I decided in advance of my trip to Ecuador that I would keep notes of what we did each day so that I would be able to look back and remember. As I wrote this reflection, I realized that I did not need to because I will never forget my adventures in Ecuador, with a group of people whom I had only met two other times, but now consider to be my friends. I would highly recommend a trip like this to any of my fellow engineering students.
After we arrived in Ecuador, we went straight to the hotel and went to bed because it was so late. When we first arrived at our lodgings, I did not notice how beautiful the hotel was, but when I woke up, I exited my room and was in awe of the many beautiful colors I saw.
That day we went to the Equator and had a tour around the museum that was located there. We were able to see a lot of the culture that exists in that area. The most interesting thing we did during the tour was to see the effects of the equator line. One of the effects was the resistance put up by our own muscles. We stood just outside the line of the equator and held our arms up in the air, and the tour guide attempted to push our arms down but was unable to do so. However, when we stood on the equator line, the tour guide was able to push our arms down instantly with just one of his fingers. Even though I am not entirely sure of all the physics behind this effect, it was definitely one of the most fun things to try.
After we visited the Equator, we went to the Basilica del Voto Nacional, or The Basilica of the National Vow, which is a Roman Catholic Church that is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. We also had a tour there. We were even able to climb a ladder that was quite scary because it basically went straight up, but it was so worth the climb to be able to see the view from the top of the tower. The church also contained stunning stained-glass art. We ended that day with dinner on a restaurant patio that overlooked the city.
The next day we traveled to the San Clemente, which was the community in which we would be doing our service project. The first day in the community, we went on a hike through the forest and observed all the natural medicinal plants.
The community member in whose house we were staying was named Edison. Even though Edison did not speak very much English, we were able to find ways to communicate with him when we were doing the service project. I also found that even though I had only taken two semesters of Spanish in high school, I could pick up on a lot of the conversations between our amazing Ecuadorian guide David and Edison.
The second day at the community was when we began our service project. The first thing we did was move soil away from the location where they wanted to build a stove. The second thing we did that day was tear down an old bench and build a new one. We were even able to paint an orange “T” on the bench and put all our initials around it. Even though we were out of the country, our first thought of what to paint on the bench was a power T, because no matter where we go, we are Tennessee Volunteers!
The third day at the community we went down to the school and cut squares of sod to move to a hill so they could have somewhere to sit to watch the soccer field. On this day, each of us also had the opportunity to plant a tree. One of the pictures I’ve included contains a picture of the tree I planted, and the view that the tree now has.
The next day was our last in San Clemente, which was quite a bittersweet moment because although I was excited about what we were going to do that day, I knew I would definitely miss Edison and the other people we met. Later that day we went to the Otavalo Market, where I bought probably too many souvenirs, but I love every one of them. Seeing each vendor’s face light up whenever I bought something made it worth it.
The next day we rode the Telefèrico, a sky lift, to an altitude of over 13,000’. We were able to try out a swing that overlooked a cliff. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy so we could not see very much, but it was still an amazing experience. The last day we were able to go to another smaller market in town before we took a very late flight home.
This trip was an amazing experience I will never forget. Being able to see the culture and taste so many new foods were probably my two favorite parts of the trip. Also, being able to help the community of San Clemente was such a fun and humbling experience. This trip has definitely made me want to explore even more places whenever I graduate, and I can’t wait to be able to go on another trip somewhere new.