May 27, 2019
We had an early morning start to get to the airport. We re-grouped to check bags and excitedly walked to security. We made it through DIA slower than ever with an hour and a half wait at the gate. Everyone dispersed on the plane rows away. We wished for assigned seats.
After landing in Miami we felt the heat hit us immediately. After 2 sky train rides and hours at the wrong gate we finally made it on the plane. After a long turbulent flight through a lightning storm we met our trip leaders and the trip began. As we got all of our bags, we went to find the bus and boarded. As the bus pulled out of the terminal, we received a sense of fear as the unusual buildings and landscape flew by. When we finally got to the hotel, we debriefed and were separated into rooms with new people. As we got into our beds everyone felt relieved as we finally got some much needed rest.
~ By Tatum, Connor, Emilie
May 28, 2019
Today we woke up at the hotel. We were all very tired from traveling the day before but were very happy for breakfast. The coffee here is extremely flavorful and way better than the U.S. We drank juice from a fruit native to Ecuador called “Tomate de Arbol” or, tree tomato it was sweet and tomatoey. We ate fresh fruit, sweet bananas with chocolate, watermelon, and papaya. Then we ate a big plate full of fresh scrambled eggs, cheese, lunch meat and a croissant roll with butter inside.
After meeting and packing up, we drove 2 hours from the hotel to the famous Otavalo market. There, we ate another large meal with amazing pineapple juice. After lunch we split into groups of 3 por more to have a fun shopping trip. We learned also about haggling, so many of us got very good deals. One of us got asked out on a date by one of the vendors but of course she said no.
After the market we drove to Lago Cuicocha to stay at our new location. This lake is an active volcano boasting 18 different ecosystems throughout. For dinner we ate the best fish of our lives. We had a great chance to learn how much Ecuador values their culture and agriculture, which is why the food is always so fresh.
Fun fact, adios means goodbye forever and ciao means goodbye for now! We’re having so much fun, gracias padres por este gran oportunidad. (Thank you for this great opportunity parents!
Kaitlan, Caleba, and Dalton
May 29, 2019
Everyone tried to wake up for the sunrise but it was so cloudy that we all just went back to sleep. This was our first night in the new hotel at Lago Cuicocha and the views were spectacular. Right outside our front door was the most irresistible view we had ever seen! It was like we had all stepped out of dorms and into heaven. After breakfast we gathered around and discussed how we were going on a hike around the ridgeline of a volcano that the hotel was sitting on. We then got ready and left down the trail and started our 15km trek.
Our guide’s name was Antonio and he was super cool. The first part of the hike had a ton of uphill steps. We climbed and climbed and finally after a ton of stops and complaining we got to the peak of our climb. We sat down at this really nice gazebo and ate our packed lunch from the hotel. After our snack Antonio told us a folktale about the mountains that were around us before hiking again. The second half was downhill and it went way faster. We passed through so many ecosystems on the way: there was farmland, cloud forests, rainforests, and some open plains all within a 15km circle!
After we came back from our 5 hour hike, the families’ kids were outside, Amillio, Isabella, and Elena. People played soccer with Amillio in the courtyard/parking lot of the hotel. We used shoes as the goals and everyone was slipping on the dirt. Amillio was the MVP of the game scoring 20 goals. Everyone was having a good time and it eased the tension and it showed us that you can make friends despite barriers like language or culture.
Amillio taught us alot about his family culture, country, and his daily life. Through him we got a small glimpse into life in Ecuador. There still is so much of the country for us to see plus during the homestay portion of the trip, we will be able to make more connections like the one we made with Amillio, Isabella, and Elena.
After a well deserved dinner we were able to further our knowledge of the culture in Ecuador. Our hike guide, Antonio, returned with more men and 4 girls where they all preformed dances and songs that are common in Ecuador. Specifically, Antonio told us that everyone in Ecuador uses music as a way to connect, share and spread community and love throughout. For example, when a family member or someone in the community passes away, commonly funeral ceremonies lasts up to 3 days. Games are played the whole time to elevate the pain of mourning, a form of catharthis. The dancers also showed us multiple dancers that represented their way of life, such as harvesting and cultivating quinoa. We learned a lot about the beautiful culture of Ecuador.
Jackson, Ella, Zach
May 30, 2019
The day started off early. At 5:15am a group of people got up to see a sunrise. From our hotel we could see all of the lights of Otavalo shine bright in the distance which made the early start worth it. We attempted to watch the sunrise on the roof of our hotel where you could see the city and mountain clearly. After the lack of colors we ate breakfast and met tourists from New York. Finally we waved “adios” to the hotel and got on a giant bus.
We drove through the tight streets of Otavalo. Every time there was a sharp turn the whole bus held their breath. We made it out of the city and drove past beautiful green rolling hills, all separated by the different plots of land. After an hour we made it into the city of Quito. We passed the Mitad del Mundo and drove through concrete houses up the hill sides that made the concrete jungle. Gradually we drove through the city and up the steep, shinny, and curvy road to Yunguilla. Cows and sheep were spotted at the entrance as we finally made it to the community.
We got our luggage and followed a path to a building where we were given the basic gist of what the next few days of our life would be like. We then walked up a hill to the community restaurant to eat lunch. Everything that has been served to us here in Ecuador has tasted amazing, this was no different. Once lunch was over we went into groups and got a small tour of the garden where the restaurant got all their food. We then went to a tree with a swing, which was super fun and the highlight of some people’s day. After swinging we went to meet our homestay families back at the house, where the families started to pile in near the door. First their names were called and then ours. People slowly started to leave the room with their families. Everyone was so happy to meet each other and to have a unique experience in Ecuador. It was raining a bit, but everyone was happy to be here.
By Lark & Jenna
May 31, 2019 Some of us woke up super early to a breakfast of eggs and fruit salad with our homestay families. We had to be at the community center at eight o-clock in the morning to find out what projects we were doing today. We were split into groups to help the community with necessary jobs that ranged from cheese-making, plantain chip-making, gardening, to trail maintenance. In the plantain workshop, we fried, cut, and packaged plantain chips. In the cheese shop, we made cheese from fresh milk, then cleaned and packaged the product to be sold in the community and surrounding areas. In gardening, we made a trail that will circle the garden used by the restaurant and pulled weeds. In trail maintenance, we carved out stairs from slippery dirt mounds, cleared out overgrown brush from the paths and swept away the debris. For lunch we all met at the only restaurant in the community and had soup and chicken along with a local fruit for desert. After lunch, we rotated until everyone was either working in the garden or on the trail. After a hard day’s work we went to the only store in town and played cards under the roof-covered deck in the rain to relax.
By Van, Katie, and Eli