So, for anyone who is actually reading these blog posts… you know how embarrassingly bad I am at updating this thing. Anddddd for that, I apologize but you know, sometimes life catches up to you and you’re just going from one town to the next, working at a farm, and procrastinating on writing papers. Nevertheless, I still feel the need to update the rest of the world (aka mom, dad, grandparents, my boss and any other family friends who do care to know what’s going on in my life down here in Ecuador).
A few weeks ago our group of students went to Olmedo, a small Afro-Ecuadorian fishing community in the northeast of Ecuador. When preparing to leave for this trip, our class sessions focused on Afro-Ecuadorians, the struggles they’ve faced within the country, racism, etc. I was excited for our trip and ended up journaling my entire time there. Instead of writing a separate blog post, I’ve decided to just post my journal entries instead. Through these entries, I hope you’ll enjoy reading not only what we did but my insights during the entire trip.
Thursday, October 15th
I never realized how big Ecuador is for being such a small country. From Quito to Olmedo, the bus ride was 9 hours! The first hour and a half was brutal. The road was so so windy and carsickness hit me so hard I thought I was going to puke… When we finally stopped, Adriana (one of our program directors) gave me medicine, I bought some bread, and within the next 30 minutes I was completely out. When I woke up, I felt a million times better and we ended up going to get an ice cream!
Eventually, after 9 hours in that damn van, we made it to Olmedo. Driving up was definitely an eye opening experiences. The houses, all made of wood or metal, do not at all resemble typical “american” houses… This was a whole new level. Walking up was also quite an interesting feeling. We were a group of white americans walking up with our packs of luggage to for a mere four day stay in the community. Being in Quito & Ecuador in general has made me feel out of my comfort zone a hell of a lot more than I expected…
Right once we put our luggage down, the kids were waiting to play. We went down and played a little bitt of soccer and volleyball. A few of the kids were racing cars so I started to take some photos and videos of them but right away they started to ask to take photos and videos of their own. And as the people pleaser I am, I handed over my camera and ended up with quite a few funny photos. After lunch, which was delicious, we had a “break time” that ended up being us playing with the kids the whole time. We went down to the beach and the little boys attacked us- it was hilarious! Between asking for piggy backs, trying to wrestle, asking us to swing them around, playing in the water, having dance battles and them showing us around their town, it was such a crazy afternoon but it was so much fun!
It’s crazy to think of these kids’ childhoods. Seeing them all paying together constantly was absolutely incredible. They could play forever and ever with their imagination and their energy. Also, it’s incredible to think of the sense of community that exits here. These kids are all growing up together and spend SO much time together… plus, all of the families here are so close. It definitely is a “community” here and I love that so much. Life seems to be so much simpler- play with the neighbors, swim in the ocean, eat with the family… I’m just loving this trip so much so far and I’m excited for what the next few days will bring.
Friday, October 16th, 2015
Today’s been another crazy day but I’ve enjoyed it just as much! This morning we got to visit the “manglares” (mangroves) aka swamps. I’ve never seen anything like them! There were so beautiful and I never realized how important they are to both the communities and the environment. The swamp survives on salt water which is crazy! Fish and other animals hide their eggs in the roots of the swamp trees because the bigger animals can’t get to the them. Walking through the swamps was so incredibly beautiful. I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing.
I hate how “development” has this power to ruin so many crucial things. Like can it even be considered development when we don’t even understand the true value of some of these regions? I just don’t understand it and it makes me hate how the dollar rules our world even more.
After our explorations through the manglares, we took this tiny canoe through the river to another village. 12 of us were crammed into an 8 person canoe and we all were positive we’d capsize. Luckily, we didn’t! We finally made it to the other community and made our way down to the beach. The beach was BEAUTIFUL! I’ve never seen an empty beach before, especially one where the coast stretched on for miles and miles. It’s a picture that I’ll definitely treasure in my mind forever. Our walk along the beach took nearly 3 hours but I enjoyed it so much. We got to walk along and in the water, talk about quite a lot, listen to music, and just be weird. There was one time where Macie and I were comparing footprints and arches.. that somehow turned into Macie, Nikki, Jake, Rachel, and I having this competition to see who could get caught deepest in the mud. We were all just laughing so much and having so much fun being silly.
Later on during our walk we came across a man who was cutting up some coconuts… we end up buying them ALL off of him! We were just casually walking down the beach on the coast of Ecuador while looking out onto the Pacific Ocean and drinking coconut water straight out of coconuts. Like seriously… what is life?
We continued our walk and walked past a “piscina de camarones.” The shrimp farms not only ruin the manglares in the area but also take profits away from local businesses. It still blows my mind how easily foreign businesses can come in and absolutely destroy local businesses/ economies… It breaks my heart.
Coming back we had lunch and then ended up playing with the kids.We played some soccer and I tried to take some photos but the kids ended up taking over my camera. I wonder why they’re so obsessed with it… is it just a rare thing to see? to use? do they have mirrors in their houses? do they see themselves often? Their favorite part of taking photos and videos was seeing them after… I just can’t help but wonder.
Later that afternoon we attempted to learn how to fish. Florencio had this huge net and he showed us all how to do it but none of us were actually successful. I ended up playing with the kids the whole time anyways. They’re crazy but I’ve loved every minute with them so far. We swam in the river for hours just playing around. We were also able to climb this tree and jump off the top into the river which was SO much fun.
After dinner Macie and I went to play with some of the kids who were out. Camila and Cachete started to braid my hair which led to 2 of the older girls doing it instead. The rest of the night was amazing in the best of ways. Most of us students were just sitting around our main dining table and the kids were surrounding us- peeking over shoulders to look at what we were doing (writing, reading, painting), sitting on laps, running from one person to the next, all with Spanish conversations flying every which way. Life here has really made me question what is considered “the good life”… back home we have to go to college to have a big house, a nice car, a strong career, a sense of financial security, and all the material things we want but never actually need… But here life seems to be so much simpler. Play all day with the other kids in the community, swim in the river, fish, dance, and just enjoy the simplicity of life. I hope I can just take some of these feelings back to the US with me.
Saturday, October 17th, 2015
This world is beautiful & life is beautiful. Everyday being here has made me appreciate my life and others so much more. It’s crazy how different, yet how similar all humans are. I never expected to love this trip as much as I have but it has, without a doubt, been incredible. shown me so much about not only the “learning objectives” but also life in general. It’s made me challenge my beliefs and assumptions while also making me take a step back to look at who I am and what I want.
This morning we got up early and made our trek to another fishing village. The trek was SO long… All of us were stuffed into this tiny little boat for two hours. Of course after the insanely hot day yesterday, I didn’t bring a jacket today… and it was raining, just my luck. Although the boat ride was long, uncomfortable, and more than a little bit wet, it was still beautiful. Going through the manglares was so breathtaking that I just can’t believe the power of nature sometimes. I find the manglares so beautiful and am definitely a little sad to leave them.
We got to the other community and walked throughout it to one of the ladies houses. It’s crazy how much the two communities resemble each other in a way- the water source at the beginning of town, the cement walkway up to the main parts, the wood plank and cement brick houses, the bright and multi-colored facades, the kids playing through the streets, and so much more…
From there we all crammed into another boat (so many of us) to make our way back to the manglares. We spent the morning looking for conchas within the manglares. It was QUITE the muddy experience… I enjoyed the experience, but solely as an experience. There’s no way I could actually do that every single day for the majority of my life.After the manglares, we went to the beach to dig and collect more conchas (SO MANY CONCHAS). Once we finally made it back to the community, we got to go swimming in the river. It was so damn nice and I’m definitely going to miss swimming so frequently.
That afternoon we played with the kids again which meant piggy backs, walking around the town, playing in the sand, and braiding hair. Later on that evening, Rachel, Nikki and I helped in the kitchen to open up all the conchas from our morning. After dinner, a few of us sat on the porch of our hostel with a few of the local women while one of the men played guitar and sang. One of the lines from his song was, “Hoy estámos en Olmedo, disfrutando la vida.” Today we are in Olmedo, enjoying life. Later on that night, a few members of the community performed a Marimba dance show and at the end we all danced together. After dancing, we talked with some of the teens and ended up all going to the discoteca (dance club) together. We stayed out until almost midnight dancing the night away. My time in Olmedo was an eye-opening, incredible experience that I’ll forever be thankful for.
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