is hard, sweaty work and when we return to camp the cold showers are refreshing. Being clean in camp is important because no field clothes are allowed in the hammocks; we like to take full advantage of our hammocks. At pretty much any point in the day, several are likely to be occupied by volunteers reading, studying, writing, or just hanging out. All those field clothes generate a lot of laundry and it’s up to us to scrub it clean. After we soak them, we soap and scrub and brush the mud and sweat out of them, rinse them in our laundry sinks, and wring the water out by hand (this is all quite a forearm workout, by the way…look out Popeye). When they’re clean, we take our clothes to the “solar drying station” until they are dry enough to wear back out into the field and the whole cycle starts over again.

After a long day of survey work, chores, eating, and relaxing, we retire to the comforts of our dorm, climb into our mosquito nets (we’re not friends with all the bugs after all), and say goodnight to Boris. The noises of the jungle lull us to sleep as we prepare for our next day, here at home in the Amazon.

Kristen Diederich - GVI Amazon volunteer, Oct-Dec 2010