Parting Thoughts

Parting Thoughts

Going away is always hard to do. Being with my wonderful host family has been an awesome adventure. Ecuador has definitely made a huge impact on me. It's changed the way I see everything now. Having a very humble host family has taught me to be more humble and appreciate life and family more. I absolutely love them and will carry them in my heart forever. As time passed by here in Ecuador I really didn't notice how much we've grown these past two weeks and four years in the REACH program. REACH has taught me a lot and I learn more about myself each day being here as well. I learned to be responsible, to be humble to love unconditionally, and most importantly to always have an open mind.  I love Ecuador and can't wait to come back. Of course also visiting my host family.

REACH has been a great adventure, with great memories, and even greater people. Just like my host family, I love each and every one of you guys in the program. You will always have an impact in my life from what I've learned here in REACH. It's never a goodbye just a, "See you soon". To Ecuador, to my host families, to all you fellow students, and to REACH. Thank you for the experiences, it was a great hike that I will continue to take till I reach the top of the mountain.

Love, Lupita

Reawakening Forgotten Talents

Reawakening Forgotten Talents

Today we continue to work on the gazebo at the school here in Pastavi. We've been working on it for a couple of days and we are making cement for the second day in a row, which is a process! It is incredible however to see the gazebo slowly come together as we build the foundation. It seemed like we were all a little low on energy but after a delicious lunch and a nap, most seemed to be very excited for the afternoon activity of salsa dancing and bracelet making I was part of the first group to dance and I was beyond excited. I had forgotten how much I love to dance. It brought me back to when days were simple and I didn't need to worry about work or adult responsibilities, but rather listening to music and absorbing myself in what I love to do. In the short hour and a half we had of dancing I forgot about all my worries of being sick or being tired and just let loose, dancing my heart out! Even when we switched groups we could learn to make bracelets I snuck in with the other group for more dancing. Our teachers for dancing and bracelet making were an awesome group of Colombians that shared their culture and talents with us. 

 

Later that evening we met up and had a debrief and played an interesting game of mafia to wrap up the day. the following day we got to be lumberjacks for a couple of hours. As we continued to work on the gazebo we headed to a nearby forest to cut down some trees. It was fun waiting to help pull down the trees as someone is cutting it and getting ready to yell, "Timber!". 

It's definitely a unique experience as was the afternoon picnic. We headed to the Lechero, which is this awesome hill with a very old tree with what I thought was an awesome story. As we sat and had pizza we listened to the story of how this tree came to be. There were two warring clans in this region. A girl was sitting near the lake and along came a boy from the other clan. Of course, they fell instantly in love. Their secret meeting spot was at the lake and they decide the only way they could be together was to run away. As they ran away people noticed and ran after them. The came to the top of a hill and asked the wise mountain Imbabura to help them be together. He granted their wish and turned the man into a tree and the moan into a lake. This way they could always see each other, but the price is that they can never touch.

It was pretty awesome to be on this hill seeing the tree and lake as the bottom and Imbabura in the background. It was breathtaking to see it all. With such a beautiful scenery it was only fitting we all sat together sharing stories and what REACH has meant to us over the last four years. This trip definitely has been on for the record books, but so have the last four years. Tho stories and words shared meant a lot and was just another exciting memory to add to this incredible journey we've had so far. It may be close to the end, but I look forward to these last few days!

Monika Z.

Minga And Family BBQ

Minga And Family BBQ

I am not much of a writer. I either ramble on, or don't get my point across and confuse people. Which is why When I draw there is rarely any dialogue and more body movement. I want to thank Ken for giving me this idea, it was a pretty fun project. So, instead of writing I drew pictures of what we've been doing the past few days. 

 

The picture above is what we did in the Minga, a community work day in the village where everyone gets together and works on a project. The top left shows a person carrying a patch of dirt/grass to put on the side of the road. The top right shows what we did after which was hoeing the bottom of the road to make a drainage way. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of our last project which was planting trees on the sidewalk.    

The picture above is what we did in the Minga, a community work day in the village where everyone gets together and works on a project. The top left shows a person carrying a patch of dirt/grass to put on the side of the road. The top right shows what we did after which was hoeing the bottom of the road to make a drainage way. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of our last project which was planting trees on the sidewalk. 

 

After the Minga, the families and REACH loaded piled onto a bus and went to Peguche waterfall for a family BBQ. The picture on the left shows where the food was cooked by Shannon, Ken, Erica, and Danika. The photo on the right is of papas fritas (french fries)  and Helado (ice cream). After the BBQ the REACHers decided this was essential to end the day, so we went out and got some. We spent the evening just talking and enjoying ourselves.   Sahira G.   

After the Minga, the families and REACH loaded piled onto a bus and went to Peguche waterfall for a family BBQ. The picture on the left shows where the food was cooked by Shannon, Ken, Erica, and Danika. The photo on the right is of papas fritas (french fries)  and Helado (ice cream). After the BBQ the REACHers decided this was essential to end the day, so we went out and got some. We spent the evening just talking and enjoying ourselves. 

Sahira G.

 

Exploring The Rapids

Exploring The Rapids

It’s really amazing how much work we have accomplished this week in the community. We had a great break today and it was very different than any other days we’ve had so far. Today, we went rafting! I, like everyone was a bit nervous because a majority of us have never been rafting. My biggest fear was falling off the raft, but the instructors were very precise on showing us what to do if we fell off. I volunteered to jump in the water and let me tell you, it was the coldest water I have ever been in. Once we left the launch I was amazed by the experience. The rapids and water took us through a beautiful scenery very quickly! Everyone was having a great time and getting soaked. My boat finished last, but the experience was one that none of us will ever forget. The Chota river will be filled with unforgettable memories. Tomorrow we start the Minga, which I don’t know what it is, but I expect it will be fun!

Misael G.

And Time Starts to Fly...

And Time Starts to Fly...

It’s amazing how the days are starting to fly by now. The first couple of days of the trip left me feeling like I’d been in Ecuador for weeks, but now that I’m settled in with my host family the days are passing by quicker than I’d like them to. I just finished hanging my wet laundry outside under the beautiful Ecuadorian sky. I feel like I could stand on this balcony looking over Quichinche for hours. Joceline and I went out earlier with the rest of the group to get ice cream and the BEST French fries I have ever had. Even something as simple as walking around the neighborhood is so much fun. I’ve noticed that without the distractions I have back home, it’s easier to have a good time. For me, it’s easier to be present and enjoy each moment here.

Today as a group we went to a meteorological station about an hour away from where we live. We met Gallo, the caretaker of the instruments, and the person who gathers the data on the weather. What he was saying really resonated with me when he started to talk about climate change. One of the first things I noticed when I got to Ecuador was how beautiful it is. I remember feeling so excited to be in a place that was natural and pristine in contrast to the more industrial and commercial United States. When the man expressed anger that Ecuador was being harmed by a lack of protection for the natural environment I realized that he and I shared the same fears for our homes. Instead of seeing Ecuador as this place that is untouched by pollution and harmful climate effects, I understand that this place is suffering too. Today was really helpful for me because I stopped perceiving the U.S. and Ecuador as two totally contrasted places. Both places have some of the same issues and hearing the man speak about climate change in Ecuador helped me relate the two places.

Before today, we were painting two classrooms in the Panecillo school. First we sanded all the walls (my arm is still sore!) and then we painted. It was a lot of fun and it was nice to see the finished product that we had all collaborated on. During those days I was feeling a bit homesick as well as physically sick, but playing with the kids at the school made me feel immensely better. One morning before we started painting a few of us joined a game of soccer with the kids. Within five minutes of the game I forgot all about my bad mood and my burning sore throat. I was totally focused on the kids and how much ridiculous fun they were having. Connecting with the kids in Ecuador has made me less homesick because despite a few differences, kids are basically the same in every country. Wherever I go kids are always full of energy, excited to play games and better than me at sports. Getting to spend time with Ecuadorian kids is so valuable not only because it makes me less homesick but also because it ives me another perspective from which to learn about Ecuador. Childhood is a time we all remember and seeing what childhood is like in Ecuador helped me relate life in Ecuador to life in the States.

Whether it is noticing a fierce competitiveness in my little host niece that rivals my own, or seeing how tough the kids here are after getting knocked down and kicked during soccer, spending time with the kids shows me what it is really like to be Ecuadorian.

Even though we’ve only been here a little over a week I have learned and experienced so much. Each day is so full of new experiences that I always go to bed completely exhausted. Every day I feel more confident and more excited about what is coming next. Whether it’s the food, the natural beauty, or the kids, Ecuador is constantly giving me new ways to learn and experience life. 

-Becky A.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Proud painters

Proud painters

Finding A Sense Of Home In Unexpected Ways

Finding A Sense Of Home In Unexpected Ways

This morning Misa (Misael) and I woke up and had breakfast with our host family. It was a cooked banana and warm milk. I added coffee and it was very good :). Misa didn't really like the banana but I thought it was fine. The son of the host family, Michael (three years old) wanted me to walk him to school so I did. Michael became the highlight of my day and I can already tell its going to be hard to say good-bye to him and my host family. A little later in the day after we had dinner I sat down and with Mida (host mom) and Michael, we taught her the colors in English and they tough me Spanish. I'm trying to bond with them individually. So far the host dad is the most challenging, with Mida it's very easy because I just ask her what everything is that she's cooking and we also both love coffee!

I think we are all at the point where the initial buzz of being here is wearing off and we are feeling a little homesick, at least I am. It's OK because I know it's normal. I was feeling a little down today but I feel a lot better. When we got home Mida asked me how my day was. I told her "Estoy Nostalgica" after a quick google search. I didn't think she really understood or it got lost in translation, but after dinner she decided to take us to her sisters house down the street. I wasn't really feeling it as I'm a bit ant-social, but I couldn't say, "no". So we went and I'm glad we did. They told us stories of their childhood and while I don't know Spanish, at least I didn't before I got here, I got the gist of the conversation now which is rad. We all shared laughs and it was a good time. It me while I was there that these people let strangers into their home and are treating us like family which baffles my mind. I can already tell I'm going to miss this family when I have to say good-bye.

-Andrew S. 

Meeting The Host Families

Meeting The Host Families

Each day is going to be a different day, now that we are no longer with the group. At the start of the day I new it was going to be a long journey ahead filled with excitement but also nervousness. Shopping for the family was really easy and fun. However meeting the family began at a low point but quickly turned into a high. I was so nervous that all I did when I met my family is smile and nod. It was comforting knowing that I had a fellow REACHer (Monika) with me. Right when we first met our family, we dropped off our bags and went straight into town with them. We went into town to see where our mom (Mama Murjar) sells her embroidered blouses. After being in town for a while we headed back home. When we got home Mama Murjar started dinner while we unpacked. We finally took a leap of faith and broke the ice with our family and taught the children to play card games. In return they taught us how to play "burro". It's crazy to think that a family would let two complete strangers into their house. I guess they took a leap of faith as well. 

Clarissa B. 

Clarissa helping her host sister make her first smore!

Clarissa helping her host sister make her first smore!

First Connections

First Connections

Tonight for dinner we went to Plaza de Pancho where there were several food tents set up. We split u into groups and my group decided to get empanadas for dessert. Here is where I made a friend. There was a two year old boy at the table with us who had a toy car. He pushed it to me and I, making car sounds, pushed the car back. He really enjoyed this and we continued to push the car back and fourth with one another laughing and smiling together. He did not speak yet and I do not know much spanish anyways, but we were able to laugh together. This has given me confidence and excitement to meet my host family tomorrow as even if we cannot verabally communicate with each other,we can still have a great time. I have not even been in Ecuador for three days but of all the great experiences that I have already had, my little buddy really has kick started the trip for me. 

 

-Skyler G. 

Otavalo Market   

Otavalo Market

 

Skyler, not letting language barriers stop him from having meaningful interactions. Outcome of game unknown. 

Skyler, not letting language barriers stop him from having meaningful interactions. Outcome of game unknown. 

Getting Oriented In Otavalo

Getting Oriented In Otavalo

Today we went on a scavenger hunt around Otavalo. This activity was meant to help all of us REACHer’s understand the new environment we are in. We split into groups and went on our way. For some of us this activity made us step out of our comfort zone. Many of us do not speak Spanish, but the activity required that we ask questions from the locals, ranging from directions to the cost of guanabana (fruit). Personally I felt very nervous because I do not know a word of Spanish, but that is slowly changing. I am very proud of myself, and everyone else who stepped out of their comfort zones and attempted to interact with a new culture. I was surprised at how challenging being immersed can feel, but I know we are on our way to have a once in a lifetime experience getting used to this new environment. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip holds in store for us!

-Kristen C.

Tito and Sahira haggling for a tiny llama.

Experiential Learning

Four years ago I was getting on a train to Colorado with eleven other individuals that I didn’t know but would spend the following years backpacking, cooking, and learning how to be financially responsible with. In one day I will be getting on a plane to travel thirteen hours to Ecuador with twelve REACH students, several of which I started this four-year journey with. Everyone that I’ve talked to about the trip asks me what I’m looking forward to or if I’m nervous. But I haven’t really had a good answer for these questions. I have hard time imaging what my time will be like in Ecuador. I spent the first 18 years of my life living in the same rural town, on the same street, in the same house. From preschool to throughout high school I had the same friends. It’s hard to think of myself in a different country when I’ve I only know my one way of life. I may not know what to expect, but I hope I come back to my familiar, rural hometown with a broader perspective on life.

A typical day for me during the academic year consists of rowing, attending class, going to internships, babysitting, and then trying to squeeze a nap and a meal somewhere in between before I go to sleep, just to wake up and repeat that the next day. It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routines. From an early age in school we are taught that we have to be in a specific classroom at a specific time of the day, and if not, there are consequences. Often I find myself turning down camping trips, movie nights, or just a night out with friends because “I don’t have the time”. But by going through life strictly based on set routines, one is focused on where they have to be in an hour rather than appreciating what is occurring in the moment. I think something that I will struggle with while in Ecuador is that they are not as concerned about time and sticking to a strict schedule as our culture. From what I have read, they live life slow. Businesses don’t necessarily have an opening and closing time, it’s more based on when they feel ready. If a friend says they will meet you at 5 PM, they may show up forty minutes late and it is considered acceptable. During my weeks in Ecuador, I hope to live life patiently. By living life at a slower pace, it will allow for me appreciate my new experience more.

When traveling to unknown territories, it is expected that one would try to return to known familiarity. I think it is easy to interact with other travelers for they know your language, culture, and customs. But that takes away from part of the experience in the new country. Despite being away from home, I hope to remain open-minded. I’m interested in learning about the culture of Ecuadorians and by staying with a host family, I know this will help. After living with a family, I want to understand what they value in life. I want to have an understanding of the different roles that each member in the family plays. I want learn about the traditions they participate in each year.

There is so much you can learn about the world by traveling that cannot be taught in a classroom. Despite my college offering four different courses regarding the indigenous Quechua people of South America, their language, their culture, and their history, these courses cannot teach what can be experienced in real world settings. These courses are taught from the point of view of one professor based her knowledge and experiences. Being in a classroom with thirty other students who know nothing about Quechua and are taking the class because it sounded interesting will not provide me with the same insight if I were to travel to Ecuador itself. When you immerse yourself into a country and their culture, that’s when you’ll learn the most, not sitting at a desk 4,500 miles away from the source itself. 

-Brooke

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