Notes from the guides of the future
greatly impressed me, and the fact that they were letting me learn from them was a dream come true. In addition to the gratuitous amount of birding, I was also there to be what I had signed up to be: a volunteer around the lodge. This was almost as good as the birding for me, as another major reason I had signed up to volunteer with Tropical Birding was my hope that I would get to work with some of the Ecuadorian sta at the lodge. This way, I could learn Spanish via osmo- sis and being forced to practice. This worked out amazingly well, as, in addition to being patient and helping me speak Spanish, the employees at the Lodge were all nice people, and I greatly enjoyed working with them. It was a high- light of my day to eat dinner with the employees and talk to them about their lives and listen to their stories from over the years.
Through all this, I was able to learn a lot about the culture of Ecuador and how to speak Spanish suciently well to travel around the area on my own when I needed to run errands. Another huge plus I came across while I was down there was the ability to converse with one of Tropical Birding’s co-owners, Iain Campbell. Iain, who lives in Quito, stopped by Tandayapa from time to time and I was grateful to have the opportunity to get to know him a little bit. Through his conversations, I learned about how positions like the one I was occupying were started, how Tropical Birding has been helping with conservation and outreach over the years, and even more about the people who are Tropical Birding. If I had limited myself to only being a volunteer in Ecuador, I could simply vouch for the quality of the birding and the beautiful scenery. However, since I volunteered for TB, I can now also say that touring is an excellent way to experience the world, and I can honestly say that, even if I never even end up working with Tropical Birding, I wholeheartedly recom- mend traveling with them. After all of this, I only had one thing
left to nd in South America: a worthy answer for my parents’ inevitable question: Was it worth it? When I returned, I was proud to be able to look them in the eyes and say “yes.” I had learned more about neotropical birds than I had hoped before leaving for this southern continent, and experienced the best birding of my life. I had seen some of the most incredible scen- ery in the world and had become acquainted with one of the coolest countries on earth. I am extremely grateful to Tropical Birding for oer- ing this opportunity, and, as I realized when I accidentally spoke Spanish to the US Immigration Ocer, I had learned more by taking advantage of this volunteer opportunity than I would have had I remained in my sheltered corner of the desert southwest. In the end, I had seen more birds than I had imagined, had an experience that I will never forget, and made more friends than I had hoped. I look forward to seeing who is lucky enough to volunteer with them in the future, and can think of no better way to get to know the tropics.