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

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