There was Oscar, calling my name across the airport terminal. He is coming towards me, arms waving, a big smile on his face, “Deborah!  Deborah!” he calls. He’s carrying three of those really big black suitcases, the ones with black handles. All three handles are in the “up” position, and they bob up and down each time he calls my name. He looks like a big, friendly spider moving across the shiny tile floor. I wonder, how can he run and carry three very heavy bags? He’s a fairly slight man, but he must be strong.

But mostly, I’m amazed, relieved and darn glad to see him. This is my 7th day in Ecuador and I’m at the airport to board the 30-minute flight to Coca. That city is the gateway to the jungle regions of the country, and where I will take the boat to get to Sani Isla Lodge.

Airport Tarmac Arriving in Coca

At my age (which I’m not going to tell you), I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve worked and lived in several countries on four continents. I love to travel. Visiting a foreign country, for me, is always an amazing adventure. But it can also be stressful, strange, and even isolating if you are not proficient in the language.

Even though I only met Oscar once, briefly, before our airport encounter this morning, he recognized me across the terminal. Oscar works for the Sani Lodge in the Quito office, managing transfers, and logistics. How could he possibly remember me, I wonder, and in a busy airport at that? But here he is, greeting me warmly, we even hug and have a coffee together. He practices his English and I practice my Spanish for a nice half hour conversion before my flight to Coca.

Seeing Oscar gives me a sense of belonging. This big, crazy, chaotic city of Quito feels smaller all of sudden. I am learning this is how Ecuador and its people are. They quickly make you feel like you belong. You are a friend. I’m really glad I made it to the airport early.


As part of our continuing work with the indigenous Amazonian community of Sani Isla in Ecuador, Deborah Tompkins is sharing a travelogue of her experiences as an American in the Amazon. Deb’s company, Sage Point, works with NGOs in Africa, Asia and now Latin America to develop and execute marketing and communication strategies. She is donating her time and expertise to support RP and the Sani Warmi community. We invite you to join Deb as she introduces you to the people, the community, their Amazon ecolodge, and their forest home.

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