After a long and winding bus ride through the mountains, we arrived in Mindo.

This is a huge change from the city. Mindo is a tiny town with dirt roads in the middle of the mountains. Words are failing me as I try to describe this place. It feels like the rainforest - because it is. It rains every day. It’s lush. It’s wet. It’s thick and green. The flowers are bright and the clouds are close by. Strange birds call and insects chirp. Stray shaggy dogs wander the streets everywhere. Everything is dripping constantly - the roofs, the trees, the wide, dark leaves - and from my bedroom I can hear the river rushing downhill.

Our hostel made of wood and is open air: there are windows, but most of them have no glass. There is a roof, but no walls completely close off any room. As I write, I am huddled under my mosquito net hanging from the ceiling above my bunk bed (I’m on the top bunk, there are four other people in this room). Mosquitoes are not a problem here, though, and there is no risk of contracting malaria at this altitude.

This place is ostensibly a paradise, but there are some problems that warrant attention. I learned today that this town has no waste water filtration whatsoever; all the sewage goes directly into the river. The water is safe here upstream, but not so good for anyone living downstream. Could the river eventually benefit from mycofilters (mushroom mycelium filters that can remove toxic compounds) on their wastewater streams? Probably, but any project like that is a long ways off - in terms of economic and scientific feasibility. In short, mycofiltration like that is such a new technique that it will have to be tested more and made to be profitable before it can become the norm.

We had a basic introduction to mushrooms, first at the farm, and then more here in Mindo. We’re learning about remediation of toxic wastes using plants and fungi. It’s so difficult to describe a foreign country in a few paragraphs, and I hope I’m doing it justice. The energy here and among the group is intense; all of these people are here because of their passion for learning and helping other people. Exploring this country is an otherworldly experience.