A Travellerspoint blog

In preparation for the Galapagos Islands.

We are Galapagoing!
We are departing for the Galapagos Islands tomorrow early afternoon from Cuenca. We are taking a bus to Guayaquil, the largest city of Ecuador located on the western coast. We will arrive in Guayaquil tomorrow around 6:00 PM, spend the night in Guayaquil and rise early Sunday morning for our flight from Guayaquil to the Galapagos. We will spend the remainder of the week there until Friday the 9th at which point we will return to Guayaquil and spend the weekend there, returning to Cuenca on Sunday.
I could not be more ecstatic for this experience.
Because communication mediums at this point are unknown, I am uncertain as to whether or not I will be able to correspond via internet while away. In the event that I am not, I will do my best to promptly share my experience in full detail upon my return to Cuenca.
Our travels will include boat travel, hiking, volcano exploration, scuba diving, horse back riding, and seeing incredibly wildlife...AGH! I can barely stand the excitement!

Posted by A Burrows 08:48 Comments (1)

Giron

This past weekend was pleasantly eventful due to self-initiative and curiosity. Friday, as a group we had dinner together at a location called, Wunder Bar with a really subdued and youthful atmosphere...it was really nice. We then spent the remainder of the evening at a discoteque. Lit, one of the two larger discoteques in Cuenca, was congested with people by midnight. Although it was enjoyable to dance and spend time with my friends in a more clubish atmosphere, I found that I was not all that impressed with it...it was unreasonably expensive and I would have preferred spending time socializing in a location in which yelling to cvonverse was not necessary. The following day, my friend Kelsey and I looking for something new and alternative to sleeping in and relaxing on Saturday went to Mall del Rio. This mall was constructed in 2002-I believe)...it is absolutely massive and I momentarily forgot I was in Cuenca as a result of its completely Westernized architecture and store selections. It was really enjoyable...refreshing to spend time in a- part of Cuenca with which I was unfamiliar and even more refreshing to see and experience a different side of Cuencan social dynamics. From this mall Kelsey and I went to Millenium Plaza, another shopping center that also included a movie theater. We saw, unfortunately, the movie, Lady in the Water. Although a less than satisfying cinematic experience, it was still so much fun to do something I have not been able to do since my departure from the States. Kelsey and I then met up with our friends Margarida and Katie for dinner at a cheap Mexican restaurant in downtown Cuenca. I realized then how much I enjoy spending time with my peers in a smaller group setting, I grew so much more acquainted with all three of them and the more intimate setting afforded us the opportunity to have more frank discussions about our experiences and feelings about our travels.
On Sunday we, as a large group met at CEDEI to prepare for our day trip to Giron. Giron is located about 60 miles southwest of Cuenca. This region holds a lot of historical significance to Ecuador as it is the location of the 1829 Battle of Tarqui which gained Ecuador its independence from Peru. Ecuador, at that particular time was referred to as Gran Colombia and it was in Giron where the Gran Colombians and Peruvians signed a peace treaty at the Casa de los Tratados which now act as the city´s historical museum commemorating this battle. We visited this museum and then travelled just outside of the town to the chorros or waterfalls of Giron. The remainder of our afternoon was spent hiking...hardcore hiking. The hike to the waterfalls was about 4-5 miles and the first mile or so was spent acclamating oneself to the intensity of the terrain, very rocky and all uphill. We stopped and had lunch and then continued on. Upon FINALLY reaching the waterfalls we were are so proud, relieved, exhausted, but exhilerated! The waterfalls were absolutely stunning...I cannot wait to share photos. The hike back down was arguably as intense as the hike up, certainly harder on one´s body...making sure you sustained your balance and footing. My thighs hurt quite a bit Monday.
This week is a stressful one. This week marks the final week of the first session. I have a final exam on Friday for Spanish, for which I am most concerned and also a presentation on Thursday for my service learning class. I have not eaten as consistently with my family because of my busy schedule this week. In addition, to my studies, my decision to get a haircut last night also preoccupied my time. I have not had my hair cut since the latter part of December, so my friend Kelsey and I thought, why not, we were both in need of one, so we went to a peluqueria, a salon, near CEDEI. After much persuasion from Kelsey I decided to color my hair, she chose to have blond highlights and I chose brown highlights. Considering how inexpensive salon services here are, again we thought, why not...what a mistake...
The two women working on our hair accidentally switched the colors around leaving me with bright blond highlights and Kelsey with dark brown. Upon making this discovery, I politely demanded that they rectify their error. They agreed, promising us that they would not charge us more for their labor. It is a common occurence to find Cuencanos who assume that American women are unintelligent and easily maipulated, this was certainly the case in this circumstance. After four hours in the salon I left with still ugly hair but at least less so than that its condition two hours earlier. My current hair color...well it´s kind of a kaleidoscope of colors...black on the bottom, a darker brown on top and still reminscence of the blond underneath the dark brown...so unattractive...
Nonetheless, this was indeed an experience...and unethically they ended up charging me more for their error, I was less than pleased and visably perturbed when I left.
On a completely positive note this weekend we depart for the Galapagos. We will be there for 6 days and return to Cuenca next Sunday after spending the weekend in the coastal city of Guayquil. I am so thrilled for this once in a lifetime experience. I am ecstatic and cannot wait to further share...

Posted by A Burrows 07:45 Comments (0)

Information for my 3rd Grade Friends!

Greetings Mr. Burrows´ 3rd Grade Class and other blog viewers!

In each blog entry I try to always include information pertinent to not only my travels but the city, country, and continent in which I am travelling, studying, and living. Enclosed is this blog is a more concentrated presentation of facts about Cuenca and Ecuador. I always welcome and encourage questions and comments. Thanks so much for your continued interest, the world belongs to you, explore it and you will love it even more!

FACTS:
- Cuenca is located at 8,400 feet above sea level
-As a result of this high altitude and its proximity to the equator the sun is more intense
-Most crimes in Ecuador are of a non-violent nature. In fact, most crime is related to theft and drug abuse.
-Cuenca, as a city is especially conversative, Cuencanos dress conservatively, use conservative language, and are very connected to their Catholic faith
-In Latin America lunch is the most important and largest meal of the day
-Breakfast usually consists of tea or coffee, bread and fruit
-Lunch begins with creamy soup, followed by a dish of meat, vegetables, and white rice
-dinner is much lighter and usually rice with vegetables are served
-Because the sewage system in Ecuador and most parts of Latin America cannot handle toilet paper therefore toilet paper has to be placed in a waste paper basket near the toilet after use
-walking barefoot outside of one's bedroom is perceived as unacceptable, additionally it is rare to find people walking in open-toed shoes
-Ecuador is just smaller than Nevada, it is located on and named after the Equator
-Ecuador's population is 13.4 million and growing 2% annually
-Spanish is the official language of Ecudor however, Quichua is spoken by indigenous groups of Ecuador, it is not considered an official however
-80% of Ecuadorians are Catholic, the remaining percentage are religiously unaffiliated or are members of other forms of Christianity or Jevoah's Witness and Mormons
-A common trait among all Ecuadorians is the value of the place on familial relationships and responsibilties
-Greeting are usually kiss exchanges on the cheek, between men hand shakes or embraces are more common
-1/3 of Ecuadorian population is employed in agriculture, producing fruit, coffee, sugarcane, corn, potatoes, and rice
-Ecuador is the largest banana exporter
-Education: beginning at the age of 6, children attend 6 years of mandatory education
-The school day lasts from 7:00 AM to 12:30 PM
-Students wear uniforms regardless of what school they attend
-There are 21 universities in Ecuador, the largest being in Quito, Cuenca however, is known as a city of scholars because there are four large unviersities and several small secondary institutions

I hope you enjoyed this brief entry and I hope you were able to learn a bit more about this very special country!

Posted by A Burrows 07:24 Comments (0)

Carnaval and all that was!

Hot springs, parade, bungee jumping, jungle tour

I have so much to share regarding my expereince in Ambatos and Banos this past weekend in celebration of Carnaval. I will account my experiences in chronological order I anticipate that will be helpful in conveying my thoughts more vividly.
We took a bus from Cuenca to Ambatos, Ecuador Friday evening, literally speaking early Saturday morning. The bus ride was a long 6 hours. We arrived in Ambatos at 6:30 AM Saturday morning after a sleepless night in a terribly crowded bus. We immediately checked into our hotel located near the bus terminal and slept until noon, although that amount did not fully suffice it was at least able to re-energize for Saturday's activities. We then made the decision to head to Banos, a community an hour south of Ambatos which is one of Ecuador's primary tourist destination during Carnaval. Banos is the site of natural hot springs, plenty of touristic activities, in which we partook. I, along with 3 other girls went to a set of natural hot springs that more closely resembled a public swimming pool, of course the exception being the natural hot springs. It was really enjoyable, crowed, but fun to witness so many people concentrated to one destination to celebrate Carnaval. We left to meet up with our remaining group members who had been in downtown Baños shopping. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in various bars, watching the parade, and scheduling the various activities in which we would be partaking the next three days. We returned to Ambatos and retreated to bed early. We rose the next morning to prepare for what would be a very busy and exciting day! The Sunday of Carnaval in Ambatos is very special, as Ambatos is host to the largest Carnaval parade in the country...and what a parade it was! Native dancers, marching bands, stilt walkers, and impressive floats all constructed from raw food filled the streets, as did over 80,000 spectators. Following the parade my friends, Kelsey, Megan, Katie, and I all loaded a bus to Baños where in a few hours we were scheduled to bungee jump! For 15.00 per person we reserved an opporunity to bungee jump off a bridge located about 10 minutes outside of Baños. The jump site was gorgeous...like a scene out of Jurassic Park...so green, forested, and mountainous. We took a cab to the site to find close to twenty other individuals waiting for either their own turn or there to spectate. My friends were reluctant and not desiring to go first. I glady obliged! Despite my excitement and enthusiasm, I did experience a bit of anxiety when asked to climb over the ledge of the bridge onto a seperate ledge connected to the side of the bridge. I was much too short for this and had to be hoisted over the ledge by the "bungee jump expert", he then had to strap me in while standing over a rocky river, with plenty of rapids to catch my potentical fall...hahaha. I was supported atthe waist by my gear not at my feet which is the more common method of bungee jumping. He told he was going to count to three and release his grip...uno, dos, tres...I jump! My hands are trembling as I type this...recalling this experience. It was so exhilerating!...After initial fall, I opened my eyes and was able to more fully appreciate how fun, adventurous, and totally mind-blowing it really was!!! I watched as the remainderof my group member followed and took photos of their jumps...agh, it was so neat...
We returned to Baños mid-afternoon to grab dinner and headedback to Ambatos for a quiet, less exciting evening. The following morning we rose a 6:00 AM to catch a 6:30 bus back to Baños for our rainforest tour which was to take place near the town of Puyo, almost three hours southeast of Baños. Despite the long trip, our experience on Monday was absolutely my favorite part of my Carnaval experience...the Amazon Rainforest!!!...our tour began with a two hour hike, then a stop at a waterfall for a swim, another hike that led us to our lunch site, then an hour canoe ride....so amazing! Ecuador continues to overwhelm me and surprise me with its natural beauty. I have never seen such beauty...the land is just incredible!
On the tour, we were introduced to plants used for medicinal purposes, I ate lemon ants whose extract is used by natives in juices and for seasoning purposes, I saw the most beautiful butterflies I had ever seen before, our faces were panited using a flowering plants also used by indigenous tribes as "war paint"...Gosh, the list can extend much farther!
Our day ended in the jungle, we returned to Baños wet, exhausted, sweaty, but so enlightened and so excited to share our experience with our families in Cuenca! We returned to Cuenca Tuesday afternoon. Classes re-commenced yesterday and finals take place next week.

Posted by A Burrows 12:07 Comments (4)

Orphanage accounts

Not a lot has occured since my previous blog entry. I received my Spanish test back to find that I did not performed as poorly as anticipated however, am still not terribly satisified, however I am still learning...ever so slowly.
This week at the orphanage has been so enjoyable! On Tuesday the girls had Valentine visitors from an all boys school located near the orphanage. Each boy presented a Valentine gift for each girl...it was quite darling. As names were called, each girl approached the front of the crowd of students to bashfully embrace their Valetine. It was so adorable...but also interesting. Because the girls and boys otherwise engaged in no further interaction with one another. Music was played and it was not until myself along with the other student volunteer from CEDEI, Arthur, got up and startd dancing that they were comfortable doing the same.
On Thursday when I arrived all fifty girls were busily washing clothes by hand. All were lined up sitting next to their on pile of clothes, each given one bar of soap and a wooden board on which to wash their clothes. There were two hoses spouting cold water from which to rinse soapy clothes and all wet clothes were placed on clothes lines to dry. It was surprising to see 6 year old girls washing their on clothes, this was very laborious. To wash one shirt took me close to 30 minutes. It was incredile to witness this process being conducted so quickly, so efficiently, so whinelessly :)
It was an excellent learning experience and certainly one that enhanced my appreciation my relatively labor-free existence.
Tonight we depart for Baños Ambatos for Carnaval. We are taking a bus that departs at 12 midnight, we arrive tomorrow morning around 9:00 AM and stay until Tusday afternoon. I am so thrilled!

Posted by A Burrows 07:44 Comments (3)

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