by Kathleen Rauch, Tripper '86 & '87
Other than Randy Borman, Doug Stufflebeam may be the one person most responsible for introducing hundreds of people to the Cofan Nation.
Stufflebeam dealt with life on his own terms and created his dream job as owner and sole guide for International Collegiate Expeditions (1978-2001); guiding hundreds of U.S. college students on adventure (or in his words “kick-ass”) trips to Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Egypt and Alaska. The Cofan villages in Dureno, Ecuador and Zabalo, Ecuador were primary destinations for the expeditions and over 23 years, hundreds of individuals made the journey.
He passed away in March 2012 at the age of 67, but the result of his work was evident during a reunion of “Trippers” held November 1, 2014 in Mercer Island, WA. The Stufflebeam Adventure Tripper Reunion with honored guest, Randy Borman brought together a diverse and multigenerational group of people who either traveled to Cofan territory with Stufflebeam or who had other connections with Stufflebeam, Randy Borman and the Cofan.
For me, as a former tripper (’86, ’87), I experienced the gathering as an early Thanksgiving. I delighted in the opportunity to connect with people, who across time and geography, have made a deep and lasting impression upon me. The connections with the Stufflebeam community and the Cofan tribe have informed the trajectory of my life and my passions.
I so appreciated the reconnection with Christine Kohnert, Doug’s wife, and their three sons, Wolfgang, Ruger and Ernst. Christine remains the fierce and lovely matriarch who included all of us Trippers in her extended family and has held each through the years. The “boys” that I remembered from my late teens and early twenties have become powerful young men, exuding both a sense of adventure and compassionate hearts
Although I had not seen Randy in 30 years, I immediately recognized the spark of vitality and the profound humanity that Randy embodies. Life in the Amazon has informed Randy in a deep and powerful way that comes through in subtle ways, even in a modern, Western setting. I reveled in meeting Randy’s youngest son, Joshua along with fellow Cofan tribal member, Hugo Lucitante, Hugo's lovely wife, Sadie and daughter, Asha. In 30 years, much has changed, although the essential remains the same. I felt a surge of gratitude to meet the future generations.
Attendees came from far and wide to celebrate the connection with this remote Amazonian tribe whose wisdom has touched the hearts and opened the eyes of those of us privileged enough to make a journey to this wild, invaluable Amazonian landscape.