If you’ve been checking the Ecuador blog for updates over the past two weeks you’ve been met with silence…. at least internet blog silence. The final two weeks of the study portion of Spring 2020 SST have been a blur of non-stop action. It began with an intense session of Latin dance, followed by a massive nine day trek around a significant portion of the country from the Andes mountains to the Pacific ocean and back to the Andes again.
When perusing SST blogs, it’s often tempting to make the judgement from afar that what students are experiencing is just an exciting three month vacation. Just as with other forms of digital communication, what you don’t see is all that is woven into this incredible experience of living in another country. You don’t see the trips to the bathroom as a result of ignoring warnings about street food. You don’t see the sheets bathed in sweat after a night in mosquito net covered beds on the equatorial coast. You don’t see the grumpy and tired faces after nine days on the road together. You don’t see the overwhelming nature of so much newness and difference. So is what students experience throughout SST incredible? Yes! Do they see and experience a vast scope of things that they may not experience again? Yes! Do they make memories that will last a lifetime? Yes! Is what they are experiencing a vacation? Ummmm, no!
While we trekked through the provinces of Santo Domingo, Esemeraldas, Manabi, Guayas, Azuay, Cañar, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, and back to Pichincha, we saw the incredible diversity that is Ecuador. From fields of banana trees and cocoa to coastal jungles; from fishing villages to miles and miles of dry sandy dunes; from large coastal cities to sleepy coastal towns; from dry forests back to lush green fields; from Ecuador’s largest city Guayquil at the mouth of the Guayas river back up into the Andes to a soaring mountain pass at 13,600 feet in Los Cajas National park; from the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca to the Incan ruins of Ingapirca and the artisan villages of Chordeleg and Gualaceo; back up through the Andes to an indigenous village in the highlands; with a final stretch home to Quito passing by the Cotopaxi volcano. In all it was more than a 1,000 mile circuit of diverse landscape, diverse living conditions, and cultural diversity.
Students returned to Quito both exhilarated and exhausted, in part by their own pace of activities, and in part by the sheer quantity of things that they saw and experienced. In their final days in Quito this past week, they spent time reflecting at a final Casa Goshen, finalizing Spanish classes, and hosting a heartfelt goodbye program for their Quito host families. They have now headed off to their service locations all over the country to embrace an entirely new rhythm of life and and an entirely new set of experiences.
Stay tuned for the ways in which students are stretched and molded into stronger, more empathetic, more globally minded versions of themselves as they live through the second half of their SST experience.