Family Fun

Sleeping in from the hard days of work was a great start of my day. We then got up and had our usual routine: pack our blankets and eat breakfast (papas, arroz and egg). Once our Mom came early from work, me and Maria immediately started making lunch in time for Ken, Shannon and Danika's arrival at noon. Making lunch was blood, sweat and tears where I almost lost an eye from my sister's cutting skills with carrots. Mom was pretty paranoid, but still managed to have a delicious meal together where we laughed about relationships in Ecuador and how Shannon barely made a dent in her food (fried papas, salad, rice with mixed veggies). Once it was 1:30, we all were about to head to the cancha and our mom calls everyone to surprise my dad with a belated father's day cake and a belated birthday cake for Cynthia (my 8-year-old sister). It was a fail surprising them both considering someone had to get my sister even though she had her suspicions. Our parents then gave a heartfelt speech about our family and even though our hosue may be small compared to most houses they have big hearts, which is absolutely true because they have done so much for me within the little time I have been here. We then walked up to the cancha thirty minutes early and took the bus ride to San Roque where we met Jorge, a traditional basket weaver, who makes incredible panchos, blankets and tapestries since he was about 10 years old. Also, we all had the opportunity to have a Shakira/Rico Suave salsa moment with Herman. Ending the night was one of the best nights yet! Everyone all together making empanadas (my bad, DONUTS) drinking coffee and just having a good time.


Community Work

Waking up today realizing it's the first day of the month I've noticed how time has gone by so quick. Making my way to the restroom I see one of my youngest siblings standing, his back facing towards me, half asleep as I walked  towards the bathroom I thought he was watering something then noticed he wasn't. So I quickly and quietly rushed myself into the restroom. Another delicious breakfast from our host mom Susana of rice, fried plantains, noodles, meat, and jello was served today. Although this was the first time that I wasn't able to finish a meal. "Magali", I heard from a distance from a very familiar voice. I rushed outside in my famous Bora Bora slides and made my way to La Casa Comunal as it was time to work with the community. Working with the community today in cleaning the side of the road was somewhat frustrating for me today. The reason is because I was limited to how much I could get done. As well my "toe" was somewhat tired from walking. Besides the fact that I was limited and tired, I tried my best to do as much as I could. As some might say, it was best that I went to help with prepping for lunch, but honestly "I'd rather not have a broken toe nail and be working with the community." I was somewhat bummed, but as I thought about it I would still be helping the community by helping prep lunch for them.

Our next activity was visiting a shawman. Arriving there about to get off the cow truck I hear that familiar voice once again, "No worries Magali, we are at a good place in case you hurt yourself." Visiting the shawman and listening to stories of how he has been able to cure people was interesting. For me personally most of the things he talked about weren't that new to me. As the day almost came to an end we had dinner with our family but this time only with our two oldest siblings. Since our parents and youngest sister weren't home. What I've noticed is that for the time I have been here I've gotten used to eating with the whole family. Especially with Manuel our host dad because every time he's home from work I know that it is almost dinner time. Something else that I noticed is that I'm getting more attached to my host family but more to our host dad every time he's home from work I get excited. I would say the reason is because he reminds me a lot of my dad in how our relationship used to be. As well how we are trying to make it better. Of course before the day ended and before going to bed once I heard that the rest of the family was home I went to see them and say goodnight to them. 


Happy Birthday to many!

As I tried to get out of bed, I realized that I was sore from yesterday's work. After I got out of bed, I did some laundry, had breakfast, then headed out towards the casa comunal. When we got there, I met Xochitl -a very cute and tiny puppy. We then headed up the road to start today's work with Xochitl. When I got at the top, I was out of breath, so we rested for a bit then started to cut the grass. We all worked very hard. By noon, we stopped and headed back down to the casa comunal. We waited for the bus to go to Otovalo, but it never came so we went in our usual cow truck. We go to Otovalo and Jazmin, Janeth, Magali, Casey and I decided to get pizza for lunch. It was delicious! We then went to the market to buy more things. On our way back to the hostel, we decided to get some ice cream. As we were waiting, we saw Casey and Magali approaching us with a huge bag. We began to joke as if they had a body in the bag not knowing she had bought seven panchos. We all met back at the hostel and got on the cow truck, and headed back to Agualengo. Before I went home, I called my dad to wish him a happy birthday since today is his birthday. I also talked to my mom. It was very nice to hear their voices after almost two weeks. I then went to shower and got ready to go to the birthday party. We left to Janeth's host parents house where we were greeted with at least three dogs barking at us. At some point, Jazmin and I froze and just hugged each other until the dogs were scared away. Dinner was very good, especially because we were imagining how our reunion would be each with our own kids calling each other camadre and compadre. It was a great day!


Productive Chaos 

Waking up at 7:20 am was a late start for Janeth and I. We had to hurry ourselves to La Cancha, as soon as possible, which meant skipping breakfast at home. Luckily, we saw Adela and Jazmine getting there at the same time as us –so we weren't the only ones that were running behind. Once at La Cancha, I did my usual errands: fill up both water bottles and grab snacks for my day. But, this time I at probably half of the pocketed snacks for breakfast. Then, my day officially started. Everyone, began pushing Eucalyptus leaves into piles on the side of the road. Once that was dones, the piles of brush were disposed by being set on fire. I watched the smoke and flames consume the air around me. I imagined that I was in the middle of a war zone, then a music video, then I came back to reality. There's something about the way a fire burns that becomes so mesmerizing.  

Our day went on with mixing cement and using it to fill the drainage ditch. I wheel barrowed soil several times, gravel several more times, then the cement mixture countless times. The process seemed never-ending and the task was extremely challenging – grab the material, move the material up and down the hill, then dump the material, all without letting more than a little bit of the material spill out due to the bumpy cobble stone road that my wheel barrow was trying to make friends with. Not to mention, the chaotic surroundings of 20 other people moving swiftly, also trying to do their task as efficiently as possible. Buckets with water flew beside my head, a village of hungry wheel-barrows behind me, waited to be filled up, I tried not to get knocked out by the cement machine every time. Every second around me was productive chaos so I kept my grip tight on my determination. It wouldn't feel right if I didn't give 125% of myself and finish strong. I couldn't help but think of my dad. Imagining that he was beside me, cheering me on to be the best version of myself –thinking of all the words of wisdom he carved in my brain. "Fail to prepare means to prepare to fail," and, "A lot of people have the will to win but only a few have the will to train to win." I guess all those years of coaching football, my dad knows what hard work looks like. I've come to see more of my dad in myself. Growing up, I was always told that I look like my father, and now I see more of his character and knowledge passed on to me. 

For over the past two years, my dad has been going through a lawsuit with his work. He had worked there for the past 32 years, loving his job as a truck driver/delivery man; gained all his medical and health benefits for him and his family. Unfortunately, he was injured through all his years of wear and tear on his body from his neck and shoulders to both wrists. UPS isn't wanting to claim the injuries, even though my dad mentioned the issues he was facing with his truck's seat and his body. Whether things have been going his way or not, my dad has kept strong spirits every single day. I am half way through this trip, and it has make me appreciate all my dad has sacrificed and continues to sacrifice for me and my family. I'm appreciating more and more of what my Ecuadorian family does for me, even if I sometimes don’t recognize or overlook that form of love. This trip has allowed me to recognize unfamiliar forms of love and I am grateful to experience such an opportunity. 


Today was a good day. 

"Janeth, Anaya – vengan a correr!" That was how my day started right off the bat. So we ran to first base, a.k.a. the kitchen table. We were served quinoa soup with veggies and sat down to eat as a family. Soon enough we gathered our stuff and were out the door to meet everyone else. As we got to the school, we walked a little bit to great our students. A couple of minutes later we were joined by our students, and everyone else went to their assigned places. For our classes, we played the games "Lava" and "Red light, Green light". Aside from dying of laughter, I also realized something that was happening to me. I felt myself caring for every single one of my students. If I saw one not having fun, I would try my best for them to be included. I even asked a couple of kids that were not in our class to come join. It feels good to include the kids around here because they don't have this all the time.  

After going to school and getting some lunch at the foundation, we headed towards the waterfall. Seeing the waterfall for the first time was breath taking. I had never seen an actual waterfall, so to me it was amazing. I really enjoyed the scenery as well as the alone time we were given. There I reflected back on life and thank God for everything I have. Sometimes you need a reality check to realize that you need to stay humble and appreciate everything you have. In the words of Ice Cube, "today was a good day!"  


P.S. Magali broke her toe nail going into the waterfall and then laughed, which made me laugh, which made my day with her laughter. 

Maria and Viviana adventuring in the kitchen.

Maria and Viviana adventuring in the kitchen.

A Day of Dogs, Music, and History 

Today we woke up late. Our morning started with a garbage truck disguised as an ice cream truck – at a very early hour. It was difficult explaining to our host mom that we were running late, but she bagged up our biscuits and packed us some pineapple in a Tupperware for us to take. As we began walking down the path to the cancha, we heard yelping. We turn around to find Chucho/Pretzel (the puppy) being attacked by our family dogs. We call him to us, and I carried him all the way down to the cancha in my rain coat. When we arrived, the rest of the group was already there. We began our trek to Periacillo, the school where we teach. The music class that Casey, Logan and I taught went well. We did vocal warm-ups, which seemed to get the students out of their comfort zone a little bit. Then, we worked on the English-Spanish translation of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", or "El León Duerme". We sang it together and the students seemed to have got it – at least the "weem-o-weh" part.  

The second class we sit in on and help McKinley with her students learning recorder songs. It was wild to say the least, and loud. During recess, I played with Oso, one of the dogs that hangs out with us from Agnolongo's "pets". Then we had lunch at the Tandana Center.  

Afterward, we went to Hacienda Perugachi, where we learned about the history of the hacienda systems in this area. We learned about the racial, social, economic and cultural hierarchies that existed and continue to exist today. We also learned that the hacienda systems were set up almost identically to the way plantations existed in the United States during the time of slavery, hearing how the people doing the work on haciendas were exploited, abused and seen as less than their "superiors". This gave us perspective on the governmental and economic systems in Ecuador, as well as providing social/cultural insight into the history of all our families who have been affected by this in some way.  

The evening continued on in thought of all the things I will never know about history and all of the people who have been manipulated during it. It is a helplessness that feels selfish. Because we cannot "fix" everything that is "wrong" in the world. And who are we to say we could even try? But it is important for some reason, and that reason is people. 


In the Dark 

From the moment of sleepy daze, my consciousness drifts, fading from clear recognition back to the hazy subconscious. Realizing where I am in the world, then back to sleep. Colorful dreams of my fears, flashbacks, desires, and unrealistic occurrences wake me up when I really should just go back to sleep. Thoughts of, "I want to go back home...I really love it here...I have to go pee," then back to "Go to sleep, Anaya." Forgetting about all the bad and settling on the good. Wasted, random thoughts never to be dwelled on again. I turn myself over, clearing my head and filling my ears with a loud crunch from the mattress' plastic cover. Tomorrow is a new day with a bright sun also with a cloudy haze. 


Logan really enjoyed his day.

I woke up to roosters around 5:15 am and they continued to make noise until Shawn and I got up to meet up with other REACH-ers near the cancha. We woke up late and got bread to go. We were offered juice and rice, but we would be cutting it close to being on time. We did our hike to the school and helped clean up the classrooms. We then saw their theater performances and they seemed very happy performing. I then sang The Lion King with the music class. They were very quiet but I find it very amazing that they learned it in English very fast. The second music class performed Happy Birthday, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Titanic. They seemed very nervous but played their songs great. When the kids did their history monologue, they were very excited to present them. The kids had so much fun presenting their P.E. gam with hula hoops. They had to stay in the hula hoops and could not touch the floor. Food science class did not do anything for their presentation, but only talked about their class. Construction class made a chain reaction thing and are very energetic. The kids were very interested in their computer class and the art class made a beautiful mural and really enjoyed drawing/painting. The kids then got their certificates for the classes they accomplished. Me and some of the REACH-ers handed out food to the kids and some of their parents. The line kept getting long when their were only a few people left; for example, three people then ten people came to the line then repeat. We had chicken, rice, fries, and salad. Then it went to chicken, rice, fries; and then chicken and rice was only left when the parents and kids all got food. I witnessed Oso struggling with a chicken bone for about five minutes. We all came to the office to hang out, and Brisa read about the day. Janeth also read about her day right afterwards. Also, Magali had her toe checked out and she is fine for now.  

We left the office to get frozen ice cream on a stick. The group then walked to our cooking class. When we got there, Oso bonded with the other dog. My group helped cut some onions, carrots, broccoli, chicken, and cauliflower. At the same time, we bonded and did some talking about various things, and I same some songs as well. Then we switched groups and learned about the different herbs and plants. We learned that some plants are good for stress, anxiety, insomnia, stomach pain, digestive cleansing, point pain, etc. After that, we learned about the towels and napkins the wife makes and the significance of the artwork/embroidery on them. For example, the "k" is for their name and providence. We then relaxed inside, shared stories, talked about first impressions, and waited for the food while Anaya played the guitar and then realized it is her birthday today/yesterday. Later, I went outside and sang a little of Hallelujah with Shannon and showed her the song, "Stay" by Rihanna (and unknown guy). Hopefully she learns it so we can sing it together – never done a duet. 

We then had dinner from all the food we prepared, and had some musicians play music for us while we ate. We all had a great time and some of us danced like Ken. We also sang Happy Birthday to Anaya and had birthday cake. We left on a cattle truck and brought the dog, Osos, with us, though he did not enjoy the ride. Logan really enjoyed his day.

Logan O.

Much Teaching, Much Learning

The day started off to a good start I would say. I had soup with broccoli, carrots and, of course, potatoes. We then left to school, but were a bit late. In class, we demonstrated diverse artists and their works of art, and the stories behind them. I was amazed by how intrigued they were in the history of these painter - in particular, by the meaning of the art work of Afro-American painter, Jean Michael Basquiat. His story and the way of life that he faced growing up surrounded by racism was something that intrigued the students. We talked about the many similarities one culture could have with another and how it is important to always stay true to one's beliefs. I can honestly say that these children have been teaching me more than I have been teach them.  

Later on in the day we had the privilege of having someone come teach us a bit of Kichwa and its origin. It was a very nice experience to have the opportunity to learn a language that is so full of history. Overall, it was a very productive and eye-opening day. 

Jazmin Sanchez

Day Two 

Roosters and raggaeton - the Agualongo alarm clock. After motivating myself to get up at 6 am, I had a meal for breakfast. Being used to a bagel, yogurt or cereal, eating a bowl of rice, beans and eggs was a huge challenge. I pushed through it, and after breakfast got dressed and Garrett and I went up to the cancha about 5 minutes early. The first thing I saw was fog over the mountains, and it looked like something out of Hollywood. Everyone that was meeting at 7:30 got there and we took off for summer school. "Oso", our family dog, watched over us the whole way and made sure we were safe. I taught math first at summer school, and had only two students, and the teacher was about my age. The kids seemed very interested and very bright, yet they lacked confidence. After math class I taught the computer class a little something about circuits. They were very eager and super interested in the circuit kit , which was like a toy to them. I hope I can open their eyes a little bit so they become interested in STEM fields.  

After lunch, we went to the museum where we learned a bit about Otevalo culture, and I bought the softest blanket ever. We played traditional games, including a speaking game, a bottle/five game, and –I'm sure everyone's favorite – a "wolf gets the rabbit under the blanket" game. The truck ride back was fun, and I spread my wings (my blanket) and flew (with the wind). Coming back home, I shared a fantastic corn soup with chicken and potatoes with my host mom and we talked about our families. Day two went great – I can't wait for tomorrow.  


Beginning the Journey

After a whirlwind of a trip, we were finally in Ecuador and would soon be meeting out host families. We started off the day at the hostel where we played a very interesting game about two different groups of people, each having their own beliefs and ways of life. This game pushed us to think about its relationship to "the real world" and from it we were able to draw various important lessons. What stuck with me was that there is not really any right or wrong way to do things or live life, it's all related to what people believe: value. In the end, we are all humans doing what we have to do to survive. Another important thing that came up was the importance of keeping an open mind. When we do so, we learn so much and are able to create lasting memories that maybe we wouldn't if we didn't keep an open mind. It was a nice reminder in this point of our trip as we would soon meet our host families and be immersed in a culture different than what we are used to. Soon after, we went to a huge mercado, which was busy. We fueled our bodies with yummy food, then spread around in search of food for our host families. By the end, we all were struggling to carry cosales full of stuff and plenty of yapas. We loaded two trucks with our stuff, and headed off to finally meet our families. This truck ride was quite bumpy, a bit cold, and unsteady but nonetheless fun.

As we arrived to the town of Agualango, our excitement and eagerness increased. They met us with fireworks (that scared us a little bit at first), floral arch, and a very delicious, traditional communal meal along with chicha. The love and affection was immediately felt as they received us with open arms. I am so grateful to be here and I know we will have many memories to look back on. This journey has just begun and I can't wait for everything that is to come.

Viviana Gonzalez