June 4th, 2014 – Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve
2200 hours. Everyone is asleep. Day begins and ends early in Ecuador. I have been here for what feels like a lifetime. I am finally starting to accept my fate in residence of this South American country. My life has changed a fair amount, but I have adapted to meet the demands Ceiba makes of me. But every time I start to acclimate to this situation something new surfaces its way into my life, showing just how mentally unprepared for this I was.
High exposure to afternoon sun has become just another facet of Ecuadorian life. In between lunch and lecture today, a group of us went to the beach. We travelled just 20 minutes east of Lalo Loor. In Madison, WI this is absurd. In Ecuador, different things can happen.
Do not drink the water in Ecuador. It is dangerous to consume the tap water from faucets. Drink bottled water only. Brush your teeth with that as well. At Bosque Seco Lalo Loor Reserve the same rules apply. Here, water is conserved much more greatly. Too much use and the group will run out of water for the day. Shower time must be limited. Less than 5 minutes is appreciated. Of course, no one will really know if you took more… unless the water runs out on you.
Feeding times are set under a tight schedule as well. 0700 breakfast. 1200 lunch. 1800 dinner. Of course if you should somehow happen to deviate from the schedule, a plate will be saved for you on the counter. Be sure to eat it before the flies do. Eat while you can because there’s not much time to eat other food throughout the day other than the meals served during these hours. The meals follow a standard pattern. Breakfast usually includes masses of local roadside fruit, yogurt, and some form of cooked egg. Lunch is served with a soup appetizer followed by a main dish most certainly including rice and beans, and, if we’re lucky, fried plantains. Dinner follows essentially the same schematic, minus the soup. Dessert is served randomly throughout your stay, so be on a nightly guard for your main source of processed sugar.
The restroom is housed outside and the toilets are not connected to sewage. They sit above approximately 20 feet holes dug into the earth with a cabin built around the contraptions. These squat-in-the-woods savers reliably direct the excrement into its proper place more than 6 feet under. Should you make a contribution to the hole in the ground, you must shovel organic compost into the depths alongside your donation. When you first open the door to the waste house, you will experience a sensory overload of olfactory information. After the stench has settled into your sensory organs, you can make your first attempt to open the toilet seat. If you are lucky, the composted feces will be at a beginning cycle of decomposition and the burning sensation will not emerge within your eyes. The unlucky ones will not have ventured this far. Luckily, if you are a male you sometimes have the option to avoid the situation altogether. Sorry ladies. Such is life in Lalo Loor.
My new life may seem strange to those who don’t understand. I am beginning to like it much more here though. The possessions I owned in the United States do not matter here in Ecuador. We share the resources that we do have access to here. There is only you and the rest of the group. I am starting to feel that maybe I do belong.