By Eli Karsh-Lombardo, Latitudes Ecuador ’18

The days start at 6:30 AM with the crazy urge to pee after the three-Nalgene-a-day-from-sweat kicks in. Real alarm clock is when the family of seven Spiderman and 200 square monkeys decide to jump play and fight on the thin loud metal roof of the volunteer house. After that, depending on the schedule of the day, we either head straight to the bodega for our food tours for the animals or we start by carrying 30 to 50 kg bags of food, bananas, plantains, papayas, and other fruits up the 200 stairs to the bodega. (Machu Picchu here I come!)

From then until 4 it’s a combination of cleaning enclosures, fixing sheds, assisting the vet, or giving tours (with a lunch break with a local chef that makes the best salsa picante this side of the equator). The rest of the day consists of reading, hammocking, swimming in the river, and always a cold shower (it’s good for your immune system!) No WiFi here except for the local school where everyone likes to hang out and relax with some good music and bad internet.

Being here has changed my mindset on things I thought I’ve been clear on my whole life (obviously, that’s the point of this whole thing!) For starters I thought I knew what seclusion was from past hiking and camping trips, but this is the absolute definition of remote jungle setting. This is the kind’ve place where you take five steps off the path and you’re lost.

The tallest building for miles is the volunteer house that I’m living in which is basically a three-story dorm. The seclusion creates a dreamland for animal enthusiasts. I wake up in the morning to a family of spider monkeys looking back at me, I go downstairs and a Brazilian tapir wants to nibble my pants, a scarlet macaw flies above the treetops looking for a banana to steal. The place I’m in is no longer a dream though, this is a reality that I will be able to keep in my memories for years and years to come. Chao from AmaZOOnico animal sanctuary in Tena, Ecuador!