by Eliza Mull
I’ve traveled so much in the past three weeks, and I’ve loved every moment of it! My first adventure was a visit with the exchange students to Quilotoa, a water-filled volcanic crater about five hours from Guaranda – the views were absolutely breathtaking, so I suppose waking up at 4 AM was worth it! We hiked down the mountain to see the lagoon, and our shoes were completely filled with sand and dust by the time we arrived at the bottom. We had a picnic on the shoreline, complete with cake to celebrate Luise’s 17th birthday, and in the afternoon, we went kayaking. I managed to stay almost completely dry until Brecht and Eleonora decided to start splashing everyone – good thing the sun was shining brightly to dry us off afterward! The hike back up the mountain was much more difficult than the descent, but when we arrived at the top, we ran into adorable llamas and took plenty of photos with our furry friends. I also bought a gorgeous painting of Quilotoa and managed to bargain the price down from $10 to $4. (Ecuador has really taught me how to haggle!)
The exchange students from Guaranda, Machala, Guayaquil, and Cuenca traveled last week to the Galapagos Islands. We arrived by plane on Friday in the early afternoon and immediately went snorkeling with sea turtles and brightly colored schools of fish. On Saturday, we took a boat tour of the island San Cristóbal, where we learned about the formation of the island via volcanic eruption, explored a cave, visited various rock outcroppings in the ocean such as the León Dormido (featured in the photo above) and the Tunel de Amor, and went snorkeling with sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, and innumerable quantities of fish. I managed to escape the day with no sunburn, but most of the others weren’t as fortunate. On the third day, we visited a turtle reservation, where baby Galapagos turtles are bred. While we were there, we saw two turtles reproducing and another turtle walk approximately two steps – apparently that constituted a very busy day! We also visited a gorgeous beach called Puerto Chino and had a lot of fun body-surfing and swimming – I couldn’t believe how turquoise the water was. On Monday, we hiked up a mountain to see the entire island, visited a museum dedicated to Charles Darwin and other notable scientists who explored the Galapagos, snorkeled once more, and watched the sunset from the beach. While we were snorkeling, a sea lion climbed onto our shoes to take a nap; it took our guide about ten minutes to get him to move since you’re not allowed to touch the animals!
We were all sad to leave the beautiful island, but I had fun spending time in Guayaquil afterward. (We had to stay the night there since our flight was in the afternoon, and we arrived too late to catch the bus back to Guaranda.) We hiked up the 444 steps of Las Peñas, a village built into the mountain, and we reached exactly 500 steps by climbing the lighthouse at the summit. I couldn’t believe how big Guayaquil is – from the top of the lighthouse, it extends as far as the eye can see in every direction! We also visited the mercado artesenal, where gorgeous souvenirs (everything from paintings to clothing to cuckoo clocks) were sold. Also, we had dinner at an American-style sports bar, and I was overjoyed to have a decent burger again.
Speaking of food, I’ve been cooking quite a bit recently with my new host family. I’ve learned to make several different traditional Ecuadorian foods, including morocho, biste de pollo, pan de yuca, batidos, arroz relleno, dulce de leche, and (my personal favorite) llapingachos!
I’ve learned to wash my clothes by hand – our cleaning lady didn’t come this week, so my sister Dome and I woke up early Sunday morning to hand-wash our school uniforms. Dome estimated that more than 80% of Ecuadorian women have hand-washed their clothes at least a few times in their lives (especially considering that the indigenous women only wash by hand since they don’t have access to washing machines); I would guess that less than 5% of women in the U.S. could say the same! Additionally, I went on a bike ride yesterday with my host sisters – I’d forgotten how much fun biking can be, so I loved the wind in my hair and the exhilaration of pedaling away!
Here in Ecuador, Holy Week (la Semana Santa) is celebrated much more than Easter itself, and the Easter Vigil Mass, which lasted over two hours, was absolutely beautiful. It began in darkness, and the bishop and acolytes passed through the aisle carrying frankincense and the gorgeous Pascal Candle. Everyone lit their own candles from its flame, and the first four Old Testament readings (from Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, and Ezekiel) were read by candlelight. The lights returned for the reading from Romans and the Gospel reading, and the bishop gave a fantastic sermon reflecting on how we must let our sinful selves die and be reborn with Christ. Several children were baptized, and then the bishop passed through the aisle once more using white daisies to sprinkle baptismal water on the congregation to symbolize our rebirth. He also blessed jars of water that families had brought – these jars (which varied in size from one-liter soda bottles to enormous buckets) would be used by the families to bless their own homes.
Don’t forget to take a peek at my Google Slides – I updated it with plenty of photos that I’m sure you won’t want to miss!
elizam01 | April 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Categories: Uncategorized
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