Savoy ’14 Experiencing Difference in Cultures

Larry Savoy ’14 – My 20th birthday was spent in Ecuador! This is something that I will always cherish. Our coordinators Tania and Roxana decided to surprise me with a delicious birthday cake that I greatly appreciated and shared with my colleagues, Professor Hardy, and our Ecuadorian professors. I must say, it was quite amusing when everyone sang Happy Birthday to me in Spanish and knew very few of the words. Nonetheless, it all made for a very memorable birthday.

One thing that I love about being in Quito is waking up every morning to the mountains and nearly perfect weather. But of course, there’s the occasional shortness of breath when doing simple things such as climbing stairs or walking up a hill that can be frustrating at times. Thank you, high altitude. Some of the guys have hiked the Pichincha Mountain and told us how exhausting it was. I haven’t had the chance to do this yet, but I’m actually really looking forward to the view of the city that one gets to see once at the top.

When we arrived in Quito it was very late — almost 12 midnight on May 28th. I was warmly welcomed by my host mom in the airport and the first thing that took my attention was how closely she spoke to me when conversing and kissed me on the cheek as soon as I told her, “Soy tu hijo.”(I’m your son). This is something that is perfectly acceptable in their culture but on the other hand it’s not every day in the US that you meet someone for the first time and get a strong hug and a kiss. Intimacy is taken to an entirely different level … at least based on my experience.

Moreover, my first weekend in Ecuador was spent traveling to a city named Otavalo which offers a large variety of touristic activities which I had the pleasure of experiencing. Ironically, according to people of Ecuador, Otavalo is supposed to be the where the true indigenous people and customs of Ecuador are but I could hardly notice the difference. Otavalo was modernized in many ways.

SPANISH, SPANISH, SPANISH. I knew that we would speak Spanish throughout the trip, but hearing it during lectures, on the bus, at home, in restaurants, everywhere, for hours on end definitely tests how much of the language I know. So far, my confidence in speaking has increased tremendously, which I am extremely proud of.

Our module, of course, this year is the Afro Ecuadorian culture, and I’ve learned a lot about the history, traditions, and music of Afro Ecuadorians. The dance moves were pretty challenging! With these steps, I’ll have something to impress people with whenever I return to the United States. Now that our time studying in the University is coming to a close, we will be spending the remainder of our immersion trip traveling along the coast of Ecuador. I’m expecting to learn a great deal of information along the way. I’ll be sure to keep you guys updated about my experiences in Ecuador!

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Stroud ’14: In the Shadow of Imbabura

Patrick Stroud ’14 – In the balmy morning light and the congested Saturday traffic of Quito, a small posse of our group began our day-long sojourn to Otavalo.  Located near the volcano Imbabura (of which the city´s province is named), Otavalo is a large market destination with close ties to the Quichua-speaking people of the Andean sierra, one of Ecuador´s many climate zones.

Patrick Stroud ’14 – After an hour-and-a-half van ride dotted with road construction, bizcocho stops, a radio selection consisting of hair metal and the theme from Charlie´s Angels, and beautiful vistas of the Andes, we arrives on the outskirts of Otavalo.

Our small band detoured from the city´s main attraction, its outdoor market, by visiting La Cascada de Peguche, a protected forest complete with its own waterfall, and a volcanic crater-turned-lake known as Laguna Luicocha.  Amid the beautiful scenery, boat tours, lunch, and gringos paying money to take pictures with Andean children and their livestock, we ended up with quite a collection of experiences before even arriving at the main course.

Otavalo´s market is massive, spanning multiple blocks and streets complete with smoke-filled, noisy, cramped aisles of andinos and mestizos selling shirts, hats, rugs, leather goods, figurines, incense holders, instruments, and many other wares.  Like most cultures that aren´t used to big-box capitalism, haggling is accepted and encouraged in this environment, with particularly shrewd buyers often halving the original price of a given product.  As the afternoon came to a close, my bargaining ways won me a patterned backpack, a cloth bracelet, a knitted wool hat, and a pair of striped linen pants—all for around $17.  My hobby as an actor contributed to my ability to make deals, and I became the honorary haggler for the more timid members of our posse.

As the sun reared up once more towards its burial ground, and as we slowly nodded off to the van´s radio playing more 80s hits on the ride back to Quito, we shared a general sentiment of a Saturday well spent and spent well.  Sheer profit margins guarantee Otavalo´s continued existence barring some tectonic disaster. In the end, we know that stands, food carts, buyers, sellers, and tourists will continue wandering within view of the broken-hearted volcano for years to come.

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Herrera ’12 Adapting to Host Family

Jose Herrera ’13 – Sitting in an SUV with host family and extended family I’ve only known for a week, we drive down the misty mountainside near the summit of an active volcano (but its ok, it politely regurgitates lava and ash every so often). It would be hard to explain the feeling.

Corbin Richards, Herrera, and Adam Barnes at breakfast

I’ve known my host family for only a few days but the comfort level was the same with them as with any one of my actual relatives. The driver respects the mountain, driving cautiously around its never ending spine of a road. A wrong move could turn the picturesque mystical mountain range into a hungry green monster, swallowing our car into the deep valley below. There is a period of silence as we drive down the winding road – it would be wrong to speak in the presence of the aggressively towering geographical formations filled with the diverse plants that cover its face.

We reach our destination: a zipline stretching from one side of a massive crevice to the other with a raging river below. Attached to this zipline is a metal basket which people use to witness the vertical polarity of peaks and valleys. I get in and fly across one thousand feet of air, getting an eagle’s view of the unsettled Andean mountain range to the west and the patient Amazon to my east. Seconds (days) pass by and I reach the other side of the canyon. I then take the basket back for a second look at the face of the Andean range, get in the car, and get lost in the misty mountainside.

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Broadwater ’13 Adapting to Ecuadorian Life

Austin Broadwater ’13 – Coming to Ecuador has been such a great experience for me so far.  One of the newest things for me has been adapting to life with a host family.  Being fully immersed in the Ecuadorean culture and the Spanish language has been very difficult at first considering my host mother can only speak Spanish and my host sister too, although she has decent English speaking skills.  However, I definitely believe that my Spanish-speaking has improved since I arrived here last Sunday.

Austin Broadwater, Larry Savoy and Bradley Wise.

Other than the language, the cultures and customs in Quito are, of course, so much different than in the US.  Of particular interest to me has been the food.  Nearly every meal has been delicious and almost all has come from completely natural ingredients.  I’ve developed many new tastes ranging from a specialty called guatita which has the main ingredient of cow stomach to many different kinds of soup during dinner.  They also tend to use rice in every meal along with natural fruit juices as the main beverage of choice.

Lastly, the awesome views of the landscape of the area never seem to get old.  Coming from a small town in Indiana, seeing something other than wide-ranging fields of corn is a great sight to see.  Getting to view the mountains every day along with the layout of the city of which the houses extend for miles and miles is breathtaking.  I am even lucky enough to have this great view from my bedroom window.

As my trip continues, I look forward to encountering many different ways of life and visiting more amazing places..  Adios for now.

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Bennett ’14 Realizing “I’m not in Kansas anymore”

Kevin Bennett ’14, June 5 -   I was born and raised in Brownsburg, Indiana.  Brownsburg is a suburb of Indianapolis and primarily a farming community.  I am used to mostly country music and certain types of rock and roll created by multi-millionaire artists out in California.  The music is great, and it speaks to me in ways other forms of art cannot, but in class today I experienced something even more intimate than country music blaring through the speakers of my old Ford truck as I blaze down the vacant roads alone.

Today, a group of Afroecuadorean teenagers and adults performed several types of song and dance right before my eyes.  They had guitars, drums, maracas, a marimba, and other types of shaking instrument; the music and sounds created were genuine and not enhanced by fancy studio computers or other technology.  It was pure, it was mythology, and it was uncensored.  The soul rhythm of these people came to life in the form of their song and dance.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  The men pounded at the drums as an upbeat tempo came forth to stir the movements of the women.  They wore elaborately decorated dresses and hats which reminded them of more traditional and ancient times in their culture.  The colors of their instruments and clothing represented the bright, sunny, wonderful days the people spent living along the beautiful coast of Ecuador.

Then came the kicker to the whole situation, they asked us to stand and dance along with them.  I was shocked.  I mean, I know how to square dance, do the limbo, two-step, and a little of the Soulja boy, but I quickly assumed these dances would not help me here.  My mind and pride told me no, but my body told me yes.  I just could not hold it in.  The beat and rhythm of the music had me moving the best I could with the proper steps right along with the dancers.  I admit, it was hard and I was terrible, but it was a blast.  This was the cultural immersion I had been looking for.  Something so different from my times on the farm and around the corn fields of Brownsburg, and this truly did it.  It was tremendous experience to lose myself in the song and dance and forget about every care in the world.  I just wanted to dance!  It was refreshing and invigorating at the same time.  It could not have been better.

Although every morning I am reminded by the sounds of dogs, cars, sirens, and people that I am “not in Kansas anymore” this has been a great thing for me personally.  This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity given to me by Wabash College and I am truly grateful for it.  I cannot wait for what the rest of the trip holds.

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Barnes ’14: Settling is for Quitters

Adam F. Barnes ’15 – Yesterday I climbed to the top of Pinchincha mountain in Quito.  The summit stands at 4696m and the last few meters were quite dangerous.  I scaled rocks vertically and only made it with the assistance of my friends, Kevin Bennett, Corbin Richards, Richard (England), Rob and Mike (Colorado), and Taylor and Lauren (Univ Texas Med School).

Besides the picturesque views and feeling of accomplishment, I learned something much more influential in my life … to pursue my ambitions at any cost.

Richard, 31, is an avid snowboarder and adventure enthusiast.  At the beginning of this year he quit his computer marketing job in London and bought a World-flight pass and has been traveling ever since.  His past and future destinations include Rio de Janeiro, the furthest point south in Argentina, coffee farms in Columbia, Panama beaches, Sydney, New Zealand, and Bangkok among others.  He travels from hostel to hostel, conquering summits, enjoying rainforests, swimming in pristine lakes, and meeting people from all over the world. Unlike many people in this world Richard is chasing his dreams, despite only learning Spanish upon his arrival to South America.

Thus, I suppose from my first week in Ecuador I have realized that settling is for quitters and those who are not confident in themselves.  Settling should not be an excuse for when the time isn’t right, to avoid change, or most importantly because you are scared.  From Richard, I understand that pursuing what makes you happy even at the expense of disappointing those around you or demolishing what you previously thought was set in stone is an admirable journey through life.

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Richards ’13 Adapting to Life in Ecuador

Corbin Richards ’13 – This trip to Ecuador is my first outside of the United States. I have always been very fearful of the unknown. So when I first arrived to Quito, I was very nervous and cautious of what I did. My first meeting with my host family went very well and I felt somewhat safe in their house. Although this changed instantly when my host dad told me I would be going to school alone on my first day. Thank god he was only joking.

He helped me find my way and told me how to get to school on a daily basis. Furthermore, that night he was suppose to meet me at 5:00pm. Unfortunately, my class was let out 45 minutes late and I had a questionable idea of how to get home and how to travel in a city that was completely foreign to me. I started down a long street where there were maybe 4 people and no cars. After 15 minutes I felt that someone was following me. I told myself to stay calm and be ready for the worst. I moved to the opposite side of the street and the individual behind me did the same. Then, I began to speed up and he did the same. Finally, I turned the corner and began another fast walk when I looked back and the hooded figure was reaching for my shoulder. I through my fists up ready to knock this Ecuadorian man to the ground and realized that it was only my host dad playing a prank on me. I was extremely embarassed when I found out it was him. I am so glad that I did not punch him because it would have most likely ended my trip and time at Wabash College.

That night at dinner, he told the family what had happened and we all shared a laugh. Although, I still look over my shoulder and stay extremely suspicious every day here in Quito, Ecuador. Pushing on!

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