Friday photo time! This week I’m travelling back in time six years to when I lived in a tiny village called Wimbí, deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest. 70 percent of the population of Esmeraldas province is Afroecuadorian; descendants of West African slaves brought here five centuries ago. Some of their ancestors escaped slavery, some were freed from the mines where they had been forced to work. Others dodged slavery altogether when their ship, destined for Peru, was wrecked in the rough waters off the Pacific, and they managed to swim to shore to create a new life for themselves in the South American jungle.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend a month in Wimbí. Life there in is in some ways unrecognisable when compared to my own, back home: there was no running water (other than the river!), a single toilet block for the whole village and an intermittent electricity supply which would sometimes cut out for days. The nearest market was a gruelling, sweaty, four-hour journey by bus and canoe. These boys worked hard; they spent their days logging in the jungle to earn money, and hunted (sloths, armadillos, jungle pigs…) and fished to supplement their diet. They slept on the bare floors of their houses, alongside their whole families. They paddled their dugout canoes with ease and poise. During my month in the jungle, I was stunned by their resourcefulness. Anything could be repaired. Any challenge could be tackled. Remote living breeds self-reliance.
But I love this photo because it shows the other side of the boys’ lives – the part that I can so easily relate to. The close relationships; the joking and the posturing; the shyness and the cheekiness. Posing for the camera, messing around.
I think it shows that teenage boys are the same around the world, whether they grow up hunting sloths – or playing video games.