Saturday, August 13, 2011
We have found our successor for writing this blog! Read the link below for a beautiful, insightful, thoughtful reflection about our team's service trip to Ecuador last month. Alex is truly a gifted writer! http://astockwell.com/2011/08/for-ecuador/
Monday, July 11, 2011
We arrived after ten o'clock, but one of our main focuses throughout the trip has been making sure all of us have plenty of bottled drinking water and with all of the traveling in the past two days, we didn't have much time to find a small market to replenish our supply. Once we put our suitcases into our rooms and met as a team to make a shopping plan in the market for Saturday morning, eight of us went in search of a late night market to buy water and snacks. We found one several blocks away, made our vital purchases (which of course included the sugar waffle cookies we are all addicted to on this trip!), and head back to the hotel for a comfortable night's sleep.
Morning showers allowed all of us to discover that the hot and cold faucets were reversed in this hotel, but once we found the hot water, it was tough to get out of the warm shower; Otavalo at 10,000 feet above sea level was quite cool in the morning and as far as I could find, the room had no actual heater so it was a bit chilly for a while.
We all met for breakfast together in the dining room at 8:30 and it was the same standard meal we'd enjoyed all week--fresh tropical fruit, eggs cooked to our preference, bread, and juice and/or coffee with milk. Once we had checked out and stored our luggage in the bus, we walked to the HUGE market set up in the town, spread out for blocks. Hundreds and hundreds of vendors sold clothing, jewelry, food, spices, paintings, sculptures, you name it. I am sure we walked by only a fraction of the market in the two and a half hours we wandered and shopped. After finishing most of our shopping, we met in a pie shop that other volunteers at the clinic had raved about; most of us ordered their trademark blackberry pie with ice cream, but A.J. ordered apple and Alex ordered chocolate. Needless to say, most of us had to exchange bites! (And we wonder why germs flew through the team!!! Between that and sharing water bottles! I guess Grow will have to prohibit future teams from being so close and generous! LOL!)
Several wanted to buy soccer shirts as souvenirs, so on the way back to the hotel we all stopped at that booth and bartered until everyone was satisfied with the price. However, once we turned to continue our walk back and had gone about a block, we realized Adam and Olivia were not with us! After we checked at the hotel to make sure they weren't already there, we made a plan orchestrated by Alex, fanned out over several streets, and found them quickly!
The bus made short work of the drive back to Quito; I think we arrived at our hotel for the night (the same as our first night) in under two hours. We dropped off luggage, ordered a taxi to take us to Old Quito, and enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours with a personable driver who acted as tour guide rather than just drop us off and leave us to our own devices. He even took us to a gorgeous restaurant that overlooked much of Quito; it was a stunning view of the city that we just couldn't get enough of as we ordered and ate our dinner and celebrated an incredible week together.
Our final team meeting reinforced for all of us just how much a highlight this trip to Ecuador has been in each of our lives and how close we grew as a team. While meetings are definitely NOT a highlight for any of us in our working lives, in some ways these team meetings are as inspirational as the actual work we do during the week; I guess any kind of reflection can provide that kind of emotional support. But a very early (three a.m.!) wake-up call was in most of our futures (except maybe for some of the guys who can leap out of bed 10 minutes before leaving on the bus at 4 a.m.), so we retired early (well, by Grow standards, since everyone was in their rooms packing by 10:30). The flights home were comfortable, and the day was a long one, but we fit in more card games of Hearts, more heart-to-heart discussions, and a few last jokes at each others' expense. A final team dinner in Phoenix at Fajitas with our family members was just one more great time to add to our memory boxes.
Needless to say, we can't wait for the opportunity to contribute in some way again next summer!
And our adventures continue. Grow always builds in a day or two of R&R at the end of the week to help bridge the transition between the service we do and the cultural changes we experience and the fast pace of our normal routines. This week Dr. Zambrano, the leader of the project we worked with, built two full days into the schedule for us. For him, it made figuring out the logistics of transportation for two large teams easier. For us, it meant seeing more of one country than we've seen on any trip in the past-a fantastic benefit!
Friday morning we woke up to beautifully lush tropical surroundings-and the news that Thursday night had been Bob's turn with the bug plaguing our team this week and that Adam was not feeling 100% either. Bob needed the day to rest but Adam was determined to ignore it and hopefully feel better. So we began our day of nonstop adrenaline rushes.
A large taxi and tour guide came and gave us several choices on what we could do with our day in Mindo, a town in a cloud forest. We settled on going to a butterfly sanctuary first and loved it. Then the 10 of us all went ziplining, a first for many of us! It was exhilarating and utterly stunning views! The guides even taught us tricks like the superman and the butterfly across the lines! Pictures will be coming soon!
Next 8 of us-everyone but me and Olivia-decided to go rappelling down a waterfall! All of us hiked to a cable bridge and then the rest of them had a ridiculously difficult cling up to a waterfall while Olivia and I sat for an hour or so at the riverside and solved world problems (sadly, we couldn't see the waterfall from where we were at so we have no pictures). Definitely a scarier experience but some of them loved it while other said they were glad they did it but probably wouldn't do it again. All of these activities in about 5 hours of time. We know how to live!
The team was wet and sweaty after that and we needed to check out of our little paradise even though the kind innkeeper had extended our time to 3:30. So we drove back to the inn so people could shower and change, stored our luggage, then walked a half mile to the delicious cafe we had eaten in the night before. It was equally delightful the second time around! And while we were there, the innkeeper called the cafe to see if we were there (we had forgotten to tell her where we were going but there aren't too many places to eat in Mindo!) to tell us our taxi was coming in 20 minutes to get us to take us to the top of the hills to meet our bus. Dr. Z had arranged for the bus that was taking the doctors and dentists back to Quito to pick us up along the way. So our taxi took us up to the highway to meet the bus and we waited about 45 minutes along the side of the road at a bus stop for the big bus to pick us up. It arrived around 6 pm and we drove the next two hours in the dark and the fog along the windy roads until we reached the beautiful city of Quito. We dropped the medical team off at various points in the city, made a longer pit stop at Charity Anywhere's offices, and then began our two hour drive to the even higher city of Otavalo...