Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 1 (in Tena, that is!)

A brief summary:
1. Factory tour
2. Four hour drive from the mountainous Quito to deep jungle depths of Tena
3. Our first official orientation with Kallari
4. Dinner follwed sleeping the night away in the eco-lodge Cabañas Aliñahui

But how it really happened is a whole other story. Where we last left off, the alumni had just arrived and taken a brief 2-day orientation throughout Quito, learning how to work with communities with the Pachamama Foundation and understanding the tail end of Kallari´s chain of production (cafe and factory). Although we don´t have any pictures, we promise we saw how chocolate was made. Through the entire process from toasting to conching, until the temperature is made just right and each package is sealed by hand.

On a tight schedule to get to Tena by 3pm, we hopped back on the bus. Brooke was breaking out in stress hives, contemplating the intricate consequences of missing the integral meeting with the Board of Directors. Just that morning, the route had been blocked due to massive landslides. How would we pass? Would the road be under construction? Once we started, there was no looking back. Anna reassured her that everything would be okay. Anna is almost always right, too, so Brooke believed her.

Meanwhile, Adam was in Tena sipping on a pina colada. Work had slipped through his fingers and time was abundant. Or so he says.

In the last blog post, you see our journey. We rushed and ran and turned and swerved all the way there. By the time we arrived, our stomachs were in our feet. Judy Logback and Raquel both narrated our path. I don´t think any one will remember every single river, but that´s ok!

(insert story about finding the infamous corn sheller, a tale only to be heard in person)

We arrived though.. thirty minutes early for our orientation. Brooke fainted and Adam took it from there:

Here, you can see how organized our orientation was. Adam had set up name tags, printed relevant documents, and provided the groups with handy notebooks to take down useful information. The Kallari office accompanied each project group accordingly. We had Judy working on promotion materials. Fabricio was working with the Community Workshop Group, naming all the food he could possibly think of. Leonor and Carlos were swept off their feet to work with Growth Planning... and by the end of it, everyone´s heads were spinning.

The most important part, though, is that the alumni worked with the community parter, one-on-one. And Brooke was happy. Adam was happy. And Anna was ecstatic because the rainforest is like her favorite place ever. Period.

Carlos gave a kind welcoming speech to the alumni. He said that everyone thinks that the Cooperative is crazy, but they dreamed their dream and here they are earning more money for their farmers. There was a small part inside of me that stood and applauded when he said, ¨Welcome to Kallari´s house. We are glad you are here.¨ As students preparing for the trip, the moment could not have been any more rewarding.
During our orientation, Robin Millman learned how to make a cornsheller for the first time. As an educator, she was charged with working with the community face-to-face to help them learn more about design and creativity. As a non-native speaker, however, Robin insisted that Adam run the workshop. Here, you can see her doing a fab job at putting together a cornsheller. An impromptu workshop was called as the Kallari technicians showed up on the scene, and Fabricio started pounding away. It was a preview of what was to come tomorrow at 8:30 am when we started the real thing! I´ll give you a sneak preview though.. Robin and Shahla rocked their community interactions and made everyone feel at home. Big kudos to their open ears and hearts. You think that´s cheesy? Just you wait!
After a long three hours of saying hello to Kallari, we trekked our way south for 40 more minutes to the Cabañas. The place is a solar-panel run with rainwater harvesting sort of hostal. It serves dinner, breakfast, and packs lunch in beautiful banana leaves to cut down on its environmental impact. The lodge is 1.2 km from the main road, inside the jungle, alongside the Rio Napo. Here is the view.

When we arrived, however, the hostel was not like the hostel we saw on the internet...