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

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 9/12/13

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 9/2/2013

Quito, looking north.

Quito, looking north.

Quito, the Andean jewel of a city, perched high in the sierra. It’s magical, it’s slightly polluted, it’s ancient, it’s delicious, and it’s home. The first thing any traveler will notice (at least I did) is how freaking close you are to the clouds. All the time. This photo is a perfect example of just that. Condensation.

Since leaving my host family’s farm, the organization has put me up in a lovely hostel, owned by an even lovelier family (photos to come). The organization has a great working relationship with the hostel, so they put all their volunteers and some employees (me) there when in Quito. Word.

If you have never gone backpacking, or stayed in a hostel for that matter, you should. It’s an experience, to say the least. The pool of people you come into contact with are always fascinating, and sometimes annoying. I proceeded to befriend an Aussie guy the first day, and we went on a self guided tour of the meticulously preserved colonial part of Quito. Which happens to be a UNESCO world heritage sight, and the largest in Latin America. This is due in part to the extremely dry climate up here. Here are a few examples of the kick-ass colonial style that dominate the old part of town. No power tools.

Today is Monday, and I finally get to meet the group of volunteers that I will be leading around the country. They fly in tonight to the new airport, most of them from the UK, so I can imagine they will be utterly exhausted. Have no fear, they’ll be greeted by a Fenner, all jacked up on exquisite South American coffee. IMG_20130828_103552_736

 

I am excited and still slightly unsure about what the future holds, but hey that’s all part of the adventure. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more.

-F