After nearly four weeks in the Andean highlands of Ecuador, we headed west to explore the largest western Ecuadorian province of Manabi. Although the country of Ecuador is approximately the size of the U.S. state of Colorado, its geography makes any road trip an interesting and winding route. As we wound down out of the Andes, students were in awe of the deep gorges and rapidly changing terrain that varied from highland desert to highland jungles, lowland banana fields to “bosque seco” (dry forest). At the end of our first day of travel we arrived at the fishing village of Puerto Lopez where students had their first opportunity to dip their feet in the Pacific Ocean. Along the way we encountered a stream of images that provided us with a blend of Ecological beauty and Economic disparity.
In the days to follow we made our way up the Pacific coast visiting secluded and heavily populated beaches, outdoor fish markets and coffee plantations. Along our route we experienced the unique ways in which Ecuadorians earn a living; including impromptu speed bumps in small towns which create the opportunity for street vendors to offer their wares to passing travelers. As we arrived at our northernmost coastal destination, we once again entered the wet jungle environment, bordered by mangrove swamps. We had the unique experience of traveling the final 1.5 kilometers down the beach to our lodging in moto-taxis, crossing shallow estuaries and skimming along the advancing ocean tide.
For those who were up at dawn on the following day, we were graced with the Biblical image of fishermen coming out of the sea to pull in their nets by hand, hoping for a catch large enough to sustain them to their next trip out into the ocean waves. These images along with many others forced us to wrestle with the question, “What is the Good Life”? How do work, relationships, and our spiritual/psychological worlds interact in our quest to find a balance of peace and joy in this life? It is a question we will continue to ponder in this complex and beautiful land of Ecuador as we move toward the end of our time of study and into our time of service on our SST journey together.