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.

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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 9/8/2013

“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

 

Ecuador 8/30/2013

I have arrived.

Well, my body has at least. My mind still can’t seem to wrap it’s hands around the fact that my home for the foreseeable future is Ecuador. This tiny country, about the size of Colorado, hosts the most diversity of any other country I have had the pleasure of experiencing. Lying on the equator (who would have guessed), it is divided into three major regions: The flat coastal plains to the west (la costa), the highlands of the Andean mountain range (la sierra), and of course the dense, humid, and mysterious jungle (el oriente) to the east. Lucky for me, after touching down at the new Quito airport, my old host family was there to scoop me up and take me to their farm/estate nearby so I could sleep off the 15+ hours of transit I had just endured. Cheap flight.

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Last photo of me in the US.

My old host family's farm.

My old host family’s farm.

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Don Efrain (host dad) getting a little wild on the tractor.

The following morning, I was to report to the offices of The Yanapuma Foundation (my current employer), to begin a very lengthy and detail laden discussion of my duties for the next 10 weeks. As the day progressed, my bosses (I have several) could tell right away that this was going to be a walk in the park for myself. Great news.

Did I mention that Quito is at like 10,000 feet about sea level? I fancy myself in decent shape, but DAMN. Even a short flight of stairs is leaving me panting for air. The tiny elderly woman walking up the hill beside me yesterday was straight up putting me to shame. I love this country none the less. It’s chaotic streets, the clash of the modern world and ancient culture, the looming snow-capped volcanoes visible in ever direction, and yes, oh yes, the food. Heavy on the starches, and always accompanied with some form of grilled or fried meat. Not a vegetarians paradise (shout out to Julie). The Ecuadorians need these carbs, however, because they generally lead very strenuous lives. Props.

Taquitos famous quesadilla. Only a select few of you will understand the awesomeness that is this photo.

Taquitos. Only a select few of you will understand the awesomeness that is this photo.

The group of volunteers that I will be leading around the country arrives Monday, I am a mixed bowl of emotion, but most of all confident and excited. More news to come.

Thanks for reading!

-F