Featured image: A view from Cotopaxi, the second highest volcano in Ecuador.

The past 4 weeks in Ecuador have been filled to the brim with new experiences, environments, and knowledge. In an effort to capture the breadth of my activities and thoughts, I have composed an ABCs collection of notable words and related activities or musings.

A – Amazon. I got to visit the Amazon for Spring Break! We spent lots of time by the river and exploring the jungle trees, a beautiful, humid, landscape with butterflies of gorgeous colors!  

B – Bus rides. We travel a lot to get to site visits, and bus rides have become precious time to contemplate, chat with people, or stare out the window at surrounding scenery.

C – Carnaval. Carnaval in Quito is celebrated by spraying water or foam on each other! I got thoroughly soaked playing Carnaval with my host family

D – Dogs. To the sadness of my cat loving self, I have encountered far more dogs in Ecuador than cats.

E – Empanadas. My host mother has made empanadas multiple times, once to serve with the sweet porridge like drink called morocho! I also got to try an empanada de verde, which is an empanada with dough made from green plantains.

F – Family. My host family has been an absolute joy, super friendly and welcoming.

G – Gliricidia. Gliricidia is a leguminous tree grown with cacao plants to improve soil health. We witnessed this at the cacao farm Mashpi Shungo.

H – Hectares. We visited a 4 hectare organic farm. What’s that in acres?

I – Intillacta. Intillacta was the name of a family owned reserve in the cloud forest that we stayed at for a few nights.

J – Juice. Never in my life have I had so much fruit juice! The strangest concoction I’ve had was a mixture of alfalfa, egg, and naranjilla.

K – Kinder egg. My 3-year-old host sister was extremely intent on getting a Kinder egg from the store, and ate it with much delight.

L – Llamas. We visited Cochasqui National Park and saw ancient pyramids and fed a bunch of salt to some very hungry llamas!

Feeding llamas salt.

M – Microorganisms. We talk a lot about soil health and fertility and microorganisms are super important for digesting nutrients for plants! We created a microorganism mixture at one of the farms using organic matter, rock powder, molasses, wheat germ, and water.

Compost components.

N – Nestle. We planned to visit the Nestle factory but were barred entry due to coronavirus, so instead we visited a small farm that is a milk provider to Nestle.  

O – Overlook. The Teleférico is a gondola that goes up from Quito to the volcano Pichincha. It overlooks the city and has great views, plus we were hiking up there around sunset which made for magical lighting.

P – Pambamesa. A Pambamesa is an indigenous practice and sharing food together. We all prepared and brought foods to share with the Tola Chica Comuna. My family made pristiños, fried dough served with sugary honey syrup.

Homemade pristiños.

Q – Quiet. My internal body clock has decided to wake up at 6am most mornings. I am enjoying the quiet of these mornings.

R – Rain. It’s still been relatively nice weather, but we have gotten some exposure to Ecuador’s rainy season! I always travel with my rain jacket in case of an afternoon shower.

S – Soups. We continue to eat a lot of soup! Some of my favorites were vegetable soup served at a local organic farm we worked at, quinoa soup at Cotopaxi, and a traditional soup made by host mom

T – Tortillas. Got a chance to try tortillas de maiz and tortillas de trigo, scrumptious cheese filled patties fried at the market!

U – Uncertainty. Coronavirus has become prescient in our study abroad experience and looms as an uncertainty regarding our future plans to go to other countries…we definitely will not be going to Italy!

V – Volcano. Cotopaxi is the second highest volcano in Ecuador. We hiked to the base of the summit, which is at 15953 feet above sea level.

W – Waterfall. During spring break I visited Pailon de Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron, a roaring waterfall near the small town of Baños. Got thoroughly soaked crawling to get behind it!

X – Xenophobia. I can’t say I have the deepest sense of rhetoric regarding immigration in Ecuador, but there definitely seems to be some tension around the recent increase of Venezuelans.  

Y – Yucca. Pan de yucca is a fun snack. I’ve tried it twice!

Z – Zip lining. One of our most exciting adventures was zip lining through the cloud forest! A bit of exhilaration and lovely views, plus kisses from the mist on our faces as we traveled through the air

A view of Quito from the teleferico mountaintop.

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