Thursday, October 29, 2009

River Watch

Each day as I hike to and from the site I follow the main road that is criss-crossed by the meandering river. Each day I watch the incremental changes as once isolated puddles start to meld together and once dry crossings become muddy and the outright wet. The past few weeks we've had near constant rain, and the river that was once confined to a few low areas up the valley is now running across the road in and out of town.

Dos Mangas (two sleves/arms) is so named because it's located where the rivers Culebra and Colin join to form the larger Manglaralto river. Though now a seasonal river, some of the older residents have told me that as recently as 50 years ago the river was permanent, an deep enough that comuneros would sail rafts laden with paja (a plant fiber used for roofing and the famous "Panama" hats) down to the coast.

Bundles of cut paja.

As the river rises, and my hike to the site become a slog through calf-deep mud, I watch the river with excitement and trepidation. Excitement to see what the valley looked like in it's recent history, when it was lusher and wetter. To be able to catch crayfish out of the river and eat ripening fruit right from the forest. Excitement especially to imagine what it would have been like for the people who populated my site and lived along the Rio Culebra. Trepidation because the only way in and out of the village is across the river. There is no bridge. When the water gets too deep you're basically stuck. Trepidation because in previous years the river, when it runs, comes all at once, and has taken houses with it.

The river road, in the dry season.

They say that there'll likely be an El Nino event this year. With the way it's been raining (unseasonably heavy, according to my workers) I wouldn't be surprised.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

El Levantamiento de 2009, Part 2

So while we were out of the country more drama ensued (see my previous entry here). The community, with the help of the Ministry of Tourism, had some lovely signs made that were posted at the trail heads to the waterfalls and natural pools that they take tourists to. Well, the resident malos came by with machetes and destroyed the signs. That prompted the community to vote, in the absence of any official decision from the provincial government, to declare Bonnie and Clyde persona non grata within the community. When we got back to Dos Mangas we drove under a banner hung at the entrance to the community saying as much.

Last week the police accompanied B&C to move their stuff out of their houses, but lo an behold, discovered an illegal arsenal which could out gun the local police force, as well as all kinds of black market or smuggled machinery, motorcycles, etc. and that was only what was at two of their three houses, not to mention what could be hidden out on their land. It was big enough news to appear in the main coastal newspaper, El Universo. There’s all kinds of speculation within the community that they were smuggling the guns for FARC, and also that they were drug runners too, what with MontaƱita being right up the road. I’m just extremely glad that the time I was up there filming with some comuneros that we had a bunch of armed police with us! The two are now under house arrest and facing some serious jail time, which of course won’t be anything new for one of them.

Seriously, what is with the dead people?

I either have the best or the worst luck. It seems like no matter where we put an excavation unit, or for what purpose, we keep ending up with skeletons! We’re trying to dig a pit through to sterile (non-cultural) soil to document the time periods of the site. All I want is pottery to match up to some other sites. So of course we find another burial. The very edge of it skims the unit that we’re working in, but of course it’s the edge that contains an entire (though fractured) vessel, which is now sticking out of the wall. Previous experience has told me that things like that left in the wall of an excavation unit won’t stay there for long, so we’re having to open an adjacent unit to do this thing right and get that person out of there.

Mapping Buen Suceso

I spent the first four days back at work with my guys mapping the site. This had been postponed because when we first came to Ecuador, back in June, my telescoping level ended up left in a corner behind the front door when we went to the airport. Even though it was shipped via FedEx on June 10, it has STILL not cleared customs here in Ecuador! So, when we were home this time I bought a second one and didn’t let that sucker out of my sight!

So it took a long time, and it was tedious, but here are the fruits of our labor:

Two Weeks in Two Paragraphs or Less

Our visit back to the States was absolutely wonderful. We were so lucky to be able to get together with so many family and friends. First was my cousin Andrea’s wedding. She made for the most gorgeous bride, and her new husband Kyle is a great addition to the family. All of the cousins were together and we got some pretty nice pictures of everyone. Then, we were off to North Dakota to visit Steve’s grandmother. She had not yet met Baby Girl, and our visit ended up being kind of an early 95th birthday present. Steve’s parents were in ND as well, so we had a really nice visit. We returned to Wisconsin to spend some more time with my parents, and had a great ladies’ day out at the Zoo with my mom and aunts. We breezed through our university town, visited with advisors and drank with friends, and scanned a whole heck of a lot of books so that we’d have PDFs with us in Ecuador. We got back to my parents on Thursday morning and then left for the airport 24 hours later – and we didn’t forget anything this time!

All the cousins together for the wedding.

Baby Girl and Nana at the zoo.

It was incredibly nice to be back, as much for the conveniences as for being around family. I’m really hoping that our extended travels will be fewer and far between, and that maybe we can find our way to get jobs and settle down close to family. I can do the independent adventuring spirit thing just fine, but when it comes down to it I’m happiest near my family.