Well, it has come to an end.

I haven’t written in a while, because at the end of the program it was too busy, and then I just didn’t want to accept it. I have been back in Spofford for about a week and a half now, which is just weird. But let’s backtrack.

The week of May 12-19 was spent with my mom and my sister – so awesome. We spent a day at Mitad del Mundo, so Mom could get her picture at the equator for her students, and then went back to Quito and they met my second host family! I wish we could have gone back to Los Chillos so we could have spent time with my first host family – I feel pretty guilty about not seeing them. Anyway, the next morning we climbed the Basilica before getting on a plane to Manta! (I have no photos because my phone was stolen out of its case, within my checked luggage. Angry phone call to American Airlines, coming soon.)

Manta is in the province of Manabí, on the coast. You may recall that my group ate lunch there on our way to our village studies. Anyway, we then took an hour taxi ride up to Bahía de Caraquez – spent like an hour at a hotel that did not live up to its expectation (Saiananda – don’t go there) before calling Casa Ceibo to come save us.

Casa Ceibo was lovely. As soon as we walked in, they handed us frozen fruit beverages and cool towels for our very sweaty brows. My mom swears that a choir of angels was singing somewhere, probably in her loony-bin head. Anyway, we were the only people there, so there was much pool time to be had. We spent the first afternoon just laying and reading, accompanied by delicious margaritas – my best friend for the week. But we’ll get there. 

That night, we ate a very delicious dinner – seriously, amazing meals there. I mean, still scrambled egg breakfasts, but all in all, deliciousness. We then decided to take a group bubble bath in our jacuzzi tub, but when we asked the front desk for the rumored complimentary bath salts, they insisted on setting up our bath for us. (We will talk about all the things that made me uncomfortable in a moment.) So, while that was happening, a hotel staff member named Cesar took us for a walk down to the water. We walked through a small mangrove area on our way down the very long dock, which was cool to see, and he pointed out the city across the bay, and his house not too far away. All in all, pretty cool day there.

The next day was cool too! Lots of laying out, reading, margarita. I was reading The Help if you were wondering. You probably weren’t. Then we kayaked for a little bit, but the wind made Mom nervous, cos of our complete lack of ability, and Becca had a headache (foreshadowing) so we just took a quick toot and saw some birds. Pelicans and egrets.

We then took a taxi into town, cos we wanted to walk on the beach and see the sunset. Additionally, Mom wanted to buy some artesenias – clearly that is where I inherited it. The sunset was beautiful, but I can’t show you, because my camera was stolen. Ugh.

That night, disaster struck. Becca became very, very ill. Fever. Stomach ache. Sadness. So, the next few days were me hanging out by the pool, which was right outside the door of our room, where Mom and Becca watched reruns of Friends and Big Bang Theory, on the few English channels. Thus, my best friend Margarita. She and I spent a lot of time reading, sitting, sitting in the water, moving out of the water … that is all. To be clear, there is not a person. It was just the beverage. Thank you, Luis. You make the best drinks.

So, eventually we take her to the doctor, and he gives her medicine, and she slowly gets better. I don’t want to embarrass her by talking about her being sick, so let’s move on.

I was fairly uncomfortable staying at such a luxurious place. Particularly because we were the only people there, we were waited on hand and foot. When we entered a room, the staff scattered. We tried to convince them to just relax, we are low maintenance, but they still tried to remain behind the scenes. It was awkward. After spending the semester here learning about the people and the culture, and how it is being stamped out by globalization, it was very uncomfortable to stay at a place where the brochures are all in English, and the people wait on you with such attentiveness that it is impossible not to feel like that stereotypical US tourist. But, the staff were amazing, especially with Becca. Shoutout to Rosie, the manager who came with us to the doctor’s office, even though there was a tour group coming through for lunch, and Luis, who was our waiter and was so nice and awesome, and Cesar, who took us on the tour that night and even introduced us to his family when we ran into him in town! If anyone is ever looking for an upscale, English-friendly, luxurious relaxing vacation, I recommend them. It was just very different from anything I had previously experienced in Ecuador because the touristy-ness of it made it, to an extent, separated from the reality of the town’s actual culture.

So, we change our flight a few times, cancel the Baños section of our travels so Becca can rest, and end up back in Quito on Friday. Becca didn’t feel well, but was sleeping, so Mom and I went to the artesenia market in the Mariscal – I will never get sick of artesenias. But, I realized it was a good thing she never saw Otavalo, cos even the small one in Quito overwhelmed her, understandably. Later, we swung by the Alston to get the rest of my bags, and I ran into lovesofmylife Ngan and Becky! (I MISS YOU!) So, after wrapping up and turning in my cell phone, I got coffee with those girls and we said our goodbyes. It was very rushed and sad. I feel sad now, again, cos I am writing it. Meh.

But Becca needed me! I took them to La Ronda to get some dinner, which thank goodness she ate, kinda, and the next morning we began the journey home. Which is where I am now. Weird. Everybody has been very great – listening to my stories, mostly, and letting me reminisce without appearing outwardly annoyed. I miss my friends, gringa and Ecuadorian. I miss speaking Spanish, my host families, eating aji, and dancing to reggaeton. I miss having that sense of wonder and amazement every day. I miss the smell of plantains being grilled up on the side of the road, even though I really don’t like platano asado (maduro rules!).

I am preparing to move out of my parents’ house this week, up to Dover, NH, where I will be working in the aforementioned internship and living with friends. There was not much time between these two adventures, but I am looking forward to the next one even though I will never let go of the last. Entonces, nos vemos, ñaños. Les quiero mucho. Besos.

Hotel Hopping


I am traveling with Mom and Becca for the week, yay! We spent Saturday and Sunday in Quito – climbed a church, ate some food, but I will backtrack later and write about that.

We flew out to Manta around noon, and then took a one-hour taxi ride to Bahia de Caraquez. We had reservations at a hotel that advertised on its website that they had loads of ecologically cool things like an animal rehabilitation area that we could volunteer in, plus a delicious restaurant. However, upon arrival, we learned that it did not live up to its own recommendation. There were literally no other guests, and the “animal sanctuary” was just birds in very tiny cages. We tried to make light of the situation by  going for a walk on the beach. Unfortunately, the sand was really more of mud or quicksand, and I sank in down to my knees and now my birkenstocks are very gross. I still felt really bad about it, but I helped Mom translate that we were leaving.

So we looked in my guide book, called the first number listed, and they came and picked us up. And this place is crazy fancy! They met us at the entrance with cool damp towels and frozen passionfruit/blackberry (maracuya/mora) juice drink thing. It was crazy to feel so doted upon after waiting in the heat on the side of the road, but it made us feel so happy and cared for. Plus, the room actually has air conditioning, which is just salvation. We are at the pool right now – I am sitting on one of those white covered bed looking things, like in Sex and the City II, but not in Abu Dabi and also just me alone. We had wanted to take a boat to a tour of the nearby mangroves but the captain is on his day off so we are going to go kayaking later instead.

I am having a little bit of difficulty grappling with being here after the semester I have had. It is hard because I know that the people who work here could never afford to stay here, and they are literally just waiting on us hand and foot. When we decided to take a group bubble bath – don’t judge – they wouldnt let us just set it up, they went in and did it for us, which mad all of us feel bad because obviously we can do that ourselves. But, while I am a little uncomfortable, it is nice to have time to relax. It just feels weird to be so extravagant, but I am enjoying having time to relax after such a stressful ISP and such.

Time to take a dip in the pool:) I will write later about our time in Quito. Hasta luego mis amores.

Kuito does Kuenka


Hey ya’ll! Finally ready to write about the trip to Cuenca … Cuenca is about 10 hours south of Quito, but we took a plane down. “We” is me, Becky, and Jenny, because we were doing our ISP’s in Quito. So Friday, April 27, we hopped on a plane and headed down to visit Ngan, Kenny, and Laura! We stayed at a sweet little hostel, which was fun because we were able to make yummy french toast in the kitchen one morning!

The trip was mainly a bit of sightseeing and exploring a different city. Cuenca is a colonial city and that means it is just the most precious place ever! I could absolutely see myself living in one of the colorful apartments with tiny balconies, covered with plants. So lovely:)


Not the most beautiful of buildings, but I just wanted to highlight the fact that it is purple. I wish I had taken pictures of the ones closer to the center of town – so lovely!

We walked around down by the river (one of four that go through/around the city) taking pictures, being silly, and soaking up the city.


We also spent one morning at Piedra de Agua, which is a beautiful spa with thermal baths! It was so relaxing after weeks of stressful “research”-ing!


Before heading out on Sunday, we did a double decker bus tour of the city! It is so beautiful and I was so happy to have had a small amount of time to see it! I wish I could go back – there are so many things I want to see! Cajas National Park, Inca ruins at Ingapirca … next time, I suppose!!


Life Updates!


Wow, I feel like a grown up for a few seconds! First of all, for those of you avid followers, of which I know there are plenty, we should celebrate that my blog is now featured on the UNH Study Abroad website! I hope it encourages people to study abroad! If I could give advice to anybody thinking to go abroad, it would be that they should try to push themselves. I chose the SIT program based on the set up of the program – I am not enrolled in a university, but rather taking courses through the School for International Training and the Experiment in International Living. That is how I was able to travel so much throughout the country (I am going to write a post about my recent trip to Cuenca this week – I promise!), live with families – giving me 24/7 language practice, and spend a month doing my very own field work! This was not an easy program. It was difficult academically and culturally, but it was so worth it because I have grown so much as a person. I would say that if somebody wants to go abroad, think about what will push you just slightly further – obviously leaving the country at all is a big step, and I applaud everybody willing to try it! However, I think the experience can make an even bigger impact on you if you go somewhere that does things differently than the United States – learning about a different way of life will make you be able to look at your own more critically and come to the outstanding realization that people do things differently – and they are both right! If you have ever studied a language, try going to a country that speaks it! Take classes there and you will pick it up so much faster if you are immersed in it. Test your comfort zone just slightly more than you think you can handle and you will surprise yourself!

Phew, what a rant, sorry. This post is called “life updates” because I am announcing my summer internship through UNH’s Carsey Institute – I will be an intern for the Humanitarian Organization for Local Development (HOLD). “The motivation behind the establishment of HOLD was on one hand to alleviate the sufferings of Afghan people, in particular women and children as the prime victims of over three decades of civil and political unrest, and on the other to contribute towards the development of Afghanistan in the fields of education, human rights, governance, and local development.” I will be working from home for the most part (aka my first apartment, located in Dover, NH!) doing a plethora of things such as writing progress reports of the different campaigns currently in place, working with NH-based Rubia in providing training to local trainers, and helping with curriculum/assessments/marketing materials for the English Language program. I am so excited about this amazing opportunity and may potentially keep a blog during the summer about that, so I shall let you know!

I am currently writing this blog entry from my hotel room in Ibarra, which is a few hours north of Quito. I left my host family yesterday, which was so sad because I have lived there for two months, but I will go visit next week with Mom and Becca (AH!) so that is good. Anyway, we are in Ibarra to do our final presentations on our Independent Study Projects -AH!
Have I written about my ISP yet? I will write now. I spent two weeks observing/trying to help in a school for women in central Quito. It is in the neighborhood of San Marcos, which is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Quito! It is a fairly dangerous area but it is also so beautiful! The school is really incredible and such a necessity in this system. Basically, because school is not free here, families don’t put a priority on sending their girls to school, unless they have the extra money. Girls are expected to get married and then spend their lives caring for their children and the house. They also work in the informal sector, if they live in cities – ie, selling goods on the street. Therefore, it is not a “good investment” to put their girls through school. However, without an education there are obviously less opportunities to change one’s life. Many women end up in jail, because they don’t have the means to get a well-paying job and out of desperation end up working as drug mules. Therefore, many end up in jail. Having a parent in jail clearly affects the children of that family, and that child’s schoolwork … thus continues the cycle. The woman might not end up in jail, but she can’t help her children with homework, or provide many opportunities for her children. This is one reason that many of the women are in the school – they want to provide better options for their children. Therefore, with their education, they are able to help with homework and they are able to get jobs. I have SO much more I could say about this but I just wrote a 22 page paper about it so I am beat. We can talk about it more later if you want ..

Then we have a re-entry session to prepare us to go back to the US – I cannot imagine – followed by a lovely afternoon shopping in the market in Otavalo, and returning to Quito on Wednesday for an oral Spanish test to see how we have improved – cross your fingers. Thursday and Friday are last-minute touring of Quito, interviews with our directors, and a goodbye lunch. I cannot believe this is ending – I need to stop writing so I don’t cry. I will write this week about Cuenca, and next week about traveling with Mom and Becca! Until then, hasta pronto mis ñaños gringos.

PS … sorry that this blog is so long and there are not even pictures to make the time pass. Next time, next time.

Quito smells like bus smoke & plantains


Dear friends and family… or probably only Mom,

Sorry that I never write about Quito, but now I am going to finally describe my super metropolitan city livin’.

I live in a neighborhood called La Paz (peace) which is conveniently located fairly close to everything. I live with a host mom, Olinda, and her kids Maria Jose (23) and Felipe (15). Felipe and I have a really violent relationship, but I always said I wanted a little brother so I guess that is what I asked for!

I lived here for most of March, while I was taking classes on Culture and Development, and I would leave at 8:25 every morning to begin my 35 minute walk to school. It probably shouldn’t take that long, but it is mostly uphill and I eat a lot of ice cream, please hold your judgement.

Anyway, for those of you (Mom) who know me, I am not super comfortable when it comes to cities. I don’t like cars that honk, or air pollution, or falling asleep to anything other than the sound of crickets. For that reason, I chose to continue living in Quito for my independent study project. I am volunteering in a school for illiterate women in La Marin, which is a neighborhood near the Centro Historico of Quito. I have to take a bus, which I am now very good at even though it smells like an odd combination of Axe spray and body odor. That might just be because I am very short and my face is usually in somebody’s armpit.

So, about 5 days a week I get on the EcoVia bus and head downtown. The women are at all different levels of education, working on things ranging from spelling to how to properly use accent marks, from writing their names to writing autobiographies, and from beginning addition to multiplying fractions. It is very hard for me to help, because I don’t know how to spell every Spanish word, I am pretty bad at grammar, and I can never remember the words for “times” and “divided by” in Spanish. But, I give it everything I can! I also sometimes help distract the kids so that the moms can focus on their schoolwork. That might secretly be my favourite part, but I promise to try my best not to snatch any of those cuties and bring them back with me.

My paper is going to consist of three parts, I believe. I am going to write one section on why these women are just now learning to read; they range in age from 18 to 60-something. I want to write about their upbringing and the system that failed them. This will require interviews and the women do not yet trust me, so how that goes is TBD. I will then write about what the classes are like, how the daily schedule goes, what sort of distractions exist, etc. The last part will be about how the women being illiterate affects their families, and how them attending classes affects their families as well.

Wow, writing all that down makes me feel incredibly stressed about how much work I have ahead of me, so I am going to get to work! Sorry for the lack of photos – I’ll try to put some in next time!

Peace, love, and plantains,



Well, I have returned to the land of potatoes and traffic jams after an incredible week on the coast. Last Wednesday we all flew from Quito to Manta, in the province of Manabí, where we stopped and ate a delicious lunch called gigantic fried fish. (It has a real name that I just don’t remember)

We then bought water and toilet paper and headed out by bus to drop us off, in pairs of two or three, in villages down the coast. Ellicott and I lived with the family of Kléber Ventura in Agua Blanca. (In Spanish, b’s are often pronounced like v’s, meaning yes, his name was “clever.”) We lived with him, his wife, and three of his daughters, Cindy, Merly, and Wendy.

Agua Blanca is for sure the coolest town I have ever visited. By standard measures of poverty, the people in this town certainly fall below that line, but it truly didn’t feel that way. For starters, I was only able to finish an entire meal maybe 3 times during the 5 days we lived there. Always so much food! Which is even harder to eat given how incredibly hot it is at lunch time. Some houses in the village were constructed with a type of wood or bamboo, which allows for air to move, but it not considered to look very classy. I, however, think they look incredible. My family’s house is made of concrete, which is a status symbol, but also not very practical because it basically is an oven.

Agua Blanca’s economy largely relies on tourism. It is in a national park, and when the government was constructing the park they tried to kick the community off the land. They fought, saying they would protect the area more than anybody, considering they have lived on it for hundreds of years. They won, and now they use tourism to bring in money, which helps sustain the community and allow them to remain on their land rather than having to live closer to the more populated areas. They are obviously really attached to where they live, because they have for years. One thing that was very interesting, though, is that nobody owns land. All of the land is owned by the entire community. They love this, because there are no land disputes ever! When somebody wants to build a house or something, the entire community meets and votes on it. They really do protect the area more than anybody else would.

Every family (there are 70 in town) has someone working as a tour guide. They rotate shifts every 10 days and the money is split evenly between the families. A tour consists of going through the museum, which is filled with ancient indigenous artifacts still being discovered nearby, followed by a stop at the lookout point, where you can see just green for miles. You end up at the agua sulfurosa, the sulfur lagoon. It is cold water, to our surprise, and it feels absolutely amazing. They give you some sulfurous clay to put on your skin, because apparently it has some supercool qualities and makes your skin feel nice.

Agua Blanca also relies on goats for their economy. There are more goats in this town than I had ever seen in my life. They told us that people eat the meat, although we never had goat while we were living there (but I did try it later at a restaurant! So yummy!). They also sell it to restaurants in surrounding towns. I think they also sell the milk, because they do milk the goats but only kids drink the milk. I had the opportunity to try milking goats – it is so hard! It took my forever to fill up our little Gatorade bottle with warm goat milk. Later, I made hot chocolate with it (after boiling it – yuck) and it was SO delicious! Also, I had been having issues with cow milk making me sick, but no such issues occurred with goat milk! Fun fact.

Ellicott and I also saw baby goats getting branded. That was very, very sad. They just pick them up and use a knife to cut the tips of the ears. We could not really figure out reasoning – they said it is so they recognize them, but I don’t know why they need to be able to do that. Anyway, we try to observe without comparing to the United States and without judging, but I had a hard time not feeling very sad while watching.

This little guy had just gotten his ears cut. If you look close you can see a bit of blood.

We also had the incredible opportunity of cleaning some of the recently found ancient artifacts. We sat outside behind the museum, with a bucket of water and some toothbrushes, and gently scrubbed dirt off of tiny pieces of pots, sculptures, urns .. who knows? They would eventually piece everything together, which after handling so many tiny bits of pottery just seems like a very daunting task. It must require a lot of patience! We could not believe they trusted us to handle this stuff. So chevere (cool).

Also, we got very attached to the family. The oldest daughter, Alina (14) is in beauty school and spent literally about 4 hours giving me and Ellicott manicures and pedicures, which was such an odd experience because we were sitting in plastic lawn chairs in a cement living room with about 200 flies watching us. But she is really talented!! The next oldest, Cindy (13) is studying to be a seamstress. She is in her first year, which means they practice by making doll-sized clothes. They were absolutely incredible. I genuinely wanted every single thing in grown-up size! However, we spent most of our time with the two youngest, Merly and Wendy. It was so hard to say goodbye to those sweet little girls, but I really hope to go back and visit (with Mom and Becca … get excited).

Dancing with my sisters

Merly, our guide for the weekend, went with us to the beach Los Frailes on Saturday morning. The beach is absolutely pristine. It is free to enter, but you have to sign papers saying you won’t litter. There are not hotels or restaurants and porta-potties. Just beach, rocks, and forest. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, but it made me so sad because nothing like this would have a chance back home. To put it in perspective, my favourite beach in the US is Watch Hill, which I loved for the cheesy fries I could buy there. I am embarrassed of that. Also, I miss cheesy fries … But I digress. This beach is sick. I am forcing Mom and Becca to go there too, if they do want to go to the coast.

On Sunday, we headed to Puerto Lopez to catch a bus to the hotel in Las Tunes, where we met our directors. We spent about a day and a half there eating delicious food, hanging out at the beach, and trying to catch up on all the work we had to do (oh yeah, the reason we were in villages was to conduct a village study, basically practice for our upcoming Independent Study Projects, so we had these work journals to keep up on, with observations, interviews, etc. We were all really behind.) The beach in Las Tunes was also just so beautiful!! I was already sunburned but hey, you only live once, so I played there too.

Then we headed to Guayaquil.We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, where Ngan told them it was my birthday (it wasn’t yet) but I got a free drink and wore this sick sombrero! Holla!

My actual birthday was spent sightseeing. It was the first time that we were really tourists, which was fine but I like when we are students and have to analyze everything rather than just seeing cool stuff. We started our day at the Parque Historico, which shows three different types of forests here in Ecuador, and loads of the animals that live in them.

I am so afraid of these. See post from the Oriente.

Within the Parque Historico is this old colonial house. It was so pretty! It is almost all original which was really hard to believe. I don’t have pictures, but I got a birthday waltz in the ballroom, so yeah, I am super colonial.

Then we went to lunch, which was huge. Fish, flattened salty plantain things that I always forget the name of, some tomatoes and onions, ridiculous amount of rice, and lentils. I ate SO MUCH. Then we had cake which was so cute and my group is awesome. Aw.

I ate almost all of that. Sorry lentils, I couldn't finish you.

Then we went to another museum with more ancient artifacts. We got to go into their back room where they have hundreds more in storage, which was so cool! There was this old skull that had gold tooth, and I was like trend-setter, what up. I don’t have any pictures though so I’m not going to write more about that.

On our way to the airport, we stopped at a park that just has random iguanas living all over it. I wanted to hold one but I was scared. Also it is not allowed. But they were everywhere! Which was fun. And scary.

I am sure I am missing a million things, so I will just add pictures. I promise to eventually write about Quito! But not now cos this took forever. Bye my loves!!

Houses in Guayaquil

At Parque Historico, they took me to the back, cos it was my birthday, to see animals that were not on display, like this owl.

A whole lot of Pacha Mama


Hello world! Prepare for an update of the life of Megan, Amazon princess.

On Monday we arrived, after a very long bus ride, at our camp on Río Puyo. From our cabins we could see river and even the volcano Sangay, which had two small eruptions while we were there! This is apparently normal but it was still incredible to see a volcano in the distance with black smoke billowing out the top.

Wednesday morning began with a walk through rainforest to learn about different plants and their uses. It is incredible that the indigenous people can differentiate and locate any plant that they need! Also incredible how many are mainly used for stomach pain. Popular theme. We then were dropped off separately throughout the rainforest to soak in one hour of solitude. 

I am going to break here to explain the Kichwa phrase “Pacha Mama.” Basically, it means mother earth. So when I say this week was full of Pacha Mama moments, I mean that it was full of wonder and awe at the amazing things our planet has to offer. One hour alone in the rainforest will give you an appreciation for nature that cannot be compared with anything else. Feeling so small next to such huge trees, yet so big in comparison to the tree-cutter ants, and trying to feel in harmony with nature, yet sort of running away from things that look like they might sting … a very interesting experience to say the least.

After lunch, a group of us returned to the rainforest to go find a huge waterfall! Went swimming underneath. It was clearly very powerful, so the closer you got to it, the more it felt like hail stones. Regardless, we waded underneath for a while and if felt amazing to be part of something so much bigger than us.

A few of us standing near the waterfall

Pacha Mama moment. That is us on the right, getting ready to swim. Thanks to whoever I stole this photo from.

That night the son of a Shaman came to talk to us about shamanic practices in the Kichwa culture. In Kichwa, they use the word yachaks in place of shaman. It was interesting that anybody in a community who truly wants to dedicate his (or her!) life to the practice is able to – it is not carried down through families necessarily. You just have to express that you want to be a yachak and someone who is already a yachak will begin the process of preparing you to have powers transferred into you. It was very interesting to learn about!

The next day we went to a Kichwa village to learn about their practices. We watched a woman mash yuca with a big mallet and her hands. We learned about their fishing methods and got to see how they raise yuca, which tastes pretty potato-y. We also got to buy some artisan crafts, which I obviously partook in. I bought some jewelry and also some Sangre de Drago, which comes from the tree of that name. Basically, when you cut the tree, it bleeds. This “blood” is really useful in stopping wounds from bleeding, healing a sore throat, gastritis … you name it. Fortunately I have yet to use it, but it was a pretty cool purchase.

These men are crushing branches to place in the stream. They release a sedative that drugs the fish and makes them easier to catch in handmade traps.

That afternoon we took canoes down the river to the next camp. I canoed down the Río Puyo! A tributary of the Amazon! Very, very cool experience. Although I was obviously scared cos of my swimming abilities. But we were fine. We then settled in the next camp, where we found a rope swing, so we played a little lagoon for a while. So much Pacha Mama. Very fun experience.

Amazon princesses.

Rope swing!

That night we went for a walk in the forest to try to see a type of crocodile. A few of us ended up split off from the huge group and did not see a crocodile, but we did come across a tree frog sleeping on a big leaf. This was absolutely incredible. I have always had a fascination with tree frogs, and I could not believe we just happened upon one in its natural habitat. Truly incredible.

The next day, before leaving, we got to see some animals the village had in sort-of captivity. I held a boa constrictor! I was so scared at first, but my directora helped me ease into it and it was a really cool feeling.

Scared face!

We also saw a white collared peccary. I have a huge fear of these animals. They travel in herds of 40-50, eating everything they touch. This means that if you don’t climb up a tree, they will eat you alive. I was thinking about this during my lonely hour in the forest … that is so scary. But one on its own is fine.

It wants to eat you.

We went to an animal reserve on our way to Puyo and learned about the mistreatment of animals, particularly in that  a lot of people want monkeys for pets, and they end up helpless and abandoned. We also heard two talks, about extractive industries and about bilingual education (in this case meaning Kichwa communities teach Kichwa and Spanish). Supperrrr interesting but I am not going to get too much into that.

The next day, we headed back to Quito! We are all living with new host families in the city now, which is so much different. I wake up to sounds of car alarms and airplanes. I miss the crickets and frogs. But I can write about the city another time. Until then, chau mis cielos!

Señorita Brabec


Hello, world. And by world, I mean like the 3 people who might read this.

I am back at the Hotel Alston in Quito – yay for hot showers and internet! It was really hard to say goodbye to my host family, but if I’m able I think I will spend Easter weekend with them, so that would be very nice.

I wanted to write about how on Wednesday, I had the opportunity to teach a 2nd grade class with two other girls from my program at a rural school in a town nearby. We had been told that it was a class of 35, but really it was just 16 which made our preparations slightly off.

Anyway, we began by playing Simon Says, then talking about respect and how we show respect to our families, to animals, to the environment, and to our own bodies. We drew pictures of our families and read a book about farts, which I enjoyed, if nobody else. Later we worked on math, which consisted of counting gum that we brought for children – that was smart – and that had a mini competition that was way too hard for them. Oops, bad teaching. Later was recess and lunch time – yay for snacks – and then we mostly just played games outside. We ended up splitting into two groups, so I took a group to play Gato y Raton, which is something I am not going to describe cos it is not important, and also La Cinta, which I won’t describe either but I will tell you that it was really amazing that the kids got into it cos it is mostly a like dialogue guessing game with tug of war at the end. Maybe I’ll teach you someday. Probably not cos it is for children and if “you” are reading this, you are not a child.

In any event, things I learned from this experience:

1. Teaching in a different language is really hard. It is good practice for conjugating my commands though.

2. Kids in rural school in Ecuador don’t get an amazing education. The teachers seemed passionate, but the kids didn’t seem as far along as they could be, given what we were told they would know and then what they actually did know. Also, girls usually don’t make it to higher grades cos that isn’t viewed as crucial. Kids also miss school because they need to stay home and help out with farm work or what have you.

3. Apparently, in rural areas, the typical form of punishment is physical. One boy in my class was crying because an older kid took his glove and cut the fingers off. He was crying cos his dad would hit him when he found out. Also, during our portion of the class about respect, we asked the kids what they usually do when there is a problem in the household, and the entire class chanted together, “Dad hits us!” This was very difficult to hear without making judgements. I talked to my spanish professor about this, who is from the coast, and she said it is prevalent but usually only in less wealthy (or, she added less educated) areas. I found this very interesting.

Basically, it was a very interesting and stressful day. Tomorrow I leave for the Amazon rainforest – what up. I will try to write about it WITH PICTURES on Friday. Chau mis amores. 

Intag Cloud Forest


Holy cow, friends, I am so sorry it has taken me so long to update this thing! As you now know, I do not have internet at my house, making this difficult, and I have had so much homework!! However, I have a quick minute, so I will just write about the biggest thing since I last wrote, which was my trip to Intag!

We left Los Chillos on a private bus (that sounds luxurious. false. I just mean not public transportation) at 8 AM on the 18th. We drove for I think four hours, then got out and loaded our backpacks into a car, which were later transferred to the backs of some poor horses. We then began to walk about 45 minutes to the place we were staying. I will add pictures soon, I promise, but basically we stayed at what I suppose could be a hotel. We took up three cabins and had deliciously prepared food three times a day in an outdoor covered dining area. Anyway, I basically wish I could live in that cabin. Yummy food, so many avocados, nobody expects me to shower, and the view is seriously the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.

The first afternoon, after lunch, a group of us went for a hike to find waterfalls. We went out for about an hour and half, and it was seriously amazing. There is so much biodiversity that everywhere you look, you see a different tree, flower, bird, or what have you. Did you know that there are over 4,000 species of orchids in Ecuador? I can’t even imagine.

Anyway, the next day, after breakfast, we headed out for a guided hike. This hike was about three and a half hours, and it was just incredible. Roberto, our guide, stopped to show us different plants throughout the walk and explained what they were used for, medicinally. There is one tree, called Sangre de Drago, or Dragon’s Blood, that literally bleeds when you cut it. The red liquid is used in Ecuador to soothe a cough or sore throat, and it also has amazing healing properties – by applying it to your own cut, the bleeding stops!

We hiked out to a huge, gorgeous waterfall. It was one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. We then climbed up the side of the waterfall to continue our hike, which was one of the most liberating things I have ever done. It was fairly tough, considering we were all in rain boots because the mud is so excessive out there, and the rocks were obviously wet, but we did it and it made me have proud-of-myself feelings. Later we had a lecture on the history of Ecuador by this lady who is from the States, but has lived in Intag for approximately a million years. It was very interesting, although we were exhausted from the hike so it might have been hard to pay attention – don’t tell!

That night we set up a white cloth by a lightbulb outside – the only time we used electricity – and looked at all the different types of moths that were attracted. That was seriously cool – I could not believe how many different types there are!

The next day, we had a drawing class. No, I cannot suddenly draw. My dogs are still stick figures. But it was very cool, because it forced us to observe in a way I certainly never have before. It makes me inspired to keep trying, but we will see. Basically, actually, the whole trip just made me appreciate nature in a way I never have. Two locals came to speak to us about the fight they led against foreign mining attempts in Intag, which was so inspirational. I just can’t imagine anybody wanting to tear apart this beautiful land. I am thinking about doing my research project on the affects of mining on communities.

Anyway, later that day women from a local coop came to show us the products they make using the agave plant. They grow the plant, which looks like aloe but seriously huge, and then the cut the leafish part and shred it down into fiber, which they then dye and spin into a course yarnish material. Then they hand-knit or -crochet the fiber into bags, rugs, what have you. Obviously I became poorer when they left. But it was so interesting how this group of women runs this entire operation from start to finish. They then also get an income, which gives them control of some money. Super fascinating operation.

So basic summary: best weekend of my life, I fam pretty sure. I really want Mom to come visit (pressure her!) because I need to share this place with somebody! It is the single most amazing thing I have ever seen. There are so many things I am leaving out simply cos my mind is overwhelmed and also cos I think I might be late for tea and bread. But check out facebook, I have pictures of Intag there, and google Intag Cloud Forest Reserve – maybe there are some more photos. I hope to update again soon! ¡Chau!

Dia de Amor y Amistad


Happy valentine´s day, world!

In Ecuador it is the day of love and friendship, which I think is nice because then if you are single you don´t have to watch Psycho alone in your room tonight. (I swear that only happened one time.) But it is also not as in-your-face as it is in America, thanks to Hallmark, so really it is just a regular day. But shoutout – happy anniversary Mom and Dad! I am going to try to skype in 10 minutes, awesome.

So this weekend was pretty awesome. I wish I had internet at my house so I could upload pictures, but instead I will use my amazing describing skills.

On Friday a small group of us went to a mall to try to find clothes to wear going out. It was sort of unsuccessful because since the dollarization of the Ecuadorian economy, there is a lot more fancy brands here, making mall shopping just as expensive as in the US. However, the trip involved ice cream, as usual, so I was happy.

Saturday my family went to a province called Santo Domingo, which technically is still in the Sierra, where I am now, but it is much more coastal as far as temperature and jungle-like plants. We went to an outdoor museum run by an indigenous community, where I bought these red earrings that supposedly keep away bad spirits. This week has been good so they must be working! The indigenous group is known for its ability to heal people of ailments so it was a really interesting and informative experience. Photos to follow, someday.

That night almost all of us went out dancing, cos I am legal here, what up. It was such a fun night! They played a few American songs, like Party Rock, but mostly a lot of reggae, electronica, and some salsa towards the end. We all had such a fun time! Sunday was a little chochaqui so I have nothing to share about that.

Classes are going well. It is so much intense spanish, but I definitely am improving really rapidly, so that is very good! We leave this weekend for a few days in the Cloud Forest, so I will update you all on how that goes! Should be an amazing time. I miss you all and I hope everybody is well!