Spirit Cultural Exchange offers individuals the opportunity to help with a variety of volunteer projects in Ecuador while immersing themselves in the local culture. Volunteer projects are available throughout the year for a minimum of one week and are offered in many different fields. We hope you enjoy reading the blogs of our summer 2016 scholarship winner Mackenzie H!
Early morning start to the day. I met up with a couple of friends at Plaza Foch to start our day of hiking and biking. We took about a 1.5 hour drive to a lodge for breakfast. They served us pancakes with a background view of the top of Cotopaxi (the active volcano). While we were eating, the tour guides loaded the bikes on top of the van. We took another quick drive to a lagoon where I thought we were going to be hiking. It was more like a nice walk around a small pond. It was a gorgeous view none-the-less. Unfortunately, today was VERY very foggy so we couldn't see much while driving; we couldn't see the volcano either.
After our 45 minute walk, we hopped on the bikes and hit the road. The first part of the road was gravel. The guide couldn't come with us because of a health situation, but before we left he said "no body fall and get hurt." What do I do? I attempted to bike over a little pile of gravel and flipped over the bike. Haha, definitely a great start to the downhill biking. We were biking downhill through fog, and then it started to rain. It was a very fun bike ride. We were going SO fast down the volcano and road, traversing and going around bends. Even though it was raining, I would definitely do that again. Our group of 11 flew down the mountain so fast that the guide let us go even further down the mountain.
Once our wet bike ride was over, we went back to the lodge where they served us a full meal of quinoa soup, meat, rice, potatoes, and a dessert. It was delicious and well needed after our adventure. The tour guide told us a couple things about the land and how things work in Ecuador:
- The Pan American highway goes through Ecuador.
- Chinese companies do construction and such in exchange for oil. The oil reserves are owned by China here in Ecuador.
- The soil is great for the agriculture because of the volcanos. Soil contains great potassium, phosphorus, etc.
- Cotopaxi, the volcano, became a national park in 1978 and stands at 16,000 feet tall.
After we got back from the adventures at Cotopaxi, the four of us headed to the Artesian Market in Quito. I got a couple of souvenirs there. After a while there, and hurting our wallets, we all went our own ways to our houses. I wrote in my journals, drank some hot chocolate and soup with the host mom. After dinner and waiting for a little bit, about eight of the students and I went dancing at a nearby disco. It was a fun time dancing with them, but I headed back earlier than the others to get some sleep.
Oh what a wonderful day it was today! Today was a big souvenir shopping day at the famous Otavalo market. Christine and I met at Plaza Foch and found a taxi to the bus terminal Carcelen. When we got there, we bought some bus tickets and hopped on the bus for our 2 hour drive. The bus was loud because of a movie playing and the weird noises that it was making. When we got close to our location, we were dropped off on the side of the highway. From there, we took a taxi to Cotacachi. This is a lagoon nearby Otavalo. It was gorgeous there. We hiked a little bit to get some gorgeous pictures and see more of Ecuador. On one side there was the lagoon and two islands in the middle, on the other side was farm land and mountains. There were families hiking the mountain while picking berries. It was precious to see families out and about doing that together.
After walking around and getting 'lost' on trails, we found a camioneta (pick-up truck) to take us back to Otavalo. This was so much fun because we were able to ride in the back of the truck. What was really nice was the fresh air we were able to breath. In downtown Quito, there are a lot of buses and cars that give off exhaust wherever you walk. We got to the market and started our shopping! The immensity of the things to buy in the market was a little overwhelming. I wanted to purchase everything! After a little bit, we stopped by a typical Ecuadorian restaurant. These are the best because we ate vegetable soup, a plate of meat with rice and potatoes, and a glass of juice for $2.50! I could live here because the food is DELICIOUS for a great price. I think the states should pick it up with their food. :) After we were all done with the day, we got back on the bus to head home to Quito. They were playing Shawshank Redemption in Spanish on the bus ride back. We made it back to Plaza Foch, I walked home and put my purchases away, ate a quick dinner, and fell asleep at an early hour of 8:30pm. It was much needed.
After a long weekend, it was time for work once again. I woke up and ate a little bit of breakfast before heading to the clinic. Today wasn't much different than the other past days. I wrote on the vials and brought them to their proper places. The nurses and I talked a little more today about life at home and such things. I drew more blood today again. It really feels good being able to help in anyway I can. I know that I'm not doing much in the hospital, but being able to help by even walking vials across the room helps them through their process of drawing blood. It gives them the ability to draw more blood, faster. I'm hoping to visit more parts in the clinic this week.
Once I was done volunteering, I headed home to write a little bit and eat lunch. Afterwards, I went on a little walk by myself to the Artesian market again. This time, I finished all of my purchases here in Ecuador. I thought it was better to finish the gift and souvenir shopping earlier so I know how much space I have in my suitcase! Well, today has been a great day and relaxed as well.
Until Wednesday, thank you for reading! :)
With love from Ecuador,