Random photos from the past month. Ecuador Nov 1, 2013

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Week of rest. Sorry I haven´t updated.

My apologies for not updating this blog much in the past few weeks. It has been a little hectic. I am currently in a small beach community called Montañita, where I am taking my week of rest while my group of volunteers is in the Galapagos, working on a hacienda-turned-eco-lodge. Truth be told there was a very serious accident during the program´s Adventure Week, which put one of the participants in the hospital.

On another note, I have received a sort of promotion within the organization I work for. They have deemed me intellectually capable of coordinating all aspects of the program for the next group that arrives early January.  I will still remain my title as Group Leader for this as well. Good things. As I said before, I am taking a short rest to better explore the southern coast of Ecuador, and will be meeting up with my group around the 1st of November. As I am writing this, I totally forgot about Halloween. Damn.

Ecuador 10/2/13

Since I last hammered out my thoughts on the keyboard, a great deal has changed. We departed from the small highland community of Chilcapamba and made our way to a slightly larger but still very tiny town called Mindo. This little gem is perched amongst mist layered, jungle covered mountains within the region known as the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest.

This trip however was purely for relaxation. After having completed two solid weeks of gratifying agricultural labor, our two days there were spent divulging into all the eco/adventure tourism this tiny place had to offer. Having done most of these activities already, I took some time for myself to reflect on the trip so far, and what was to come. The highlight of the trip for me was a tour of El Quetzal, an organic chocolate factory that produces an array of artisan blends. Seeing the process from plant to bar really inspired me, to the point that I asked to speak with the manager to see if there were indeed any opportunities for an apprenticeship. How cool would it be to learn how to produce fine chocolate? The answer is really damn cool.

Our departure from Mindo was followed by our return to Quito for a few days of sightseeing as well as the orientation for the second phase of the program: The Tsachila Community.

As I said before, Ecuador is contains more diversity than any other country that I have been through. This fact materialized again the in the stark contrasts between the Chilcapamba Community and the Tsachila. Braided ponytails were replaced by bowl shaped haircuts dyed red with plant seeds, dry paramo gave way to dense, lush jungle, and plantain farms forever in every direction. We lost our beloved soups and gain mountains of fried everything. The work here seems to be following the same agricultural pattern, yet seems less organized and more sporadic.

I myself am learned a great deal about how to manage groups in these types of environments. It{s very difficult to be the sole contact for eight travels. We get to know each other quite well, to say the least. This upcoming Monday we depart the Tsachila community, headed for La Ruta del Volcanes. A week filled with adventure activity will do everyone some good. I plan to update from there.

Ecuador 9/18/2013

“Oh gees, not again.”

These were my thoughts and I awoke in the middle of the night to my stomach grumbling and gurgling. I quickly pounded some Pepto and hurried back to sleep, hoping all would be well by morning.

This was not the case. To make matters worse(funnier), we were to depart the community we had been working in and travel a good six solid hours to our next destination. Six hours. On. A. Bus. Thank god for bismuth subsalicylate.

Anyways, to catch everyone up. We have left the indigenous of Chilcapamba, the first phase of the 10 week session. I can´t put into words how much I have learned. Actually, I can, and I will when I get a free day. These people might not be as technologically advanced as others, but they know EVERYTHING about the earth and how it functions. To see the citizens of this community interact with their environment was truly humbling. As first world citizens, we know next to nothing about how the earth works. About how it REALLY works, and how it can provide for us on an incalculable scale.

Side trips during our stay included hiking around Laguna Cuicocha, and two trips to Otavalo. We are currently in Mindo, an eco-tourism devoted town in the western part of Pinchincha province. Pictures below.

Thanks for reading. Check back for more.

-F

Ecuador 9/12/13

Finally. Me time. I’ve walked 30 mins to the nearest town, Quiroga, to write this.

I need it, as insuring the physical safety and mental stability of eight gringos can be quite a challenge. If only.

Yet, they are my responsibility, and hey! my job title is indeed group leader. I absolutely should be there to answer ANY question. No matter how dumb I may think it is. As I mentioned in my previous post, we are in a small community of indigenous peoples. Who’s first language is Kichwa. I’ve learned a bit, but it’s really unlike anything I have ever come across in my travels. The sounds and tones register as ancient to my modern ears. Truly interesting.

Now, on to the matter of what we are ACTUALLY doing here. Our main project has included the from-square-one construction of a small garden to help feed the adjacent school. We worked the land, tilled the land, incorporated compost, constructed a border fence, shaped the rows, planted beans and potatoes, built a water tower, and installed a drip irrigation system. More pictures to come. We have been helping out with other agriculture related projects, but the garden has been our main task.
There are a few of my volunteers that seem less than pleased with the thought of digging in the dirt. They shall soon learn that it is the best therapeutic activity available. Indeed.
I’m going to play the lazy card and throw everything in a gallery. Here it is.
Check back soon for more.
Thanks.
-F

Ecuador 9/8/2013

“How do you say (insert random english word) in Spanish?”

“Where are we going next?”

“Gap yah!”

These are the phrases that have been most commonly heard by my poor ears since my group of eight volunteers arrived in Quito five days ago. Aside from D (who spent five or so weeks before then bouncing around the Ecuadorian coast) the rest are oh so new to the wild west that is this equatorial country. The savory scents of grilled street meat fill their heads with horror stories of traveler´s sickness. The congested buses give them a taste of the fact that most Ecuadorian´s do not have the same sense of personal space as they do. As one of my volunteers (we´ll call her S for now) found out that coffee takes a bit longer than in her native land. I explained that they had to grow the coffee beans, and milk the cow. Tranquilo.

It´s my job, among other things, to guide this group. To ease them into life in Latin America. To show them the absolute beauty in the fact that in order to pay for a group meal, we must work together and pay each other as the restaurant simply does not have enough change for all of us. Bills higher than 20 USD are absolutely useless here due to the fact that there is not the same amount of cash flowing through the economy. They will learn. Oh yes they will.

The first part of this ten week program takes place in the small indigenous communtiy of Chilcapamba. We have been graciously hosted by Alfonso Morales and his family in their sprawling finca. Our project so far has included the development of a garden that will be devoted solely to feeding the school located next door. Gratifying.

I forgot to charge my camera so unfortunately I’ll have to come back and add photos to this post at a later date. We are currently in the town of Otavalo for the weekend, widely known for it’s craft goods that are sold at the weekend market in the center of town. Overwhelming.

More to come. Thanks for reading.

-F