Ecuador: Minga

Day 2: Another productive day at the day care center painting, building a brick wall for the garden, and replacing broken windows. All morning young children attend the center then in the afternoon older students come after school for homework assistance and play. We learned the teachers work twelve hour days, have a four year professional degree, and are paid $1.60 an hour. There is a word in Ecuador, Minga, that captures the meaning of the community coming together when others are in need of support. These last two days we have fully experienced Minga.

Ecuador: A Full Day in Mindo

Another full day yesterday in the Mindo area, a couple hours west of Quito. We spent the day taking a chocolate tour, meandering through butterfly gardens and zip lining through the canopy which was the highlight for all. We were invited to stay the night with our taxi family in their river house in a small lower valley village. We spent time with the family, played billiards at the only local store/ center, cooked breakfast this morning and harvested fruit in their yard before driving the three hour windy mountain roads back to Quito. We packed up from our wonderful Airbnb and are staying in the hostel of our taxi family before flying out early tomorrow morning. All have been fantastic travels and the trip has been beyond everyone’s expectations. We are all looking forward to being home and giving loved ones warm hugs.

Ecuador: Meaningful Work

Our third and final day of community service at the day care center was spent completing painting and window repair. The students felt accomplished and decided to make a donation for supplies, toys, and for the staff with some of their budgeted money of their trip. The day care center staff and students had a lovely thank you and appreciation ceremony for us as they bid us farewell. It was meaningful work and allowed all to feel connected with the community – Minga! The afternoon was spent at a set of hot spring pools up in the mountains which was both magical and relaxing. We shared dinner with our taxi cab family, Carlos, and his brother and look forward to our two final days in Ecuador.

Ecuador: Community Service

Since their arrival, the students have been eager to engage in a Community Service Project. We were fortunate to make some really good connections here and heard about a small day care center on the outskirts of Quito that needed some help, Mis Pequenas Sonrisas, a day care center that provides free day care for many poor families, whose parents are required to work 2 jobs to simply survive. The students used their hard earned money to purchase lots of paint and some beautiful plants to enhance their environment. They worked tirelessly in the heat for 8 hours and were the star attraction of the day. The children were in awe of them and wanted to help them so badly. A little tricky when paint is involved! It was lovely to observe not only their hard work, but their gentle and patient interactions with the children. I think everyone will sleep well tonight.

Center of the World

Our day was spent exploring the center of the world! We enjoyed a tour of the Museum of the Sun, then a tour at the Center of the World. As we were literally on the equator, we learned about gravitational pull and did various experiments, including having a raw egg stand on end on the tip of a nail (Matthew was the only one to make it happen), draining water and watching which way it swirled on each side of the equator, and testing our own finger and arm strength based on where we stood in relationship to the equator. Although many lessons of earth science, all connected back to the Incas and the belief in the earth’s energy and the importance of maintaining balance. The day wrapped up with an evening picnic and walk in the neighborhood park, which was filled with families and activities. We are so enjoying soaking in the richness of Ecuador.

Ecuador: Parque del Condor and Otavalo Market

Another incredible day of Ecuadorian adventures. We had a lovely drive north to Parque del Condor where we had a tour of ancient Inca spiritual grounds. It was an amazing presentation of the balance of energy between the earth and sky and humans’ role. We then had a short hike to a fabulous waterfall and literally walked through the water to fully experience it. Lunch was enjoyed at a traditional Ecuadorian restaurant before heading into the huge Otavalo market. The Ecuadorian crafts were an overload for the senses, but a wonderful experience and immersion. Another culturally rich day and all smiles and laughs.

Ecuador: Cotopaxi

We had a fantastic and physically challenging day climbing to the glacier of Cotopaxi volcano. Trekking up the loose volcanic rock, we felt accomplished as we reached 15,900+ ft – higher than Mt. Rainer, the highest mountain in the continental USA!  Edel, Ayla and Theo continued on to reach the glacier at 17,000 ft. The drive through the countryside is always breathtaking and the sprawl of the city that is built on incredibly steep slopes seems to defy gravity. The day ended with a traditional Ecuadorian meal together at our lovely Airbnb.

Ecuador: To Market We Go

A day at a traditional Ecuadorian market in the town of Saquisili followed by a short hike at Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake. The drive was stunning and roads windy and steep. Livestock and crops are grown on impressively vertical hillsides, with intensive and rotational grazing practices. Today, we drove through the countryside to the west, which was far drier than the eastern side of the mountains. The students are practicing their Spanish skills as they sampled traditional foods and tasted new fruits. A full and culturally rich day.

Ecuador: Antisana Ecological Reserve

We hired two taxis for the two hour drive to the Antisana Ecological Reserve. Located along the snow capped Antisana volcano peaks in the Andes, it is the fourth largest volcano in Ecuador. We climbed the Micaloma trail, which has an elevation of over 12,000 feet. There was a little shortness of breath!  We saw several juvenile Andean Condors, a wolf, a large buck and doe and, of course, all the the amazing flora. We stopped of for an early dinner in Pintag, where we interacted with some students. Great day!

9th Grade Trip to Ecuador

In this third plane of development, adolescents are seeking to find their place in society and understand the world at large and how they may, ultimately, be world contributors. The 9th graders are developmentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to embark on an international trip.  Some are leaving the country for the first time.  Most are traveling without their parents for two weeks for the first time.  The opportunity to design their own trip and travel to a foreign land becomes their work and is an experience that changes them.  They spend two years raising the money for the trip and do all the leg work from booking tickets, booking lodging, planning the itinerary, and organizing packing lists. 
 

This year, the 9th graders chose to go to Ecuador for their international trip. The travel went well and our first day was spent in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. We enjoyed a magnificent visit to the Botanical Gardens, just around the corner from our home. We also took some time for a little grocery shopping and a great adventure into the old historic center of this wonderful city.  It was a fun first day!