Audrey O'Connell is one of Spirit's 2017 Volunteer Abroad Ambassador Scholarship winners. She is volunteering at a child-care center in Quito, Ecuador for four weeks through our partner in Ecuador, Fundación Bolivar Education.
Since my flight doesn’t leave until around midnight, I was able to plan a trip on my last day here! I woke up early to hike up Cotopaxi, a volcano, with three friends from the school. We tried to book a trip with the travel agency, but it ended up not working out. Late last night, I told my host mom about it, and she said that she would help me figure it out. She contacted three friends, and when none of them could help, she asked her son if he would drive us there. In addition, no one is allowed to go to Cotopaxi without a guide, and so he drove us, helped us find a guide, and hiked up with us the whole time. It was amazing! My host family has gone above and beyond to make me feel at home this whole month. The hike was hard, mainly because I wasn’t expecting it to be as cold as it was. The guide ended up giving me her gloves because I didn’t have any. Also, the wind was unbearable up there! We were about 4,600 meters high. We hiked up to the rest stop, which took about 45 minutes, and after having a snack, we hiked down in about 30. We then stopped to see the lake that was created from glaciers falling from a volcanic eruption many years ago. After that, our guide gave us a short tour of the museum in the National Park. It was such a great last trip!
We then stopped for lunch at an Ecuadorian restaurant, and I had a delicious last lunch here! When I got home I rested for a bit, and then I went back out with my friend Bella so that we could spend more time together before I left. When I got to the dinner table, my host family sang happy birthday to me and also got me a cake! My host mom found out my birthday was July 1st at the very beginning of the trip, and she even remembered on the last day. We had such a fun last dinner together because two kids who are staying with her for the weekend arrived. They spoke great Spanish, and we enjoyed getting to know them. When it was time to leave, my host family all walked me to the door and said goodbye. It was so bittersweet! I had the best month in Ecuador, and they helped me with everything. My experience in Ecuador has been one of the best ones in my life, and I am so grateful to have received this opportunity. My eyes have been opened to so many different cultures, and I now have friends all over the world! This month allowed me to grow in ways that I didn’t even anticipate; I will forever remember this trip as one of the most valuable in my life.