Ecuador 2017 Day #21

Wow it is crazy that our trip came to an end; but with all happy endings this was the best once in a life time opportunity. Even though this was my first and last trip, this will not be the end of my Interact experience. I have to say for the past three years, I have gained remarkable friendships and created amazing memories. Interact has showed me that every little thing you do makes a difference in someone’s life and in the world. There is nothing more rewarding than pure happiness. For the most part I am proud to say that I am an Interactor and I truly enjoy what I give back to people. I can’t wait to see where my Interact journey will take me! Chow for now! –

Chelsea 

——————–

    On the final stretch home from Ecuador, I reflected on the trips I have done with Interact, and on everything I have done as a member of the club.  While I was excited to be home again and starting my final year of highschool, I had a great time on the trip and I will cherish the memories I made for the rest of my life.  These trips are excellent reminders to us all about just how privileged we are in North America.  People in South America live simply, and are thankful for everything they have and use everything to the fullest.  Interact trips have made me appreciate different ways of living – especially a simpler and more sustainable way of life.  As an Interactor at home, I learned many skills that have helped me in my everyday life, and will continue to help me; skills such as public speaking, leadership, work ethic, and communication.  Overall I enjoyed my time in Interact, and I will always try to incorporate the skills I have learned into my daily life.

Kyle 

——————–

Well it’s another successful trip in the books for the Castlegar Interact club and it was a great one to call my last. Along with a few others I had the privilege of attending this trip as my second and final Interact trip. I gotta say that Interact has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be nearly the same person I am today without Interact. It has shaped me into a respectful and responsible young man and I have learned so many life lessons that I will utilize throughout the rest of my life. I can’t wait to see what the Castlegar Interact club shapes up to be in the future and what other young people make the life changing decision to join the club as I did. Volunteering will now always be a part of my life and I would like to sincerely thank all of the amazing leaders who have volunteered so much of their time to make these things happen!

Eric

——————–

It feels like just yesterday I was going into my first year at Stanley Humphries and was finally old enough to join the Interact Club, and now I’ve just completed my fifth and final year, as well as my second international trip. Not only has the Interact Club allowed me to volunteer locally and internationally, it has also given me countless opportunities to develop my personal skills, such as leadership, public speaking, and respect. I’m so thankful to have been able to be part of this club and even more so to have been elected President by my peers. Over my five years as part of the Interact Club, I made countless friends around the world with people that shared the same vision as myself, creating the change we wish to see in the world. Through this similar vision, we were able to work together cohesively to better not only our local communities but as well as many international communities. As I conclude I would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, and an even bigger thank you to Geoff, Lorraine, Denise, Stan, and Elaine for showing me what’s possible to accomplish and always continuing to ensure not only my success, but all those in our club.  

Best Regards,  

Phil 

Ecuador 2017 Day #20

August 30

By: Sierra

I cannot explain the excitement I have had waiting for the day I could finally write in the Interact trip blog. This trip has been different than the previous one, that’s for sure. Today we woke up to the noise of insects I’d rather not think about at the moment. Unlike yesterday, it wasn’t raining! I was so relieved because the weather was holding up well enough that we could go tubing. I couldn’t believe how quickly the water level changes here. Since last night the water lowered by 2 meters, maybe more. The group met at 6 AM, where we had a very delightful breakfast which consisted of soft boiled eggs, granola, yogurt, and some really juicy watermelon.

As soon as we all finished we were off to Duske Headed Parakeet where we could observe parakeets in their natural environment. It was really neat and we got a really good look at them from using binoculars. Next we headed to Santa Barbara where we watched a local lady start the process of making chicha – a very common drink used by all the cultures in the Amazon region. We also danced with a few of the local kids who showed us a few dance moves just before inviting us up with them. We got to enjoy some of the typical food they have in Santa Barbara. One being larvae beetle. Yum. The courageous souls who ate one were Eric, Emily, Chelsea, Cedar, Padn, Svetlana, Lorraine, Geoff, and Denise. Every village we have been to has locals who hand make jewelry as well as other trinkets so we had some time to admire, and if we wanted, purchase the items. It feels so nice to help out the community, since a lot of the people make a living off of it. After this, tubing took place in the Arajuno river that flows into the Napo River. We split up into 2 groups and started tubing downstream. At first, some were brave to let go of the tubes and float on their backs (life jacket were in use). By the end everyone had done that and many fun “splash” games were played, especially by Eric. The river was actually really warm, just cooler than Christina Lake. Everyone had a blast; I think it was my favourite part.

We came back to the lodge just around 2 pm where we had lunch. The menu today included fish, rice, plantains, and beans with lentils. For me, instead of fish I enjoyed heart of palm. It’s crazy to think that in palm trees there is something edible. By then everyone was exhausted but still jumped up with enthusiasm when offered a 2 ½ hour hike in the jungle. There we saw some trees that are used for making Panama hats, as well as skirts and regular jungle hats. For a small duration of the hike, one of the tour guides tried to imitate the call of a Toucan in hopes that we could see one. Although no luck, lots of us were amused with how the tour guides made a perfect call using just a leaf and blowing into it. Did we see any monkeys? Yes we did! The whole group went to an area where there was a swinging vine. Everyone tried once, but the true monkeys shined as some went for three times, showing off their skills on the vine.

Dinner was bittersweet. One of the tour guides explained that they hoped we had a great time with them and they made us a special dinner. BBQ! There was a huge variety of meat, potatoes, rice, salad, and dessert was a piece of banana with chocolate on it. I’m really excited for breakfast as it’s supposed to be special as well. I think it’s starting to hit the group that in around 24 hours we will be on our way home. This trip has brought unforgettable memories.

See you soon !

Sierra:)

Ecuador 2017 Day #19

August 29

By: Phil & Andrew 

Today was our first full day spent in the Amazon. We were woken up by the sound of pounding rain against the tin roof of our rooms. Most of us didn’t sleep too well because after our nocturnal walk through the forest, we realized that the stunning, but also potentially dangerous creatures could be lurking in our opening ceiling rooms. Although there were many of us that didn’t get a thorough night’s sleep there were also a group that slept like babies.

After the busy night deciphering what sounds were made by what animal we started our day bright and early ready for a day jam packed with activities. Although our day was full of activities, it wasn’t as planned in the itinerary because there was a torrential downpour that started late last night and continued on throughout the day. This weather resulted in our plans being changed because some of the planned activities were reliant on sunny weather, such as exploring a salt lick where parakeets are typically found. Although some of the plans changed it was still very busy because the activities for the next day were easily substituted.

The group was excited to start the day with the always fascinating motor canoe rides that were our only form of transportation while in the Amazon. The canoe rides were always so enjoyable because of the ever changing shore line. As a result of the heavy rainfall, the water level of the river had risen over 1.5 meters which resulted in heavy debris floating throughout that made for a pretty exciting ride. After about a 15 minute ride down the river we made it to the Yaku Amarun museum which showcased many different hunting mechanisms, as well as several other traditional items that were handmade by the tribe members. After getting a guided tour through the museum, we got to the part we were all waiting for… making chocolate. The process of making the chocolate was fascinating but also very time consuming. The process involves harvesting the fruit from the tree, separating the slimy bean from the shell, which they showed us was as tasty as candy when eaten before roasted. After separating the bean they are then roasted over a fire until crispy and the delicious aroma fills the room. The bean is then ground in a hand driven mill and added to whatever the person desires to bring the great chocolatey taste into your life.

After enjoying the Nutella like spread on freshly toasted buns, we were shown how to use a traditional blow dart gun which the whole group then tried. When trying to hit the wooden Toucan with the blow darts we realized that there wasn’t actually a lot of air force needed to propel the dart quickly towards the target. Then we hopped back on the canoes and headed for the animal rescue centre just up the river.

When we arrived at AmaZOOnia Animal Rescue Centre, we were given a tour of all the animals that they were rehabilitating to enter back into the wilderness. The animals that were being nurtured at the centre were so diverse from those found in Canada, everyone got amazing pictures of the stunning animals. One of our favorite things we saw were the toucans that had such vibrant colors. After the tour, we were given the chance to purchase some souvenirs that were used to fund the food that the animals are given as well as new enclosures as the number of rescued animals continues to grow. We then ventured on the river once again to another traditionally built hut for a fresh lunch that consisted of chicken fried rice with Coca Cola.

To end our day we had to take the long journey back up stream through the strong debris filled current to the lodge. When we arrived at the lodge, we enjoyed some quiet time, but shortly after we got right back to it with a daytime walk to a nearby pineapple/ banana farm at which we purchased some freshly picked fruit for our breakfast tomorrow. To be even more pumped up for the morning, we even got some freshly roasted and ground coffee/cocoa to enjoy with breakfast. Our evening ended off with cards, bracelet making, journals and friendly conversation.

Phil & Andrew, writing from the middle of no where in the Amazon

Ecuador 2017 Day #18

August 28 

By: Stan 

Buenos noches nuestras familias y amigos! 

Well quite a day for our traveling group.  Most of us awoke between 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 and used our free morning to soak in the hot pools, explore the village of Papallacta, or hike the local trails. My weather app showed 7 degrees and hoodys, sweaters, and long pants were a must if we were not in the hot pools. We ate breakfast outside the gates of the resort. I was very surprised to feed a group of 5 of us, a breakfast for $20!  This included a plate of fresh fruit (watermelon and bananas), scrambled eggs, fresh heated bun, a large slice of Ecuadorian cheese, a glass of fresh orange juice made in the restaurant, and a hot cup of milk for coffee or hot chocolate. A similar breakfast at the resort would have cost us $85!   

10:30 a.m. and we set off on a 2.5 hour bus ride to the Amazon. We dropped from 11,000 metres elevation to 518 metres during this time period, through the incredibly steep and verdant cloud forests of the eastern Andes. We were amazed to see many areas of recent mudslides and road washouts as well as farmed slopes of corn and grazing cattle. Cattle graze on some of the steepest terrain I have ever witnessed.  I don’t know how they stay upright on those slopes.  During our drive, I was surprised that our group did not come down with a collective case of motion sickness. Imagine driving on Pass Creek road for 2.5 hours on a steady downhill and winding descent with incredibly steep and deep drops . One really cool thing we witnessed on the drive was a tarantula the size of a dinner plate crossing the road. I don’t think the bus drove overtop of the spider. It looked the size of a lapdog!  I am sure we would have felt it if we hit it with a tire .  

We arrived in Tena and picked up our two guides for the next 3 days, Roberto (who speaks good English) and Estuardo who is Quechua and from the Region. We ate a very big lunch of a pumpkin cheese soup followed by rice, broccoli and beef stir-fry, and a strip of fried plantain followed by a tropical cake for dessert. I think Plantain is one of those foods that people either love or hate. The haters are outnumbered by the lovers in our group! 

After lunch we were driven to Port Misahualli, a town that lives for Amazon adventure tourists like our group. In this town we spent an hour watching a large group of Capuchin monkeys and fed them grapes and bananas. Many of us had a chance to pet them and have them grab onto our fingers. Their little hands are so human-like with finger-nails and skin texture like our own.  One of those little thieves grabbed my sunglasses and Cedar had to coax him with grapes to retrieve my glasses .  

After some ice-cream and a short hike to the bus, we drove 20 minutes to the port of Ahuano. During the drive, Estuardo told me about the local strategy to promote ecotourism over other economic growth such as oil. They are passionate about protecting the jungle and are trying hard to keep land conversion to a minimum. Where farming is allowed, the people rely on crops of corn, bananas, papayas, pineapples, and cocoa. Cocoa is a highly prized cash crop for the people even though they only make $0.40/kilo of processed cocoa. That is a boat-load of chocolate bars for consuming nations. As usual, I marvel at the mark-up on products produced in developing nations. A lot of money gets made by middle-men that does not trickle down to the producers.  

At Ahuano, we witnessed a make-shift car carrying ferry as we boarded two large motorized canoes to take us to the Sinchi Sacha resort.  Our boats raced up the Napo River to our destination 20 minutes away. The Napo River is a huge river which is a tributary of the Amazon River, a mere 3 day drive away.  I can only imagine how large the Amazon River becomes with all of these great tributaries joining together throughout South America.  

By the time we reached our destination, we were dripping wet from the humidity and heat of the Amazon. What an incredible change after our very cold conditions in the high Andes over the past two weeks. As much as we craved the warmth, the heat was a killer for many of us!  It will take a bit to acclimatize. Our hosts and guides gave us Amazonian tea with plenty of clean water and bananas to stay hydrated. Our Quechua guide then set out to demonstrate bracelet weaving from locally sourced fibre, seeds, and dyes.  The threads we got to choose from are brightly coloured whites, blues, reds, and purples and we all learned to make some very cool bracelets. I am now ready to set out with my new-found trade, hawking my wares to traveling gringos! 

6:00 p.m. and the sun is setting as we struggle to finish our crafts. Lorraine is the first to spot a volcano in the distance that was actively erupting!  Our guides explained that Volcan Sangay has been erupting almost every day around 6:00 p.m. for the past 500 years.  This was documented by the Spaniards when they first arrived in the jungles of the region.  

I sit here high on a porch in the treetops of the Amazon waiting for our supper.  The temperature has finally moderated with a light breeze cooling me from the day. The Interact group is gathered nearby and are singing songs while the cicadas set the chorus. Mosquito repellant is liberally applied from our collective supplies of DEET.  The setting is so amazing and tranquil. No cars, machines, music – just nature and our tiny group.  We were all so excited to see a firefly buzz our group as darkness set in.  

After dinner, Our group took a nocturnal hike through the rainforest around the facility. Our guide asked as to wear rubber boots because of the mud but their real purpose is to prevent bites from snakes and other creatures. It was un-nerving but awesome. We saw some enormous spiders, frogs, poisonous snakes, crickets, etc.  So much natural noise from the insect world. I think we all collectively thought that the walk was one of the coolest things we have ever done!   

Now to bed as we have an early start to the day tomorrow 6:00 a.m.  Buenos Noches everyone!!! 

Video 2017-08-28, 6 26 43 PM

 

 

Ecuador 2017 Day #17

August 27

By: Andrew 

Last night was the last night sleeping in a tent. Yahoo! Now we are off to the Papallacta Hot Springs. We got up at 6:30 a.m. to pack up the tents. Because of the humidity the tents were too wet to pack, so we set them aside to dry. We put away everything that had to do with the tents like the foam mattresses, the tiny sleeping bags, and the plastic the tents were on. We made sure all of our stuff was packed up and ready to go, then we ate breakfast which consisted of oatmeal, yogurt and buns. We went to pack the tents up. The tents probably took 20 minutes to put away because the bags were ridiculously small and the poles wouldn’t come out of the tent, but we managed and we were ready to leave, all we had to do was say our goodbyes. After the goodbyes were said we all hopped on the bus and headed for the hot springs. We arrived around 11, got our bracelets that gave us access to the hot springs and went for lunch. After our lunch of pizza, we all headed back to the resort. It was around 12:30 and we couldn’t check in until 3:00, so we had some time to kill. Some people decided to go for a hike, and the rest of us chose to hit the hot springs. Eric, Kyle, Matt, Chelsea, Cedar, Sierra and I went and enjoyed hot water for the first time this trip! After enjoying the hot water, we went and checked into our rooms. The rooms were amazing with 2 floors, 6 beds, 2 bathrooms with HOT showers, and a living room type space. Right outside our door we have 3 private hot spring pools for the 7 cabanas in our area. We unpacked a little bit then immediately went to take advantage of our amazing out door area. 6:00 p.m. rolled around way too quick and it was time for supper. We found this cool restaurant and ordered a variety of foods that included trout, chicken, shrimp with rice and of course, pizza. Pretty soon most people had eaten and left and just a couple of us were there without food! Eventually we got our food which was very good and headed back to our resort. I came back to everyone enjoying the pools and I was really excited to get back into the pools. I quickly went to go get changed so I could get as much hot springs time as possible. What a great way to kick off our tourist part of the trip.

Ecuador 2017 Day #16

August 26 

By: Denise, Lorraine and Elaine (The 3 Chicka’s) 

Day 16 and it is the last day at the farm. It is hard to believe we are finished our project and will be leaving tomorrow for the next part of our trip.  

Today started with a mix of blue skies and clouds.  Many of us took down our laundry and got our suitcases organized and ready to travel.  We said goodbye to a hard working teenager named Thomas who joined us with our last week of work on the farm.  Thomas is from Quito and his grandmother is a Rotarian and encouraged him to join us.  He quickly made friends with the group and became number 17 in our group.  Compared to all the previous mornings where it has been get up and go go, this morning was a very leisurely with lots of time to just sit and chat and share. 

We loaded up the bus and we were off to Malchingui.  For several of us who had worked in Malchingui 2 years ago, we were super eager to see our previous host families.  The road to Malchingui travels high into the mountains, is quite windy and passes through the town of Tocachi.  Our first stop was at the concha that we built.  It is a large concrete area for soccer, basketball and other sports.  We were greeted by 2 local women who presented each one of us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Many local people came to the park to see us.  It wasn’t long before there were  Malchingui vs Canada soccer and basketball games in progress.  Not only are the Ecuadorian youth amazing basketball players, they are very talented soccer players.  

We headed off to the local hall to meet our host families.  For those of us whose host families  came to greet us, it was a wonderful reunion and the bond that we made 2 years ago was still there.  Many of us received little gifts from our families, and we in return gave them Canadian gifts.  Some of the families did not show, so those interact students were disappointed.  And I am sure the families waiting to see their student from 2 years ago, that are no longer in the club were also disappointed.  There were the usual speeches and thank you’s then the Interact club presented half of the donated clothing and other items to the community of Malchingui and the other half to the community of Tocachi.  These items will be placed for sale at a very reasonable price so the communities do not come to expect hand outs.  Lunch of roast pig, corn, salsa, potato patties was served.  Then the dancing started to local musicians with typical Andean music.  All too soon it was time to say good bye to our Malchingui families and friends. 

Before boarding the bus, we had 15 minutes to wander around the corner to the local bakery/candy store.  Many of us bought ice cream, candy, cake, chips etc.  In every community there are many, many stray dogs and they are at our feet waiting for dropped food/goodies.  Today was pay day as Kyle lost half of his cake and Lorraine gave a pregnant dog a croissant. Needless to say, those dogs followed us around until we left the community.   

We returned to the farm to sunny skies.  Our group spent some quiet time for about a hour….some people had showers, sent a message home, read or just sat in the sun.  We mingled and visited for a couple of hours until dinner.  Our dinner tonight was very simple…buns, cheese and cold meat.  This was certainly enough after our huge meal in Malchingui.  Many of us are still not getting used to the Ecuadorian way of doing dishes. No hot water, just one cold tap.  You lather up each dish with a sponge that you dip into a soap paste in a little container.  After a quick rinse, the dishes may be left to dry or just put away.   

It was an early night for many.  All the long days of work are catching up with us.  All we can think of now, besides coming home to see everyone, is a soak in the hot springs.   

Adious! 

 

 

Ecuador 2017 Day #15

August 25

By: Stan & Geoff 

Woke up to the sound of rain on the roof of the tarps covering our tents and decided to get ready for what was surely going to be a difficult work day. As our crew settled into a breakfast of crepes (thank you Doreen from France) we began our daily safety talk to steadily increasing rain. I think I speak for everyone when I say that the rain put a wet, cold blanket over the group as I watched the lowest energy level yet in our group. I felt very frustrated as this was going to be our last day to work our hardest and leave our legacy at the farm. Instead, it appeared that we would be spending the day shivering in our cook tent. Geoff and I took to lighting a campfire for the group to use to stay warm in case we could not work.

Much to our surprise, the rain subsided just as our work day was to start and for the first time in 2 weeks, our complete group of 16 all went to work on the Auditorium. Roughly one third of the building remained to be completed and for the first half of our day, I watched our group struggle with the cold wind, lagging energy, injuries, and periodic cold rain. I for one could barely lift a wheel-barrow by the 11:00 snack. At 11:00, we were treated to a delicious Orange & Passion Fruit cake, coffee and tea.  Soon after we returned to work on the Auditorium.

As we worked to our 3:00 lunch, I was so impressed to see a collective change in the energy of the group. Although unspoken, I believe that most of us actually felt that we could finish our phase of the project and the productivity increased with each passing minute. What was so impressive today was that every one of the Interact, Ecuadorian, Argentinian, Venezuelan, and French workers were all working in sync with one another. Every task mattered and was executed by the workers with no prodding from anyone. We all talked about how much we were looking forward to soaking in the hot springs of Papallacta on Sunday. Our adopted Ecuadorian Interactor, Tomas, told us that his father sent him photos from Papallacta and it had snowed today at the hot springs! We hardy Canadians will not be deterred by such unseasonable conditions.

At 2:30, our work group was called for lunch. Instead of leaving their posts, everyone decided to keep working and try to complete the job. We sent Emily to change the music that always plays during the work hours and much to our surprise, Emily turned on ‘We are the Champions’ by Queen. What a fantastic anthem for us to work through the hunger and fatigue we were feeling and we powered through the final phases of our work! The masons were so happy as were all of us. I don’t think that any one of us would have been happy to leave even 5% of our work unfinished! We were all so happy, taking photos, shaking hands, high-fiving, etc.

We finally went to lunch and were served a very tasty stew of potatoes and ground beef. The meal was so tasty that many of us want Juby and Lourdes to pass along the recipe before we leave. To top off the end of the meal, the President of La Esperanza arrived on site and presented all of us with intricate, hand made paper bowls made by the seniors of the community over the past two weeks. What a heartfelt gesture on the part of the community.

The rest of the evening had the majority of the group running helter skelter – showering, washing clothes, repacking bags, and enjoying the last of the daylight. We even got to see a sunset, considering the terrible day we had earlier. Svet and Phil both commented how the Ecuadorian sunsets remind them of Africa as the red sky filters through the variety of trees on the horizon. Nonetheless, I am quite cold as the temperature has dropped to 11 degrees shortly after sunset. Such an odd climate – stinking hot days and frigid, damp nights.

As I write the remainder of the blog, I have our new pet puppy Maple cuddled and sleeping inside of my jacket. She is such a large part of this experience for all of us. It will be difficult to say goodbye to her as well as the rest of our new friends in La Esperanza. Off to the campfire now to close off the night. Luis and Juby are making us pizza in the Dutch oven. We will also spend some time as we do every night searching the sky for the constellations of the Southern Hemisphere.

Happy Friday All! Have a great weekend

 

Ecuador 2017 Day #14

August 24

By: Geoff

I love ❤ Ecuador in the morning!! Apparently others are starting to as well. Initially it was Lorraine, Stan and I having our 6 am sessions. Shortly thereafter Svetlana joined us. Now we have a few Interactors joining us by 6:30 am. The mornings at Cinca are cold but you only hear the roosters, chickens and silence. The sun peaks up at around 6:10 am and it starts to warm up. However it takes a bit to dry up the dew and defrost all of us. Svetlana apparently wore two shirts, two pairs of pants, her hoody and alpaca socks to bed last night. By our 7:40 am safety meeting it is a pleasant temperature.

We are working at Cinca. It is a project that is trying to reverse the trend of a dependence on flower production in this area. Ecuador produces the most roses and angel’s breath in the world. However in order to ship these perfect flowers a high level of chemicals are being used. These are unhealthy for not only the workers but also the health of the locals as the chemicals are in clothes and causing high cancer levels. In addition the long hours of workers has put stresses on families which has led to family breakdowns.

Cinca is a project to provide an alternative. It is growing vegetables ( and eventually fruit….I hate fruit but this country is a fruit lovers paradise) organically. The vegetables are traditional popular ones but they are experimenting with ones that have gone out of favour in Ecuador. For example rainbow potatoes. They hope to be able to market these to select sectors in Quito.

In order for this all to work with the locals, education is required. That is our part. In conjunction with our Castlegar Rotary Clubs we have raised funds to build a building that will be used to teach adults and children organic farming, products and marketing. Without our help the farm could not get to the next step.

It is a bit of a United Nations here which adds to the interest. The concept was started by a Frenchmen named Remi. He has added three others. Louis has recently escaped with his wife (Juby) and two boys (Juan – 7 and Mateus – 4) from Venezuela. He directs our work each day and Juby directs us making meals. Margot is a young woman who lives with her family near the farm. She directs us on what to do with crops. Sergei is from Latvia and seems to be be in the know on healthy organic production. In addition there are youth from France, Argentina, Sweden and South Africa. The youth stay here for free in exchange for working from 8 am – 2 pm daily. All of these people are so fun and interesting to spend time with. They have welcomed us in, are patient with teaching us Spanish and happily share stories.

Luis is an especially interesting story. He previously had volunteered with this project because he believed in it. When the political unrest started in Venezuela over the past few months they decided it was not the place for them. They left everything behind and escaped to Ecuador. The people of Cinca loved him so much as a volunteer they hired him to direct our project. Pay isn’t much but they have a new start. Louis is an amazing leader…..organized and extremely motivating. We are lucky to have him.

Today we split the group for the morning as 7 went to visit another daycare. Elaine, Denise, Padn, Andrew, Phil, Kyle and Sierra walked 1 kilometre with three suitcases of clothing. These children were 1-3 years old and tougher to play games but the group still managed to have a lot of interaction. We took a number of great photos. Elaine and Denise at the end noticed a young girl and boy of at the most 4 years old taking their 4 siblings home. With no parent insight they dodged a bus and dragged everyone down the street. To say the least they found this to be different than Canada.

Meanwhile Stan, Svetlana, Cedar, Eric, Matt, Lorraine, Emily and I continued hard on the building. The team over the past two days has been amazing. I love it when, at the end of the last two days, on separate occasions, both Oscar and Adolpho (the tradesmen directing us) came out of the building with smiles on their faces, shaking their heads and saying they can’t believe how much we have done. They are outside preparing the “Barro” for us to wheelbarrow over and mud into the wall, so they can’t see until we finish the day. In Spanish they tell me that I have a good group. Everyone back in Canada should be proud of our youth. They start hard physical work at 8 am and work until 4 pm. All the time with smiles on their faces.

Tonight Is why we wanted to camp the second week. Padn, Andrew, Emily, Kyle, Chelsea and Svet were playing Egyptian war….screaming and laughing at each other. Stan, Lorraine, Matt, Phil and Cedar are by the campfire talking. Because the group agreed to no internet after 5:30 pm it is great. So much fun listening to everyone. What a great group!!

The group decided on 9:45 pm for lights out. Seemed early when we set it but now everyone is almost done for the night and it is before 9 am. The work means early nights.

Good night everyone

Ecuador 2017 Day #13

August 23 

By: Emily 

This morning the sun hit my eyes early, around 6:10. At that time I was ready to get up and start my day. I reluctantly got out of bed, even though I was ready to get up I wasn’t ready for the cold air. I finally got out the tent and went to say hello to the farm’s new puppy, Maple. After saying hi to Maple we had our safety talk and had a yummy breakfast. For breakfast we had breakfast buns with butter and jam, we also got to have some yogurt. There were 2 types of yogurt; blackberry and peach, I only got to try peach but it was amazing. 

It was 8:30 and we were all ready to get to work! We had most people on baroque so we can get as much done as possible and others on weeding. I was on weeding for the morning. Weeding is hard work but to me it’s very satisfying to see once you’ve done a section how much better it looks. It’s also a great way to get to know people. I got to talk with one of the new volunteers, Doreen.   She’s from France so we talked about French movies that I have seen and English ones that she has seen.  After 2 and a half hours of weeding it was snack time. The snack today was an oat cookie and juice or coffee. I had the juice because I always like seeing what fruit they put in it, today it seemed to be a blackberry and raspberry. I really enjoyed it 🙂

Next I got to help with baroque.  The morning team had done a great job by finishing the first wall of the auditorium. First I was on the scaffolding putting baroque on top of the door way. Next I got to help pack baroque on a new wall we started. The baroque got so watery that when we put it in one side, it would pop out the other side. This makes the process go much slower because we are losing all our hard work. We did eventually get the problem fixed. Lunch came around so quickly and we were all starving. We quickly finished the wheelbarrows of baroque we had left and then went to eat. The people in the kitchen today made beans, rice and a salad that had lettuce onion and a sauce on top. Once everyone was finished lunch they went back to work on baroque or weeding. Nearing the end of the day everyone was excited to have a shower and clean off all the dirt, mud and sweat they got from the hard working day. It’s so surprising that we only have 2 and a half more days of work until we are officially tourists and 8 more days in Ecuador. This trip is going by too fast! 

Later tonight me and my buddies were invited back to our host family for a special dinner. Our host mum said she wanted to make a pork dinner and a chocolate cake for dessert. I’m really exited for the dinner but mostly to see my host family again. 

A big hello from Ecuador, 

Emily 

 

 

Ecuador 2017 Day #12

August 22

By: Lorraine 

Another full day in Ecuador. The morning started with everyone comparing how their night went with their sleeping bags. The Ecuadorian people are much shorter and slighter than us Canadians. It appears the sleeping bags are just a tad small for us larger sized Canadians. So those taller people the bags come to their nipple line. For us fuller figure people we can not get the bags up past our hips. I think Emily was the only person that fit the bags with any comfort. Between the small bags and the wind I don’t think many got a good sleep last night. The 3 ladies thought we scored being given the tire house, that is until we saw a little furry creature scurry in and out through an air vent. What the heck, the more the merrier.

A duty roster was made up, consisting of kitchen help and cleaning of bathroom and showers. The kitchen crew made us a wonderful breakfast of tortilla that resembled an English muffin stuffed with eggs, onion and tomatoes with a dash of lemon juice and cheese. These were a big hit amongst all of us. Then it was off to work.

Half of the group gleefully headed off to the hot house to plant 300 little tomato plants. The other half were to go to the day care centre. Since we did not hear this was a go, we all headed for the auditorium to do the baroque. For me this is the first time getting close to the mud, and surprisingly I found the task to be very calming and enjoyable. There is something to this playing in the mud. At about 10 am Geoff came running to us. Loli and Jose had arrived and stated the day care had been waiting half an hour for our arrival. There was no time to change out of our dirty clothes. We all piled (7 of us) into Jose’s car. There were 2 in the front seat and 5 of us in the back with little Emily sprawled over 4 pairs of legs. Needlessly to say there were a few raised eyebrows at our attire. The 28 sweet little children soon became our focus. Some came running up to the group immediately wanting to make friends while most of the group held back not sure what to make of these very tall gringos. Elaine worked her kindergarten skills and soon the little children were interacting with us and playing games. One little boy asked Eric why he was speaking English. So Eric patiently explained in Canada we speak English. Near the end of the visit we were served a snack with the children, and our group was appalled that the children were served coke with their bun and cheese. The sad reality is that economically it is cheaper to drink coke than almost any other liquid and it is not uncommon to see coke served at breakfast. We had brought some supplies and clothing for the day care, we presented these in suitcases which we unpacked and then we were off with our empty cases back to the work site.

On arrival we first found Stan and Padn working on rebuilding the little bridge. They were securing the banks with tires, packing them full of dirt and then placing the logs over the ravine making it secure for crossing. While working Stan saw a rat coming down the ravine with a captured mouse in its mouth. Makes sleeping tonight that much more comfortable knowing there are critters in and out of my sleeping area, leaving me to wonder what they may be bringing in. Next we discovered Phil and Andrew had almost completed the showers and outside sink installation with the guidance of Louis. We were all looking forward to those hot showers at the end of the work day.

Looking around there were about 15 visitors. Some were Rotarians and others were officials from the community. They had come to meet us and check out this rotary project. There was a representative from Rotary International and her job was to check out 30 projects that were deemed to be sustainable, to find out how and why they work and create models for future projects and then allowing more global funding for such projects. It was such an honour for the Quito rotary club to have one of their projects selected. With all the visitors, lunch was a little more special with blue table cloths and being served.

Guests or not Louis cracked the whip and once again we were all back to work. Soon it was the end of the work and there was a mad rush for those hot showers. Well guess what, we were in for another surprise. Most of us had cold showers because we did not know how to regulate the showers to enable us to have some heat in the water.

One of my duties last evening was to clean the toilets. The toilets here are outhouses, but they are dry toilets where the urine is separated from the stool and paper, and then the heavy business becomes compost. The urine goes into large jugs behind the building. Louis gets the privilege of emptying these every few days. This process made me realize how spoiled we are in North America and how much work it takes to be organic.

As the medical person on the trip my job has been easy to date. There have been a few scrapes and blisters to deal with, and a couple of strained muscles. I do have one cute story to share, I was checking out one students back strain, and he says to me “Lorraine I feel we should be having dinner with the amount of skin I have shown you”. How I love these kids.

Keep on reading our blog.

Ecuador 2017 Day #11

August 21

By: Matt 

This morning was a little different from our host families. With our new host families at San Clemente, we woke up to the sound of roosters right outside our window. Kyle, Padn and I all got out of bed and took showers with hot water which was the best. Then we helped with the tortillas by flattening the dough and putting it on a pan and cooking it. Periodically flipping them like pancakes except with a knife not a spatula. When breakfast was ready we all sat down and looked over the mountains of food in front of us. They had laid out a big bowl of yogurt with a granola bowl on the side, almost 20 tortilla’s, fruit bowl, and 4 tall pitchers of blackberry juice, warm milk, green tea and coffee. Around 9 o’clock the Interactors started to show up at our host familie’s house for the minga. A minga is when a community or a small group of people come together to help build something or to fix something. In our case it was harvesting Okas. Okas are like little sweet potatoes. We started around 9:30 and went barefoot on the farm picking weeds and using hoes to dig up the Okas and put them in the bucket. It had rained that night so it was even better. The muddier the better?? We also learned an interesting fact from Lorraine that Panama hats weren’t made in Panama, but in Ecuador. This fact ended up being an on going chuckle all day. We finished the picking and weeding around 11 o’clock. After we washed our hands and feet, we helped bring wood down from the side of the mountain in aid of a San Clemente family. The rain had held off for us until we had finished the entire minga. We then walked a trail to Manuel’s house and broke up into two groups for a nature walk. We learned about a large variety of indigenous medicinal plants and herbs. Along the way our leader would name the plant and tell us how the plant was used. One of them was the Santa Maria which could be used for toilet paper which felt way softer than one ply. There was also a large leafed plant that not only had medicinal qualities, the fibre inside of the leaves could be spun into thread or wool. There were many variety of plants that can be used for hot compresses for sprains and strains, and several plants used for insect repellant because they had very pungent smelling leaves. The last plants we saw were used for cuts to counter act infections. I also made the mistake of eating beans that were meant to soak for 8 days before eating, so it was very starchy, sour and bitter at the same time, which was just awful.

After the nature walk we ate lunch outside at a poumba….all the food was laid out on rocks and we sat on rocks and ate. All of our host families brought a particular food dish to contribute to lunch. Our lunch included soup, okra, chicken cutlets, a variety of corn and beans as well as assorted fruit juices and cake for dessert. Yum! It was nice to be outside eating and enjoying each other’s company. Sadly Emily wasn’t feeling well so she couldn’t enjoy the walk or the lunch but she kept a great attitude the whole day despite the altitude sickness. By the time we got down to a lower altitude Emily was back to her feisty self. After lunch we went to see a group of embroidery artisans. The hut that the ladies were in was the same place that the Interactors worked a minga on the last trip. We saw hand stitched shirts, pants, jackets and table linens. Each item was beautifully hands crafted with beautiful designs. We also were told that they spend a lot of time on the stuff they stitch, for example, a shirt or jacket could take up to 6 months to make.

As we were preparing to leave two boys found a puppy in the gutter so the bus driver said he would take him home. We then went to Otovalo to stop at the markets again to ensure everyone got everything they wanted. It was quite a sight to see 16 people sprint to specific areas of the market and make it back to the bus on time! Svet held the puppy the whole time back looking as happy as I’ve seen her. After the markets we went straight back to La Esperanza to pick up the suitcases we left at our previous host families. On the way back to the farm from Phil and Andrew’s host family, Eric, Kyle and I noticed the back of the bus door was open and some suitcases had fallen out around the corner. Padn’s suitcase and mine were missing! Padn’s was the one we noticed but we had no idea where mine had went. So Kyle and I raced up the hill and along the road to find it. We hadn’t found it so the bus turned around to meet up with us and ‘Stan the Man’ took control. He spoke to a local in Spanish because that’s how he rolls and found out that Phil and Andrew’s family saw it on the road and held it for us until we got back. All of this had happened because our bus driver drove like he was in the Indy 500 and liked to hit bumps like they were jumps on a race track. Needless to say he will not be our driver anymore. When we finally got to the farm, they decided they would take the puppy we found which Emily named Maple. So today was an exciting day, it had joy, cuteness from the puppy and smiles all around making it a great day.

Ecuador 2017 Day #10

August 20

By: Elaine 

Sorry for the late post. We did not have internet or wifi while we were in Otavalo or San Clemente.

Hot they said. Wear sunscreen they said ……well it has been unusually rainy and cool for the last couple days. As a newbie on this trip, I must admit that it has been the most incredible experience and I feel so fortunate to be able to share it with amazing leaders, students and my son.

My blog day was a very busy and exciting day. We washed all our dirty work clothes and hung them out in the rain to dry …….yes you read that right, rain. We are hoping that the sun will come out long enough to dry them for our next work day.

Denise and I were able to sleep a little longer this morning and we were given a plate of corn, buns, tea, coffee and and tree tomato juice for breakfast. We then said our goodbyes to our host families as this was the last time we would be staying with them. Denise and I walked down to Geoff and Stan’s home and then our bus went around and picked up all the other students from their homes.

We travelled by bus to Otovalo which was approximately 1hour from La Esperanza. Our sole purpose for visiting Otavalo was to experience shopping in a huge open market. We had our safety talk and then broke into small groups and began our 3 hour shopping spree. Bartering in the market is part of the experience and once we all met up at a local restaurant, we shared our skills, experiences and purchases.

It was Phil’s 18th Birthday and in true Ecuadorian style, I was given the honour of smooshing cake in his face. As always, Phil was a good sport and enjoyed the remainder of his cake. After eating a fantastic lunch we all boarded the bus and spent the next 30 minutes travelling mostly uphill towards San Clemente.

Once we arrived, we were greeted by our hosts, Manuel and Laura. They brought us over to a traditional calendar made of rock and dirt. This calendar is based on the solstice and equinox. This is determined by the sun dial. Where the shadow lies tells them what to do next with their harvest. March 21 is Spring equinox and it is the start of the New Year. This is the time that they prepare foods to last them through to the following harvest. The dry season is a time for collecting seeds and soil rejuvenation. September is the rainy season and a time for planting. They have noticed climate change and they are getting rain in months that were normally dry season.

Matt and Emily were chosen to wear traditional garments which were worn to embody the spirit of animals. One had twelve colours that represented the twelve months of the year, the other mask had 7 colours on it which represented the seven days of the week. The people who wear the masks are the leaders and they are in charge of keeping everyone dancing. If someone is not dancing or is sleeping or lazy, they are ‘whipped’.

Everyone was then introduced to their host families. We helped our host families prepare dinner. We washed vegetables (lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber). We then took the compost out to the guinea pigs/rabbits, and got a picture taken with llamas. Geoff was not feeling that great and decided to have a nap in the cabin that he was sharing with Stan. All the leaders were sitting by the fire and Geoff appeared. He then told us that after having a nap he went to leave his room and was locked in. Stan had accidentally locked Geoff in his room. Geoff had to climb out of the window in order to get out of his cabin.

After dinner, we were all instructed to put on our traditional clothes. We then all met at the hall and listened to a local Indigenous group sing and play instruments. Then it was time for dancing. Many of us took turns putting on the costumes and making everyone dance. Everyone had a lot of fun and really embraced the cultural spirit.

After an hour or more of dancing, we were all treated to a hot cup of cinnamon tea. It was them time to head home to bed. What a day we all had.

Stay tuned for more exciting news