Today Anar earned the respect of all when our tribal guides asked for a volunteer to eat a live jungle grub (supposedly helps with asthma). When the first student asked, said "No way" someone suggested Anar who stepped up to the plate. We watched Anar in amazement, in disbelief, a brave young man who didn't flinch. In Anar's own words, once he bit off the head, it was instantly dead. It was harder than granola and more crunchy. Like Cocoa Puffs-once you move in to the body. Skin is rubbery but inside like a paste. As he kept biting, it become more like mystery meat. "Like balcony?" Carter asks. Anar continues, "If you really want to eat it you have to chew a long time. It tastes like a really good almond but nauseating. At the end, it tasted chalky."
On our jungle hike, our guide again asks for a volunteer. After the grub, I thought there would be few. But several hands shoot up. He opens the stem of a leaf and asks the student to taste. She does and reports that it tastes like a green apple. Another volunteer also licks the leaf. Our guide then asks the students to look closer. Real close. Tiny ants. Undaunted, several more students want the ant-eating experience.
It gets worse.
As guests of an Ecuador tribe, we sit on benches in a large oval hut with a thatched roof. We are in the midst of native-dressed members of the tribe, parakeets perched on the fence and the quintessential South American variety of dogs. The women hold bowls with a white liquid they keep mixing. I know what's coming.
It is their custom that we drink from the communal cups. After we pass the cups around--some barely tasting, our host explains how the drink was made--by tribal women who mash the yuca plant and take the large chunks, chew them to mix with their saliva to aid in the breakdown of the plant. The softer yuca is then thrown back in.
I am probably more squeamish than any of our students and was extremely impressed by an encounter in the bathroom at the jungle animal rescue zoo.
Student A comes out of the toilet stall and asks "Is there no toilet paper?"
Student B bursts out of the stall next to her and jubilantly replies, "It's all part of the experience!" To which student C chimes in, "Embrace it!"