The Rainforest

As soon as we finished up with finals, it was time to take a trip to the rainforest or as it is called in Spanish, El Oriente. Our sights set for adventures unknown, we boarded our bus and headed northwest to the Amazon. Our bus ride was approximately seven hours until we made it our first destination Puya.

Because it was dark outside at the time of our arrival, it was hard to get a sense of what the rainforest actually looked like. Despite the darkness outside, we were all able to see a huge tarantula staring back at us from the entrance to our hotel. The tarantula was simply a foreshadower of what other creepy bugs and creatures were soon to come our way. After loading our suitcases into our lodge, I decided to take short rest on the bed. I glanced down at my sandle to pull it off and witnessed a jungle bug trying to burrow into my skin. Screaming to my roommate for help, we were able to pull the bug out of my skin. Because my nerves were so shattered after witnessing a bug trying to burrow into my skin, my roommate Allison and I spent the rest of the night sleeping in our program coordinator's room.

The next day was spent visiting an indegenous community where we hiked through the woods and spent the afternoon jumping off of rocks and swimming in the Rio Napo (River Napo). Once the sun started to go down, we headed back to our hostal for a delicious dinner of fresh tilapia that had just been caught that day. That night we slept upstairs in an outdoor loft on simple beds with only mosquito nets separating us from the open air and stars.

The next morning we headed out once again for Cotacocha Lodge. We spent the next two nights in Cotacocha. There was no electricity at Cotacocha Lodge and every night we were given two lanterns to help light our room. While in Cotacoha, we would set our every morning by boat. We spent the next two days hiking, jumping off of rocks into waterfalls, visitng an island full of monkeys, and visitng AmaZoonico, a wildlife preservation reserve. I am also very excited to report that I conquered another huge fear! I allowed two men to wrap a thirty foot anaconda around my neck for a picture!

Despite all the fun that we had in the rainforest, it is important to remember the severe destruction that is occuring in the rainforest. Only thirty percent of the original rainforest remains in the world. While we were on a boat, we witnessed an airport being built for the oil executives. It is heartbreaking to think that in twenty years it is possible that we will not have a rainforest left. We must do what we can such as driving less and recycling more to help preserve mother nature.

Final Days in Cuenca

As I am sitting here tonight procrastinating on studying for my finals, I am thinking about how few days I have left in Cuenca.... only four more to be exact. It seems like only yesterday I was getting off the bus with sixteen other students nervous to the point of anxiety wondering what classes would be like, thinking about our host families, and trying to imagine living in a different country for two months. So, what has this experience been like? It has been every sort of adjective that I can think of to describe this trip. It's been sad, frusterating, amazing, happy, unbelieveable, magical.... the list goes on and on. I have met friends that I know will last a lifetime. The sixteen other Ohio University students are nothing short of amazing, while each one is unique and has taught me more than I ever could have hoped for. My family has shown me love, hospitality, and accepted me with open arms and never once questioned me about my customs or made me feel out of place. My professors at CEDEI have pushed me farther than I knew I was capable of going as I worked harder in Spanish classes than I ever had before. I have cried, laughed, danced, hiked, swam, and even rode on the back of a horse across a river. This experience has changed my life. I know that I am going to return to Ecuador in the future because this is the most beautiful country that I have visited yet.

La Costa

I just got back from having one of the best weeks of me life! Last week, I traveled to Quayaquil, Porta Lopez, Isla Corazon, Canoa, Bahia, and Rio Muchacho. Taking a break from classes, I was awarded the luxury of a five day trip to travel to the coast. Our first stop was a banana and caocao plantation located outside of Guayaquil. The banana and caocao plantation was purely organic (no pesticides or chemicals are used), and the majority of the bananas are shipped solely in Ecuador; but also to Argentina and Chile.
After the banana plantation, we stopped in Guayaquil. Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador. The first thing I noticed in Guayaquil was the climate change. La Sierra, the Andes mountain region where Cuenca is located, usually ranges from 65-75 degrees. However, in Quayaquil it was approximately 90 degrees. Despite the heat, we spent the afternoon exploring the city. Instead of squirrels, huge iguanas dominated the parks. One interesting fact about Guayaquil is that all of the electrical wires are located underground.
After Guayaquil, we checked into a hotel in Porta Lopez. The hotel was so unique! The reception area of the hotel was designed a ship complete with a steering wheel. After checking into our hotel, we were able to enjoy a day filled with pure relaxation. We sipped tropical drinks, ate ceviche (a popular Ecuador seafood soup that consists of lime juice, shrimp, onion, and tomato), and swam in the ocean as well as the pool.
The next day we were off to Bahia. Bahia was named as an in Ecociudad (environmentally friendly city on February 23, 1999 after the hurricane El Nino destroyed a huge part of the city. After El Nino, Bahia needed to reconstuct and decided to do so using environmentally friendly methods. While in Bahia, we visited a factory called Ecopapel that constructs paper out of trash. I also accomplished one of my biggest fears! For those of you who are not aware, I am deathly afraid of turtles. I was able to conquer this fear and feed a banana to a 110 year old turtle named Miguelito from the Galapagos Islands. Miguelito is the mascot of the elementary school in Bahia. In the past, turtles from the Galapagos Islands were sold and eaten for food. It is assumed that Miguelito escaped from one of the boats returning from the island and showed up one day outside of the school. The school decided to take Miguelito in and now he lives in their backyard.
The rest of the week consisted of visiting Isla Corazon (Island Heart) where we traversed by canoe through mangroves. On our last day, we visited a Rio Muchacho Finca Organica (Organic Farm. The Organic Farm is completely self sustainable; and they practice organic permaculture where every facet on the farm is recycled. I am strongly considering returning next summer to spend a month volunteering on the farm to learn more about their practices.
Despite all the great memories I have from La Costa, there is one memory that is my favorite- our travel to Rio Muchacho. The night before we were supposed to go to Rio Muchacho there was a huge rain making it impossible for our bus to cross the river. Instead of turning around, we decided to take matter into our own hands and cross the river by horseback. In order to get to the farm, we crossed two rivers by horseback and hiked approximately 5 miles roundtrip in pure mud. It was definitely quite the adventure.

To learn more about Rio Muchacho and the Organic Farm please visit

Surviving Camping and Cronica Roja

I finally did it! I spent the night camping in the Andes mountains. The experience of camping in the Andes mountains was both rewarding and hilarious at the same time. The hilarious part is because my dad likes to joke with me (because of all the traveling that I have done this year) that in ten years I will probably be riding alpacas in the Himalayan mountains. Well, guess what dad?! No, I was not riding alpacas nor was in the Himalayan mountains, however I camped in the Andes mountains and I saw lots of alpacas. Basically, the same thing, right?
My fellow classmates and I spent the day hiking at Cajas National Park located just outside of Cuenca. Cajas National Park includes more than 800 lakes. I witnessed some of the most beautiful sites that I have ever seen. We hiked through mountains, streams, and a forest that looked very similar to the forest in Twilight. After hiking, we pitched our tents and spent the rest of the day fishing. Besides thinking that when I woke up after sleeping in the tent my feet may be black from severe frostbite, it was one of the best days I have had yet in Ecuador.
The second experience that I would like to share is my reaction after my first football game. Football is one of South America's favorite pasttimes. America's NFL is South America's professional football. Little did we know walking into the stadium, we were about to sit in the craziest section of the entire stadium known as "Cronica Roja". Cronica Roja is the name of Cuenca's most dedicated fans. About ten minutes before the game started, we noticed three men start climbing the fences of the soccer game. Not only did the fans climb the fences, but they actually climbed into the stadium for a while to cheer on the fans. The men on top of the fances started hanging streamers; and passed out rolls of receipt paper to everyone in the section. As soon as the team officially walked out onto the field, all pandamonium broke lose: fire extinguishers filled with red gas started erupting, red flares were lit, receipt rolls were thrown as streamers, and the singing began. Like the little engine that could, we tried our best to stay standing in the Cronica Roja section; however a polite gentleman advised that it was only going to get crazier and not a safe place for gringos. Although we had to move sections, it was still a great experience. Attending a game in the United States vs. a game in South America, could not be any different :). Now that midterms are over (I can't believe we have almost reached the halfway point of our trip), we are heading to the coast and Guayaquil for a week of no classes and relaxation.

Me with Myra (one of the coordinators at Cedei) and Lilly.

Leah (our chaperone), Me, and Bailey inside our tent



Last Sunday my OU classmates and I boarded our small 16 passenger short bus for a day for an afternoon of exploring Ingapirca. Ingapirca is the name of Incan ruins that lie approximately 1 1/2 hours outside of Cuenca. Not to be confused with the Incans, Ingapirca was also home to the Canaris (the name of another indigenous tribe that was prominent before the Incans). This day of exploring the Ingapirca was one of the best days I have had yet in Ecuador! It was so picturesque and absolutely stunning.
Before arriving in Ecuador, I had envisioned a country of serene lush green mountains with llamas and indigenous people quietly sowing the fields. The journey to Ingapirca was the perfect vision of the Ecuador I had imagined. The best part of the tribe was the Incan face. Carved into the side of a mountain, is the face of the Incan. The cool thing about this mountain is that the face is purely coincidental. No machines were used to constuct the face, it is purely an act of nature.

My new weekly routine

So now that I am entering my third week in Cuenca, I am beginning to feel at home and have fully adjusted (at least to the best of my new knowledge) to my new routine. The process of finally feeling at home wasn't always the easiest process, for example the late night taxi rides trying to find my way home as I akwardly mutter "a la derecha" (to the right) or "a la izquierda" (to the left). Or, the other night when my fellow OU classmate came over and I tried to tell that I liked her makeup but instead of makeup, which in spanish is maquillaje, I said, "I like your mantequilla" which means "I like your butter". With time and patience, a feeling of calmness and peace has engulfed me. So, what is a normal day like for me in Cuenca? Well, every weekday morning I awake at approximately 6:30. After getting out of bed and getting ready, I head to downstairs where a delicious breakfast awaits me. Each morning for breakfast, I have a mixture of fruit, yogurt, coffee, and bread. After breakfast, my neighbor and OU classmate Lilly and I being our 30 minute walking adventure to CEDEI. Every morning, we are greeted by the smells of local panaderias (bread shops, yellow taxis playfully honking their horns, school children clasping their mother's hand, people on their way to work, and early risers in the park beginning their exercise routines. Once we have made our way through Parque de la Madre and finally across the river, we head up the stairs into "Old Cuenca" walk two more blocks, make a right onto Luis Cordero and finally enter the doors of CEDEI. CEDEI is two story institution of higher learning that is absolutely gorgeous. With European inspired architecture, a friendly staff, and small crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, CEDEI is a small, but prominent institution where I feel less like a student and more like a explorer from the 17th century. Normal afternoon classes of philosophy or economics, have now been replaced by ceramics and dance. CEDEI has allowed me to exercise my creative talents outside of just writing papers, while still being able to learn along the way.
After my morning classes are over, I then walk back to my house and eat lunch with my family. Lunch usually consists of soup, fruit juice (the fruit juices are the best because everyday there is a new one and they are always so fresh), and the main dish. Once lunch is over, I usually have a couple of hours to myself. During most of the afternoons, I return to CEDEI where I either attend lectures or an afternoon activity.
Ecuador has been absolutely wonderful thus far on my journey. There is still so more that I have to tell you about my adventures! Please continue to check out my blog :)

Peace and Love,


Outside of CEDEI

To the Middle of the World and Beyond

Hello everyone! This is my first post from Ecuador. In less than 24 hours, I will have officially been in Ecuador for one week. It has been amazing thus far! Today was my first day of classes at CEDEI (Centers for Interamerican Studies). I can tell that the classes are going to be challenging; however I am going to stay optimistic about them because I know that I am going to learn a lot.
I met my host family Saturday evening, and so far I am in love with them. They are the Carvallo-Solis family. There are five members in the family, but only one son still lives at home. Their home is absolutely gorgeous. Inside the home there are two kitchens, three dining rooms, three living rooms, a spiral staircase, a garden, and a house for the maid in the backyard. I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to live in such an extravagant house.
Cuenca is a beautful city. The city is separated into two parts: the old section and the new section. El Rio Barmaba (The River Baramba) is what separates the two sections. Cuenca is lined with cobblestone streets, French-inspited architecture, parks, and 17th century churches. There is a perfect combination of new swanky clubs mixed with colonial architecture.
While everything has been great, I would be lying if I said that I was able to understand and speak Spanish perfectly. My first evening in Cuenca my host mom Marina took me out to their family owned reception hall called La Floreana. What I didn't know before arriving was that it was there reception hall and she wanted to show me where their family worked. Being a little shaky on my Spanish skills, I thought that Marina was taking me to a welcome party that was being hosted in my honor. As soon as we arrived at La Floreana, my face lit up with excitement and I turned to Mariana and repeated over and over "Muchas Gracias" (Many Thanks). I walked into La Floreana and was immediately greeted by my host brother Santiago. Not wasting any time I turned to Santiago and said, "You did not have to go through all this trouble just for me". With a confused look on his face, Santiago replied "My mother brought you here because she wanted to show you where we all worked". I immediately tried to look serious and nodded my head pretending that I knew that was the reason all along.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I promise to continue to keep you all updated.
Peace and Love :)

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