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 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