Reverbs from the ECHO Chamber — a Q & A with Mr. Michael Budniak

Davis Crane, Staff Reporter

Trinity teacher Mr. Michael Budniak

Another in a continuing series of Q & A interviews with Trinity faculty, staff and administrators.

Most of us dream of taking an exotic vacation — some do more than dream. Trinity science teacher Mr. Michael Budniak talked about spending time in the Amazon Rainforest, which included the cold water of the Amazon River, the consumption of slugs, a blow dart gun — and many more crazy stories.

Q: When and why did you take a trip to the Amazon Rainforest?

A: That was the summer of 1994. I had just finished my master’s program for teaching. It was offered as not quite a mission trip, but it would end up being an incredible opportunity to use some of the things that I learned in an actual teaching setting in a classroom. I paid some bucks, and I made it a graduation gift to myself.

Q: What was the weirdest thing you ate there?

A: Hah! Banana grub slugs. They look like the biggest snails you have ever seen, and you wrap them in banana leaves, and you grill them over the fire. They were nice and squishy, and it was disgusting and awesome tasting!

Q: Who did you go on the trip with?

A: That was a group called International Expeditions, sponsored by the Louisville Zoo. I didn’t know any of the people I was traveling with. It was a group of 40 teachers from all over the country for the first week, and then I stayed myself for the second week to live with one of the native tribes.

Q: Besides a massive blow gun, what else did you bring back with you?

A: Yeah, there were a lot of neat artifacts that I ended up bringing, most of which have unfortunately broken down or disappeared. A lot of native jewelry and different plant specimens, along with animal skeletons and animal bones. But again, the blow gun is probably the most prized possession.

Q: How did you even get the blow dart gun back to America?

A: Let’s just say that was before 9/11. It was a lot easier to bring things back with you from other countries.

Q: Did you just bring it on the plane with you?

A: I wrapped it up in dirty underwear and nobody touched it. Wrapping in dirty clothes makes an incredible, amazing, wonderful difference.

Q: Have you ever gone back since then? If not, do you want to go back?

A: No, I want to go back very, very badly. It’s probably going to be one of the trips that I try to sponsor with Señor (Carlos) Cuenca since we’re going back to the Galapagos Islands this summer. I would love to get a trip to the Amazon.

Q: When you stayed that extra week by yourself, how did you communicate with the native tribe members?

A: I had a full-time guide/translator with me. He was one of three guys that I paid some extra money to stay with me so I could communicate. I did not speak that language, no question about it.

Q: Did you end up staying in touch with anyone else who went on the trip?

A: There was a professional photographer that stayed with us the first week; he’s a phenomenal guy. He’s from Michigan, and I kept in touch with him for a number of years. We traded notes, photos and stuff back and forth for a couple of years, but I haven’t seen any of those people since the trip.

Q: Would you say this was the coolest experience of your life, or one of them, at least?

A: Probably one of the coolest, to be able to swim in the Amazon river, get nipped on by piranha, chase pink river dolphins. So yeah, that’s kind of a cool experience, but I have always had wanderlust for travel, to see different places, as many different things as I can, and new experiences. It’s amazing. I doubt you could do the same kind of stuff now, but we’re gonna find that out.