Wabash Blogs Ecuador Summer Program -

June 18, 2007

Globalization group visits market

Going to Otovalo Saturday morning was wonderful. We woke up still tired from our trip to the Oriente but going to the largest indigenous market in South America on the busiest day of the week couldn’t be passed up. We bought most of our gifts here. I think the bus ride was about an hour and a half, and we didn’t know it at the time but this would be the sunniest day we’d have all week. It’s hard to know if all the items we bought are good quality or if we paid a fair price for them, but we all left satisfied. 

We shopped for about three hours and then had lunch. After lunch we took a short trip just off the beaten path to visit some of the houses where things in the market are actually produced. We first went to a house of a woman who makes yarn the traditional way from wool with a large spinning wheel. She works all day everyday and barely makes enough to survive. The process is incredibly labor intensive, some of us tried doing what she does for just a few minute and were worn out. Seeing her definitely made gave us a different perspective on our own lives. Then we visited a more modern production outfit that makes incredibly high quality and fairly high priced clothes and tapestries. 

After that we headed out to Cuayamba where we had dinner and spoke briefly with the mayor, whose hacienda we were staying at.  He is surprisingly against the free trade agreement between the United States and Ecuador that is in the process of being negotiated right now because he says Ecuador’s agricultural industry wouldn’t be able to survive the influx of U.S. goods.  At the same time though, his community, which lies in the center of Ecuador’s booming flower industry, survives as a result of the ATDPA that allows flowers to be imported to the United States tariff free.  It’s a really complex issue and as the agreement’s extension expires at the end of this month it should be interesting to see what happens.

- John Moore

We got to sleep in a little bit before a hot breakfast and a tour of the mayor’s couple hundred year old hacienda.  The hacienda is quite beautiful and home to many horses and llamas.  We tour the family’s library as well as their museum of old photos and historic artifacts.  After the hacienda, we head to the Mitad del Mundo.  The first stop is at the marker of the historic French expedition to find the Equator.  The location the French scientists identified as the equator was actually about 150 meters off of the actual equator.  After some pictures and a brief explanation of the site, we walk to the actual equator maker.  The monument has been built recently and incorporates a huge sundial which also acts as a calendar, using the movement of the sun to identify the time and date.  After hearing a brief presentation of the monument, we headed off to see the famous Incan pyramids near Cayumbe.  We took a guided tour of the pyramids and learned a great deal about the groups that used to occupy the area.  After the tour, we fed a heard of llamas and started our trip back to Quito.  Once we arrive back in Quito, we head to one of the local bars to try the locally brewed beer and head home afterward. 

- Taylor Larimore

We arrived at the Embassy at 9:30 A.M. There was a long line of people waiting to be served so it seemed we would be waiting for a while. However, we walked in soon after arriving, subsequently avoiding the trouble of the large crowd. Once inside, the group went through a thorough screening process in the security area. We then met Josh Cartin who worked at the Embassy, and sat down for a discussion of some of the important political issues involving the U.S. and Ecuador. President Rafael Correa was a key topic, and it was debated whether or not he has the intentions of extending the Free Trade Agreement as well as whether or not he will extend the U.S. contract concerning the airbase in Manta. After giving a brief overview of the issues, he opened the discussion for questions. Some of the key areas covered were the stability of the Ecuadorian economy, the safety of the food business, and, most importantly, the great expectations for Correa, as well as his political alignment.

- Randy Shirey

Cuenca is an interesting city and is known as the cultural gem of Ecuador because of its unique and beautiful architecture, which includes both French and Spanish influences.  We arrived early, got our rooms, and then took naps before lunch. After lunch, we took a bus tour of the city.  We saw the giant Catedrál, built in the grandiose scale and style of the European cathedrals, and also of course the Spanish and French influenced houses and buildings of the city. The city was actually named after a city in Spain because the houses on the river so closely resembled the “hanging houses” of Spanish Cuenca. The next day we focused our tour of the city around the Panama Hat production. We went to a factory to see how they were made as well as a store to see the final products. Also occurring in Cuenca was the feast of Corpus Christi, and because of this the sidewalks were packed full of candy and pastry vendors all around the Catedrál. Also, every night because of the festival there was a big fireworks show. They build towers out of bamboo, put fireworks all over them, and then fire them off, more often than not directly at the watching crowd. Another interesting aspect of the fireworks was something called the “Vaca Loca”, which consisted of a papier-mâché cow costume, with fireworks attached, that someone puts on and dances around with while firing the fireworks, once again more or less directly at the crowd.  It seems like the thing to do with these flaming dolls is to have one or two people wear them and try and burn as many people as possible.  I was actually given the chance to put the fireball on my back and dance around. I looked real goofy as the only Gringo involved, but it was a pretty interesting experience. 

- Ben Ladowski

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June 13, 2007

Ecuador Program Students Get Dirty

Professor Dan Rogers — Doing a service project during the summer is hard work. Doing a service project south of the equator in 90-degree heat and 100% humidity is harder. Having to watch out for tarantulas, wolf spiders and other assorted denizens of the Amazon Basin while you do it is priceless.

Students from professor Doug Calisch’s Ecuadorian Studies Program group have spent the last week working in a small village on the Napo River.

Click here to see photos from Mondana.

Mondana is tiny with a population of around 40 families huddled on the banks of one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon.Most are Quichua ethnicity and speak Spanish as a second language. Unemployment, contaminated water, and limited health care are everyday challenges in Mondana.

Our Wabash group has teamed up with Funedesin – a foundation dedicated to sustainable development in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Wabash students are working with local high school students, building a small dam to provide electricity, and participating in local mingas. A minga is a community project that brings together local residents to improve the commons.

Last Saturday our students gathered with local high school students and others for a minga of monumental proportions – clearing a field for planting.In this climate, any land left fallow will be waist deep in secondary growth within weeks, so students used rakes, machetes, and their hands to clear huge mounds of unwanted vegetation from the area.

Next week, if everything works out, we’ll post photos of the completed dam and small reservoir our students are building.

But it hasn’t been all work and no play. We’ve carved out time to practice blowgun target shooting, visited a local healer for a traditional cleansing ceremony, and spent time looking at flora and fauna in the primary rain forest around us.

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June 07, 2007

Students in Ecuador Travel the Amazon

Professor Dan Rogers — The first thing you notice, beside the heat, humidity and chirping of birds, frogs, and insects, is the lack of contrails. We haven’t seen evidence of an airplane in days. The sky is as untouched as the landscape around us.

Click here to see the first set of photographs.

Last Saturday (June 2) the group left the comfortably cool breezes of Quito (9,300 feet above sea level) and took a short flight to Coca — the last airport in the Amazon region of eastern Ecuador. From Coca, we traveled two hours by pickup truck to a bridge near the small village of Pindo. Next to the bridge we saw the large canoe that would be our home for the next eight hours.

As the afternoon light faltered giving way to evening and darkness, a Quichua Indian guide stood on the bow of the canoe with a flashlight helping the pilot sight the twisting shoreline of the Tiputini river, recently inundated with heavy rains. The Amazon lived up to its reputation that evening. We sailed along through rain as hard as any of us had every seen. Hours after dark (the sun goes down at 6:30 PM on the equator) we arrived the Tiputini biological research station — the first stop in our long trek through the rain forest.

Students and faculty climbed to the top of a 160-foot canopy tower to spot toucans and huatzins. Another group repelled through the rainforest canopy with mountaineering gear. And another lucky group spotted the harpy eagle: the Amazon’s top raptor and one of its rarest sights.

On the way out of Tiputini we were luck to see an even rarer sight — a freshwater dolphin swam around our canoe for five minutes. Nearly identical to its salt water cousin, the pale white freshwater dolphin is one of the most endangered species in the Amazon basin.

Over the next two weeks we will look at the impact of human activity on the rainforest. In fact, this means petroleum production. Almost 50% of the country’s national budget is funded by petroleum extraction and with the price of oil as high as it is, the incentives to search for new reserves are great.

Another group participating in the program this year will spend the next few weeks living in an indigenous village on the Napo river (a major tributary of the Amazon). With professors Rogers and Doug Calisch, students will help repair a small damn, build trails, and volunteer at the local clinic and high school.

Professors Melissa Butler and Kay Widdows will take the other group to see petroleum extraction and pumping facilities. Their part of the program culminates with the mother of all road trips — they will drive the length of pipeline that delivers oil from the Amazon basin to the coast studying the cultural, political, and economic impact of petroleum production and high oil prices.

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June 20, 2006

Reflections

As I sit here in front of my computer, this being my final few hours here in Ecuador, I begin to realize, what this trip has done for me, and the people around me. I applied to go onto this program, with the advice of a professor, at the time I really did not know why I wanted to go to Ecuador, except, that it sounded like a really interesting place, and it was going be free. I never honestly expected to get in, and when I did I was really wasnt sure, if I wanted to give up a month out of my summer, to go to a country, with a group of people, whom I knew only faces but never really talked to, in a country where I could hardly communicate. Once again I listened to the advice of a friend, who kept telling me this was a once and a lifetime experience, and I should take advantage of it. Well I did and here I am.

On the plane ride from Houston to Quito, I kept having the same thoughts, how was I ever going to communicate with my host family, and how was I possibly going to enjoy a place where I knew no one. My first concern was erased when I met my host family and learned that they were fluent in English. The other doubt was erased as well, in the coming weeks, This group of strangers, would become a group of people, that I literally climbed mountains with, hiked through cloud forest, rainforest, and coastal regions with, and a group that at night we would go to the clubs and have a great time with.

Living with my host family was an experience within an experience. My apartment in Quito, became my home. It was a place I always looked forward to returning to after trips. I knew that there would always be a good meal, and a warm bed to sleep in. During my month here, I became part of the family, I went to soccer games, birthday parties, and other various family activities. However, the one thing that sticks out in my mind, would be learning, that my mother here, was the daughter of the ex president of Ecuador. It was even more amazing that I was able to go over his house, smoke cigars with him, talk politics and even watch the Indianapolis 500 with him.

As I stair out of my window, and gaze at the streets of Quito for the final time, I realize that by going on this trip, I have learned so much, not only about Ecuador and the people that live here by about myself as well. I have realized that no mater what happens in life, you always need to take chances, because who knows, sometime you might be gazing out over a city and realize that this world is too big and too diverse to sit at home and wonder what if.

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Excitement Over Soccer Takes Our Minds Off Real Issues

Zafer Ahmed

This month has gone by far too fast. I remember getting off the plane completely confused as if it happened yesterday. So much has happened since that day.

On a more serious note, despite being a beautiful and amazing country, Ecuador has many problems. The other day I met an English man who has lived here for 18 years. I asked him if he had watched the Ecuador-Poland World Cup match. I was surprised by his answer - he wanted Ecuador to lose. When I asked why, he told me that the people get so excited and worked up over their soccer games that they ignore the problems of the people. He likened soccer to a Roman form of entertainment - entertain the masses so they are too preoccupied to be worrying about the real issues. He also said that if Ecuadorians had the same passion that they have for soccer, this country would not be in its current situation. The rich exploit the poor - he even went as far as to say that most Ecuadorians are "placid." Logically, I asked him, "Why are you still here if you hate this country?" His answer was a great one. He said that he only speaks of the problems in order for them to be resolved because the first step in solving a problem is recognizing it for he loves this country. Our conversation really put my view of Ecuador into perspective.

I would like to thank everyone who has made this trip possible and wonderful. ¡Gracias Ecuador!

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Quito I'll miss you.

-Brandon Christy

It´s Saturday the 17th and our trip in Ecuador is coming to a close. I have learned a lot of valuable lessons while I was here and have made friends with the people of Ecuador. Probably my favorite part of the whole trip was hanging out with our tour guides during our field observation. The 3 main guides we had were Juan Carlos from Quito, Juan from Yachana Lodge in the Jungle, and Carlos from the Coast. Juan Carlos was awesome because he was able to keep our interest the whole time and was a blast to hang out with. Juan was simply a BA from the jungle that knows 5 languages, including English and Spanish. What I´ll remember from Carlos is when we were on our way to the airport and he bought a rooster for $100 to breed for cockfights, which are legal here in Ecuador. The funniest part was when Zafer couldn´t find his red bag with his shoes in it, and I told him to check the box the rooster was in. As it turns out, the bag´s string was wrapped around the rooster, which made him mad and made for a funny scene in the airport. These second 2 weeks we have had a great time together, and there was just so much we did that I enjoyed.

As I´m getting ready to leave, I need to work some magic with my packing because I purchased a ton of stuff to bring home as souvenirs for my family. I think that bartering has been my favorite part about Quito, because it´s something you really don´t get the opportunity to do in the US. Another subtlety that I´ll have to get used to again is speaking English pretty much all the time in the US, especially in the restaurants and stores. Everything has definitely been a great learning experience here in Ecuador, but at the same time I am ready to return home and see my family. I am grateful to have had a great family to stay with while in Quito, but one part of this culture that´s amazing is once your part of the family, they really keep you as part of the family. Now that I´ve been here, I really want to travel to more parts of the world. Quito is a place where you have to return on your own just to get even more of a great experience. If it weren´t for Wabash, I probably wouldn´t have come here until much later in my life, if at all. But I´m so happy I have been given this opportunity. Like I said in an earlier blog, if you ever have the opportunity to do something like this then take advantage of it.

For now, I´m going to finish bartering for the last time and then enjoy the thrills of packing. Have a great summer

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June 16, 2006

Homesick (Unposted Blog for June 9)

Boyce D. Evans

Lately I have been feeling homesick. After two immersion trips and little time at home I have been missing my family and friends back home in the states. When we left Quito for the coastal port of Manta, I thought it would be another trip to another place and it would still be a while before I got to go home. We met at the airport at 5am. We were all tired  and had to get on a flight that left at 6:30am. When we were preparing to land I looked out my window and saw the Pacific Ocean. That was the first time I had ever seen the Pacific, it was beautiful.

When we arrived in Manta, we landed at this very small airport that was actually a part of a military base shared by the Ecuadorian government and the US. We all pilled into a yellow van and set out for Puerto Lopez, a small sea-side town about one hour and a half south of the city of Manta.  We stopped at several small villages along the way and saw the locals and the crafts that were made especially there. When we finally arrived in Puerto Lopez I was taken aback by the beauty, also by the fact that I only had $5 dollars and there was no bank with an ATM for 70 kilometers. We came to our hotel Hosteria Mandala and it was one of the most beautiful hotels I had ever seen. The rooms had no TV´s, no phones, and no internet. It was very laid back and relaxing, all the stressfulness of Quito just disappeared and there was only the sound of the waves crashing on the beach.

On the second day we went to Isla de la Plata, an island an hour and a half away from Puerto Lopez. We took a small tour boat and as I watched the shore disappear I wondered what we would see when we got there. We arrived at the island which is a national park and took a 2 mile hike across the island. I was a very arduous and long trek across the island, but the views were breathtaking. After a long day of hiking we returned to our boat and went to a cove to have lunch with the boat crew provided for us. It was an unforgettable time watching the multicolored fish swim by.

After returning to Quito for about twelve hours our group met again at the airport very early to travel here to Cuenca. It is a beautiful city, very colonial. I am enjoying my short day here and look forward to going to Guayaquil tomorrow. My host family here is very nice and I miss them very much while I am away.

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