Before traveling to Ecuador to begin my work as a Program Coordinator for the Arajuno Road Project (ARP), many sources, from guidebooks to Ecuadorian Embassy staff, described Puyo as a "jungle town." This sounded like an oxymoron. How could a place so far into the Ecuadorian Amazon possibly serve as the capital of the Pastaza province?
Thanks in large part to the financial assistance of the Christianson Grant, I arrived late one evening last week to the volunteer house, where program coordinators and volunteers share an inviting space just outside of town. When I bought my plane ticket, I was due to arrive just days before classes started in the primary schools where ARP provides English language education, but Ecuador's Ministry of Education had different plans. The school schedule had changed slightly and classes wouldn't start for another week and a half. Though I hadn't begun teaching or coordinating, I was already learning an important lesson: the concept of time has a far different meaning in Puyo than in my hometown of Washington, D.C.
This extra time allowed me to settle into the house, ARP and Puyo. I accompanied ARP volunteers to community development projects at the various schools. We spruced up school buildings and gave the playground equipment a fresh coat of paint. I found that Puyo really is a jungle town. The city has plenty of nice restaurants, grocery stores, shops and a pleasant park in the center, but just over the roofs, you can see the green masses of the Andes covered in a veil of fog on all sides. The jungle is always visible, and I am excited to explore more of it in the next six months!