From the first minute at the airport in Quito, our group was off to a great start, and one could have thought that everyone had known each other for years. Since then, we’ve had six incredible days of sightseeing and immersing ourselves in the culture of Ecuador.
We kicked off our first day in Quito by visiting the Equatorial line. Here we learned about the history and geography surrounding the equator. Our tour guide brought us on a journey and demonstrated the powers that the equator holds. The trip members were wowed by the different directions the water drained in both hemispheres. After el Mitad del Mundo, or the equatorial line, our amazing guide Stefy took us on a walking tour of the Colonial Old Center of Quito. Jonah and Leni were particularly impressive in tackling the heights to see a stunning view of the city from the Basilica del Voto Nacional.
After getting to know all the city had to offer, we dove right into our community service at Quintiliano Sanchez school. The group had the opportunity to play games and practice speaking with the local schoolchildren, as we worked to brighten up the campus with fresh paint and murals.
Continuing with our service, we moved on to Pan de Vida, an organization focused on providing services to the needy around Quito. Noah took a particular liking to breaking concrete with a sledgehammer at Pan de Vida. The students put their all into these first two service projects, and shared powerful messages as to why they chose to spend their summer giving back.
In addition to direct community service, we’ve also had a tremendous opportunity to immerse ourselves in the indigenous cultures here in Ecuador. By spending time with indigenous artisans at Otavalo Market, and experiencing a musical demonstration of local Ecuadorian instruments, students had the opportunity to get to know a culture so different than their own.
During our first week in Quito we had the privilege of celebrating the birthdays of two of our amazing trip members. For Gabby the girls hosted a spa night which included painting their nails and facial masks. Jake and Holden took an interest in the nail polish and rocked some stylish nails the following day in Quito.
Next we had Gillian’s birthday, and the girls decorated our tour bus with streamers and balloons in the morning to surprise her. The bus took us to Mindo where we Zip-lined in the morning and did a river tubing activity in the afternoon. Following this we took a swim in a nice hotel pool and Jacuzzi in the Mindo cloud forest. The trip in Mindo wouldn’t be complete without a stop for hot cocoa at the famous Yumbo’s cocoa shop. This warmed us up before our bus ride back to Quito.
Below, three of our trip members share their own thoughts on their first amazing week in Quito:
“The best part has been meeting the people and the leaders. We could be anywhere in the world and this group would still have a great time.” – Leni S.
“My favorite moment so far was when Jeff at Pan de Vida encouraged me to keep going with the construction work, because he didn’t think I was a girl to give up. I proved him right and worked for the next hour and a half” – Halle S.
“The activities were a fun experience but the impact on the community will last a lifetime” – Holden F.
Next stop, the Cotopaxi volcano! Adios!
The Westcoast Blogger