Our first week in Ecuador has been an incredible one. After a late night arrival in Quito I met Fenner, the team leader. He immediately stood out as being extremely charismatic, and as he says, ¨overbearingly optimistic¨.
Meeting my Team
That same night I met Dylan, a fellow leaper who had been travelling in Ecuador for some weeks already. Unfortunately, all (6) other leapers (from the UK) had their flight to Quito cancelled and had to overnight in Guayaquil. When the other leapers finally arrived the next day we had a warm introduction session lead by Fenner, which took place in a comfortable little hostel in Quito itself.
First full day in Ecuador
On day two we met Emily, the coordinator, who gave us an informative orientation as well as a spanish test to gauge the levels of all volunteers. Our journey progressed quickly from there, because on day three we traveled to Chilcapamba where we met the community with which we would be working. We have spanish classes on week days, and our first was on day three. These usually consist of fun games, though they always become extremely competitive.
Our first real volunteer work began on the fourth day when Ernesto, a member of the Chilcapamba group, showed us a field that we would till so that it could be used to plant food for the community´s children. It was a lot of work, but was extremely gratifying once we had finished.
Weekend in Otovalo Market and Freezing Poools
After a couple of days of work, we went via bus to Otavalo to stay in a hostel for the weekend. We stayed on the edge of the main square which hosted an amazing craft market on both days that we went. Barter was the name of the game here, although I don´t think we all got the hang of it (you know who you are).
We ended our first free weekend in the Otavalo area, and even took a bus to the nearby Cascada de Peguche, which we hiked. There was also an extremely cold pool there which not everyone was keen to swim in…
One of our nights in Otavalo included a dinner at a pizzeria which we all went to. Dylan thought it would be a good idea to tell the waiter that I was indigenous and only spoke Kichwa (an indigenous language spoken in Ecuador, which is the first language of the Chilcapamba community). Unfortunately the joke ended abruptly when the waiter blasted into a full Kichwa conversation with me (of course I didn´t understand any of it…)
An Incredible First Week
Overall the first week has been packed full of excitement, travel and work. All of the leapers seem to be enjoying it so far, especially those cultural peculiarities which are normal here, but incredible to us, such as the usual street vendors hopping on to a bus at every stop to sell their product while repeatedly shouting what it is… (helados helados helados!!!)