Home Sweet Home

After being back at home for 2 weeks, it’s strange to get back into the swing of things. I am also finally starting to feel like I am actually done with college now that my friends are all in class and I am not. I definitely just finished unpacking (oops) and I still have little trinkets that I need to find places for. It is still hard to believe that a week ago I was in the rain forest, riding down Puyo River in a canoe.

I can definitely say that going to Ecuador was an eye-opening adventure. I learned a lot about myself, made so many unforgettable relationships, improved my Spanish, and was away from home for longer than I ever have been. One of the main things I learned was that teaching is definitely not for me. I absolutely love kids and I do love to teach, but being in a classroom everyday is not the route I see myself going towards – I’ve always secretly been a little scared that I would teach abroad and then decided to never go back home – now I have validation that my class room with hopefully be in a hospital somewhere, with patients as my students. Another things I realized was that I am definitely someone who likes having people around. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely need my alone time, but there were definitely times at my house where I got really sad being home alone. Maybe it was the fact that I was in a foreign country and didn’t really have anywhere to go, but I’m definitely not one for being isolated.

The last thing I learned, not that I didn’t know it already, was that I absolutely love to travel. There are so many positive things about traveling that make it so amazing – new cultures, new people, learning new languages, adventure, and of course the food! All of these things made my experience in Ecuador unforgettable, and they are the things I enjoy most about travel.

I am glad to be home, but I definitely have caught (and will probably never get rid of) the travel bug. I am so glad that I am in a position where I can get these experiences now, especially before 4 years of medical school and even more years of training after. While I will definitely try and travel as much as possible (time and money permitting), I am so happy that I have this time off for some adventure.

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read about my thoughts and adventures! Hopefully there will be some more excitement and travel in the near future. Stay tuned for my trip to Europe in June!

 

 

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La Amazonia – The Rain Forest

First of, I apologize for waiting so long to write this post. It has been crazy and exciting being back home, so I’ve kind of put this off for too long. Here is to hoping I can still do the weekend justice two weeks later!

The drive was about 3-4 hours, and we unfortunately left late, but on our way we took a pit stop at La Casa del Arbol. This stop was quick but definitely exhilarating! After driving up the Andes, we walk a little further up and at the top find a tree house overlooking everything around the Andes and two swings. There was a line of people waiting for the swings, and we definitely joined the line. The swings were pushed by “trained professionals” who loved to push the swing as high as possible and even spin it around for the real scaredy cats! The view from the swing was beautiful as you could see everything below. While the screams of those before me made me nervous, the experience was more freeing than scary. Feeling the wind on my face and seeing the beautiful view below was definitely the start of a great last weekend!

Once we left La Casa del Arbol, we headed to Puyo, where we would be staying for the night. It was dark when we got there, but the humidity definitely told us we were in the rain forest. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous, though it was not your typical hotel. Each room was made of wood and each was its own separate house. They looked like tree houses in the middle of the rainforest – SO COOL. Walking to the rooms felt like walking through the jungle, but with a pool and cafeteria. The rooms didn’t have much in them, but it almost made the experience better! To add even more frosting on the delicious cake, I didn’t see one spider at the hotel and was almost mosquito bite free.

The next day, was probably one of the best parts of the trip! We went on an awesome Amazonian tour. The first stop was the “giant” fish. I was definitely skeptical when they tour guide brought out a pan of what looked like dog food – how big can the fish be if they’re eating kibble, right? – but quickly became full of nerves when he later brought out a plate of chunks of raw chicken. Seriously, RAW chicken. CHUNKS. Our host dad volunteered and was instructed to hold a chunk over the water. All of a sudden we saw huge shadows coming towards us and when he threw the meat into the water… WHOOOOOSH! Like 6 huge water serpent looking fish came out of the water with their huge round mouth, fighting over the chicken. If you have ever seen Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, these babies looked like the giant snake thing that Harry had to kill. CRAZY! We all screamed at the sound of the “fish” snapping up to get the chicken and there were definitely tears of fear shed by the little ones. It was definitely a great way to wake up for the rest of the tour!

After the giant fish, we took a track into the rain forest. The walk was about 30 minutes and the prize at the end was a beautiful waterfall that we all got to swim under! It was definitely a magical place, well worth the walk. We saw so many gorgeous plants, flowers and butterflies, and on the way back some of us on the tour ate ANTS. Apparently they taste like lemon. I almost regret not eating them – guess that means I’ve got to go back!

The last stop on our trip was a tour to a village of indigenous people. We learned about their culture, got our faces painted with local plants, played with a MONKEY and a parrot, and we took a beautiful, scenic canoe ride down Puyo river. Everything about the day was incredible. It’s hard to believe that all of those adventures were just 2 weeks ago! Seriously, what an amazing, indescribable, unforgettable experience. We also ended the trip with a shot of amazonian whiskey, so that wasn’t to bad either.

 

The Final Countdown

It has definitely been a wild ride here in Ecuador. We have been here for 4 weeks now teaching in the school, getting used to life with our host families, and even exploring a little bit.

The last week at school was definitely a great one. I have gotten to know most of my students well and being greeted with hugs is always awesome. Andrew and I also continued to start the mornings by running Brain Gym and we have definitely seen SO much improvement in the students. This week with my fourth grade class I also got to try my hand at making some traditional Ecuadorian dishes: Quimbolitos and Humitas. It was definitely a messy experience with 10 4th graders, but I am excited to try to make these dishes at home for my family when I get back!

Just like during the first week, this last week was full of every emotion possible. We have been extremely happy because of the students and their excitement in the classroom, we have missed our friends and family at home, and we have definitely felt sad knowing our time at school, and with out families, is coming to an end. We truly can’t believe that we are down to only about week more in this amazing country! The hardest part this week was definitely getting hugs from students sad to see us go.

After a long but great week at school, the “International Country Food Fair” at school on Friday was definitely the best way we could have imagined ending our time at school. The students had been working towards this day for a while and it was definitely a huge success! Each class of students from grades 5-8 represented a different country, including Spain, Switzerland, Mexico and Italy. The students all made different dished from their representative country to share with the other students and teachers in the school and they all had an introduction on their dish and their country to say in English. It was very fun to listen to the students talk about their dishes and even more fun to hear how much their English had improved over the past couple weeks. They are also definitely lucky to have such an AWESOME and passionate English teacher here already who has clearly helped the students succeed and improve every day. The International Country Food Fair was a huge success and a great way to end our month at school! It was a fun day of celebration, food and laughs that I will definitely always remember. We went home from school happy, and definitely full – but also sad knowing our time with the kids was coming to an end (luckily we will get to see the kids one more time to say goodbye before we make our trip home).

This Friday may have marked the end of teaching at San Ignacio School, but it was definitely not the end of our relationships with our students and the teachers we had the pleasure of working with. Additionally, we are very hopeful that future Gustavus students will get to have the same experiences we have had here in the near future!

Life’s a Beach.

 

Andrew and I were definitely excited for a little adventure  after 4 weeks of teaching, so we happily packed our bags  after school on Friday. We were making the drive to Guayaquil and Playas. As the name implies, we were headed to the beach! We spent Friday in the car, but even that was breathtaking. As Riobamba is in the middle of the country, to get o the coast requires drive through (or over) the Andes. During the drive we were surrounded by everything green and beautiful and it was amazing to drive up the mountains and then down the other side. Yes, though beautiful the drive was still tiring, and we all slept our fair share of the time, but it was definitely worth it to wake up Saturday and spend all day swimming at the beach.

The sun was shining, it was definitely hot out, but the water of the Pacific was warm and just what we needed to relax. This weekend was also exciting for me because I finally got to meet the rest of Andrew’s host family! They have 5 kids, the youngest 3 attending San Ignacio. Meeting and hanging out with the older two was so fun and a great way to work on my Spanish (and help them with their English)! We all hung out on the beach, Andrew and I spent most of our time floating in the water, and we ended the day watching the sunset on the beach with the whole family. It was definitely the perfect way to spend our Saturday. And naturally, since Saturday went so well, we spend Sunday doing it all over again! I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend the beginning of our week than at the beach, in the water and eating the best seafood  with a perfect view.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, so on Monday we made the long trek back to Riobamba. We were all definitely exhausted from our weekend in the sun but even the car ride back was a blast. On our way back home we stopped in Guayaquil aka the “Pearl” of Ecuador to visit their beautiful ferris wheel and eat lunch. We took a ride on the ferris wheel, which had a beautiful view, and then ate an amazing lunch of steak and fries. Definitely a delicious meal after a weekend of seafood. The sangria was also delicious and perfect with the meal! After lunch we packed up again and started the 5.5 hr drive back to Riobamba.

This weekend was definitely just one example of the beauty that Ecuador has to offer, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to travel and experience the country and its culture. We definitely got so lucky with this opportunity and even luckier with the amazing host families we were paired with. Teaching has been amazing, but I am really happy to have this week off, not just to explore, but to spend more time with my host family. They have truly treated me as part of their family and I have definitely not gotten to spend enough time with them! 

Luckily our host moms double as awesome tour guides, so we have a week of adventures ahead! We rested Tuesday, went to Quilotoa on Wednesday, La Nariz del Diablo Thursday and we will be traveling to the amazon this weekend for our last hoorah!

Stay tuned for more posts on our travels!