Week one started out with 20 strangers (except for the two pairs of cousins) who were all enthusiastic for the summer ahead. Nerves, excitement, and anticipation filled everyone´s minds. The plane ride was long, but by the end everyone knew each others names. We arrived safely in Quito and were placed in a hostel for the night, where we got to know the people we would be spending the next 5 weeks with.
In the morning, we left early to travel to Otavalo. We stayed in a hostel called La Luna, where group bonding and orientation began. The first afternoon we hiked to a nearby waterfall. It was our first time in awe of the Ecuadorian beauty. The next day we hiked once again up a very steep mountain, called Mojandas (Fuya Fuya). It was very challenging, especially because of the 12,000 ft. altitude, which we were all still adjusting to. The next day we visited the school of one of the poorest communities in Ecuador. We spent the morning playing games and interacting with the children, ages 1-12. Even though they had so little, they gave so much, such as a performance complete with music, dancing, and gifts for the visitors.
Later int he day, we had our first meal out, consisting of 4 courses, then headed to a weaving workshop. We worked in pairs with personal instructors to create a traditional textile. The following day we went on our last hike, around a once erupted volcano. It was a leisurely hike, where we got to further our knowledge on Ecuador and its environment. After a busy couple of days, we spent the afternoon soaking our bodies in the natural hot springs. We returned back to La Luna for our last night in Otavalo.
Today we woke up early in order to start the next portion of our trip. On our way to Quito, we stopped at the markets in the center of Otavalo, to shop for presents to take back to our families and friends. Scarves, bracelets, sweaters, hats, and gloves were all a popular purchase. We jumped onto the bus, eager to return to Quito, the starting place of our travels. After a 3 hour rest period, we headed out to enjoy a delicious Thai dinner, in preparation for the numerous authentic Ecuadorian meals to come in the next 3 weeks.
Tomorrow we head out bright and early to our host families in La Variante, a good 7-8 hour drive from Quito. The community is small and speaks no English, yet they still excitedly await our arrival. The next 3 weeks will be filled with cultural immersion, community service, and further bonding with our group. We are excited to immerse ourselves in the next part of our journey.
Although families and friends are missed, everyone seems to be having a great time!
-Caroline Giles and Lili Ramos