The last 2 weeks have been one of the most memorable experiences in my life. I traveled to Ecuador with my school and Free the Children. I visited Quito, which is the capital of Ecuador, as well as the Amazon. The altitude in Quito was amazing! I lost my breath after taking two steps! However, the Amazon left me speechless. The relationships that I developed with the community and the people I was travelling with made it hard to say goodbye. It makes it even harder to write this blog post.
Since there are about a thousand things I could talk about, I will only write about my favourtie moments.
First I have to be honest. Before leaving for Ecuador I was unsure about the whole no electricty, no makeup, no tight clothing. But soon into the trip, I realized something. Our appearance doesn’t change the person we are. Though I was not allowed to wear my typical clothing due to cultural respect, I soon began to not care. Life without makeup was great! I could rub my eyes anytime 🙂 ! But the best thing was the minimal access to electricity. I never realized how much I miss out on just because of my phone. The things I learnt about other people and our Earth would have never been possible if I had my phone. Describing my trip to Ecuador is so hard. It is something I cannot put into words. Just being there changed my whole life and I am so thankful that I got to experience this amazing journey! (p.s. Sorry for the pictures, I have no idea why I can’t turn them. Oh well!)
The travel time was about 7-8 hours including our stop over in Panama.
The next morning, my friends and I woke up bright and early to see the sunrise. The pink colours were unreal! It was worth waking up at 5am. After that we headed down to have some breakfast. I swear, I have never tasted sweeter fruits anywhere else! Our stay in Quito was fabulous from morning to night. During the day we walked around, visited a museum, met a local, ate exquisite food, etc. But I have to say, walking in Quito is hard. Quito is 9350 ft above sea level. I lost my breath just by taking one step!
Quito was breathtaking! (And not just from the altitude). Seeing all of the amazing structures was fascinating. But my favourite part was how they managed to keep the raw beauty of Ecuador and still have a city.
At night my friends and I stayed in our rooms talking. But then, around 11pm, we decided to go up to the roof to see Quito at night. Seeing parts of the city lit up, and then a black part where no electricity came, was beautiful. Just as we were about to go back down, fireworks started going off. We had no idea what celebration was happening. But just standing on the roof, 9350 ft above sea level, with fireworks going off, and the wind blowing, it was the first moment when I realized at home we don’t take time to appreciate the beauty of Earth.
The next day, we travelled to the center of the Earth! I also accomplished an amazing thing, I took a selfie with a llama and it didn’t spit on me 🙂
Visiting the center of the world is for sure in the top 5 of the coolest things I have ever done. Standing right on the red line is so weird! You feel a pull trying to push you into either the north or south side. You also lose your muscle sense and your sense of balance. It was so cool and weird at the same time.
Now ever since that episode on Modern Family where Phil brings home a llama, I have always wanted to meet one! I got to meet a llama. Now this guy was pretty evil, he looked ready to spit on us at any time. However, the minute a camera came out he posed. It was the cutest and the sassiest llama I have ever seen!
Now onto the journey of the 9 hour bus ride to the Amazon. During the duration of the ride we stopped at the highest highway in North and South America. It was so windy!
As you can see my friends and I were very happy with our harem pants 🙂
Now lets skip by the 9 hours of singing and eating and head straight into the Amazon. We stayed at Minga Lodge deep into the jungle. Minga means family and or a community in unity. For this reason, the group I was travelling with referred to ourselves as a Minga. One of the directors I became so close with is Miguel. He is a local from Ecuador and he guided us through the Amazon. He showed us the hidden secrets of the jungle, introduced us to kids, and dared us to try new things. Miguel soon became a person I trusted on this trip. I keep in touch through email everyday!
I posted the video of Miguel and I dancing below 🙂
One day it started raining heavily and we had to come back from the worksite. However, Miguel was ready with a backup plan. He took us on the most beautiful nature walk to see the sunset. The sunset in the Amazon is stunning. The pink in the sky just before the darkness of the night settles over, hearing the buzz of the animals still alive, and seeing the current of the water. The picture does not do it justice. While pictures may be worth a thousand words, standing there in the humid air can never be replicated on a picture.
The hour that we were there made everything come alive. I realized how huge this Earth was and how tiny we are. But it was in that moment where I felt connected with everything. And I knew everything will be alright.
Before we head into what this trip was all for, I just wanted to share my favourite photo. We got to do weapon training, and below is a photo of me throwing a spear.
The kids, the communities, a better life. That’s why I wanted to go on this trip. We weren’t allowed to take pictures on the first few days of working. We worked for 6 out of the 10 days on the trip. The other 4 days were mainly travelling from one place to another. I have no idea how to put this in words. Taking that 45 minute boat ride every morning to the worksite was the most anxious moments in my life. I was ready to see the smiling kids and ready to start working. My group and I worked in the community of Bellavista. The minute we walked off that boat we would be greeted by locals of all ages. When I returned from Ecuador, someone said to me “Wow, that looks exhausting. Working everyday. I couldn’t imagine doing that.” And honestly, neither could I before I left. But the minute you see the smiles on the kids faces, it no longer becomes working. It becomes enjoyable. Every muscle in your body that ached meant that those kids will have a better life. Every splinter, broken nail, and sweat, means that the community will be able to become independent one day. I pulled both of my calf muscles and was told to sit out. But I refused to. People always asked me “Why?” I replied by saying, though I was injured I wasn’t incapable of working. I was still able to lift the sand bags, shovel the sand, sandpaper the wood. But if I had to sit out, it means one less person on the job. I also thought that if I was capable of working, why sit out? I saw a pregnant mother, holding one child in one hand, with 2 fifty lbs sandbags over her shoulder. That’s when I realized that they never stop not matter what the circumstance is. With that in my head, I stood back up and went back to shovelling sand.
Pictures cannot explain the experiences that I had in Ecuador. Nor can it show the bonds I created with everyone there. I became a Minga with the group I travelled with. I got to meet Miguel, a person who changed my view on a lot of things. And I also got to meet Carlos and Emma, our Free the Children directors. But most of all, I got to meet the kids. Words cannot describe my desire to work 24/7, nor can it describe how difficult it was to leave. Ecuador was an amazing experience and I would go back in a heartbeat.
I guess all that’s left to say is, take me back! Thank you for reading