Winnemem Wintu - The Journey to Justice

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Location: Redding, CA, United States

Sunday, January 31, 2010

To Ecuador and beyond

I had an opportunity to travel with a group from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Let me start by saying that if you have not heard of this group, check them out, they are doing a lot of wonderful things worldwide as well as in the United States.

OK then, as you may or may not know, I am a follower of the Winnemem religion and no other so I was surprised by the invitation to travel and the openness of the folks at UUSC who arranged this trip south. After about 23 hours of total travel time from Nor Cal to Quito, Ecuador,speaking a bastardized version of Spanglish, I was able to negotiate my way through customs and the airport maze from the international terminal to the domestic terminal where I discovered that they were closed until 4:00 AM. Sleeping was impossible, but dozing in and out worked (along with several cups of the home brew there "Nescafe"). I verified my disdain for instant coffee that early morning and was first in line to hop the next leg of my trip. I got off the third plane of this trip and through the oppressive , muggy air, found myself smack dab in the middle of Guayaquil, a riverfront town south west of Quito.

I was greeted in the baggage area by a young man holding a sign with my name on it and let me tell you, I was never happier to see that someone knew I was coming and had actually come for me.

OK, I know this is chatty but stay with me. My suitcase was soaked from sitting hours on the tarmac in Atlanta and then in Quito so I had only the clothes I was wearing and a new pair of socks in my backpack so I hopped in the shower, rinsed and lathered, and headed to the hotel business center where I could send an email home saying I had landed. 15 minutes later I was back in my room waiting for my assigned roommate, Charlie, the President of the UUSC, to arrive. He did about 3 hours later and after setting up his rigging, we headed to the first meeting of the day with the others in our delegation.

Now, I began to get a sense of the folks who traveled south and their rationale for going. Seems that beside the staff members who handle the operations UUSC provides, the folks I traveled with were donors of sorts to the humanitarian programming. We had the general introductions and a meal and closed out the evening with a rundown of the logistics for the next days in the field - this was going to be quite the adventure: a visit to the offices of Mi Cometa, the offices of Los Observitorios, a canoe trip to the Isla Santay, a trip to the offices of the water services regulators department at Ecopag, a filed visit to a housing development by the community people and finally a trip to a free-market Banana plantation.
Over the next few posts, I will write of the events at each of these stops and finally of the presentation I made to the local community activists and indigenous people of the area.

I am happy to be home; I saw that humanitarian funds are being used in foreign lands and that is good but I also want folks to realize that we in Indian country also sometimes live in third world conditions within the United States.

I made some wonderful new friends, have promised aid to several places, saw the results of community intervention through the writing of a new constitution for Ecuador and realized that these folks like all of the folks of color I know in the US are a resilient bunch. All that will come in the next days as I gather myself for a thorough description of Ecuador and beyond.

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