We arrived in Agato on Friday and chilled with our host families. We were promptly split into our respective homes – 2 per house. I am rooming with Naomi en la casa de Roselena y Juan (in Roselena and Juan’s house). We have 6 “siblings:” 2 are living with their wives out of house, one 19-year-old named Taña and her 19 month-old baby named Taya, a 16-year-old named Milton (soon-to-be 17 on July 18), and a 13-year-old named Andres. Here are some pictures of our host family’s house.
It is usual to have many animals living with each family. Each animal has a purpose: the dogs are the guardians, the cats keep away rodents, and cows and pigs provide food for the family. With our family, we have one mama cat, 2 kittens and one dog whose name is Oki.
This is the basic schedule for the week days:
7:30 – el desayuno (breakfast)
8:30 or 9:00-12:00 – trabajo (work)
3:00-5:00 – las clases de español (Spanish classes)
7:30- cena (dinner)
9:00- dormimos (we sleep)
Weekends are for us Leapers to explore and conquer.
El desayuno consistió de huevos con espinaca y té. (Breakfast consisted of eggs with spinach and tea).
Naomi and I share a room in our host family’s house. We went outside to use the toilet and we washed up in an outside tub area.
The day’s adventures began with the squad taking a bus from Agato to Otavalo. Everyone had a blast haggling for items and gifts. We then decided it was a great idea to eat Ecuadorian pizza at a local restaurant. It was good, but many people including myself ended up getting sick from it. I felt like I had a fever, Toby and Jacob had upset stomachs, and Sydney and Georgie got a headache from the day. It wasn’t until that night that everyone felt the full effects of sickness.
After lunch, we split up – some went to shop and others went back home to play voleibol (volleyball). Charlotte and I went to a coffee shop to rest and to collect ourselves – I called my parents, was a little homesick (not going to lie).
We then took another bus from Otavalo to Agato and walked from the bus stop to la casa de Roselena y Juan (my host family’s house).
As I write this, I am resting my feet en nuestra habitación (our room) while Naomi reads in the living room with our host family. Bonding time. Later, I did come out of my retreat to make a necklace. Our host family makes jewelry for a living and they taught us how to make bracelets and necklaces.
That night, I thought I had a fever. I felt hot and stayed in bed, resting. I heard there was going to be a fiesta (party) later that night, and I did want to go. I ended up feeling better and decided to go after all. I hitched a ride with Roselena y Juan. When I arrived, I found out that many people had gotten ill at the same time with either a headache or stomach cramps from the food from earlier in Otavalo.
At the fiesta, there was a fire show and fire games like Vaca Loca, which is where someone in a flaming costume of cardboard and fruit runs/twirls around and people try to grab the fruit off without getting burned. Very peligroso (dangerous). Despite the danger, Adam was very determined to face the challenge and decided to join in the fun. He did indeed manage to grab a grapefruit and proudly gave it to his host mom.
After the games, there was a fire show – a huge piece of metal artwork donned with decorative pieces was lit on fire and it spun around and exploded in many colors.
Some of us went to another festival afterward, but the $5 entry fee was very expensive so many people didn’t go in. Our host families waited outside for us while we entered. Naomi and I didn’t think it out – we should’ve paid for our host families to come in as well but we were too caught up in the moment. Inside, there was a live band, but other than that it was dead as there were not many people who could afford to pay $5 to enter. We tried to make merry by dancing – the worm and Bachata. Some drunk guys danced with the group. It did sprinkle a bit which seemed unusual during the dry season. We had fun.
Today, Naomi and I woke up at 7:30. El desayuno consiste de papa y cebolla a las ocho (breakfast consisted of potato and onion).
After desayuno, we all took a hike a la cascada – fue muy duro y largo (to a waterfall – it was very hard and long). After seeing the waterfall, we all took a swim in a pool by the waterfall. Our presence attracted quite a crowd.
Back home, I took a shower outside with “agua caliente” (hot water) pero no fue caliente
(but it wasn’t hot). It was quite an experience.
When I came back from my shower, Naomi told me I got bitten alive – tons of sand flies had bitten me by the the waterfall. I recommend putting on insect repellent if you go (I forgot to). I will spare you the visual image.
Later I washed my clothes with Naomi and Roselena.
We then rested a bit. I did henna on Taña, Andres and Naomi while listening to my music from my phone. It was a hit! My host family wants me to do henna on them later.
Breakfast was at 7:30. Naomi and I walked to the center in the mountains, El Centro de Pakarinka. At Pakarinka, everyone works together and that’s called Minga. Pakarinka is a center where volunteers are transforming the property into a place of beauty and utility.
We worked with hoes and mixed the soil in order to get ready to plant. We are the third group to work in the same place. They said don’t worry about not seeing a result – we are still helping out the community even if we can’t see it right now.
We labored until noon, then we walked home for lunch at 1:30. Naomi and I cleaned up, and I looked at necklaces and bracelets that Roselena and Juan made. I ended up buying some jewelry as gifts. I was glad to know I could directly support my host family in some way.
I had my Spanish lesson with a teacher named Elizabeth. We mainly talked about beef jerky and stuff about the United States. Tomorrow, Liv will be joining me in class. Today, she had to go to the embassy to get an emergency passport because her passport was stolen from her last Thursday on the bus ride. Everything’s fine now. Not to worry.
It is difficult to find Wifi, but at least there is Wifi. I was not expecting to have any so I am grateful. Naomi and I walked to Charlotte’s place which has Wifi, and we stayed there until it got cold.
When we arrived home, we helped peel potatoes, and then we spent some time with the family before falling asleep around 9pm. It gets light early and dark early. 6am-6pm about.
Naomi and I woke up at 7 and ate breakfast at 7:30ish. We left at 8:10 to get to Pakarinka at 8:30. From Pakarinka, we hitched a ride up the Volcano Imbabura to hoe 9am-1pm. We walked down after a long and hard day of hoeing and turning over the soil.
The lady we were helping said it would’ve taken her three days to complete what we had accomplished in just a morning. Personally, I felt very glad that we could help her. (Although Adam was adamant that an irrigation system was the way to go, and he could “plan it in an hour.”)
Lunch was at 1:30, and I was able to meet one of the older brothers named Carlos. He lives with his wife 30 minutes away. Then from 3 to 5 I had my Spanish lesson with Liv and our teacher, Elizabeth. We just talked in Spanish as our lesson. Of course, we ended the day with la cena (dinner).
It was a fun-filled day. The sun was out and we could see the mountain clearly. We worked on leveling the ground at Pakarinka.
Joining us today is a gentleman named Alexi. He’s a great addition to The Leap group. He is volunteering with an organization called Frontier but is able to work with us for the two weeks that the Leapers will be here. He’ll leave with us this coming Friday when we leave as well. We’ve only spent one day with him, but he already feels like a Leaper. Cheers to the many adventures with Alexi!
Today, our Spanish lessons were a bit earlier than usual (2-4) because there was a big festival happening in the early evening. It was a fun evening as everyone got dressed up in the traditional attire.
Today was a day full of construction. We helped build a second floor onto Liv and Soz’s host family’s house. We helped move bricks and sand and stones. That took the entire morning.
Naomi and I have trouble with the polvo (dust) in the air so our mother had us inhale steam for a bit to try to relieve our sinuses and ease our coughing. The dust is taking a toll on me.
Spanish lessons went as usual – reviewing the tenses and playing some Spanish games to get us talking more.
Naomi and I have trouble with the polvo (dust) in the air so our mother had us inhale steam for a bit to try to relieve our sinuses and ease our coughing. The dust is taking a toll on me
We labored at Liz and Soz’s house again. This time, we helped mix cement and move a mixture of gravel and sand.
We got a human chain going. Very productive. Adam stayed home because he wasn’t feeling well.
For Spanish lessons, Liv and I drove with Elizabeth to El Museo de Las Culturas in Cotacachi (The Museum of the Cultures).
Cotacachi is a neighboring town to Agato that is known for cuero (leather).
In the museum, we listened intently to the guide talk about the history like the many traditions such as Alfarería, which is an ancestral technique used to mold clay into useful domestic objects. Alfarería is only practiced by the women of the community of Tunibamba and Alambuela.
Naomi and I woke up at 5 to the loud blasts of party music in the neighborhood. I couldn’t go back to sleep. Eventually we arose at 6:30, and I packed my bag for the day and overnight. Naomi and I ate pancakes because they were out of bread and pasta with garlic (muy delicioso! Very delicious!).
We all met up at 8 and got on our “party bus” to ride to Cotacachi Cayapas. I say “party bus” because it had Wifi. Alexi helped lead us through our day’s adventures with his Spanish skills. When we got there, the view was amazing.
Team 1 ½ consisted of Liv and Georgie who didn’t hike at lightning fast speed with the others but were going faster than my group who stayed back and enjoyed the views.
I don’t know how, but at each stopping point the view kept getting better and better.
Some of us hiked halfway (Jacob and Adam say we hiked only a third- max) and turned back. Others hiked the entire way around the lake at lightning fast speed and still managed to take a bunch of pictures by a gazebo on one of the peaks. Turns out, the Brits hiked the entire way going super fast while the Americans took their time to enjoy the vigorous and tough hike with gorgeous views. Either way, everyone survived the treacherous hike.
Following this adventure, we enjoyed a tasty lunch at a nearby restaurant. Many of us enjoyed a dish of filet mignon. It hit the spot after a tough hike.
Let me offer some advice: if you ever decide to hike around Lake Cuicocha in July, wear shorts and comfy shoes, apply plenty of sunscreen and bug spray, and bring water (hint Adam). I decided it would be a good idea to wear leggings/long trousers because I thought it would be cold and buggy, but I was wrong.
We caught the “party bus” and took an hour ride to our hostel, Bello Amanacer, in Chachimbiro. Soon after, we all found ourselves in line to buy swim caps to get into aguas termales (“hot springs”). The reason I put hot springs in quotes is because I had imagined it completely different. I imagined a scene from the pictures of hot springs in Iceland. Boy was I wrong yet again. Don’t get me wrong, the hot springs were fun- we soaked in the heat in multiple saunas and hot tubs (and I didn’t cough once from dust, which was pleasant), but I can understand why it hasn’t been a huge tourist attraction.
I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t bring anything valuable with me, just in case. (The boys didn’t want anyone to see them in their swim caps anyway, so it worked out for them as well).
Later in the evening, after having gone to a restaurant hoping to find a good place to eat dinner, we decided to stick with our hostel’s offerings. After we satisfied our appetite, some of us hopped into a small white van to go to a club. When we got there, we found it was completely empty. We literally brought the party with us. The night consisted of us playing pool for a couple hours and waiting for an hour for our bus driver to go back to our hostel.
If you ask some, they would say it wasn’t the best night of their lives, but for me, I enjoyed learning how to play pool.
The boys were up early to watch the GOAT win his 19th Grandslam #roge19🇨🇭 After that, some of them and Naomi went again to the hot springs and they took some pictures.
We left the hostel for Otavalo and La Plaza de Ponchos where we could do some more shopping in the open air market.
Naomi and I came back to our host family to open arms and lots of laughs and smiles.