Beaches, history, heat, farewell, and new beginnings

As you may have noticed if you have been following along with this blog or if you have had the opportunity to experience SST firsthand yourself, you know that it is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting, fulfilling and draining, beautiful and challenging, daily sunrise and sunset on a rollercoaster of emotion.  As I gathered the photos together for this week it became clear to me why I as a leader am feeling too drained to give you the full recap of our week.  As SST’ers will tell you, words cannot capture what one experiences in person here in Ecuador.

Instead of a narrative summary, here is a rapid-fire word barrage of our week:

Loading the bus, winding down and down out of the Andes, from the fresh mountain air into the equatorial low altitude heat, through banana and cacao fields into the setting sun, ending at the Pacific Ocean – walking through the sweltering humidity, the scent of the fish market heavy in the air, on to a museum of indigenous coastal history – back into the bus down the Pacific Coast, stopping in a coastal forest to see local artisans and wild howler monkeys in the trees, arriving again to the setting sun on the horizon of the Pacific – load the bus to head into Machalilla National Park and the beautiful Los Frailes beach, discovering sea creatures, soothed by the sound of the waves  – back on the bus to head up the coast to Ciudad Alfaro, monuments to justice, witness to constitutional change – back on the bus to head up the coast, past stick houses on stilts and mototaxis, modern day cowboys across inland bays and unusual landscapes until the sun set again into the pacific horizon at Canoa – early morning walk on the beach, back on the bus to head inland and the slow climb back into the Andes – stop at the indigenous community of the Tsachilas for a  meal and introduction to some traditional practices – back on the bus to climb through high mountain passes into Quito and the final day of the study portion of SST – Despdida (Farewell) program for Quito host families, words of gratitude, tears and hugs – loading buses all across Quito to head out to provincial towns to begin the service portion of SST – loving welcome by new families across Ecuador and a new beginning – stunning mountain views across the country as the sun sets on this exhilarating and exhausting week.