Day 16: Reunited

After arriving in Atlanta, we had to go through strict passport business, and we cut it very close, making it to our gate right when they called us for boarding. We were scared about Lucas and her father because they were held back for some reason, but we were all relieved to see them walk in about 5 minutes before the plane’s departure. The plane ride to LA was also very nice, with only slight bumps flying over Arkansas and Oklahoma. The LA airport proved to be even nicer than the plane ride there, offering high class restaurants on all sides with a broad range of selection. Most people either ate at the coffee shop near our gathering place, the farmers market, or some cool buffet-styled place called Lemonade. Since we had a 4 hour layover, we were in no hurry to eat and talk with people, and after our session of charging our phones and resting a little bit more on the chairs, we walked into our final plane. The plane to Seattle was also very smooth; we definitely lucked out on all of the flights. Coming out of the gate felt like a huge relief. Almost everyone immediately turned off their airplane mode and messaged their friends and family, telling them that they finally made it home. After a short walk to the exit, we were welcomed by most of our families, someone even carrying a sign that said “Welcome back TSC” (or something along those lines). After hugging, gathering our items from the baggage claim, and saying goodbye to everyone, we headed back home.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 15: The big city

The last day of our trip we explored the capital of Ecuador; Quito. First we took a ski-lift-like transport up a super huge hill to an elevation of 15,000 feet. There, people took pictures of llamas and the beautiful view. Ryan tried to use the bathroom by paying 50 cents just to find out that they didn’t provide any toilet paper, and when he went back out to get toilet paper from Bob, he had to pay another 50 cents to go back in. Inside of the tourist building, they also were blasting pretty awful remixes of old American songs like the Black Eyed Peas and David Guetta. After a super slow ride back down to the bottom, we took off to some huge church where, if you got to the top, you could see a beautiful statue of an angel on top of a hill. Most people just took the easy stairs up to the top, but some brave hearted folks were able to gather the courage to go up the stairs with no netting underneath, with only a harsh drop waiting below them. We also drank some pretty good beverages, all paid by Bob J. After getting lost for an hour finding our next destination, we finally found the fancy restaurant which we had reservations for. The restaurant overlooked the whole city of Quito and, especially when it turned dark and the lights turned on, it was absolutely beautiful. Next, we all hopped on the bus one last time to reach our final destination; the airport. The trip wasn’t as easy as we expected because the road we were traveling on ended up being block and the detour lead us to a dead end. Luckily we were able to make it to the airport with 2 hours to spare, and ended up getting to our gate 20 minutes before boarding. The plane ride was very nice with almost no bumps felt, and many of us were able to get good rest on the way to Atlanta.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 14: Saying Our Goodbyes

After staying only 5 days with our host family, today is the day when we have to say goodbye. After eating a hearty breakfast and packing my large luggages into the back of the moving truck, I headed up the dirt hill with my host family tagging along.  After waiting for everyone else to come down, we all got in a circle and said our goodbyes. Starting at Luis’s and Philip’s family, we all said our farewells with tears in our eyes, leaving me as the last one to part ways. We loaded all of our stuff into the bus and drove away waving at the pack of host families standing on the sidelines. We drove all the way to Otavalo to the hostel we stayed at the first day and after unloading all of our stuff, we crashed in heap. The emotions had made us extremely pooped out and we all rested for a good 2 hours. Even after the Tandana foundation dragged us to a place to eat lunch, most people went right back to the hostel and continued to rest (and use the Wi-Fi while it wasn’t crowded). Since this was our last day in Otavalo before going to Quito, we decided to blow the rest of our money on a few small things in the market, and I ended up settling on a really nice bracelet that I got a bunch of money off of. After playing card games afterwards, we were called down to the lobby where we played an Ecuador trivia game (where I didn’t know a single answer to a question), and opened our presents for secret Santa. Some highlights of the present opening was Jessica M getting 10 cute finger puppets, and Bob and I getting stuffed turtles from the twins. Michael also got an extra gift from Mike; some Puerto Rican movie. Next, we all walked down to the market and saw a line of yellow tents dotting the street. The tents were selling full lunches for only 2-4 dollars; the amount of food they gave us would have cost at least 10 dollars here in the states. Pretty crazy! There was a fried chicken and rice tent, a potato patty thing and beef tent, a meat-on-a-stick tent, and many others. Coming back to the hostel, the people on the top floor laughed and played games until 11:30 pm, and then we finally were able to fall asleep.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 13: Waterfall party

Today all of TSC, Tandana, and our host families packed into busses and drove to a camp ground. This was to get everyone together in one place and have a nice bonding moment with both the people from America and the people from Tangali. It was a somewhat shorter drive to the campground so that was nice, but the amount of bugs that were flying around was not. I had bug spray on my arms and legs and I still got bites all over my body, including one on my butt that’s really annoying. Hauna laid out blankets over a long table outside and then poured a bunch of things on it. Some of the stuff included potatoes, like eight different types of beans, guacamole, and sausage. The catch to this is that all of the stuff poured was all on top of each other, and we had to use our hands to get everything we wanted. Traditionally, you would pick up all the stuff you wanted and eat it from your hands, but since us Americans are very scared of eating things without utensils and plates, Tandana provided us with, you guessed it, plates and utensils. Since most of the stuff on the table was just unflavored carbs, they weren’t all that outstanding, but it was a solid meal. Afterwards, Jessica W and I passed the Frisbee with my host family (as usual) and they really got into it. My brother Jordan started to get through some pretty solid throws. Next, we all walked to the waterfall nearby and it was pretty cool, but it wasn’t as cool as the first waterfall was and this one was packed with people. I would guess there were 100 people crowded around this waterfall while at the other waterfall there were only us and one family. It was definitely worse than the first since it was almost impossible to take pictures without random people photo bombing. Subsequently, we hopped back in the bus and drove back to Tangali, visited our families for a few hours, and then went up to the community center for a celebration. After many heartfelt speeches from both the Americans and the Ecuadorians, including a very emotional speech by Jessica M riddled with beautiful metaphors, we showed the Ecuadorians a taste of American culture through dance. We turned on Cupid Shuffle and we were ready to roll when we realized that they had no speakers and we had to play the song through a microphone with BriAnna’s phone. Since the music was really low quality and quiet, it was kind of awkward, but we ended up doing a decent job in the end. After that, we turned on a Latinx song to dance to something that Jessica M and Jennifer wanted to show, but only 6 people knew how to do the dance (Thomas, Jessica W, Jessica M, Jennifer, BriAnna, Lucas) and out of those 6, only 4 were comfortable doing the “fast version” (not Thomas or Jessica W). The fast version also didn’t allow anyone to join in, so that was definitely an awkward moment when the four girls were sliding around the floor out of breath with no one helping them out. Luckily, that faded away quickly when the Ecuadorians decided to show us some of their culture too. Four boys got out a drum, two guitars, and some piano looking thing and started a beat that got all of us in a circle walking around. In the circle we clapped to the beat and switched direction when the leader whistled. During the walking, one person would cross the circle and switch places with another person. Silly Brian, Ryan, and Phillip went across the circle while nae naeing, bernieing, whipping, head standing and even splitting (halfway). We did this one more time to a different song, and then we headed out. Right when I got home, my host family was ready to cook dinner and we ate about 20 minutes after our arrival. The food was beef, rice, and beans and it was delicious all mixed up in a bowl. It was served with an interesting juice made out of tree tomato that tasted different from the one that I had before that contained milk. This one had no milk in it, but it still tasted good and sweet.  After brushing my teeth with the kids, Matteo and I went to bed quickly because we were so tired from the big day. Tomorrow we leave our host families and go to Otavalo to the hostel that we stayed at when we first came to Ecuador. It will be an emotional goodbye for everyone, for we had formed such close bonds with the people that we have lived with for the past few days. Even in a short period of time, if you fully open yourself up to your host family, you can create ties that you will remember forever.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 12: Familiar shopping

Day 12 is the day that we went back to the market. Since I bought almost all of my things the first time we went to the market and when we were waiting for the yellow tents, I only had 20 dollars left to buy with and I settled on a scarf and a necklace for my mom and some bracelets for my secret Santa.  Jessica W bought a whole bunch of stuff including a hat, a table runner, and a scarf. She had gotten messages from her mom telling her to buy additional things for people in her family, and we had to rush to get all the things before the “head-back” deadline. Lena just got a bunch of shirts and bracelets, along with some paintings and a colorful picture frame. A bunch of people crashed into a Wi-Fi café so they could update their social media and talk with their friends back in Seattle since most people, like me, had already done their shopping in the days before. Also, apparently headbands are getting back in style because half of us bought headbands and are wearing them proudly. After shopping, we went straight to the bus and away to high altitude (12,500 feet!) to go on a very steep hike to the top of a mountain. Since the altitude was so high, many of us wiped out before getting to the halfway mark. No one was actually able to make it to the top before the deadline when we had to go back, but Phillip, Ryan, and Brian got very close. Going back down was much more fun than going up and many of us peed in the bushes afterwards, which was exciting. Getting into the bus, we saw some people filming a music video outside of our window. I wonder if they were a famous group and that I should have gotten their autograph. After coming back, everyone was super pooped and most people put away the stuff that they bought inside of their tubs at the community center and then went back down (or up for some) to their houses afterwards to be awarded with a delicious dinner. I played some chess with the father and the oldest son as usual. I went to sleep with heavy eyes and drifted off quickly ready for the next day.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 11: Kneading family

I woke up much later than I expected, but it ended up working out fine because awaiting me was a ready breakfast. The first thought when I saw what they had made for me was “ew coffee” because right in front of me was a huge glass of the brown yucky liquid. I didn’t want to be rude, so I tried it out anyways, and I swear it was the best coffee I had ever drunk. Most coffee is too bitter or too hot for me to drink, but this coffee tasted like a treat. There were also eggs, rice, and meat, just the way I like it back in Seattle. They also gave us this really nice juice made out of rice and pineapple that I hope I can find back home. After finishing breakfast late, Matteo and I headed out to the school.  (The things in italics Phillip wrote) At 9:30 we met everyone at the school and after perfecting some computer connection errors, some of the kids from the neighborhood came in to learn how to use the computers. Teaching them Word, PowerPoint, and even Solitaire was a fun experience; most of them had never used these programs before. Jessica W and I played Frisbee with the Tangali kids as we did with the kids in Quichinche, and they seemed to get the hang of it quickly. My kid, Jordan, who followed me to the school to be taught computer things, played Frisbee with us too and ended up staying with us the entire time. We all walked up to the community center after saying goodbye to the kids and had one of the best lunches of the whole trip; beef stroganoff. It was served with noodles and it was close to perfect. I had thirds. My kid was skeptical at first because he had never seen anything like it before but he ended up cleaning his bowl as well. Next, we all walked down to Katie’s host family’s house to knead some bread. This took longer than we expected, and it had everyone in on the job mixing all the ingredients, and then kneading big balls with our palms. After all the bread was kneaded, we formed them to make shapes and filled them with chocolate, apples, cinnamon, cheese, and/or caramel. The treats didn’t taste as good as we thought they would because there wasn’t very much filling compared to the amount of bread covering it, but they were good enough. There, we also watched a guinea pigs throat get slit by our very own Matteo and a pig get stabbed in the heart and then dissected. Yum! It was definitely a new experience, and even though it was pretty cool, my eyes ended up getting destroyed by all the dust and smoke around, and my eyes turned almost completely red. Coming home, my host family noticed immediately and asked me if my eyes were burning. My host mom prepared me some hot water with an eye-healing herb in it to help the pain, and it worked for the most part. For dinner we had pork, corn, and potatoes which were very delicious, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish all of it because I was so stuffed from the beef stroganoff and the bread before. Since my eyes were still kind of stinging, I went to bed shortly after, unable to finish the chess game that I had started with Jordan earlier. Kind of a bad day for me since the eye problem was really annoying, but everyone else had lots of fun. Excited to go back to the market tomorrow!

-Thomas Christensen

[The following entries are from other people’s perspectives, since we aren’t all in one group anymore and we have different lives from each other]

From a different perspective, my home stay has been very nice and pleasurable most of the time, aside from being woken by the rooster at 4:00 in the morning. There is a divide in language, however, Luis is fluent so he translates whatever necessary, and I am continuing to learn more and more Spanish with each conversation. Luis and I woke at 5:00 to help the father at his milk factory; he is the president of the milk association throughout the region. After a few hours of light labor, we hiked back down to our casa to have an easy egg breakfast. After the day with everyone else, with a few half dozen pieces of assorted hand crafted bread in hand, Luis and I headed back home to open arms. Ending the night with a nice dinner and some backyard terrace football games, we fell asleep easily after a long, fun-filled day.

-Philip Doherty

From the household of Jessica W, after waking up at 5:45 am, we asked our parents if they needed our help with cooking and they allowed us to peel some potatoes. BriAnna and I only peeled 4 each because we weren’t used to peeling potatoes without a peeler (we used knives), while our grandma peeled like 100. Next we peeled tree tomatoes and it was really hard because the skin is really tough. After breakfast, we milked some cows and it was super fun. We have three dogs (that Bob is deathly afraid of and brings an enormous stick every time he has to go to the house), one kitten, three pigs, four cows, two rabbits, a lot of chickens, twelve guinea pigs, and a rooster that’s really annoying. We brought the milk to the pasteurizing place to get rid of all of the germs. Our family took a trip down to the hot springs, and dad unlocked the gate for us. We touched the water and our family prayed by doing the sign of the cross, and then we went back up to the house. After kneading bread, BriAnna and I took a detour up a super steep path in hopes of getting to our house quicker, and we ended up getting lost. Luckily our grandma found us and told us that we could just go under the barbed wire and follow her back to the house. When we finally arrived at the house, we played cards and Frisbee with the direct family and then we ate dinner. It was rice, lentils, and chicken. Our mom also gave us pineapples and watermelon as a treat. We went to this place where we got like 15 sambas (they look like watermelon) and 5 pumpkins that filled up the entire truck. We got stuck in a ditch on the way back and he had step on the gas super hard! We visited the hacienda afterwards which is this big cow farm with 800 cows. We went to bed easily because we were sleeeeepy. Oh and we also followed everyone in the family on Instagram because we had Wi-Fi, and we also could call our parents which was really nice J.

-Jessica Woon

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Day 10: Hot reflection

I didn’t know what to expect of the first morning in our new homes. We had talked about what to expect beforehand, but things never turn out the way that they are on paper. Apparently for almost every family other than mine, the preparation actually did come true, but for my family it was much different. Most people had to get up at 6 am to help out their family in the farms, but my family let me sleep in. I ended up waking up at 8 am instead and wasn’t even asked to help with anything around the house. Since I can’t make any conversation with anyone living in my house other than Matteo, I decided that my way of contribution would be throwing myself in the kitchen and asking for things to do. The result of the breakfast ended up being absolutely delicious; grilled cheese sandwiches (with the white cheese that they always use here), rice, meat, and cut up tomatoes. I don’t usually eat tomatoes uncooked, but the way they prepare it with onions makes it so good and I can’t help but gobble it up like an animal. Seriously though, I had thirds. After I finished breakfast, since we ate late and I still had to take a quick cold shower (that almost gave me an asthma attack [again]), we got out the door 10 minutes past when we were supposed to leave. Phillip and Luis were patiently waiting for us, but Lena and Jessica M had already started walking without us. When we all arrived at the school, we had a wait a while for everyone to figure out stuff, so Jessica W and I played Frisbee as always to past time. Once we got all our materials in place, we went into the computer lab to see that everything was super dusty. The place had barely been used. There were only around 8 desktop computers and all of them looked like they were made while the earth was cooling. We started off by gathering all of the splitters laying on the ground into one place to use later, and then wiped down all of the dusty tables, which by the way, included all of them. After that we got out all the chargers along with the laptops and set them up around all the tables; about 25 in total. We did a few other things but they weren’t very important. Following our lunch at the community center, everyone walked together down a big mountain trail to the hot springs. Unfortunately the hot springs was not only tiny; it was also locked so no one was able to feel the water. After our disappointment, we all gathered in a circle and Shannon announced the reflection we would partake in. It was a very familiar game, the one where if you strongly agree with something you go on one side of the spectrum and if you strongly disagree you go on the other, the middle being whatever is in-between. I’m not going to explain the entire game to you all, but it was definitely worth playing and it helped us not only learn more about the people we are with but also helped us relate with other people going through the same problems or thoughts that we have been. Walking back up the big mountain was a struggle, but we made it back safely. After that, we were done for the day and we all headed back to our host families. Awaiting me were big smiles and “hola”’s. I asked ASAP if there was anything I could help with for dinner, but most of the stuff was already prepared so I ended up barely doing anything. After another delicious dinner (which included the toughest pork meat I’ve ever laid my teeth on), I was challenged to multiple games of chess, which I won all 4 of them, against the oldest kid and the father. They were very shocked and the dad pulled up google translate on his phone to show me that he thought “you are very good at playing.” That made me blush just a lil bit. After Matteo played guitar and said some funny stuff in Spanish to the kids, he gave them all a present; some See’s Candy that he got back home in Chicago. They were very excited and I got a piece too. After a warm goodnight, we both quickly got to bed, me especially since I was able to plug in my fan for white noise. Tomorrow we are going to be making some bread, so that sounds exciting.

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 9: Meeting our parents

This is probably one of the biggest days of the whole trip. No longer are we all staying in one place, all 20 of us, provided 3 meals and snacks every day; now we are going to be staying in pairs with (pretty much) only our host families to depend on. Host families are expected to provide us with breakfast and dinner, and lunch is to be provided at the community center by the Tandana foundation. Before our deadline of 5 pm leave time, we went out to lunch at an Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we were all given 30 dollars to spend on groceries around Otavalo to give to our host families when we arrived. Since we would be staying in pairs, we also shopped in pairs, making our money to buy goods total to 60$. If you didn’t know already, 60$ is a huge amount of money to spend in Ecuador, for a bag of rice can be 5 times less expensive than one of the same size and quality in the United States. I was paired with Luis and we went straight to the market to buy some bags and take care of all the fruits and vegetables on our list. Afterwards we went to the supermarket to buy rice, lentils, etc. and some more personal items such as apple juice (the apple juice that they have here is beyond belief good), moisturizing soap (our hands are able to light a fire by twirling a twig between them), and toilet paper. We kept our remaining money to ourselves (sorry if we weren’t supposed to do this) and all got in a bus and drove back up to the school. At the school, we quickly got out and loaded all of our bins and luggage onto the moving truck. This was one of the saddest moments that we had experienced on this trip so far (if not the most), because not only were we leaving the school for good; we were also leaving Earl behind. Since you people watching this don’t know Earl, you probably think that he’s just some regular dog, but Earl has been extremely important throughout the whole first week. We first met Earl back in day 2 where we just thought he was another dog following around people who may have food, but we quickly realized that he was much more than that. On the walk which we named earl on, Earl (and Michael) barked off some stray dogs that charged us from behind. Earl then followed us back into the school, barked away most of the dogs that tried to come inside (except Natte [standing for “Not Appealing to the Eye” because she was a really ugly dog]), and didn’t even beg for food. The boys were the first to get attached to Earl; the girls were skeptical because they were afraid that he was just in it for the food or that he may bite, but everyone quickly realized that he was a great dog. People even started petting him despite warnings to never pet any dogs because of how friendly and consistent he was. When we all gathered on the bus, Earl left the school and followed us out, unaware that we were never going to see him again. I wasn’t that attached to Earl even though I named him, but I felt like tearing up because of how sad everyone else was to leave him. The bus drive to Tangali was pretty bumpy but the view was outstanding. We went straight to the community center which was up an enormous hill and were greeted by a bunch of ecstatic looking people. The first thought I had was “which family am I going to be staying with?” That question was answered quickly when Matteo and Hauna pulled Phillip, Luis, and I over to the side and told us that they wanted to put Luis with Phillip and Matteo with I because I would need extra help with translation (more than Phillip). Of course I said yes because I knew how dependent I was on translators, and shortly after the ceremony thing started. We all introduced ourselves (every single person out of about 60) and since I didn’t want to embarrass myself with my awful Spanish accent, I just said “Hola, Thomas” instead of “Hola me llamo Thomas” and apparently that was pretty funny to everyone. I just didn’t want to sound too dumb. After pairing everyone with their host families, we left immediately to our host houses. Matteo and I were pleasantly surprised to see that our host family lived in a very middle class home that not only had a tiled, indoor bathroom, but even a washing machine! I’m pretty sure no other host families here have this luxury so I just have to be very thankful for what was handed to me. Since I’m a bugaphobe and a dirtaphobe, this thankfulness was amplified by about 10 times. Our host family consisted of three small brothers, a mother, and a father, the parents being quite young. I helped cut vegetables for dinner and they were very pleased and surprised. The food that came out was absolutely delicious and the juice was some of the best juice I’ve ever had in my life. We were quite tired afterwards, and we went to bed quickly. It’s getting late and I don’t want to keep Matteo up with my typing, so I don’t want to go into much more detail (I’m typing this on day 10). I hope to get some more people in on the next few days of blogging so there can be a much broader prospective on the different environments of host families since mine is much more privileged than everyone else.

See you guys in a bit!

-Thomas Christensen

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Day 8: Chill Day

For the day before we leave to our host families, we didn’t do much. Since the teaching method didn’t work out very well the first day, we decided to not have a teacher and just have everyone working with a kid individually so they can go at their pace. It went better than Monday, but it wasn’t perfect. Sherilyn (Thomas’s kid) accidently erased all of the work that she had done that day (16 PowerPoint slides L) because of some saving confusion and now she’s going to have to work super hard on Wednesday to type everything up again. Afterwards we chilled for a while but then at 2 pm half of us went a couple blocks to a football field (soccer) to play a big game of football with some Ecuadorian kids. Despite the kids being half of our player’s age, they were able to hold their ground pretty well and we barely beat them with a score of 2-1. Jessica W and Thomas played Frisbee on the side, Jessica M blogged some stuff for day 6 and everyone else just patiently waited because they weren’t there for the football match; they were there for the surprise to come after. Right after the football game finished, we walked across a backroad to Quichinche’s famous ice-cream place. There we had some super delicious popsicle-like-treats that were super fancy. The blackberry one seemed like it was made from real black berries and the Oreo one literally had a whole Oreo inside of it. Next, we went up to Tandana headquarters to work on a mini lab there. It was much harder than what we worked on in the school; the wood that we had to nail stuff into was really dusty, so we had to close our mouth and eyes half of the time while working. Also the wood was really unstable, so it was hard to get nails into it all the way. Crimping wires was also very hard and took us multiple tries just to get it to work. Following that, we walked quickly back to the school to see that we had another surprise; tuna surprise!!!!! Herman (Tandana leader) cooked us some of his famous tuna surprise and it was super super good. It was definitely one of the best dinners that we had this whole trip, and it surprised us all because of all of the things that were mixed inside of it. If we had asked beforehand, people may have not even been willing to try it, because it had a bunch of vegetables ketchup, mayo, and mustard mixed in it. That taught us to never judge a book by its cover. We had an extra-long meeting about the host families, what to expect, etc. after and then after pooping and talking for 2 hours, we finally went to bed. It is our last night in this school, so we wanted to make the most of it. We’re really going to miss Earl the dog and all of the kids that go here, because we had formed bonds with some of them. Overall, it was a bittersweet night.

-Thomas Christensen


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Day 7: Weaving through Ecuador

After our usual showers in the early morning, we all grouped up for a nice healthy breakfast. Jessica W and Thomas taught some kids how to throw a Frisbee and the soccer boyz played with another group of kids. At 9:00 am, we quickly got into the computer lab to practice our teaching, and it didn’t work out too well. This carried on into the real lesson, where it also didn’t work out very well. The teaching method didn’t work out because the students already knew over half of the things that the adults thought they didn’t know. Also, the room was really hard to teach in because words echoed off the walls with ease so it was hard for anyone to hear the teachers. Poor ol’ Lena was dying in her bed, retching up the food from the delicious delicacy because of altitude sickness, so she was unable to participate in our super fun teaching. Good thing Lena had her organic crackers and homemade bananas, because she was well enough to go with us to the Weaver!!!!!!!!1!! The weaver was this super short dude named Miguel that was like 1200 years old and he spoke super quietly but he’s super famous and all of the stuff in his shop were over 35 dollars while the things in the market were only 5. Just kidding! Actually not kidding because all of that was true however he was a really chill guy and really nice and the high price tag definitely was deserved because of how much hard work he put in all of his weaving. We left to the market afterwards, and it was a lot less packed than before since it wasn’t a Saturday. However, this went in our favor because the people were a lot more desperate to sell their stuff since they didn’t have much business and Jessica W and Thomas got a lot of stuff for a super cheap price. People were super desperate for Wi-Fi, so after an hour everyone crowded in restaurants and café’s with internet access and blew up their servers. Unfortunately we were looking forward to the yellow tents to eat at, but for some reason they never went up so we settled at a pretty decent restaurant with a variety of food. Some people who weren’t feeling ambitious went for hamburgers while everyone else got either organic salads (Lena) or Mexican food.  On the way back home, we listened to some super cool Mexican music and Father Stretch My Hands Part 1 (don’t look up the lyrics please) and we had a blast in the bus. We did our normal mafia playing and went to bed shortly after.

-Thomas Christensen, Jessica Woon, Lena Stern

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Day 6: The One Left Behind

In Ecuador, everything and everyone slows down on Sundays, so we finally got the chance to sleep in until 10! We got three more hours of sleep than usual, which was good news for those that had a shower day and for Kitchen Krew. Thomas, Jessica W, and Phillip had no experience in making pancakes, but surprisingly (although slightly burned and renamed “Puffins”) they were really good, but the fruit and the syrup deserve some credit for the deliciousness too. Since we were running behind our planned schedule, we quickly washed our bowls, filled up our bags with the day’s necessities, and headed out. Usually we count off before leaving in order to make sure all 18 of us are present, but for some reason that day was just unlucky, especially for the baby of the group, Grey. We were about 7 minutes into the bus ride when Lucas got a text from Grey casually and calmly saying she wasn’t on the bus with us, it’s safe to mention it was all Grey’s fault for taking too long in the bathroom. Just kidding! It was a mistake that we all felt bad about L We went back to the school and all cheered for Grey when she got on and headed right back to the Waterfall of Lagos de Mojando. The hike to reach the waterfall was so so beautiful, we saw awesome landscapes, cows, and LOTS of moist poop. The steepness wasn’t as bad for some of the hikers and campers, but despite the 25 minutes of walking when we reached the waterfall, it was all worth it. Brian, Luis, and Samantha all ran into the waterfall shortly after our arrival and everyone took pictures for the next 30 minutes so they could update their social media later. We ate lunch and reflected on the trip so far. We announced to all our “rose” (best things that happened), our “buds” (things that we are excited for in the future of the trip), and our “thorns” (the worst thing that has happened). Everyone made very good contributions to the reflection and even some tears swelled up. Despues (HAHAHAHA catxch my Spanish BOI) we drove to a rural part of Quichinche and walked up a loud, barking path until we reached the home of Claudia. She was really nice and was trying really hard to speak in English because she has a lot of determination to learn more. She also is pursuing a master’s degree in food health. We split into three groups and went to different stations; one station was potato peeling and guinea pig roasting, another was a cooking station, and the other was a tour of all of their crops and cloth. The result was a huge dinner for everyone with lots of different foods. We ate the guinea pigs (cui) and a lot of people tried out the brain, the eyeballs, and lots of other mysterious parts. Then we had potato patty thingies, chicken, and a super yummy dessert that tasted like an orange cake. Afterwards we did our attendance count strictly because of what happened with Grey earlier and we walked home up a huge hill in the pitch dark. We were all super tired because of the huge amount of food that we ate and the tiring walk, so after our usual game of mafia, we went to sleep.

-Thomas Christensen, Jessica Woon, Lena Stern, Jessica Morales

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Day 5: Diversity/discrimination

Today was market day!!!!!!!!!! First we all went to the animal market to check out the animals. It was kind of depressing because at first it was cool looking at all the different animals there but then life kinda hit us when we saw people holding roosters by the neck and trying to sell them to everyone. There was a lot of poo poo on the ground and we had to dodge around all of it L. The chicks and bunnies were pretty cute but the cows weren’t because their butts were stained with their feces. On the way to the good market, poor Samantha got a bloody nose and it took them 15 minutes to get it to stop. We all walked until we got to Willy’s, the local American fast food place in Otavalo, split up into groups of 3-4 and went off on our own. Everyone was told to barter ahead of time so we all tried our best, and we all got pretty good deals. Jessica M got a blanket from 25 down to 15 and Lucas got a purse from 32 to 20. The rest of the items we were almost always able to barter for 2 dollars less than the original price. The soccer boys felt inclined to buy knives for some reason and everyone else focused on getting bags, scarves, and blankets. There were also some cool items like colorfully painted wooden dome art (bowls, spoons) as well as wind instruments that they use here in Ecuador. After everyone shopped for three hours, we all met back at Willy’s where we listened to middle school throwbacks for 30 minutes waiting for everyone to come back. The drive from the market to our next destination was very long; almost 2 hours. The first place that we went to was the organic garden owned by Tio Fabian, where they don’t use any pesticides or chemicals to grow their crops. Almost everyone put on sunscreen and bug spray when we got there because we were deathly afraid of getting any mosquito bites. There were a bunch of delicious things growing like mangos, avocados, and tuna (from cactus). Afterwards, we drove a short distance to an Afro-Ecuadorian community located in a dry area between mountains, and what we saw wasn’t like what we saw in Otavalo. The buildings were in much poorer conditions and you could definitely tell that the town was much more impoverished than anything we had seen before. We all got into their community center and gathered around in a circle. The Afro-Ecuadorians played music for us and we played games that they made up to quiz us and get us more comfortable with each other. Phillip and Lucas (unfortunately) had to participate in a very awkward game where we had to try to trick Lucas into taking Phillip’s pants off, which thank god, didn’t result in Phillip’s pants being taken off. After the games, we all stood up and danced with this super cool woman, Olga for an hour and it was very tiring. We ate a pretty good dinner with some rice drink and headed off. Before we left, there was this little kid named Kenny who hopped on the bus and imitated us speaking English by saying “walawalawala” and it was pretty funny. When we got back after the long day, Earl (the dog) was super happy to see us and started running in circles at high speed jumping up and down. We went to bed shortly after because we were pretty exhausted. Definitely a highlight of the trip. We learned a lot from the Afro-Ecuadorian people; where their ancestors came from, and how they were excluded from society in Ecuador. Racism here in Ecuador against black people is arguably stronger than it is in the States, because even in recent days, black people would sometimes not be allowed to stay into high class hotels or enter fancy restaurants. It was a crucial experience that taught us about racism in Ecuador and about Ecuador’s minority whose voice is rarely heard outside of their towns.

-Thomas Christensen and Jessica Morales

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Day 4: Spicy new experiences

Today was shower day!!!!!  Thomas, Phillip, and Samantha all went up to the Tandana foundation (as well as Luis but it wasn’t his day) to take a hot shower, whilst others used other methods to cleanse as well (buckets, pre-school). We were scared that there wouldn’t be enough gas to supply us with hot water, but it ended up working for everyone, and we were all very happy afterwards. We ate a really nice breakfast prepared by Jennifer, Samantha, and Bob and then shortly after worked more on the computers. There were lots of technical complications, but eventually most of the computers were set up for the incoming kids. After a long break and lunch, we all headed out on a bus to Peguche, and were greeted by very nice people who welcomed us inside of their territory. We split into two groups, one group going to the bracelet making table and the other going to the salsa room.  The bracelets weren’t any regular bracelet however, they were DREAM CATCHERS!!!!!1!!!! (They catch your dreams lol) The dream catchers that the guy showed us were super cool but ours were not as much, however. But there was a LOT work ethic and heart put into them! Lots of passion. Salsa dancing was very fun, but very long. We were dancing for an hour and twenty minutes filled with laughter, joy and perspiration. We switched partners a bunch, so we got to dance with nearly everyone in our group. Phillip and Thomas killed it on the dance floor (stay tuned for video) and Lucas and her dad were pros. We drove to an Argentinean empanadas shop, and we had to wait for individual orders because unfortunately the store gave away our reserved food since we were a half an hour late. We also drank some thicc passion fruit (jugo maracuya) juice on the side. We saw some person in the street during a green light throwing sticks lit on fire in the air. It was quite a quick please ! After that we went back home, played mafia as usual, and went to bed.

From ya boyz

-Thomas Christensen, Luis Posadas, Ryan Browning, Phillip Doherty, Brian Doherty, and Matteo

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Blog 3: Work work work work work I just wanna see you work work work work work

We woke up at 7:30am today because we had to finish our breakfast before the kids came for summer school. Because of heavy sleepers and lots of slackers, we ended up finishing breakfast 40 minutes late, but it ended up being okay. After watching the kids play soccer, we all worked together to bring all of the tubs upstairs to the computer lab, and worked super hard putting together all the equipment. Since (almost) everyone worked very hard on this, we finished earlier than expected. Actually just kidding, I was reminded that half of the people finished earlier than expected, but the other half kept working very hard for another hour.  We had some issues trying to figure out the RACHEL program on the computers, but after a lot of troubleshooting, we finally got it to work. For lunch we had these really good burritos with guacamole, rice, and chicken. After having about an hour of free time, we headed out on a public bus to the Museum of Kichwa where we learned about the history of the city, cultural traditions such as marriage, shamans, and dress. We got to see live people making beautiful clothing in front of our eyes and the art of a bunch of different kids who were invited to put their pieces all along the walls. Afterwards, they played a “game” with us where a funny wolf would prance around take the first person who smiled and “kill” them on the floor. Bob was the victim in this game, although Grey and Jessica Woon both grinned before he did; probably rigged. We took a long commute back to the school and ate a good dinner prepared by the cooking crew!! (Lena, BriAnna, Brian [who just took candy and walked around asking people to take it]) We played mafia again, had a brief meeting, and went to bed shortly after.

From ur favorite ppl

-Thomas Christensen, Jessica Woon and Lena Stern

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Blog 2: Exploring Otavalo and its people

We woke up at 9:00 am and we had breakfast. We either had toast, pancakes, or fruit salad, and we had varied opinions on if it was good or bad. Afterwards, we had a meeting where a Tandana leader told us about all the risks that we may encounter, the schedule for the week, and how to poop. We went to a super nice restaurant where we ate a 4 course lunch that was muy rico. Next, we went on an extravagant scavenger hunt around the city of Otavalo. We bought exotic fruits to share (gaunabana, pitahaya, granajilla), (SOME OF US) bought bracelets; 5 for only 1 dollar, bought a dessert, saw the statue of Ruminahui, and explored the food market. Afterwards are participated in skits that showed unacceptable behavior to make sure that no one would act up with their host families later down the road. After that, we wrapped up our stay at the hostel and took a public bus to Quichinche, where we unloaded all of our tubs into the school. The school already had a bunch of mattresses stacked up waiting for us, so it was a breeze to get things set up. Most of us went on a walk around the school, where we saw the gazebo, a bunch of cows, and poop the size of a soccer ball. Halfway through our walk, we realized we had a new friend; a dog that had been following us since we entered the school. We had lots of complications naming this dog, but most of us settled on Earl. On this path, we reached a dead end, and while walking back, a huge pack of dogs sprinted towards us. Luckily we had this super strong buff guy named Michael who used his loud deep voice and muscular body to scare the dogs away and keep us safe. When we got back, we ate a yummy dinner, and then had free time. During this free time, many people complained that we had no Wi-Fi, played sports, and rested. Afterwards, everyone got together to play Mafia and The Water Bottle Game… The Water Bottle Game was short lived, but Mafia was a big hit. The chaperones gathered us all up to tell us about the shower situation and made a schedule for who would shower when. Then we all got in our beds (kind of) and went to bed (30 minutes after curfew). We miss you all back home!

-Thomas Christensen and Jessica Woon

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Blog 1: Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

We all woke up at 3 am to head to the airport. Everyone except for the Morales sisters showed up at 3:30 sharp, (always being late to everything of course) and boarded the plane on time. The flight to Atlanta started out fine, but towards the end we got some serious bumps which made some of the scaredy cats in our group scream in shock… COUGH COUGH THOMAS. After we landed, a bunch of us explored the Atlanta airport scavenging to find our last American meal that would satisfy our desperate hunger, only having energy from hi-chews and trail mix (thank Heidi!<3) The food court at the airport was pretty decent; there were lots of choices but the food was just average.  About half of us crashed on the floor or on the seats because we were super tired. We think that the flight to Ecuador might’ve been delayed because of the thunderstorm which had made us go AROUND Atlanta instead of directly there, we had to wait about an hour, around 6:45 we started to board, AND OFF WE WENT!!! The plane ride to Ecuador was much nicer, with light turbulence only happening when we flew over the Bahamas. Most of us were able to sleep on this plane easier than the first, which made us able to use our legs when we got off. We got our tubs out with no issues from security, and met the Tandana Foundation at the airport lobby, where they greeted us with big smiles and asked us what we wanted for breakfast. They were super nice and easy to talk to. We loaded our tubs and luggage onto a truck and we all got onto a nice bus where the Tandana foundation provided us with yummy Ecuadorian cookies, mandarinas, and bananas, which by the way are SUPER SUPER delicioso, much better than the States. It took us about two hours to arrive at the Valle del Amanecer (the place we stayed at), but going up the mountains in the night looking out at the lights from the city made the long trip worthwhile. When we arrived, we moved all of our belongings into the hostel, and went to bed without a hot shower L (because apparently we were using the wrong shower or something). See you in two weeks!

-Thomas Christensen, Jessica Morales, and Ryan Browning

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A Sunday Walk

Sunday is family day here in Quichinche.  People get up a little later, eat a little later, relax reading the paper or doing small chores.  Then many head to the Sunday Mass in the town center.  Following mass is a big Sunday meal.  After which my family always takes a Sunday walk.  This involves both the adults and the children who range in age from 5 to 13.

Now this is not just any Sunday walk.  It involves real walking along small footpaths, through farm fields, past houses on dirt roads with pigs and chickens running about and up steep roads.  The family always stops along the way at one of the several   ice cream vending shops in town.  This time it was at Don Vicentes about a half a block from the Tandana offices which sit on the other side of the Quichinche village up a very steep incline.  By the time we got there we were huffing and puffing a ready for a great ice cream treat.

It was then onto the family fields where we picked more lima beans, gathered old cornstalks to feed the cuy and watered some of the dried out looking vegetables.  The kids were excited to get to chew on the inside of the cornstalks which “grandma Maria had peeled back to reveal a really sweet inside.  We walked the half mile back to the house on flat trail carrying cornstalks and lima bushes for the cuy and a sack full of limas to shell.  You can guess how we spent the next half hour.  Dinner this evening...soft lima beans and soup.  Bob


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Bellowing and Squealing Amid Bargaining-Animal Market Day Otavalo

I arose at what I thought was an early hour,6:15, and caught what I thought was an early bus, 7:15.  By the time I arrived at the animal market around 8:00 there already truckloads of animals leaving.  The real action here starts around 6:00 in the morning but believe me even at 8:00 there was plenty to see.

Market day is not for the solid animal rights advocate.  It's an old time farmers market.  There are people tugging squealing pigs and and yanking on reluctant cows.  People grab chickens by the legs and turn them upside down to shove into gunny sacks.   Guinea Pigs or Cuy as they are called are grabbed by the neck to be shown to prospective customers.  There are crowing roosters staked to the ground ready for sale and together with gaggles of ducks, geese and even a turkey surrounded by temporary fences.  Animals are everywhere so are the people.

This is an action packed 4 hours from around 6:00 until  around 10:00.  By then many people have bought animals and have started clearing out the unsold stock.  There is obviously some bargaining but the several people I talked to all gave me approximately the same going prices for the animals which actually makes sense.

As the animal action slows down, the food action heats up.  There were a number of food stalls making typical Ecuadorean food such as llapingachos, empanadas de viento and of course cooked pulled pork coming directly out of a whole roasted pig.  In addition every booth seemed to be cooking some type of warm stew using a variety of meats the most common of which was tripe.  I passed. Thus ended my day at the animal market although it was only the start of what was a long day of walking through one of the largest craft markets in all of South America.


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A Day of Family Outings

Today was family day.  In the morning I went into Otavolo with one of the daughters and watched her daughter take swimming lessons in a pool not much larger than an average bedroom.  The instructor was great and the kids all were making progress.

I then spent some time in the municipal market wondering the aisles full of fruits, vegetables, hanging cuts of meat, all sorts of food booths, and a variety  of other shops selling everything you can imagine from clothing to soccer balls.  What a great place.  Actually there is a big controversy about this market.  the government in all of its wisdom has just  completed a brand new market just at  the edge of town.  At a total cost of over $20 million dollars it has all everyone could seem to want-great parking, good shelter from the rain, clean booth areas and much more.  Trouble is the sellers like the old place and so far have refused to move. They prefer the old market with all of its clatter and clutter.

In the afternoon we took a pleasant stroll up to Peguche Falls.  The walk is easy although the trail is a little rocky.  There were many people along the way and a great picnic area where Herman thinks we may go the second weekend on an outing with our families.

In the evening we went to my family's farm to check out the damage being done to the Lima beans by the birds.  my father has built several scarecrows but they don't seem to be working.  We looked at his dried bean crop and he decided that tomorrow is harvesting day.  I will probably miss part of that since I want to go tomorrow morning to the animal market.

I spent the whole day doing things with the family.  I was topped off when we got home and they started building a fire to boil corn on through out the night.  You can be sure I am not going to be tending that fire.  i am ready for a nice long nap after so many outings...Bob


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Locro West Seattle meets Locro Quichinche

That's right dinner tonight was locro.  There are as many locros as cooks.  This one was rich with chunky potatoes and a rich broth.  It was a simple dish which fits the style of this rural , low key area.  Nothing too fancy or too rich just plain good food.

Earlier in the day I had met with the school director at Tangali School and I am reminded of the soup.  He, too,  was a wonderful, soft spoken  humble indigenous man  who probably knows more about computers than I do.  He will be with us for a few of the days in Tangali.  His school could really use anything we can bring I think.  Soccer balls of sizes 4 and 5, basketballs , some volleyballs, a ball pump and he didn't mention it being the humble type but I am sure the younger grades would appreciate crayons, colored markers and other art supplies.  I hope the crew can figure this out.

I got a chance to go withmy family to the family farm land just outside Quichinche where we picked and shelled lima beans.  These were brought home and boiled for a couple of hours yielding a soft nice tasting addition to our locro.  The land seems to have everything the family would need from  including corn, avocados, fruit trees, broccoli, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, peas, various spices and of course a rotating crop of potatoes.  When one set is harvested another is planted.   They harvest year round in 4 sections of the garden.  One potato plant will yield up to 25 potatoes.  Teofilo, the dad of the family, tells me that one time he had one potato that weighed 5 pounds.  He attributes the yield to the rich fertilizer from guess what, guinea pigs...Bob


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A Walk in Quichinche A Climb to Tangali

Today was the day for school visits.  The first site was the Ulpiano school in Quichinche a short 5 minute walk from my home stay.  There I saw the computer lab, the rooms we will be staying in and the basketball/soccer pitch where  we will spend lots of time.  I saw many of the summer school students you may be working with as well. Most arre studying English and drama but some of the older ones were engaged in learning how to burn the hair off a dead pig that they were later going to cook. I am not sure what that class was , maybe cooking 101.

I visited the small Tandana  lab as well where the lucky few can take warm showers.  The others its cold showers or heated water bucket baths.  Actually we will probably alternate one day boys, one day girls.

Finally came the climb up to the heights of Tangali, a rural indigenous community.  From their community center on a clear day you can see two large volcanoes and get glimpses of Otavalo far below.  It is high and will be cold at night. The terrain is steep and the pathways rocky so bring good walking shoes  Be prepared for lots of walking.  Its a good thing this is the second school.  The school itself is at the lower end of the community.  Again the lucky few will not have to walk far to get to school but most will have  a long walk down and a steep walk back.  The countryside is gorgeous and some of the houses you will be staying in have amazing vistas.   The houses are spread apart and are of varying quality from pretty basic to two story new construction.

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Moving into a Family

It's chilly tonight in my room up here at 9000 feet.  I have on a fleece top, wool socks and a hat.  The air might be chilly but the reception of my family was not.  It’s a large multi-generational family.  The oldest member is Beatrice, the 93 year mother of Teofilo, who is related to all the others.  His sister lives with him as well as his wife,  two of his daughters and three of his grandchildren.

Just outside of the house is a nice view of two nearby volcanoes and many farm fields.  I had brought a game of Jenga with me to give to the kids.  It was a big hit.  Poncho, the youngest grandchild at 5 years of age, appears to be quickly surpassing me.

We had a light supper of, guess what, potato soup and hot tea.  The family pointed out the container of boiled water so I guess I won't be needing my fancy UV light stick.

Now is just after 8:00 and all appear to be getting ready for bed.  Early to bed early to rise I expect


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Late Night Arrival

Welcome to Ecuador.  Our plane to Quito arrived about an hour late and customs was slow.  That was the bad news.  The good news,  airport in Seattle not too crazy.  Tub was checked, no questions asked. Flights were fine.  Tub got through customs with no problem but the highlight was the moonlit drive through the countryside of Ecuador from the airport to Otavalo., the Tandana director  The hills and volcanos in the distances and the towns all asleep and quiet.  I spent the time talking with the driver William and his wife Veronica.  Veronica works for Tandana and told me that she was Anna Taft' s sister.  It turns out that Anna was an exchange student in Veronica's house  in Quichinche years ago while in high school.

This morning I took a walk to the center of Otavalo and took a few pictures of things you will find in the market.  I will try to upload them them.    It was a lazy Tuesday morning and the market just waking up when we were suddenly interrupted by a parade of students who are in some summer school sports league here in Otavalo.  There were soccer players, volleyball players even a Tae Kwon Do group.

I found out some things you will like to know.  There is plenty of wifi available in restaurants.  I tried out the bank machine and with my bank debit card took out $20.00 with no ATM charge.  Otavalo has enough two and three story buildings that it is really easy to lose your directions.  It happened to me just walking around the square.

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Ecuador Crew Picked-1st Crew Meeting

The first crew meeting for the Ecuador 2016 Crew will be Wednesday, February 24th in room 115a.  You will get forms that will need to be filled out and returned to the important parent meeting on the following Thursday, March 3rd.

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Ecuador Application Open

You can now apply for the trip.  Go to the Ecuador Trip page and find the Ecuador Crew Application or just click hereEcuador Crew Application

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Welcome to Ecuador 2016

Hola from your trips leads Jessica, Katie, and Lucas! We're super excited for you to join us on our journey to Ecuador. We will have tons of fun, install a computer lab, and explore the beautiful city of Otovalo. We can't wait to get to know you! ❤ J + K + L

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