Our group gathered at the Gannon arch on Saturday at 8:20am to begin our trip. We started off smoothly with two timely flights. In the airports, we passed time by talking about tick-tocks and the Bachelor. Around 11:30pm, we landed in the capitol of Ecuador, Quito, which has an elevation of over 8,000 feet. At customs, we went through several steps to ensure the safety of all. Once we met our community partners from Amizade, Bibi, Lenon, Brandon, and Lucia, we began our trek down the windiest road we have ever seen to get to our hotel about half an hour out. The elevation sickness affected everyone a little differently, but nothing drastic.
After a much-needed night of rest, we woke up and got a traditional Ecuadorian breakfast right down the street, which included fried fish. We enjoyed a beautifully sunny day while walking to both Mitad del Mundo (The Center of the World) and the Solar Museum Inti Nan at Mitad del Mundo. Mitad del Mundo is where a large monument resides that emphasizes this is the equator and indeed the middle of the world at the highest elevation. It is considered the historical equator line, which was initially measured before modern measurements were available. It was an absolutely beautiful monument that also had a museum within. Within this museum, each floor had a particular topic to focus on. These topics included: biodiversity, indigenous people, traditions & customs, science, and agriculture. We then walked to an interactive museum, Solar Museum Inti Nan at Mitad del Mundo. It is the location of the actual Equator, which has been confirmed with modern measuring equipment. This was the place where all the myths of the equator were able to be tested. For example, here on the equator line, an egg could be perfectly balanced on the head of a nail, it’s very difficult to walk in a straight line, and water drains straight down opposed to forming a spiral. Here we also learned a lot about traditions of indigenous people and their way of life; all from their home structure to artisan work they did to how they hunted and to their ancient rituals of shrinking heads! We also got the opportunity to not only watch, but take part in an indigenous dance. Before getting back on the road, many of us left with a stamp in our passport from the center of the world, some ice cream, and some hand-crafted bracelets.
During the roughly half hour journey to the lunch venue, we noticed numerous differences in the weather as well as the environment. We went from a mountainous, dry, rocky heat to luscious green lands with waterfalls and a killer humidity. Our lunch was absolutely delicious, and we had the sound of soft rain and birds to accompany it. After lunch, we got the opportunity to walk down a muddy incline and see the beautiful, rushing river.
Unfortunately, we had to cut out our visit to Museum El Tulipe due to a landslide blocking the road. Making our way to Los Bancos, everyone took a MUCH needed nap. Los Bancos is at an elevation at around 2,000 feet. After reaching the hotel and having some more rest and relaxation, we all gathered for our reflection. Our reflection consisted of personal journaling, drawing and sharing our favorite memories of the day, and reading an article in regards to an economy of exclusion. We had very interesting and in depth discussion on what that meant to us: here and in America. Dinner was absolutely delicious and was followed by a beautiful mass at 7:30. The group members who are Catholics were helping those who were not familiar with the faith to understand what was happening at mass. Throughout the day, our fearless student leader Claudia, has been one of our main translators. Our community partners have varying knowledges of English, but we have very much enjoyed getting to learn from each other. Our group is looking forward to our first day of working on the farm tomorrow.