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Weston Middle School Ecuador 2023

April 13, 2023

Everybody was excited for our first day in Quito. Despite not having enough sleep, we were all enthusiastic about the full day ahead of us in the capital with the highest elevation in the world. We started off the day with the opportunity to taste the world renowned Ecuadorian bananas and coffee. The wonderful clear and sunny skies allowed us to view the city from the gondola heading to the Volcan Pichincha. We were surprised by the effect that the altitude had on us as we hiked to the Swing in the Clouds. On the swing we felt the feeling of flight as we dangled 4,000 ft above the city of Quito. On the bus down, we got to try Ecuadorian snacks and sweets such as cotton candy and oreos (they were different).Then we headed towards La Basilica del Voto Nacional. Its neo-gothic architecture amazed all of us as we walked around it. As we continued to explore the city, we got to see Ecuadorian specialty hand-made Jipijapa hats including one worth 24,000 dollars. We visited The Street of Seven Crosses containing a long history that spans multiple religions. We learned about the influence of these faiths that shaped Ecuador and even Latin America as a whole. As lunch neared, we were able to taste the authentic flavors of Ecuador. We were blown away in a restaurant carved out from the historical mansions of Quito. As a part of the Ecuadorian culture, we visited an open-air market. We used the skills we developed in class to haggle with vendors and get the best prices. We were shocked by the strength of the US dollar and how much cheaper things were here compared to back home in the States. From intricate hand-carved chess sets and beautiful paintings to traditional clothing and hand woven bracelets we purchased souvenirs that we will cherish forever. But more importantly, we practiced and implemented our Spanish skills in a real-world setting. After returning to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner to continue to experience the cuisine of Ecuador. We bonded through conversation and ice breaking games. When we returned to the hotel, we drafted our Global Works Constitution, outlining the rules of our trip. The value we obtained from a single day in Ecuador, is immeasurable. We went out of our comfort zones and lived a different life. We can only imagine how much we will gain from the rest of our trip, and we hope that it will be one that we remember for the rest of our lives.

Written by: Andrew Palfrey; Jeffrey Lan

April 14, 2023

Today is our 3rd official day of the trip, but our 2nd real one. We woke up at 7:45 and went to a delicious breakfast of Ecuadorian fruits and eggs. After breakfast we took a scenic bus ride from the hotel in Quito to Cotatachi, Cayapas National park, stopping along the way to visit two llamas and try Ecuadorian pastry. Some kichwa ladies boarded our bus and shared their culture with us as well as give us the opportunity to purchase authentic Ecuadorian crafts. When we got to the park we took a beautiful scenic hike around a crater lake. Whilst experiencing the breathtaking views for a mile, our kichwa guide, Antonio, taught us more about his culture and the meaning behind the poncho. We then drove to lunch were we got the chance to try the Ecuadorian delicous cuy, a Guinea pig. After lunch we walked around town a little bit and stopped into a few leather stores. Later we drove to the calalera community where we will be doing our home stays and service work. We had a fun filled game of soccer with the locals and it already felt like we were part of the community. After saying our temporary goodbyes to the locals we drove to our hotel to get ready for a delicious pizza dinner. After dinner, we were given the itinerary for the next 4 days, and acted out some situations in Spanish that could happen in our home stays to help prepare us. We also did some reflections on our initial reactions to the home stays in our journals, before heading up to bed.

Written by Quentin, Oliver and Hayes

April 15, 2023

The day started with a breakfast of fruits, toasts, pancakes, juice and eggs. We later packed our luggage onto the bus and headed to la Calera, where our homestays are. Once arriving at La Celera, we took part in a traditional ritual to welcome us to the community. After the ritual, we begun our community service; sanding and painting the local school. It was a chance to really connect with the locals and bond with the people on the trip. Today, we sanded and painted the back building of the school. Our work for the day concluded at 12:00 PM and we met our host families soon after. After walking to the houses where we are staying for the next 3 days, we were served lunch by our host families. While the first few minutes were awkward, it got easier over time and conversations became more fluid. We still had time with our host families after lunch, so we toured the garden. Lots of the food here is locally grown, so it was nice to see where it came from. Eventually, it was time to meet up with the rest of the group at 2:15 PM for our next activity; visiting Otovalo market. Otovalo is a very large Spanish speaking market with lots of things to purchase, and we were very excited to spend a couple hours there. Ms. Mongiello had us pick one name out of a hat, which became our “secret llama”; we had to buy one thing under ten dollars for the person whose name we got. In addition, we were given a scavenger hunt to complete at Otovalo, which asked us to bargain for things. While Otovalo was really fun, all of us were tired from the morning’s work and we were ready to go back to our homestays. We arrived back at La Calera at 5:30 PM, and enjoyed time interacting with the kids before dinner. Dinner was delicious, and it was definitely easier to interact with our families than it was before. Overall, today was a great mix of work, fun, and time spent forming meaningful connections with the locals.

Written by CJ & Hailey

April 16, 2023

Today we woke up at 7:30. All of the kids ate breakfast in their home stay and then made their way on over to the school. We started painting right away, in order to paint all the walls and classrooms. At 11:30 or so we stopped to take a break, we all had some snacks and talked with one another. We then got back to work, some kids were painting a classroom green, painting the poles black, and painting the outdoor walls beige. Around 1 pm we arrived back at our homestay to eat lunch with the families. Many people either had soup with potatoes and other vegetables, as well as rice and chicken. Kids then played games such as Uno, or soccer with the kids and parents of the families. Everyone then met back at the school at 2:45, to go to the afternoon activities. Half of the kids went to leather making and the other half went to beading/Jewelry making. In beading the kids worked on creating jewelry, either necklaces and bracelets, and used many different shapes and colors of beads. The kids that went to beading said they all had a blast and the local workers were so nice. Meanwhile the other half of kids were at leather making designing wallets. The kids had a variety of styles and colors to choose from when putting them together. Everyone said it was a supper fun and cool experience that really enjoyed and had never done before. The owner of the leather store was super nice and was very helpful l.

At 5:15 or so the kids headed back to houses to eat dinner with their family’s, the food in Cotacachi is amazing and so fresh! Then the host family’s dressed up theirs kids for a traditional celebration with the community of their culture. Everyone met and listen to cultural music and young girls danced for everyone. Kids, family’s, and musicians got in circles and danced. It started raining and everyone walked home. People hung out with their house family’s, and then ended off their night. Today was an exciting day, and everyone is tired and ready to rest.

Written by Lauren & Kate

April 17, 2023

This morning, we woke up at around 7:30 and had breakfast with our homestay families around 8:00. A lot of us ate bread, eggs, and drank juice. All of the Weston Kids with chaperones met back at the school after breakfast at 8:30 to start our service work. When we got to the school we then quickly started back up again at painting. Today, we continued painting the window bars black, painting one of the classrooms green, and some of the the outside walls blue. Around 11:30 we took a snack break, drank lots of water and reapplied sunscreen. After snack, we went back to working around 12:15. The people who were painting the green room continued that, but people who were painting the black bars got to switch over to painting hop scotch on the cement. This was mainly because doing the black bars was a long and tedious job, so we only thought it was fair to give them the easier and more fun job to end with. We split up into groups of 3 or 4 to paint multiple hop scotches on the pavement. We made the hop scotches more colorful and vibrant so it is a lot more appealing to kids and their tfamilies. We started to wrap up painting around 1:00, but cleaned brushes and put covers over the hop scotch to dry until around 1:30. After we finished cleaning up, we headed to our home stays for lunch. Most of our families had already eaten lunch before we got there because we were on the later side today. Most of us ate soap, rice, and some sort of meat with juice on the side. After lunch, we hung out and played games and soccer with our families. Shortly after, it started down pouring and storming, so we stayed inside until it was time to meet back at the school. At 3:00 we headed back to the school to swap groups for leather making and beading workshops. During beading, we made necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc. At the leather workshop, we learned how to make different types of handmade leather wallets. We also learned how to sue them together which was a really cool experience given that most of us have never done that before. Since a lot of people didn’t finish their wallets yesterday, they stopped beading early and came over to the leather workshop to finish their wallets. Right next door there is a convenience store, so many of us went in there to go buy some ice cream and treats to enjoy while making wallets. After everyone was starting to finish up their wallets, Sra. Mongiello and Fabri gave us an outline of what we are doing tomorrow. It is really hard to believe that this is our last night with our homestay families and many if not all of us are very sad to leave our families. Once both people in the homestay were done with their wallets, they were allowed to leave and go back to their home stays for dinner. When we all got home to our families we ate dinner with them. We also played lots of games with the kids in our families which was a really fun time. It was a really nice chance to bond a little bit more with our families especially considering that it is our last night with them. Then when we all got tired we took a shower, packed up our stuff for tomorrow, and went to bed.

written by Amelia & Kaya

April 18, 2023
On Tuesday the 18th, we had our last breakfast with our homestay families. Breakfast included eggs, juice, bread, and fruit for the majority of people. Afterward, we spent some time with our families and finished up packing, then headed to the school with all of our luggage. We arrived at around 9:00am and played some games the students and teachers had prepared. We played musical chairs, a game where you had to pick up potatoes blindfolded, and an egg and spoon race with the spoon in your mouth. We then taught the students duck duck goose. Later on, we watched some traditional dances by the students, later joining in with them, and were able to spend some time playing and bonding with them. After the festivities we had a traditional-style lunch with many kinds of potatoes, rice, and beans. When we were finished with lunch, we played with the school kids some more, before having to say a somewhat sad goodbye to the school children.

Afterwards, we went on a long bus ride and did a scavenger hunt, stopping once to go to the bathroom and try some local snacks. We then drove some more and arrived in the cloud forest, going to a hummingbird reserve/restaurant and trying some cheese empanadas with juice. We were able to watch the hummingbirds as well as hold a feeder in our hands for the hummingbirds to eat out of. When it was time to leave, we drove some more to the hotel and at around 5pm we arrived and had an hour or two in our rooms to shower and get ready for dinner. Dinner was at 6:45, and we had build-your-own burritos with chicken fajitas, rice, gaucomole, a tortilla and salsa. After dinner, we journalled and reflected about the homestay and service work and finally prepared for the next day before going to bed.

April 19, 2023

Yesterday we woke up and went upstairs to a delicious hand made breakfast contained of fresh bread, hot chocolate and some fruit. After breakfast, we got into pickup trucks and drove one way dirt roads to zip lining. We drove up the long windy road to the zip lining place in the forest. They gave us our harnesses and taught us how to properly zip line. After a quick safety demonstration, we were ready to hit the lines. Zip lining gave us an amazing rush of adrenaline as well as an amazing view of the rainforest. After our 3 zip lines, we got back into the trucks and drove over to the cable car. We got into group of 5 or 6 then went on. There was one car, and it took about 1 minute to get across. The views and organic AC were amazing. After we got across we started our descent to the river. After and 20 minute hike down, we reached the river. We stood on a bridge and looked and the fast water and huge waterfall. A couple minutes later, some kids went into the river barefoot. After this experience, we started our hike back up the mountain. It took a bit longer with a couple more stops along the way. After a half an hour, we got to the took and headed back on the cable car. We road back down in trucks and headed to the butterfly center. We spend some time looking at cool butterflies. Some people took their butterflies on their hand. The group took some cool photos. After a car ride back to the hotel, we got some lunch. The options were beef, chicken and trout. It was “Muy Rico”. After lunch we had an hour of down time. Some people played Poker with m&ms. Others just chilled in the common area. We then went to the chocolate factory to make hot chocolate and chocolate bars from scratch. We roasted the cocoa beans and then shelled them and crushed them up. To get the smooth hot chocolate we were used to you had to hand crush it into a fine powder. Some people made the crushed up chocolate into face masks and soon almost everybody had chocolate on their faces. For dinner we had veggie pasta, beef, or chicken. After we did a secret Santa thing with presents and everybody gave and received something. 10 minutes later, a dancer came and taught us salsa and some classic, local dances.
We had such a great day today, but it is time to pack for the last day in Ecuador.

Written by Sam, Quentin and Oliver

April 20, 2023

Final Day!
On our final day, we woke up in the hotel and had a delicious breakfast of eggs with bread, bacon, and fruits. Soon after, we said our goodbyes to the hotel staff and left for the Mitad Del Mundo museum. It was quite a long drive, but it was well worth the time. We kept ourselves entertained with a scavenger hunt that Señora Mongiello gave to us, with Oliver Newman and Anya Ahmed winning the event in the end. When we arrived, we went on a tour in two different groups. The tour was amazing, featuring many different activities. Some of our most memorable events were being able to hold and pet a live Guinea pig, learning about the construction of cultural houses, and watching demonstrations that proved the location of the equator. These demonstrations included an activity where we attempted to balance an egg on a nail. Many of us actually managed to balance the egg on the nail, and we learned that no other latitude would allow us to do this. Soon after the tour, we left for lunch at a nearby hotel. The food was delicious, featuring cheese and plantain empanadas as a starter, pork and mashed potatoes for the main course, and a sorbet-like blackberry dish for dessert. Our meal also included an incredible music duo that performed for us while we ate. Afterwards, we had another drive to the hot springs, featuring a final scavenger hunt. By the time we got to the hot springs, the long hour drive had us all exhausted, so we were glad to have some time to relax. The hot springs were incredible and they were a great final activity to wind down from an exhausting trip. For our final meal in Ecuador, we headed to the inn for our dinner. This meal was a choice between burgers and chicken, with soft drinks and some delicious fries. Soon after, we had to leave for the airport. Since this would be our last portion of the trip with Fabricio and Luis, we spent some time saying our goodbyes. Fabricio had been a great guide and planner for our entire trip, and had stuck with us this entire time. Luis also helped us a great deal on this trip, so we were extremely grateful to both of them. After some emotional moments, we eventually had to part ways, so we headed to our gate. After a little bit of confusion involving gate changes, we played a group game where we recalled our favorite moments from the trip. Our activity lasted until we boarded the airplane, eventually taking us back into the welcoming arms of our parents.

Our appreciations go out to the parents for making this entire trip possible, and the awesome guides for the amazing times in Ecuador.

Muchísimas gracias,

Written by Kevin Han and Devel Moore