Rio Hondo

Yes I know I am putting place names in titles that nobody has a clue where they are. So Rio Hondo is a river tributary to the Rio Beni, where I work. I visited a Moseten family there to learn about Moseten ways of making a living in the forest and the different terms that they use for different elements in the landscape such as hills, rivers, streams, different vegetation patches etc. and how those could be mapped.The family is extremely welcoming and we had a great time, although I felt really bad that we drank all their “chicha” made from Yucca. (Chicha is a drink made of different fermented products, like maize, yucca, plantain etc.) And I was really surprised the family literally devoured my tomato/lettuce salad, because usually people are more fond of rice and meat than vegetablesIMG_4324.

It was very interesting and I fully enjoyed it, even though this time I got really covered inย  mosquito bites (when will they invent light, fast-drying travel pants that are mosquito-proof?). I counted 60 bites on my right tigh one night and then gave up, because there were ticks crawling on my belly. Not to forget the sandflies and…and… Despite that, what could be better than the view from my tent at the full moon (@Sandra: I think this is MORE beautiful than the Taj Mahal by moonlight, ๐Ÿ˜€ ).


Political climate in Bolivia

Since Evo Morales became president, Bolivia is viewed as a country where an indigenous ruler has finally ascended to power and is leading his people to a bright and peaceful future. Or something like that. Well people here in the Beni region view things a bit differently. For them, Evo has betrayed them, supporting only highland Aymara indigenous groups and not the different lowland tribes. Many even comment that Evo is worse than all other presidents, breaking all his promises and using the pachamama or Mother Earth when it pleases him, and in other cases pushing ‘development’ projects of road builduing, mining and oil extraction in protected areas and indigenous territories, such as in Isiboro-Secure. Yes of course, that is in the lowland…. I spotted this mural spraying near the market and liked it quite a lot, because it plays with Evo’s political campaign claim of “Evo cumple, Bolivia cambia” (something along of Obama’s yes we can, although I am sure Evo would hate that comparison ;-), meaning to fulfill a promise ). It says that “Bolivia is changing: more drug traffickers, more terrorism, Evo is fulfilling his promise, long live Tipnis”).IMG_3874

Upriver on the Quiquibey

Just got back from a trip to Pilon Lajas indigenous territory and biosphere reserve with another Swiss doctoral student (whose name I might post here later once I asked her permission) I met in Rurrenabaque. We both work in the same area and decided to take this trip together, and it worked out great! She introduced me to the community where she had been working last year, so people already knew here and were very friendly. The children loved having their picture taken and printed out directly on a “Canon Selphy printer” … (thanks Saemi for the tip!!). The men took us fishing and walking in the forest and fields, which was very interesting for both our research. We would have stayed longer but there was a big flood in the Quiquibey river on the second day we were there that flooded fields and the riverbanks erroded several meters inwards, people were leaving the community to go look after their produce in their fields up and downriver so we took the next opportunity to get back to town with a trader on his boat and raft.DSC_0909



Takanas in Tumupasha

My current work took me to the pueblo of Tumupasha, about 2 hours by minibus in the Andean hills. That’s where some of the last speakers of the Takana language live. The lovely couple in the pictures are two of those Takana speakers that invited me to their house to help me translate the landscape terms that I am research into Takana. They also produce a lot of traditional handicrafts like hand-made brooms out of lianas, but also earrings made out of colourful seeds or woven handbags etc. (Please place any orders by email up to mid-August. ๐Ÿ™‚ )



Ok I got it there are some people interested in what kind of work I do in the Amazon… Since most of you already know the basics (I guess, but in any case it’s about community mapping of landscapes in the Madidi National Park and adjacent communities). The main difficulty, let me think which one is the main, because there are so many…. ๐Ÿ™‚
No seriously, the main difficulty is that many researchers before me have done very unethical work and its become difficult to do any type of research. As my thesis is about mapping, I am in so far lucky as this is a very hot topic and many people are still interested in collaborating, although not all of course… If I were an archeologist I would not even dare to set foot on community land after what they did here (and no, I’m ย not talking about the conquistadores or the 1860’s, but about the year 2005, robbing indigenous graveyards and the like…!)

Some impressions from field work (in the field, and a community mapping workshop):

@Fraenzi: Zu dinere spezifische Frag: ich schaffe ย jetzt mit eme linguischt zaeme, aber es haett kei vorhaeng sondern er ย nimmt sini date unter freiem himmel uuf!! Vilicht soettsch ihn mal kennelerne zum dis bild vo feld-linguiste aazpasse. ๐Ÿ˜€

@Icebear: see north face blouse put to good use in the ‘jungle’ AND at workshop. ๐Ÿ™‚

@Fraenz: sorry natuerli ganz vergaesse aber Du haesch scho richtig gseh, s gruene Liibli isch natuerli vo Dir und es leischtet mir sehr gueti dienscht wells vo de Sunnae und vo de Mugge/Sandfluege etc. schuetzt!





Galopping with gauchos

Yes, I promised I would take some time off from work, and I finally managed to do so and spend 3 days on a working estancia in the pampas some 2 hours from the town I am based in. With my Spanish accent and my fanatism for horses the people on the estancia said I am pure ‘gaucha’, haha. It was very untouristic but all the better for me, because I dont think I could take a hord of tourists anyway, since I do my best to avoid them while in town as well.

Unfortunately the second day the rain and cold hit with 5 degrees, strong winds and rain, very very uncomfortable with the high humidity the cold feels like -30, seriously!! No pictures there, but I still went out with the gauchos. ๐Ÿ™‚



An obituary for the mighty Richard Parker

There was once a fiersome little puppy dog who was adopted by my little host sister who named him… Richard Parker (the tiger from “Life of Pi”…)

Because he was so full of fleas I didn’t really cuddle him as much as I had wanted. And yes, that is my field bag that was probably full of “piojos” afterwards. ๐Ÿ™‚

Unfortunately one day I got back from upriver and Richard Parker was no more, he had died of some stomach disease. ๐Ÿ™


Home is where there’s a hammock

Apologies for the long delay for my first blog update, things have been really busy in Bolivia. My fieldwork started well, but organizing permits and contracts etc (still) take up a lot of time. Most of you will not be that interested in my work though, so here are some pictures of where I am currently living: a new house at the very edge of Rurrenabaque, but no water connection. So the toilet is at the old place about 400m away and shared with roughly 20 people, so expect a queue to use the shower. ๐Ÿ™‚ For me it couldn’t be more perfect though and I already installed my own hammock with a beautiful view of the river and the forests, I only wish I had more time to use it! ๐Ÿ˜‰



Whale watching in Monterey

I finally found time to upload some pictures from last-weeks whale watching. At the end of the 3 hour trip we hit an incoming storm front, or actually, it hit us. The sea was extremely rough then (the horizon was moving…) and more than one passenger involuntarily provided “sea-food”. Apart from that, the experience was fantastic, as the whales where very active and I was able to spot a half-breech and a lot of tail-splashing from humpack whales, as well as a school of Risso’s dolphins and migrating grey whales.





Carmel – Heaven on Earth for Dogs and Surfers!

There’s so many things you can do on Carmel Beach – if you are a dog or a surfer. The pictures are especially for Sherri (yes, it’s a leash-free beach!!) and “icebear”, another dog-lover among the readers of this blog. Dog-lovers from all over come to this dog-loving town to enjoy themselves with their four-legged friends. Dogs are provided with water bowls all along the shopping streets, they can accompany their owners into the art galleries (yes, this town was once for the rich and beautiful, although today there were many not-so-rich-and-beautiful around it still has a posh-feeling to it) dogs are also allowed in most restaurants, and they even have their own menu..! Dogs of all sorts and sizes were having a party on that beach, it was just cool to watch all their action!




The other thing about Carmel are the waves, today there was a pretty big swell coming in because of a storm system hitting the coast tomorrow, so all the surfers were keen to catch some waves!