I just want to further update you on my trip so far. Ecuador is still amazing! My work schedule has changed slightly since we last spoke. The daycare I had been volunteering at let out for the summer, so now instead of going there in the morning I help the University students with their English program. Then, as per usual, I go to the Center for the Elderly at 11:30. I enjoy teaching English, especially since its been helping me a lot with my Spanish, but I have to admit I miss the daycare- its much more fun playing with kids than actually trying to get them to do things. However, its definitely interesting work.
Oftentimes, the independent volunteers (meaning those who aren´t here from Illinois, there are 5 of us) aid the mentally impaired children in their studies. Some days this can be very fulfilling, but others it can be impossibly frustrating- it all depends on which student I´m helping. I´m realizing that perhaps a career in education isn´t for me, which I´m happy about since testing those waters was one of the primary reasons why I chose to do this program. Even so, the work here is very fun and undoubtedly an incredible experience. Speaking of the school, I have an interesting story.
This morning I came to class only to find out that over the weekend there was a break in. The windows had been broken and several items were missing. Though funnily enough, we suspect the robbers were just complete idiots. The list of things they took includes two jugs of water, white board markers, and two tanks of gas (which actually do have value). They didn´t even attempt to break into the rooms with computers. What´s even more comical is that one of the volunteers left her shirt in the classroom, and over the weekend there was a big town party and she saw a man wearing it! I just thought that was rather strange.
Anyway, what I like most about the schedule change is that I now have the afternoons off to do what I please. I´ve started running with some of the other volunteers and today I´m going to go with my host sister. Because of the altitude, running here is really hard but also a great work out. I hope to have lungs of steel before my time here is up.
As is the case with most places, the weekends are my favorite part about Ecuador. Two weekends ago, I went to Otavalo which boasts the largest artesan crafts market in South America. It was absolutely amazing! After that, 5 others and I took a weekend trip to a little town named Mindo, more commonly known as the cloud forests of Ecuador. It was astonishingly beautiful. It is also world famous for its chocolate and coffee, two things I´ve missed very much here in Lumbisi. We arrived there on Saturday night, then on Sunday we went on a hike and I got the chance to jump off a four story cliff into the base a waterfall! I was the only one of my group who did it, which is a shame for everyone else since it was certainly the highlight of my trip. After that, we went zip lining, which of course was incredible. We were having so much fun, in fact, that a couple of us decided that we wanted to stay through Sunday night instead of catch the last bus which left late that afternoon- a risky move since we had school at 8 the next day.
The locals told us that there was a 4am bus to Quito, which would get us back in Lumbisi around 7:30. So at 3:30 on Monday morning, the owner of the hostal we stayed at dropped us off at a random bus stop on the side of the highway, where we then proceeded to try and flag down passing buses. After an hour and a half of rejection, we realized we weren´t going to make it back in time for school. We went back to Mindo and just left later that day (which was fine by me). It was truly a unique experience.
This past weekend, all 20 or so volunteers went with the president of the foundation to their second base in coastal Ecudor. We left Friday morning and arrived that night. Along the way, we stopped at an organic fruit farm and got to eat some of the most delicious oranges and limes I´ve ever tasted. Afterwards, we went swimming in a nearby river and then ate dinner. On Saturday, we went whale watching. This was certainly not like the trip I took in 6th grade! The whales came up only a couple meters away from our boat. I could hardly believe it. Then we hung out at the beach for a couple hours. Ecuadorian beaches must be amongst the most amazing in the world. There are no shells or rocks, and the water is literally almost as warm as a bath. Just relaxing on the beach was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend. Later in the afternoon we took a boat around a few of the islands, and saw swarms of all different types of birds. Then that night, we went salsa dancing on the beach. It was a very fun day.