Showing posts from July, 2017

That Trip Was Gnarly MIN-DO! (pronounced 'mean'-'though')

Written by Jasmin Hernandez Santacruz “Mindo es lindísimo!” (Mindo is very beautiful). I must have heard this phrase from my host-mom at least ten times as she urged me to take advantage of our free weekend to visit Mindo, a small town which is approximately an hour and a half from Quito; and this past weekend that’s exactly what we did. I think I speak for the whole group when I say that our two-day trip to Mindo was just the perfect taste of this hidden gem.
Our planning for the trip began on Wednesday afternoon. As soon as class ended, everyone put on their travel-agent goggles and began to plan for our trip. After a couple hours of phone calls and web surfing, the trip to Mindo was officially scheduled and planned, everyone hurried home to pack.
The first task for Day 1 was to meet at the Ofelia Terminal at 7:30am to catch the 8:00am bus to Mindo. The price for a one-way ticket was a whopping $3.10 and after everyone had purchased their ticket, we boarded the bus and were quickly on…

Is It North or South?

Ecuador is an extremely diverse country; full of different cultures and experiences. Though Spanish is the official language, Ecuador recognizes fourteen indigenous languages; four in the coast region and ten in the Amazon area. Ecuador is also a country divided into four unique geographic regions. The first area is the coast or “La Costa.” The second area is the highlands or “La Sierra,” where we met the San Clemente community. The third is the Amazon region and the fourth is “La Region Insular,” which consists of the Galapagos Islands, most famous for their role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. 

Of the hundreds of things to do in the Sierra region, one of the most advertised for tourists to visit is Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the World City). This monument is around 27 kilometers or 17 miles north of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. It takes approximately one hour to get there in car and almost two hours in bus. Out of the thirteen students in the class, eight of us visited t…

Aventuras en La Amazonia - Tena, Ecuador

Nuestra tercer semana en Ecuador! 
This past week we were able to explore another region of this beautiful country, the Amazon, in Tena, Ecuador. Many of our excursions on this trip have been a first to most of us, especially everything we did in the Amazon region. Here we hiked to a waterfall, went on a motorized boat ride, floated down a river, visited the AmaZOOnico, and went caving!
Saturday, July 22, 2017:
We hiked in the Rainforest Reserve Colonso, our goal was to hike to a waterfall. A couple months ago with the strong rainfall there was major damage to certain parts of the rain forest, caused by the falling of many trees. This lead us to taking a non-traditional route up to the waterfall. This new path away allowed for us to explore other parts of the rain forest, by having us hike up the stream way of the water, through large rocks, muddy areas, sand mountains, and many fallen branches. This hike allowed our team of students to support one another along the pathway. It also ga…

Cultures in the Amazon

The adventures continue on... Also during our trip the the Amazon, we were able to interact with various indigenous communities to learn more about they preserve their customs and cultures!
Cultural Community Experiences  Muyuna community 

The Muyuna community is the community that we performed the minga with, and in a short amount of time, we were able to learn more about their culture. According to their director, 99% of their community is of Quechua descent; therefore, many speak their native language of Quechua as well as Spanish. They still make consistent efforts to keep alive their traditions and pass it on to their children. One of the first presentations was given by a student who sang a traditional song that is well known amongst the community while wearing a traditional gold outfit with embellishments at the waist. Many of their songs hold significant meanings, often containing stories about their people and traditions. At the end of the minga, a group of girls gave a danc…

Schools in Tena

Welcome to the Amazon!
Isn't it beautiful? For our third week in Ecuador, our group traveled to various locations in the Amazon to visit a range of school, and we were able to interact with the students and parents to learn more about their education systems. So, let's get started! Schools Unidad Educative National Tena- International Baccalaureate 
In the city of Tena, there are not many resources for theses communities, but there have been many efforts to provide more opportunities for its students. This school has been a part of the International Baccalaureate program for quite some time now, and it allows student the opportunity to achieve in high level classes to better their education. The way one gets into the program is by taking a series of entrance exams to see if one will be placed into the IB program. There are only two classes that participate in their IB program; therefore, it is very competitive. Unfortunately, it was the program's last day of school, but w…

Soaring Over Ecuador

As this academic week closed to an end, the excitement amongst us grew. It’s one thing to be traveling to another country to study abroad, with programs and activities set up as a part of academia. However, it’s another thing to be able to travel freely on your own with no prepared schedule- just wanderlust and spontaneity (and maybe some planning on Facebook messenger) leading the day.
This weekend was our first four-day weekend, so naturally, all of us had decided to make use of this free time and travel to one of the most well-known attractions of Ecuador: Baños! But do not let the name fool you- Baños has some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
We left not so bright and early to meet at the IES center on a Saturday morning to jump into our tightly packed (but very affordable, thank you Valeria!) traveling tourist van. After eating our packed to-go breakfasts from our wonderful host families and many cat naps later, we arrived in Baños three hours later. We stayed at a…

Touching the Clouds ☁️

- 07.12.17 -
On this day, all 13 students of the Ecuador Global Seminar made their way to Pichincha Volcano to participate in one of the many tourist attractions: The Teleferico! This is a gondola-like style lift that allows its visitors to witness a magnificent view of the city. With a 13,000 ft. altitude overlooking Quito -- it's an experience that'll leave you feeling like you were on top of the world. Aside from the exhilarating ride up and spectacular view, there are several hiking trails that offer a visit to a chapel, pictures with adorable llamas, and many other panoramic views.
When we were up there, we were not left short of opportunities to further observe and analyze the social interactions between the people of Ecuador. There was one large group in particular that caught my attention: there were two women handling multiple children at a time, and the whole scene looked chaotic, but there was one comment that initially drew me to notice this family. One of the wom…

A Ronda of Applause to Chocolate, Art, and Wind Desserts


It’s 2:00 PM on a Tuesday, so the obvious move is to visit the famous, “La Ronda Street” for an original Ecuadorian chocolate presentation, an art tour, and an Empanadas de Aires/Canelazo tasting.

There is so much to Quito and Ecuador in general, but on this day we got the opportunities to observe and participate in multiple things that add up to traditional Ecuadorian culture. For starters, we began our evening at Chez•Tiff Artesanal Chocolate, where we received a thorough presentation on the making of pure chocolate, something Ecuador is famous for. Not only were we able to taste 80% dark chocolate, but a few brave volunteers received hand massages with pure cocoa butter. Let’s just say, most if not ALL of us left with a little piece of delicious chocolate with soft hands!

On to the next stop, our guide Rodrigo took the group to an in-the-wall museum which hosted one side full of pieces made entirely of plastic while the other displayed capsule rooms such as a barbershop, dini…

Quito Parks

To the inhabitants of Quito, the parks and pets are no joke.

In my opinion, the parks here in Quito have a lot more to offer and are better maintained compared to those of the United States. The parks in Quito are almost always teeming with people during the early mornings and afternoons. Many families bring their children for a quick snack; children gather together to play soccer; teenagers even come to the park to make out. The parks here are respected and utilized by people of all ages. As a foreigner visiting these parks, I can tell that the park is a cherished locale for the people.

My host mom lives a block away from Parque La Carolina, which is located in the heart of Quito. According to The Metropolitan Public Company for Mobility and Public Works of Ecuador, La Carolina spans 165.5 acres and has become the most visited public space in Quito. Okay, are you ready for it? La Carolina has soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, a children's play area, an adult exerc…