Location: Napo River & Oil Riggs
It seems that I wake up to a different sound every morning. Our first day at Yarina
it was the rain, yesterday the croaking of tree frogs, and today, my roommate Soo shouting my
name. Because the hour time on our clock is incorrect, she thought we slept through our alarm
and missed breakfast. A quick look at the dark sky reminded us that we were actually awake an
hour earlier than necessary.
After our delicious 6 o’clock breakfast all eighteen students, our three supervisors, and
local guide, Hector boarded the canoe to a rural village about twenty minutes from our lodge.
Our mission there was to finish constructing a school bathroom. On our way, we became first
hand witnesses to some of the less beautiful, more guarded sides of the Amazon. Hector led us
on a Toxic Tour to view, an oil waste pool. The oil pool was created and used by international oil
companies as a dumping site for toxic waste. These pools were barren areas in the middle of the
forest. The waste contained in these pools seeped into the soil and contaminated the ground
water and surrounding area, which, in turn, lead to both human as well as animal health problems
and environmental instability. In fact, Hector explained that 60% of adults in this area have some
form of cancer caused by toxic runoff. This demonstrates how easily the well-being of the many is set aside for the
economic gain of large corporations and a select group of individuals.
Though I felt extremely saddened by the Toxic Tour, I was excited to do something for
the greater good. Once in the village, I spent two hours working hard with the entire group. We
all tried to support and motivate one another to make to job easier. Soon, we had completed our
job and were able to relax and play with the locals. Ben, Tommy, David, Soo, Hugo, Felix, and
our chaperones began a soccer game with the children in the village while Eve, Katie, Claire, and
I let a couple of the young girls braid our hair into intricate braids. Just before our departure ten
of the teenagers performed a traditional Ecuadorian dance for us. While watching their
captivating performance, I couldn’t help but realize that statistically, six of them would get
cancer throughout their adult lives. Its a devastating thought, but it demonstrates how
desperately we need to change our ways if we want to save lives and protect our environment.
We returned to Yarina for a late lunch and a fishing adventure in the nearby river. To
our disappointment, my group didn’t catch any fish. We still managed to have fun and
learn more about one another. I feel very privileged to have met and worked with both the
natives and my peers on this trip. I believe I’m making friends for life during our time here with
Lifeworks. Though I miss my friends and family at home, this trip has been both inspirational
and enlightening. I’m excited to see what’s waiting ahead.
All my love to Mom, Papa, Dad, and Ansgi.