Ecuador, My Life In The Jungles- The Sequel 1

This day brings into remembrance of my time in Ecuador. I wrote about my first leg of the trip on Kiss From The World but of course, time and perspective holds even more colorful stories.

As I lay in bed trying to go back to sleep because it’s 7am on a Saturday, I suddenly saw myself on a truck riding to the jungles of Tena. My mind replayed my trip in vivid details as if to remind me of all the adventures I’ve had in my life. For some reason, people accuse me of my inexperience and youth because I look young….but if they heard what I’ve been through. But it’s really none of their business.

So here goes.

Backpacking solo as a women.

  1. Do research, but don’t RESEARCH TOO much. Don’t ask too much of other peoples’ opinions. It was my first time backpacking in a “3rd world country”. My last backpacking trip before Ecuador was Australia. I asked a few Asian women and was filled with more fear than excitement. My boyfriend at the time gave me pepper spray and told me to hold onto it at all times. My experience was contrary to those opinions…I met the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met.

A kind man offered to help me translate, my Spanish was quite broken. I finally arrived at a local hotel, it was $10 a night with 2 beds. One for me, and one for my backpack. The plastic walls separated me from the grandma who owned the hotel and was watching some drama. I could see the technicolor bouncing to my wall, as if to welcome me. My bed sheets were thin and crinkled from the 1970s and hot red florals covered my second bed. Please excuse the quality, I don’t think I had an Iphone back then.

My days in the city of Tena was a blur but after visiting my sponsored child, I roamed the streets and attempted to eat street food without getting sick. I was successful. Ecuadorian salsa is BUENO. Almost as good as Mexican salsa out here in LA. They also love animal innards, and as a Taiwanese person, I could get with that, no problemo.

I decided to visit the jungles, there was another $10 hotel over there. I asked my new buddy whether he wanted to go with me. He was hesitant as he was very American, even though Ecuadorian American…and also he had gotten robbed once at an Ecuadorian bar. Oh I meant, he got roofied and robbed, and woke up in the bushes without his Iphone or wallet. So he was pretty petrified at the thought of going with a strange Asian woman to another city hours away.

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First we were to wait in front of my hotel for a yellow taxi. We waited. 1 hour, 2 hours. Wow. Okay, we called a few times and finally taxi came.

Second, we were dropped off at a bus station where tons of people played volleyball or was it basketball, I can’t remember. Now, we were transported into a truck but we had to wait for the tour guide. Now, this was another hour or so.

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The trip took 2-3 hours, riding on dirt, rocks and rickety paths. Towards the end, we were pretty much off-roading and the sky was getting dark. We finally parked and the tour guide took out his flashlight. In these photos I think they were carrying gas into the hotel.

We walked into the jungle and I thought “that’s it, I’ve met my time of death”. (No, actually I was a lot more positive back then since I was young and inexperienced (LOL)). A huge castle jungle house appeared before my eyes.

I was in heaven.

The individual rooms were not fancy, but it was enough. Mosquitoes roamed around me as I quickly sprayed myself. The bathrooms had concrete gray walls and straw walls surrounded me in the bedroom. All I could hear was birds, bugs, snakes and whatever else was out there. I could feel my soul spreading into the jungle and saying hi to each creature. I was becoming one with the earth. 

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The one part of the jungle that had reception was on this outdoor patio on the second floor. You had to put your phone on one point of a statue.581041_10151770635875603_255176119_n

The next day, I was expecting my friend to be there but after some looking and asking, I found out he had left. YEP, I am not kidding. My new friend left the jungles early in the morning, I think he was SO scared by the whole journey that he decided to leave. 

And yes, he was a male person. And yes, I am a female. And it just so happened I was the only person staying there. So I had a whole castle to myself. SO please LORD, do not judge people based on gender.

“hey what the fuck? you left?” -me on the phone.

“yes, well my mom needed me for something, so I had to leave right away”

“oh okay, whatever. Have fun!”- me

So my friend for the next few days was the tour guide, who I was not paying because I did not want to go on a tour. However, as a friend he still showed me a few things like how to cut down cocoa.

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He had escaped from a life of American gang -hood to live in the jungles. He saw friends get shot, and the most horrific of all, children being trafficked in crates. There was nothing he could do about it because he could get gunned down right there and then. This was no Narcos, this was real life. Then we talked about Jesus and I showed him how to hear from Him directly. Jesus and gangsters all in one day.

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To be continued…..

Happy 5 Year Anniversary To Me!

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5 years since I left that moldy office.

As a celebration, the super self published ebook is $9.99 for today only. https://payhip.com/b/6zoT

Here’s an excerpt of a 100 page book I have not touched for a year, that still needs some writing..

May 15, 2012- On my adventures in Ecuador. 

Hi Friend!

I ́ve finally got the time to blog about my first 2 days

in Ecuador. The manager of the internet place just

asked me if I ́m married, it ́s not likely that random

strangers will make conversation with you by asking

about your boyfriend or spouse. He said, “your

boyfriend is in Ecuador?”. To which I said “America”.

I ́m in a random hole in the wall internet cafe, except

there is no coffee. It ́s called a “cabina”. I rode in a 5

hour bus to Tena from Quito today.

What I ́ve fortunately realized is that Ecuador is

probably the most beautiful place on earth, and

also the people are one of the kindest people on

earth as well. Unlike the pre- warnings that “omg”,

you are going to get robbed and beware of men

there, men in fact, especially the older ones have

been like papas to me. Today on the bus, I met a bus

driver who helped me find a hostel and find my way

around Tena. Then previously, a medicine salesman

helped me get to the terminal and take the right bus

to Tena.

He was very kind, though I don ́t understand why he

said he wanted to see a movie with me when I

already told him I had a boyfriend.

I paid 10 bucks to stay at a hostel. The hostel has a

little gap above the door so you can hear what drama

the owners are watching. The amazonias get really

cold at night, though during the day, it ́s like living

24-7 in a hot steam bath. I feel yucky. It feels like

living in Taiwan. The night, the markets do resemble

Taiwan markets from 15 years ago. Though Taiwan is

now much cleaner and more modernized.

I was thinking about how I ́m the only asian woman

walking on the street.

Sometimes you start to feel like an exotic animal

that everyone stares at. Now I know how white

people feel in Asia, except in this case, it ́s an Asian

in Ecuador. Staring is very normal, it seems.

The concept of private space does not exist here.

Personal space? What? When people point to tell you

something, they definitely cross your American

space, bypassing the normal boundaries of your

boobs. Of course, I ́m crossed and pissed. Though I

have realized, hey, they are not the only ones.

Sometimes they don ́t stop talking until you tell

them, ”I ́m going to take a nap”.

This morning, I was freaking out about how I would

get to Tena, I prayed. Then, when I was buying a 30

cent comb the medicine salesman happened to be

going there. Thank god! I would say, Ecuadorians are

WAY more hospitable than people in LA. I mean no

one in LA would take the time to help you.

Plus, if you think about it, no one goes walking in

Skidrow at night anyways. All the things you do at

home, is what you would do in a foreign country.

Speaking of foreign, I hope that I never act foreign,

besides the language barrier. I hope I ́m never

someone that treats locals with disrespect. I was

analyzing and observing today, and thinking about

what it means to be foreign.

And of course, how everything my American friends

warned me of, happens to be 99 percent not true. Of

course, we have to be careful wherever we go, but my

time in Ecuador, for the two days, have proven to be

positive…besides feeling like an exotic animal and

the sometimes ̈freaking annoying remarks

“cheennnnaaa” as in Chinese. Because the very idea

that a Chinese would come from Los Angeles seems

so foreign, I have to try really hard to be patient.

539984_10151770627425603_205951160_nAt a salon in Tena where Asians are rarely sighted. 578312_10151770574405603_631750852_n

The nice man who helped me find a hostel

How It Feels To be White In A Foreign Country

Hi friends,

You must be wondering how I am faring in a foreign country such as Brazil? Well, I now understand how it feels to be white.

Now, I have lots of white friends. I never knew how it felt to be white and always took pity on friends when they looked at me quizzically when my mom or relatives would speak mandarin. Jesting about the gringo is common; though the white friends can´t understand it. Of course, I have Indian friends too, but it just feels way different being white.

In Brazil, hardly anyone speaks English. According to my newly adopted Brazilian brother, you only learn vocabularies such as “dog” and “cat” in school. Thus, my Portuenglish is often returned with a empty look “what the hell are you saying? Are you from outerspace?”.

And of course, “JAPONAISE” is the common comment about my race. If anyone says I´m Japanese again, I will seriously choke the life out of them. I said, “I´m from LA but I´m Taiwanese”. “Thailandness?”- they reply.

OMG. Stab me!!

Thus, this is how it feels to be a multi-cultural, tri-cultural German born Taiwanese American. How does this relate to being white? Well, I often see my white friends have these typical quizzical looks when a restaurant worker or some non-english person would say something.

Now, I see it in the mirror. I, myself, carry a constant quizzical mask. The mask says “what the hell are you saying?”

It is in South America that I finally realized, “dayam…I´m American and I´m proud of it. Yes, I´m a confused American that happens to be Taiwanese and was born in Germany, but I´m still American in culture. I love my ghetto personality.”

ABOUT BRAZIL: 

I am going to miss Brazil because the people are incredibly warm. They are naturally positive, they smile and laugh for no reason. Well, reasons I can´t understand. They are laid back and can take hours to get out the door, but they enjoy relationships and talking. I have learned a lot from Ecuador and Brazil, the people are SO unlike Americans. They live simply, save and recycle, and they seem a lot more content than…well, me. So this is what I´ve learned from them- relaxe and enjoy the sun.

 

Jungle and Meeting Marco

Hi friends!

I´m trying to type really fast so I dont have to pay so much at the cabinas, though it´s relatively cheap. First of all, I´m alive! I have mosquito bites but I am happy and well. The other day I got to meet Marco and his family, as well as visit a church project. There were so many kids, they were all super adorable. I wanted to cry when Marco gave me a hug, he loved the scrapbook and gifts I brought him. Especially, the ninjas I bought from my friend who makes them. He carried the plush toys when we went to the zoo together. He is currently 10 years old and his family is struggling financially.

We went to visit his house and he had a monito, monkey as a pet. On my lap is the monito.

My friend, that is a real monkey. It tried to bite me, but after awhile it fell asleep on my lap. Sorry about the botellia in the picture, haha.

Then, I went to the jungle…let´s say, it was one strange thing after another.The lights went out in the lodge, I had some dark dreams, and it was super hot and humid. But within 3 days I had made more than 5 friends that I can say, I´ll now be friends forever with. Ecuadorians are so helpful, they will take time out of their day to help you. They are not driven by money only, they value famillia more than anything.

Yesterday, after riding with a tour guide, a worker and their boss (it just so happened they were at the lodge visiting and they were nice enough to give me a ride back with them), I had to pee SO BAD. Necessito el bano so bad. Well, my friend told me I had to get on a certain bus, when the black market taxi stopped, it just so happened the bus was right across the street. So with my backpack, I jumped out the taxi, ran across the trafficked street and jumped onto a moving bus, yes it started moving.

Somehow God is protecting me and giving me rides everywhere. I can´t tell you how amazing I´ve felt meeting the people here, they really humble me and help me to see the valuable things in life. I´m so glad I came, I wish everyone could experience this.

Fanta and Rice Breakfasts, Hot Summer Humid Nights in Ecuador

Hi Friend!

I´ve finally got the time to blog about my first 2 days in Ecuador. The manager of the internet place just asked me if I´m married, it´s not very unlikely that random strangers will make conversation with you by asking about your boyfriend or spouse. He said, “your boyfriend is in Ecuador?”. To which I said “America”.

I´m in a random hole in the wall internet cafe, except there´s no cafe. It´s called a “cabina”. I rode in a 5 hour bus to Tena from Quito today. What I´ve fortunately realized is that Ecuador is probably the most beautiful place on earth, and also the people are one of the kindest people on earth as well. Unlike the pre- warnings that “omg”, you are going to get robbed and beware of men there, men in fact, especially the older ones have been like papas to me. Today on the bus, I met a bus driver who helped me find a hostel and find my way around Tena. Then previously, a medicine salesman helped me get to the terminal and take the right bus to Tena. He was very kind, though I don´t understand why he said he wanted to see the movies with me when I already told him I had a boyfriend.

Having said, Ï paid 10 bucks to stay at a hostel. The hostel has a little gap above the door so you can hear what drama the owners are watching. The amazonias get really cold at night, though during the day, it´s like living 24-7 in a hot steam bath. I feel yucky. It feels like living in Taiwan. The night, the markets do resemble Taiwan markets from 15 years ago. Though Taiwan is now much cleaner and more modernized.

I was thinking about how I´m the only asian woman walking on the street. Sometimes you start to feel like an exotic animal that everyone stares at. Now I know how white people feel in Asia, except in this case, it´s an Asian in Ecuador. Staring is very normal it seems.

And private space doesn´t exist. Personal space? What? When people point to tell you something, they definitely cross your American space by bypassing the normal boundaries. Of course, I´m crossed and pissed. Though I´ve realized, hey, they are not the only ones. Sometimes they don´t stop talking until you tell them, ¨”I´m going to take a nap”.

This morning, I was freaking out about how I would get to Tena, I prayed. Then, when I was buying a 30 cent comb the medicine salesman happened to just be going there. Thank god! I would say, Ecuadorians are WAY more hospitable than people in LA. I mean no one in LA would take the time to help you. Plus, if you think about it, no one goes walking in Skidrow at night anyways. All the things you do at home, is what you would do in a foreign country.

Speaking of foreign, I hope that I never act foreign, besides the language barrier. I hope I´m never someone that treats local with disrespect and no offense, ¨”act really white”. I was analyzing and observing today, and thinking about what it means to be foreign. And of course, how everything my American friends warned me of, happens to be 99 percent not true. Of course, we have to be careful wherever we go, but my time in Ecuador, for the two days, have proven to be positive…..besides feeling like an exotic animal and the sometimes ¨freaking annoying remarks “cheennnnaaa” as in Chinese. Because the very idea that a Chinese would come from Los Angeles seems so foreign, I have to try really hard to be patient.

More to come….

Love, bekka

Trash To Treasure, Pre-Brazil Film: Waste Land & Vick Muniz

As I was flipping through Netflix, I saw Waste Land with Vick Muniz, the most famous Brazilian artist. In the beginning, I thought I would lose interest, but when they started interviewing the recyclable material “pickers”, my interest piqued. The film turned out to be inspirational, tear- jerking and one that ALL artists and humanitarians need to watch. It is also a great film for those that DON’T understand the importance of the arts, when you watch this film, you will SEE the concrete and soul changing IMPACT that art can do to a community, people and even the government.

What is the film/documentary about? Filmed over three years, Vick Muniz visits the trash pickers of Brazil, in Jardim Gramacho (the largest landfill) in order to create portraits out of trash/recycled goods and to bring awareness, raise funds through the art. His visit turns into a collaboration with the trash pickers, who are inspiring, cheerful, positive people. The catadore (garbage picker) support each other like family; aka someone broke 2 arms and a leg due to being crushed by a trash truck and 20 people donated their blood to him.

By the way, did I mention I picked this movie because that is by far, one of my favorite artworks in history (man in bathtub, dying).

Result of All This? The community was so encouraged, some got to go to London, they got to see the ACTUAL work of their own hands….they realize that they could do something great. One lady left an abusive husband because she SAW herself and her worth through creating art. Art empowered her. Moreover, they raised so much money from the art that in 2012, Jardim Gramacho landfills will be shut down and they will be transitioning to another system. Vick’s efforts has led to a learning center which educates and

You can see the trailer here:

Why Am I Talking About This? This film truly shows the LIFE changing power of the arts. The art seeks to bring beauty and worth to the audience as well as the creator. This film was also vital for me to understand an outcasted part of Brazil, where I will be going May 23 to June 7. Though I have applied for the press program in Brazil, I have yet to hear from them. Watching this film made me realize that perhaps it’ll be okay to pave my own path, whatever that may look like. Perhaps I will meet people on the street that I may become good friends with and teach me about life, I am open to where the spirit will take me.

I can also relate to Vick because like him, I had to work my way up (well, now I don’t think of “going up”, I think of “going forward” since we Americans have such disjointed views of what that looks like). He was born into a lower/middle class family and was relatively poor. One time he accidentally got shot by a guy who had money and compensated him for the wound. Vick was smart enough to use the money to fly to NY where he became a renowned artist.

I don’t think it’s accidental that I watched this film. I have always pioneered to create art that made people think, someday I want to be a successful artist who can help people like that. But for now, I think I’m already doing that, though I can’t see the impact sometimes.

Help me raise $2,600 by May 13 so I can experience the film first hand in Ecuador and Brazil. The leader of the Pickers Association had a dream to have an association, even his family rejected him and people thought he was crazy (even the people he tried to help). At one point, the $6,000 he got from the bank to pay his workers was taken by a stranger who put a gun to his head. He wanted to give up at that point- I started crying because I KNEW EXACTLY HOW HE FELT. You believe in your dreams, but few people do. You meet obstacles and you want to give up. I’m telling you- DON’T. 

“I’d rather want everything & have nothing than have everything & want nothing because at least when you want something your life has meaning, it’s worthwhile. The moment you have everything, you have to search for meaning in other things. I spent my whole life wanting everything, but having nothing. Now I have everything, but I don’t want anything.” -Vick Muniz

Comments are very welcome! Please leave a comment even to say hi! I appreciate it!

SUMMER MUST-HAVES! NEW Hello Kitty Glass Frames & Snap Pop Purses, All For A Good Cause.

Adorable HELLO KITTY GLASSES FRAMES – get your exclusive pair for only $25. What can $25 help me with? It will help me with paying for ONE night’s stay at a hostel, yes, that is if I’m not able to couchsurf. Though my friends have already told me to stay at a hotel because Ecuador is a 3rd world country…I’m just letting the spirit lead me.

Of course, there’s POP & SNAP purses, stores any size of sunglasses or glasses. Great for makeup, makeup brushes, cameras, phones! Not only are they silicon material, but they are great for those silly BIG handbags that causes women to search incessantly for their belongings…because it’s insanely bright. POP & SNAP purses start from $12-$16! They of course also fund my trip.

Yes, fundraising to go to Ecuador and Brazil is still happening! So far, I’ve raised $1,200 which is awesome! But it’s not enough for me to actually travel within Ecuador and Brazil. It’s enough to cover the flights, visas, etc. Thus, you can actually shop my extremely cute and original store online while supporting me while I volunteer and meet my sponsored boy of 4 years in Ecuador then to Brazil. I’ll be in Ecuador for 10 days, then Brazil for the next few weeks. I’ll be stopping at Panama City (layover) and Chicago when I’m coming back to LA.

Speaking of which, I’m fully liberated and have been slowly coming to terms with my self-employment. I’ve been really grateful for friends who have amazing mom/dad cooks that cook INDIAN FOOD, one of my faves. The other day I went to the Brazil consulate and was amazed by their efficiency! In order to get my visa, I had to make an appointment. After getting stuck in traffic, I ran to the consulate (after finding parking in cramped and expensive Beverly Hills). When I got there, I got a number, sat for 3 minutes and was at the window for one minute. Talk about efficient. I’m starting to like Brazil already!

You can also make a direct donation if you believe in my cause to help others and to write about my adventures! I’ll be volunteering and seeing my sponsored kid! DONATE NOW.

Thanks for reading friends! I appreciate it!