Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Okay, so these are a little behind and while the blog may not exactly show it, the days have been long and exhausting.

Many of the group members woke up Thursday morning to the usual rooster that has no perception of time. After falling back asleep until the sun was really out, the group met at 7am for breakfast. Breakfast was cornmeal tortas with jam and the usual drinks. Andrea and a couple other prepared the supplies for the day at 8am we were off to Bunche. Most of the group walked, but the roads were a little sloppy from the night rain, so a few took a "taxi" into the village.
We arrived at the nursery in Bunche ready to brighten it up and that was what we did. The group quickly got underway breaking open the paint and getting the brushes and rollers wet. It was nice that we did all of the prep work on Monday so minimal scraping and things had to come off the walls. Three or four members began working on Friday's work a bit early by painting some murals and getting them ready. In retrospect, this worked out great!
Meanwhile inside the nursery, the group was going to town with the first coat. This was true teamwork in action. There were painters hanging on rebar windows to get up higher, standing on ladders for the taller parts, brushing the edges and corners, and rolling the large flat surfaces. In no time, the first coat was on and it was time to play the waiting game and let things dry a little bit. Mostly everyone went to the park and helped with the murals or keep the kids at bay a little bit.
The theme of this years trip was "nos ayudamos" which means -we help each other and it was depicted by a hand print. So to go along with the theme, both murals painted were painted with hands and involved the children of Bunche. One was a yellow, blue, and red stripe that represents the colors of the Ecuadorian flag and the other was a tree with the handprints being the grass and leaves: lightly inscribed in the tree were the words, nos ayudamos, and the colors of the flag. The kids loved helping out and while it got a little messy at times, it was great to see it in action. It really brought out the mission of the service learning trip.
Following the completion of the murals, it was time for lunch. We all rounded up the crew and met inside the nursery for a lunch of fried chicken, salad, rice, and beans (for non-veg) and popcorn, rice, and a vegetable soup/baby food consistency dish. Following the second coat of paint and lunch, the projects were completed. Some opted to go back and rest at the station until 3pm when the Bunche youth soccer team invited us to join them while others decided to stay in Bunche for the afternoon.
It wasn't more than 5 minutes after the group left, the remaining students were asked to write "eatery" on a wall. Next thing you know, those that stayed were painting fruits and vegetables, letters, numbers, Pooh Bear, balloons, palm trees, flowers, fish and more. The old color of the nursery was a dirty two-toned orange and now here stood a clean light turquoise and colorfully decorated building.
As the group finished up, 3pm was rolling around and some of the group started coming back into town. They couldn't believe what they had missed and were shocked by the end result. It was more of a sporadic decision, so there were no hard feelings between either group.
For the rest of the afternoon, we wandered Bunche. Some played soccer, others played bingo that the had proceeds going to a resident with terminal cancer, some danced, and others just socialized around the town. The group was recognizing that the days in Bunche were coming to a close.
By 6:30, most everybody had left so they wouldn't be eaten alive by mosquitoes and be back in time for dinner. Dinner that night was fried fish with the usual sides and to drink-fresh limeade. After dinner, everyone just relaxed and finished getting cleaned up and played uecher, cribbage, and other games.

The other days are coming and upon arrival in the states, pictures (lots) will be posted.

As I post this, I wanted to let everyone know that the group has all been delivered to the airport and I (Erik) saw them up until security. I will post notification upon their arrival in Miami. They do not have a whole lot of time to clear customs, immigration, recheck luggage, if a call isn't made-please don't feel bad. Miami's international arrival is not the most pleasant, especially on a crunched schedule.

In short, but yet to come:

Friday- rainy day, supply delivery in Muisne, time at a different beach on Muisne Island for afternoon.

Saturday-supplies brought to Bunche, last visit with children, danced in the evening with locals and said our goodbyes.

Sunday-playa escondida resort for reflection and a different feel

Monday- nicest weather all trip and several hour bus ride back to Quito

Tuesday-visit Plaza Grande (prez palace, churches, old town) in morning and shopping in afternoon, then dinner and packing.

Wed-early flights: groups departed.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Arrived in Quito

We have safely arrived in Quito. The blog will be updated tonight. We are off to our dinner reservation a little bit late and finally have internet access again. All is great!!!

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Friday, January 14, 2011


We woke up, again, bright and early ready to go to CSF and finish up our work. Breakfast was fried dough, eggs, and the usual drinks for the morning. Following breakfast everyone got their things together and we waited for another car ride to Cabo. We arrived in CSF around 9am and quickly got underway. There were groups painting bleachers, letters of the school, finishing up left over walls from the day before, windows from the day before, and painting the nurses office. As groups completed their various projects they began to help other groups. Everyone was getting tired but wrapping up by 11-ish. We then gathered all the brushes and got everything cleaned while a couple groups finished up, not to mention, took some of the group pictures before heading back and waiting for the rides back so we could eat lunch by 12-12:30p. Erik ran off to grab Chris who went to the CSF dentist with a teacher that is volunteering and teaching Spanish at the school that was just completed. Erik found Chris, but the rest of the group got back as to not miss lunch. Erik and Chris eventually got back but not until after Chris got a valuable lesson and hands on experience in dentistry by the dentist in Bunche. Lunch for the day was fried chicken (ecuadorian style) with rice, beans, salad, and pineapple juice.
After lunch the group had a little while to relax and at 1:30p we wnt to the house of a man named Freddy Trejo. Freddy works with the volunteers quite a bit and takes groups on excursions. The plan for the afternoon was to hike to a nearby waterfall, but freddy wasn't there to join us. Instead a local boy named Pedro (and someone Erik knew well) joined us on the hike to the falls. The hike took us about 40 minutes through the secondary coastal rainforest. The group seemed to have a blast on the hike and tredged through a stream, passed a lot of nature, tried fresh cacao (what chocolate comes from) among other adventures. Everyone was at the falls for about 45minutes and before heading back to the station. As we neared the station students had the option to visit a lookout point and some excepted the offer and others went back to the station or beach. It wasn't until we were posing for pictures some of us noticed that we were standing on an ant hill (of which the ants were dime size). Rachel and Erik got bit, (nothing bad) but it didn't deter the picture taking at the lookout point. When that group was done they returned to join the rest of the group getting cleaned up at the station before dinner.
Dinner was pasta (a nice change) and the sauce for non-vegetarians was an alfredo with chicken, broccoli, and cauliflower and of course fresh lemonade.
After dinner, the group stuck around playing games in the dining room for quite a while before calling it a night.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011


7am breakfast for the entire group this morning. Breakfast consisted of cornmeal pancakes with fresh pineapple and the usual coffee/hot chocolate options. We all met in the front to pick up supplies and get our team assignments; from there we went to up to the road to wait for the taxis to take us to Cabo San Francisco. The taxis in Ecuador consist of a S10 like truck with two benches in the back and occasionally an awning for cover in the rain. The taxis were running on Ecuador time so there was no real rush to be here at the requested 8am. When they arrived, we managed to pile 13 of us into the first one so the second group only had 9 to squeeze in. We arrived at the school right around 9am and quickly got underway. To make things a little bit easier, the students were split up into 5 teams. Each team was responsible for painting a building or series of buildings including windows. The number of classrooms for each building varied as did the color and surface being painted. The students busted their tails throughout the entire morning. We had two days allocated for the projects, but by noon a good chunk of the buildings had already been painted. One of the greatest parts about painting at Cabo San Francisco (CSF) was not just the "doing" aspect of the service projects and witnessing the buildings become more alive with colors, but the promotion of service within a community. This was exactly what occurred in CSF. After we got underway, there were children and adults both that wanted to pick up a paint brush and help. Some were great and wanted to know what they could help with while others just picked something up and started. While the latter was appreciated, it was frustrating at times; it was also important to reminder ourselves that this is about the promotion of service and if that is what somebody did: mission accomplished.
A little after noon, we took a break and walked down the street and ate lunch at a corner building. Lunch consisted of rice, fish (eggs for vegetarians), and an Ecuadorian salad. Following lunch a couple of us took a walk around CSF in hopes of finding cold bottled water. You see, in CSF and in much of coastal Ecuador refrigeration is limited so people are accustomed to drinking room-temp water. We quickly rejoined the group back near the school and found them taking a further break by the beach. This was okay because we were still awaiting the classroom to be unlocked. Once the principle got back to unlock the door we began the afternoon, which was a lot of touch-up work. The various teams went back to their buildings and as they completed these went to help the other various groups. By the end, we were short a large number of needed sticks or ladders to do the higher parts, (or the Ecuadorians were using them) so more waiting occurred. We found more work to do while we were waiting thought. There were a set of bleachers that we were holding off until Wednesday to paint, so we brushed these off and prepped these. As 4pm rolled around we tried to be backed up and ready to head back. We made sure that everything that was remaining could be finished the following day. We got onto our taxis and made the trek back. On the way back we gave the students the option to go to the beach or just return to the station. There were a couple of us however that had to go into Muisne to pick up an extra gallon of white paint. This was a little more of a challenge than we anticipated. White is a base color and most common in the area, however, none of the hardware stores said they had any of it. Andy, Chris, Casey, Andrea, and Erik all went around again asking for the smaller cans that they had. Then one store discovered they had a gallon left which in turn saved us a lot of hassle. We grabbed a batido before heading back and this was nice and refreshing. Batidos are smoothie-milkshake like drinks made with fruit, sugar, milk, and ice. We all had a variety of flavors to share. Once we were done with these we grabbed a taxi and made our way back to the station.
By the time we got back to the station most people were already back, but a few remained on the beach. Everyone that was back was getting cleaned up and dinner shortly followed. Dinner was a paella-like dish consisting of rice, shrimp, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onion, and garlic in a tomato base and ajote sauce. The ajote sauce is a flavored oil and orange in color. It is very common around this part of Ecuador. Juice was tamarindo which is a pulpy pod fruit that is ground up with sugar and water added to it.
Following dinner we had a brief discussion about perception of culture and the group was free to go. Around 8:30pm the group met and as a group we walked to "Bar Alcala" which is the house Erik's host family on the edge of the reserve. They have a several hammocks and a larger open area unlike much of the station. Here the students played cards, practiced salsa, and conversed with each other and the family for those that wanted to practice their language skills. Our visit there was short but that was because we had a long day ahead of us and sleep was key.
I know we are a little behind in the blog, but Wednesday and Thursday will both be added sometime tonight.
Wednesday we finished CSF and did a waterfall excursion and today (Thursday) we are painting the inside of a nursery and beginning a couple murals in Bunche.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cabo School pix 1

Tuesday's work is painting Cabo San Fran School. Work is underway.

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Today was planned as a day of introduction to Bunche, the station, the area, and once again-each other. However, before going into today I think it is worth mentioning that Andy, who terrified of spiders, went to his room last night after planning some card games to be startled by a moth. Not only was he startled, but everyone else was as he let out a high pitched scream. This, of course, woke everybody up in the volunteer house that was previously sleeping. Andy then did a quick inventory of the room and discovered a spider, only to demand that it be dead before he will sleep. Anyway, the spider died, the moth survived, and everyone can NOW joke about it.
The day began early (7am) with a breakfast of fresh watermelon and pancakes (Ecuadorian style). There was also the regular coffee, powdered milk, and/or hot chocolate to drink too; but not before a early morning rain that moistened everything and causted the humidy to skyrocket. Following breakfast. Following breakfast Darlene lead a discussion on generalizations/stereotypes. We talked about these in general and then each took note on a generalization/stereotype that we may have about Ecuador (culture, people, way of life, etc…) We then met at 8:30am and walked to Bunche. When we arrived in Bunche about 40 minutes later the kids immediately greeted the group with open arms. We walked past the house of Jefferson Ricardo and his twin sisters which everyone seemed to stop and photograph, saw plenty of other kids too as we walked to the waters edge to see the newly constructed bridge in Bunche. This bridge spans the Bunche River and now more easily connects Bunche to Cabo San Francisco. We continued around town and the kids kept appearing. Within a very short while, it seamed as if the entire group was klinking on the students, asking to "prestame" (borrow to them) their camera; if it wasn't this, they were asking to have their picture taken. We stayed in Bunche near the town square for a good hour or more watching the kids show off, take pictures, take pictures with us, run around, apupame (piggy-back ride), race, and more. After a while, somebody turned music on in the discotec, so we went in expecting to dance; instead, we were showed up by several 4-7 year olds that could "drop it like its hot" way better than any of us could. After a couple of songs, we made our piece, admitted we could never dance like that, and moved on. We left Bunche at about 11 and it was hard to leave the kids behind; they wanted to follow us out of town, so eventually Erik went to them and had a little talk as the group was walking back, but not before a visit to the beach. About a km from the station was the dirt access path to the beach, so we stopped here to show them the beach. Within no-time, the group was in the water and splashing around. Erik explained the swimming boundaries to the group and took those that wanted to on a further stroll down the beach in search of jelly-fish. We only found one, but the group now has an idea of what to watch out for. We then were planning on heading back to the station, but not before a group picture since the sky was blue. Many were still wet from being in the water so the phrase of the hour was Mary Beth exclaiming, "Adam, [you're dripping all over me]," as she knelt in the first row and he dripped onto her back from the row behind her.
Following the laughs we went back to the station where Marisol and Nudi prepared us a lunch of rice, beans, chicken, and salad. The fresh juice was pineapple, but a little more watery than usual. Following lunch the group met on the upper pad to sort out supplies. The group did a great job getting supplies and transporting them down. The supplies range greatly too from feminine hygiene products and dental supplies, to kids bracelets and little toys, to school supplies, clothes, and lots of shoes.
Once all the supplies were arranged, Andrea, Elle, Chris, and Jenn stayed back and repacked everything while everyone else walked back to Bunche to do prep-work for later in the week. The group went to the daycare and removed all of the posters off of the walls and made sure there wasn't lose paint and scraped it if there was. While most of the group did this, MaryBeth, Casey, Maddie, and Chris painted and prepared some of the mural spaces on the walls of the schools. Both the nursery and the murals will be painted later in the week. The first day was planned to be an introduction and acclimation period since everyone in the group was just at a higher elevation (10000ft) the day before. The group worked really well finishing all of the prep up. Upon finishing up, most of the students played with the kids in Bucneh until the kids were ready to play. We stuck around for quite a while but then decided to move to the beach. Andrea led part of the group while a few stayed back and finished conversations, made phone calls, purchased items in the store,etc… When the projects are finished we pick up and leave, plus the garbage is perfecto. We got to the beach and were pretty much the only ones on the beach with the exception of some of the kids that joined us. The kids enjoyed being flipped into the water and jumping off of shoulders. Of course, we then decide we are going to do it too. No injuries to report on, so the mission was achieved. After spending quite some time on the beach the stragglers returned home to finish some stuff and whatever.
Dinner consisted of a rice and bean dish combined with mashed potatoes, beef, and juice. Everyone finished their dinner and just stuck around playing games and getting ready for Tuesday (our biggest work day).

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

UWL at the Equator

This morning, everyone was up by 7am. (Rough for some I am sure, but they will get used to it) Erik ran to make sure everything was set at the restaurant for breakfast to discover the place was still closed. So, change in plans and he solidified breakfast at another place. Breakfast consisted of fresh pineapple juice, scrambled eggs, and toast (simple and light). We hit the road for the coast about 9:30am and stopped at "Mitad del Mundo." The statue pictured represents the center of the world. The true center of the world has been determined to be a couple km away thanks to modern gps technology. Everyone is getting along great. In fact, when Erik went to the airport to meet the final 5 arriving everyone piled into room 18 of the hotel, played games, and told stories.

We are now in for a several hour bus ride but will view much of the Andes, Ecuadorian landscape, and coast along the way.

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