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Phillip Chu: Student Report from 2019 Alternative Spring Break to Ecuador

Phillip Chu Stands at an Overlook in Quito

I think it’s interesting to note that I did not originally plan on going to Ecuador. Since the original trip planned for this past spring break was set to be Panama, I did not consider how my week would be different when the change to Ecuador was announced. I will not lie, both countries, Panama and Ecuador, I knew very little about, other than the fact that one of them had a canal named after it,

Upon arriving in Ecuador, one of the first things I noticed was a sense of general hospitality emanating from the people there. This might have been because we appeared to them as nothing more than gullible and manipulatable American tourists, but I’d like to think that there’s just a different culture in Ecuador about strangers and how one shows a general kindness to people.

Another aspect of Ecuador that stood out was the landscape of the city itself. The capital city, Quito, sits at 9,350 feet above sea level and lies within a valley. The city itself, according to our guide, stretches for about 13 miles. Even from one of the highest points in the city, the roof of the Basilica del Voto Nacional, I couldn’t see the end of the city in both directions. During one of the first days of the trip, we had the opportunity to visit an observatory that overlooked the city. Getting to see the skyline of Quito with the mountains in the background at sunset was definitely one of the best views from the trip.

Mountains in Ecuador

After spending a few days in Quito, we went to a small town up in the mountains named Ibarra, where we stayed with a host family, the Guatemals. Our time spent there was my favorite portion of the trip. Upon arriving, the Guatemals were incredibly gracious and hospitable to us. Despite a fairly wide language gap, which was graciously bridged by our guide, David, we spent the next three days living with this family, learning about their heritage, culture, and lifestyles. Again, I must bring up how kind this family was to welcome us into their home, and how I personally believe that the culture in Ecuador as a whole leaves people who live there more inclined to be this way. I am aware that they were, of course, receiving payment for housing and feeding us for those three days, but I like to think that it wasn’t all about the money for them.

Our actual projects were relatively small. The first full day at the host home, we helped shovel dirt and rocks out of the way to make room for a furnace that would eventually be built in a covered outdoor area. On the second day, we walked to a nearby school to plant grass and trees around the campus. On the last day, we helped build a simple bench out on the front lawn of the house. Overall, it was likely that they could have finished all of these tasks a lot faster if we were not helping, but I think the idea was for us to experience what normal life for them was like by doing these tasks

Phillip Chu Cooking in Ecuador

After saying goodbye to the Guatemals, we returned to Quito for several days and explored more of the city. One of my friends and I got to try roasted guinea pig, a delicacy of Ecuador. I was not a huge fan of it, but kudos to anyone who is willing to try it. All in all, the cuisine in Ecuador, from what I experienced, consisted of very simple but unique dishes. Various versions of potato dishes, soups, plantains, and the like were what made up a majority of our meals in Ecuador.

All in all, my experience in Ecuador was unique. Going to a country I knew very little about and coming back with a broadened perspective of it and the world will only improve me as a person. In a modern day society where we, as Americans, focus so much on the success and prominence of our society and our culture, it is important for these types of trips to show students what it is like outside of our cultural bubble.

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