Posted by: mckecuador | May 22, 2011

Ecuadorians Who Changed Our Lives

The trip was amazing! We made it home just fine, and I miss it already. That’s easy to say writing this blog from the confines of my air conditioning and well connected wifi internet. Going to Ecuador was the experience of a life time, but we were all ready to come home. Practically everyone got sick at some moment in the trip, and we were all dead tired so 10 days was perfect. We all enjoyed all the things we saw, places we went, and things we did, but nothing can replace all the people we met.

Miguel:  So much can be said about Miguel. He truly made the trip spectacular. Not just because of all his knowledge, but because he made all of us feel welcome in a completely different culture. Miguel helped me be comfortable in a country that didn’t even speak the same language. He found a way to make all of us love Ecuador as much as he does and I truly admire the pride he has for his country. He alone makes me want to visit again and again.

Dr. Diuguid and Miguel

Edmundo:  He was the elected chief of the Warichuris. He shared the same type of love Miguel had. He is so convicted to restoring the traditions of his people. Even though we are in a completely different situation, seeing Edmundo fighting for what he believes in is really inspiring. Edmundo was also so much fun. He spent a day with us at the Hotel Heliconias and even though I couldn’t speak to him in the same language we had a lot of fun on the water slides and playing soccer. I will definitely be sure to visit him if I ever go back to Ecuador.

Edmundo is on the far right.

Cesar: I am so glad I got to meet you. Just like all the people I met in Ecuador he made me feel like I was at home even though I was thousands of miles away. Just like Edmundo and Miguel he loved Ecuador. It was incredible to see how he

Cesar and Amanda

was trying to change all his students lives and even the attitude about education in Ecuador. Most importantly I had fun hanging out with him. He went with us to visit Los Jilgueritos and brought Cesar pequeno (his baby son). Even though he couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak Spanish we became good friends and I will definitely keep in touch with him.

The group including the professors!
I personally only knew three of the people in our group before the trip, but we all became family in the ten days we spent together. We were all so different and we got along so well together anyway. None of us will ever forget this trip, and all of us will always be friends. Thank you Dr. Phil and Dr. D for making this possible and making it the best trip of my life!

Passionate. I think if I had to choose one word to describe the people of Ecuador it would be passionate. Miguel is passionate about nature and the people of Ecuador, Edmundo is passionate about his people and their culture, and Cesar is passionate about music and restoring the traditional music of the native people. Ecuador taught me, and I think all of us, to find something you’re passionate about and not stop until you achieve it. This trip was the experience of a lifetime and I am so happy I was able to meet and share it with the people I did.

Drew and Monica

Posted by: mckecuador | May 22, 2011

The Day Before Our Journey Home

Lifelong friendships!!

Hola Amigas y Amigos! At this very moment, we’re just one measly hour away from landing at the Lambert St. Louis Airport and we couldn’t be happier to see our friends and family once again. Yesterday and today have been jam-packed with traveling first in a bus for 8 plus hours and now in a plane for this entire morning and afternoon. Planes, Trains and Automobiles- it doesn’t matter to us, we all have smiles on our faces.

The past days of traveling have given me time to digest this trip. Last night the group had a final meeting back at out lovely hotel, Los Alpes. We all shared our thoughts and feelings about our trip and waved goodbye to our guide Miguel. Though, the night did not end there. Knowing this group, you should expect that there was some adventure in our final night in Ecuador…

For our final on-our-own dinner adventures, we all decided to go to the covered market a couple of blocks from our hotel then meet at the restaurant where we ate the first night- The Magic Bean. Unfortunately, I never made it. I’m going to be pretty frank here, so Mom, if you’re reading, you should probably brace yourself.

The Men of the Study Abroad Group (along with two friendly military officers)

The market was more confined than what we were used to, but we all found everything we needed to wrap up anyone we forgot to get a keepsake for back home. I was just finishing up a hard bargain with this man for a hat for my brother whenI saw the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. Now, I travel rather frequently to get away from the everyday stresses that build up at home, and it is a personal tradition to bring back a dress from everywhere I’ve been (I now have 50 dresses from all over). I looked in my wallet and saw only $7 left, $8 bucks short of what I knew would be the lowest price this woman would give me. So, without even thinking, I found Drew, told him not to leave the market without me, that’d I’d be ten minutes tops, and hopped into a taxi and said with a friendly smile “Senor! Banco, por favor!” Off we went. I knew there were at least three ATMs in the surrounding thee blocks, but turn after turn, we kept on going through the city. The taxi driver and I made small talk and I quickly found that he didn’t know a lick of English. The anxiety really started to kick in when what should have been ten minutes quickly became sixty and in an attempt to reconcile my situation, I turned on my phone and called my boyfriend Danny. For every ring I repeated to the taxi driver-and to myself- “Mi novio hablo Espanol.”  Thankfully Danny was able to quickly tell me how to say “the market” but by the time I finally got back there, the gates had been lowered and my gringo friends were no where to be found. I was infuriated when he parked me right in front of an ATM that was connected to the market and said “Banco! Banco!”

Andrea, Amanda, and Kat

My head fell into my hands and the tears of embarrassment and regret began to roll down my face. My heart was as broken as my Spanish. I missed my friends, meeting them for dinner, and I had no idea if they even knew where I was and I had no way of contacting them. I dug out the Los Alpes map that Dr. Phil gave us all and gave it to the rotten taxi driver. I dried my tears and went to the lobby where I found my two instructors calmly greeting me in the lobby.
Before my dinner even came though, Monica, Drew, and Amanda burst into the doors  practically in tears. They were understandably angry with me and more group members began to pour in with more tears and more sighs of relief as I greeted them all with hugs. As I embraced them, I gave Dr. Phil a bewildered look- I had no idea my absence would startle them this much. I opened my heart and accepted the reality that these people that I’ve only known a short while had so much care for my safety.

The group takes a break in Quito!

It’s hard for me to say just one thing that I’ll take away from this trip since there are so many lessons to choose from. In the daylight and after some sleep I was to formulate the many emotions that I was left with when I finally laid my heavy head down on my pillow:  though the world may be quick to judge me and my character and even though many will never get to know what is behind the differences that we share, there is always hope that a select few will harbor love and care that goes beyond materialistic boundaries. And, it’s funny how when I wasn’t even looking, in my most alone moment, they found me. Having people that rushed through their last night to find me (even though their grade doesn’t depend on it) makes me remember the fateful words of John Lennon: “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” I never thought that would be the lesson I would take home with me. I spend way too much of my life fighting everyone around me just to be free to be the uninhibited, friendly, loving, adventurous, wise woman that I know I am inside. In Ecuador of all places, amidst a rookie traveler’s mistake I have found a few friends that I can now respect very deeply.
Also, I now know that when I’m in a country where I don’t fully speak the native tongue, I NEED a traveling buddy. (That part was for you, Mom.) See? I’m learning so many practical life lessons and I’m not even in a classroom! 😉
Love you all! Thanks for listening and reading and for your voiced and silent support.

Kat Studley

Posted by: mckecuador | May 19, 2011

San Jose School in Tena and the Los Jilgueritos Tribe

Listening to the student presentations.

Hola Amigos! Today started out like any other day. We woke up early and had some delicious eggs, warm croissants, cheese, and freshly squeezed juice. We gathered in front of the hotel and we were off to our first destination, Colegio San Jose en Tena, Napo, Ecuador.
We arrived at school and were surprised to see the difference in the uniforms. The males wore blue athletic pants with a red and white stripe on the side with a white polo with their school emblem embroidered on the front left side.  The female students had the option of wearing white dresses with turquoise colored belt or the male uniform. All of the students were required to wear black or white shoes with white socks. They also had the option to wear a matching athletic jacket on top of their uniform.

Shortly after arriving on campus one of the major differences that we noticed is that the students and the faculty didn’t have the same type of relationship as they do in the United States of America. It appeared that the students had less respect for the teacher, because they would deliberately talk over the teachers. The students would turn their back on the teachers while the teacher was giving a math lesson. However, there was multiple students that were very eager to learn what was being taught by the teachers.
We gathered in the center area, the quad, of the campus awaiting a presentation that the students had prepared for our group. Ceasar made a short introduction about our group and how Dr. Wilhem and him were introduced to one another. Dr. Wilhem was welcomed to the stage and explained to the student body and the faculty members the purpose of our visit to their school. A member of the Wari Churi tribe, Edmundo, explained why it was necessary to keep traditional music alive.
Let the fun begin…

Dr. Wilhelm and Cesar Caluna with the students who have embraced the indigenous music.

The series of presentations began with multiple students singing popular Spanish music. Their music abilities far surpassed what I had anticipated. Dr. Wilhem then played a traditional classical music song.  Cesar and a group of students

Rachael Valbert introduces herself to the San Jose School students.

introduced the different types of indigenous instrument and then performed a traditional song with the indigenous instruments. Throughout the presentations, the student body was still talking loudly amongst themselves.  To wrap up the presentations, students dressed in very colorful traditional clothing performed three traditional dances. The dances were very rapid and had a required much practice, coordination, and talent. Only if I had enough coordination!

After the presentation was over, we were invited to the tenth grade English class to interact with the students. The student enjoyed practicing speaking English with the McKendree students and were very eager to learn more about our backgrounds and our traveling experience in Ecuador.  Our group had lunch in the school cafeteria and ate empanadas and fried plantain chips. Yum!
We traveled back to the hotel to relax and rejuvenate next to the pool for a couple of hours. We then left the hotel to visit an indigenous family that Dr. Wilhelm had visited while working on his dissertation. We then arrived at the home of Los Jilgueritos, el group cultural Kichwa de Napo, and were greeted by Sebastian. The majority of his family was at his home celebrating his wife’s birthday.  Sebastian had 13 children (11 living, 2 desist) and 54 grandchildren contributing to his family which consists of 74 people. After some of the family members had changed into the traditional indigenous clothing, they performed multiple dances and songs. We were invited to join his family in the chyca dance.  Sebastian welcomed us into his family and invited us back for another visit. While getting ready to leave Sebastian’s home, the taxi van that we took earlier had a flat tire. After changing the tire, we had grilled chicken, rice, and beans for dinner at a restaurant in downtown Tena.
Tonight, we will pack our bags and prepare for a eight hour trip from Tena to Quito.
Hasta Luego,
-Andrea Sullivan
Posted by: mckecuador | May 17, 2011

Butterflies, Chicha, Monkeys, Oh My!

The day started off at Hotel Heliconias with breakfast
and our van taking us to the town of Mishualis where we got on a long
boat that drove us across the Napo River to see 16 Indiginous traps set
throughout the jungle.  Most of them involved an animal setting of a
trigger and being smashed by a heavy palm tree log or trapped by a
string or trapped.  We also saw traps meant for the water and catching
fisd, and we even got a little suprise when we found a marsupial nested
in one of the traps which looked like a small rat.  Throughout our
nature walk Miguel also taught us about the different types of plants
used for cooking, healing and many other things such as the garlic
plant.  At the end of our walk, our guide gave us waiusa, a hot tea
drink that is supposed to cure headaches.

A Friendly Marsupial

Back on the boat headed upstream we next headed to another small
indiginous home where we were presented with a chicha making
demonstration. Chicha is what the indiginous women make for their men.
Basically she showed us the current way of making it which involves
mashing up yuca and adding sweet potato and water and letting it
ferment.  The traditional way of making it involves the women chewing up
the yuca, using their saliva to ferment the chicha and allowing their
men to drink it after.  It is a very important part of the Quichua
culture, so much so that they do not understand how older people who are
single are that way because they have no woman to chew the chicha for
them so they believe that they will not survive.

After departing from Carlos, our boat driver, we explored “Monkey Town”
where we ate lunch.  Before we ate, a local came up to us with a huge
boa constrictor around his neck and allowed all of us to wrap the snake
around our neck for a photo.  Once again we all ate the traditional
three course meal; soup, a main meat with rice and veggies and sometimes
yuca, and a fresh fruit picked right out of the jungle.  While we were
eating, we all enjoyed chasing off the monkeys that walk through the
town.  With our meals we were all given water bottles to spray at the
monkies when they came and tried to steal our food.

Monkey Town!

After eating, we
stopped by a store nearby to look and purchase the jewelry he was
selling.  A camera was stolen and we noticed the difference in the
cultures because no one could do anything about it, not even the police,
even though we knew the store owner was the culprit.

The van then took us to the butterfly gardens where we learned about the
life cycles of the different native butterflies in the area.  We then
got to wander around the garden and take pictures of the different
insects and colorful butterflies.  After the fun with the butterflies,
we headed back to our hotel, had our nightly meeting and headed off on
our own to explore Tena.

The day started off at Hotel Heliconias with breakfast
and our van taking us to the town of Mishualis where we got on a long
boat that drove us across the Napo River to see 16 Indiginous traps set
throughout the jungle.  Most of them involved an animal setting of a
trigger and being smashed by a heavy palm tree log or trapped by a
string or trapped.  We also saw traps meant for the water and catching
fisd, and we even got a little suprise when we found a marsupial nested
in one of the traps which looked like a small rat.  Throughout our
nature walk Miguel also taught us about the different types of plants
used for cooking, healing and many other things such as the garlic
plant.  At the end of our walk, our guide gave us waiusa, a hot tea
drink that is supposed to cure headaches.
Posted by: mckecuador | May 17, 2011

White Water Rafting on the Jatun Yacu River

May 15, Day 7

Today began very much like yesterday: breakfast at Los Heliconias´s restaurant at 7:30, followed by a taxi ride at 8:00.  This time, however, our destination was Jatun Yacu, a river that flows from the Cotopaxi volcano to the Napo River, which is the largest tributary of the Amazon.  It was finally time for what many of us had been looking forward to the most – white water rafting!  Jatun Yacu´s rapids are class 3.5 out of 5, so we spent 30-45 minutes before we started learning how to rescue people if they fall out of a raft and calming a few panic attacks.  Once we started, though, everyone was able to calm down and focus.  We stopped for lunch about halfway through, then a little later, some of us explored a cave where the guides painted our faces with crushed rocks.  After our 6-hour journey, we all managed to make it through the rapids alive but sunburnt.  In the evening, we went to dinner at Bella Selva Pizza, a great pizza restaurant in Tena.  With everyone sore and exhausted, we are all looking forward to a good night´s sleep.

A Photo from the Countryside

Posted by: mckecuador | May 15, 2011

Visiting the Wari Churi Tribe

May 14th, Day 6

The day started by waking up in the refreshing beds of the Hotel Heliconias. We all slowly but surely made our way to the second floor of building B to eat breakfast before our busy day. Just as they did in Quito we were served eggs and bread with jam and butter, but the bread was now a delicious roll. The drinks were also very traditional Ecuadorian juices and coffee. After breakfast we took taxis to the Wari Churi camp. When we arrived we were greeted by Elmundo, who was voted leader by the Wari Churis. Our first activity was to drink cheecha and then we watched a traditional Quichua song and dance. The men all

Serving the traditional cheecha drink.

played instruments like drums, recorders, and turtle shells. The women were the dancers; they were dressed in blue dresses with seed belts around their waists. During the performance the elder woman offered a bowl of cheecha to the Quichua. She poured some cheecha into the other women’s bowls. They began to dance in a line in front of us raising and lowering their bowls as if they were making an offering. Then we drank more cheecha from the bowls the women were holding. The women grabbed our hands and we danced the traditional dance with them. We all had much fun, but the dance was not easy. They dance by hopping up and down while switching feet which is very difficult to do for any amount of time. We have no clue how the Wari Churi women could dance for as long as they did. Miguel told us that they sometimes dance for eight days straight!

 After our legs were on fire they decided to let us sit down, and they put on another performance. Before telling us what they were doing they asked for a volunteer and took Anthony. After Anthony left with the Wari Churis, Miguel informed us of their skit. It would be the story of a traditional courting of a woman in Ecuador. A traditional marriage in Ecuador had nothing to do with love; it was all about what you could give to the family as payment. The story began with a man and his wife pleading with the father of the girl to let their son marry his daughter. The first time was a disaster, the father immediately rejected their plea. The second time the couple returned they gave the girl’s father a cigarette, but the mother refused so they left. Evidently the third time was the charm because they were finally accepted by the girl’s family. This meant the two were to be married once the girl came of age. Anthony wasn’t allowed to see his bride until they were married. The bride came in with a red veil covering her face. The ceremony consisted of dancing, like most rituals. So Anthony was married to a young Wari Churi girl with his girlfriend Rachael sitting in the front row.

Did Anthony really get married?

Since Dr. Wilhelm hasn’t been feeling well, the spiritual leader did an actual cleansing. This is done to heal his sickness. Smoke, palms, and some liquid were used. The spiritual leader smoked and blew the smoke on Dr. Wilhelm’s body while shaking the palms. Then he proceeded to drink the liquid and blew it on him as well. The cleansing seems to have worked because he was feeling much better and was able to participate in the second activity of the day.

When the cleansing finished, different households brought their homemade jewelry to sell. They were made with seeds from trees and plants in the jungle and painted beautifully. After everyone was done buying the Wari Churi women invited us to play a 5 vs 5 futbol match. Before the game a few girls gave Monica an ankle bracelet they made which showed how the Wari Churi women felt about her. As is the custom, Monica gave the three girls a hat, a pair of sunglasses, and a pen and note pad. It turns out that the futbol field was the dirt area where our taxi dropped us of when we arrived. After filling in the pot holes with sand and everyone on each team betting a dollar we started playing. It was the gringos against the Wari Churi in a ten minute per half match. We started out well and scored the

The New McKendree Futbol (Soccer) Team

first goal to put the gringos up one unexpectedly. By the end of the match we were tied, so we continued on until one of the teams scored a goal. After nine minutes of extra time the Wari Churis won the match thus winning the huge pot of money. A grand total of $5.

 Since both teams were exhausted and starving we ate lunch. They served stuffed talapia, chicken feet, and turtle. For sides they had forest carrots and sugar cane. For drinks we had cheecha and tea. Everybody loved the food and some of us thought it was the best meal we have had so far. Then we took pictures and said good-bye to all the friends we made.

When we returned to the hotel we had one hour to clean up from the rain forest, then we took off for the Amazonia Zoo. The zoo is located on an island in between two rivers  that run through Tena. Originally there was a bridge connecting Tena and the island, but it was washed away in a flood last year. This meant the only way to get there now was by canoe. After reaching the island we met the director of the zoo and began our tour. We saw so many species of plants and flowers, monkeys, sloths, boars, ants, and birds. While  there, we visited the environmental science building which was constructed using bamboo (or what the local people call “steel of the future”). During the tour we went up in a tower that looked over Tena and the zoo.  The zoo was very interesting and we learned much about all the animals.

We never thought we'd see a spider monkey this close.

After meeting indigenous people, Anthony getting married, playing a thirty minute muddy soccer match, a delicious lunch, and visiting a zoo on an island, our day was finally complete. Today has followed the trend of the rest of the trip in which each day is better than the last.

Monica and Drew

The McKendree Study Abroad Group with Members of the Wari Churi Tribe

Posted by: mckecuador | May 15, 2011

On the Road to Tena

May 13, Day 5

Tasting Fresh Fruit Juices in Ecuador

¡Hola from Tena!   Right now we are in an Internet café.  We have been traveling all day long to reach Tena and were able to walk around the city where we’re staying. 

On the road we passed by many notable sites that will forever be instilled in our minds. The scenery is much, much different from anything one might find in the United States. For instance, we drove through clouds! Also, we saw so many waterfalls that fell down what looked like miles of the mountainside. Not to mention, the moisture that we experienced today was more than we ever could have fathomed. From the thick air to the muddy landslides, we were surrounded by water at all times. It is like black and white compared to our time in Quito.

The Breathtaking Views Continue


However, in our personal opinion, the most exhilarating part of today was the visit to the hot springs. Heated by the thermal energy of the volcanoes, the springs have powerful healing powers and left our skin feeling clean and soft. Our leaders instructed us to jump back and forth from the cold waters to the hot pools because the rush cleared the pores of our skin.

So far, we have truly enjoyed our trip, where we have experienced so many different adventures and tapped into various different skills many of us didn´t even know we had.  We cannot wait to tell anyone and everyone about the awesome wonders of Ecuador. Please, have your questions ready for us when we return! Until next time, wish us safe travels!

Finally, the hot springs!!



Kat Studley and Amanda Sweet

Posted by: mckecuador | May 13, 2011

Our visit to Ecuadorian Schools

We started our morning with a hot breakfast consisting of eggs, toast, homemade strawberry jelly, and fresh pineapple juice. Yum!!! After breakfast we gathered in the meeting room to wait for transportation to the San Marino School, pre-kindergarden through the tenth grade.  The atmosphere of the school was very warm and inviting. All of the students were very eager to learn and practice their English-speaking skills. Most of the student were very shy, but after a short while the students were laughing, hugging, smiling, dancing, and speaking English. All of the students we worked with at the San Marino School were too cute for words. Their smiles warmed up the room  as well as your heart.

Sandra Evans with the students from San Marino School.

At the San Marino School, we were separated into three groups and each group was responsible for a different age bracket and conducted a series of activities in the different classrooms. Some of the common activities included: class introductions, number identification, color identification, and animal identification. We worked on their English skills by conversing with the students through song and conversation.One of presentations that the third grade students had prepared for the English festival consisted of knowledge about certain animals. They would characterize themselves as animals of the jungle. They would start out by saying, “Hello! I am a lion. ROAR!” They would state the animal’s  characteristics such as where they typically live, what they eat/don’t eat, and the type of animal they are (nice/not so nice).

Haleigh, Sandra, and Andrea with 1st grade students.

Beep…..Beep….Beep goes the bell. It’s lunch time!  For lunch the school provided a traditional Ecuadorian meal consisting of fish soup and a blend of popcorn, plantain, and corn kernels. Several interesting characteristics is that Ecuadorians add popcorn instead of crackers as well as freshly squeezed lime to their soup. 

After our Ecuadorian meal, we had the opportunity to  listen to classical Ecuadorian music played by Alberro and Juan Carlos Panchi. It was breathtaking listening to Alberro play the violin with such ease and having Juan Carlos play the undertones with the guitar.   Juan Carlos wanted some McKendree memorabilia so Dr. Diuguid whipped out a plush Bogey Bear to give to Juan Carlos as a thank you for hosting McKendree students.

Back on the bus we go…Destination: Vivaldi High School.

The Vivaldi High School was a different experience than the San Marino School. When walking into the classroom, all sorts of emotions were running through our heads: fear, nervousness, anticipation, excitement, and eagerness. However, the atmosphere was very warm and inviting. Many of the students there were excited to see us and interact with people from another culture. Classes consisted of students ranging from fourteen to nineteen years old. Typically, the students asked about our backgrounds, education, and our purpose for visiting their campus. Mainly, the classrooms consisted of one or two students that stood out by their excellent English-speaking skills. Those students acted as interpreters for their fellow classmates.

McKendree and Vivaldi High School students.

Following the classroom sessions, the students joined us in the courtyard to take photographs and for socialization. A group of students gathered with a few of the McKendree students to demonstrate their musical and vocal capabilities while playing the guitar. They played various music that consisted of: AC/DC, Guns N Rose, The Doors, Red Hot Chile Peppers, Metallica, and classical Ecuadorian music. It was a captivating experience demonstrating the cross between the cultures of music.  This group really expressed their talent and love for music. 

Sadly, it was time to go and we had to say goodbye to the students of Vivaldi High School.  After a fulfilling day of visiting the students we decided to stop for lunch at the Kario King restaurant where we continue to enrich ourselves with Ecuadorian food consisting of potato soup and chicken, white rice, and veggies. 

Cerviche soup with all the extras!

We came back to the hotel to relax, rejuvenate, and pack for our journey to Tena, Ecuador. Off to the rainforest we go….

Hasta manana!

Sandra and Andrea

Posted by: mckecuador | May 12, 2011

Day Trip to the Various Markets

Our second trip to the Equator.

Day 3-May 11th
Hola! Today the adventure continues from the get go.  We started our day with breakfast at Los Alpes Hotel.  In the mornings we are served different jugos (juices) and today we were served juice made from Babaco or the star fruit which are much bigger here than in the states.  After breakfast we departed with our money and extra backpacks for souvenirs for our main destination, Otovolo market, the largest indigenous market in South America.  On the way, we stopped at the equator located in a different area.  Never failing to provide us with a plethora of culture and history, Miguel told us about the valley of Wiabamba, known for their different kinds of fruit and the town of Cayamby which is known for dairy and biscotti which we all enjoyed with some caramel.  None of this could compare to the view of the Andes Mountains from the bus on our journey.  Because we were out of Quito, there were no houses to block our view from the breathtaking mountains.  Made for some great scenery pictures!  Our next stop was to Peguche to visit a friend of Miguel’s who weaves, Jose Cotacachi.  Here we got to experience very rich tradition in weaving.  We watched how they made beautiful colors all from nature such as from bugs found on cacti.  We also got to experience the weavers at work and purchase handmade hats, scarves, tapestries and much more.  The art in Otovolo was so gorgeous and full of color.  Lush color in the whole market as far as the eye could see. 
A Shopper’s Paradise–The Otovolo Market
Otovolo was an interesting experience to say the least.  We were all given an hour to shop until we dropped, or ran out of money.  In the indigenous market bargaining is a must and we all had a great time bartering with the indigenous people in Spanish trying to get the best deal.  The one rule, never pay the first price they ask.  Rows and rows of scarves, dolls, hammocks, blankets, clothing, bags, and so many other colorful trinkets.  After the first shopping fever ended, we left with full hands and little money.  After the market, we ate lunch at local restaurant, Casa de Sol were we paid only $42 dollars for 14 people to eat a 3 course meal which was outstanding.  Here we were also enriched with more culture as we were entertained by a man playing traditional music with his guitar, pipes and his voice.  Muy bonito.  With full bellies, we headed to another market in San Antonio of Ibarra where the people specialize in handmade wood carvings.  Such beautiful art we experienced here.  All of us were in awe at the work done by the hands of these people.   Our last shopping stop was to Codacachi, where the indigenous people specialize in leather.  The smell of fresh hand crafted leather filled our noses.  After buying a few more items, we boarded the bus for the long journey home.
Cuy! For dinner we experienced a traditional Equadorian cuisine, cuy, or in other words guinea pig!  A restaurant in Quito that specialized in Ecuadorian quisine provided us with 2 cuy and then chopped them up for all of us to taste.  Definitely made us all feel like we were part of Ecuador after eating cuy.  Miguel entertained us as well by taking a nice big bite of the head.  La comida es muy bueno!!

Would you like to try some cuy?

We are all having so much fun together, especially interacting with the people of Ecuador.  Hasta manana!
Posted by: mckecuador | May 11, 2011

Hola from Quito

Day 1 – Monday, May 9

Our adventure began when we met our companions at the airport at 4:00am.  After a two-hour flight (a first for the two of us!), we landed in Miami, FL for a five-hour layover.  In Miami, we ate lunch at the News Cafe right across from the beach.  While we waited for our food, we ran and played in the ocean.  The food was great, especially the key lime pie!

After lunch, it was back to the airport for a four-hour flight to Quito.  When we touched down in Ecuador, we met our guide, Miguel, for the first time.  We saw our first glipses of the city as we drove to our hotel, which is beautiful!  After settling in, we took a walk around the city and ate dinner at a small restaurant called the Magic Bean, where we experienced our first taste of Ecuadorian food and became closer with Miguel. 

Dr. Diuguid and Dr. Wilhelm high atop the Andes Mountains.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 10

Our first full day in Ecuador began at 7:00am with breakfast at the hotel.  At 7:30, we left for a tour of Quito, starting with the Bassilica which is the largest church in Quito.  Miguel shared with us some of the history surrounding the churches, such as the interconnecting underground tunnels used by Catholics to travel in secret, avoiding their conquerers.  We then walked to Independence Square, where we saw the President’s and Mayor’s house and the Bishop’s palace.  We were even allowed to walk on the President’s porch, where he sometimes delivers speeches.  There we witnessed the changing of the guards, a long-standing Ecuadorian tradition.  Afterwards, we walked to San Francisco Square, where the Saint Francis Church is located.  After a little shopping, we reboarded our bus.

Students learn about the rotation of the Earth.

Our next stop was the statue of the Virgen de El Panecillo which overlooks the city.  We climbed the base of the statue to a ledge with a spectacular view of Quito and the surrounding area.  However, not even this could compare to the view offered at our next stop, a tram ride to the top of an inactive volcano in the Andes Mountains.  After lunch, we traveled to El Museo de Sitio Intinan, a museum on the equator.  The tour was interactive and explained many popular science facts, such as whether it is possible to balance an egg on the equator (Apparently it is!), and that the direction that draining water swirls is affected by which hemisphere it is in.  This also explains why tornadoes and hurricanes never occur on the equator.  We also saw relic calendars and clocks, and we learned about some indigenous tribes, such as the Waorani, who are well-known for their practice of head-shrinking.

Students (and Bogey) on the Equator

Students (and Bogey) on the Equator.

The group is functioning very well together, and we can’t wait for the rest of the trip!

Rachael and Anthony

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