The author is currently doing a Community Development – internship for Runa Foundation.

A neighborhood boy at the central field of beautiful Mushullacta

Last week, the Casa Runa ladies, Alice, Allie, and I, took a break from our Archidona life and journeyed to the small, peaceful community of Mushullacta, about two hours by car. There we experienced our first Amazonian homestay and I can safely say, on behalf of all of us, the trip exceeded our expectations.



Jose’s children, Curi (age 5), and Brian (age 7) show off their english school book

Our hosts, Jose Narvaez, his three children, and brother Leonidas Narvaez, welcomed us into their family for four days and were happy for us to share in their culture. We spent much of our time conversing with Jose and Leonidas about the local culture, from Kichwa legends to dream interpretation and traditional ceremonies, all the while exchanging phrases and words in Kichwa and English. On Saturday, we were fortunate enough to attend a guayusa ceremony, a daily ritual for many people in the region, in which family members gather in the early hours of the morning to drink guayusa and interpret their dreams from the night before to guide the day ahead. For example, if you dream of an animal, you will likely receive visitors the following day.

Our team also spent time on our projects for Runa, mapping GPS points of chakras (traditional agroforestry systems that sustain many Amazonian families), interviewing lenders from the community bank, and gathering data on the banking system.

Leo shows us guayusa trees in the chakra


On Friday, we trekked into the jungle for what would become one of the most challenging but rewarding parts of our stay to visit a waterfall. The journey there took a total of 4 hours maneuvering through dense vegetation, mudslides, winding caverns, and river crossings, until we came to a breathtaking waterfall and swimming area. There we bathed, enjoyed a simple lunch of tuna and plantains (served properly on a leaf), and rested before the two-hour return home. This, Allie and I decided, was our new version of “casual Fridays.”

We made it!



Although we faced a few so-called “appropriate challenges” during our stay (i.e. the rogue bat in our bedroom, several splinters, and some slips and falls on the hike), the experience of it all, however short-lived, is something I’m extremely grateful for. Jose, Leonidas, and their family were extremely kind, helpful, and patient with us newcomers. They opened their home to us, kept us well-fed and well-guided through each challenge, and graciously shared with us a brief window into their daily lives. Thank you to their family for this wonderful experience!

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Grace Herbener

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