Hola! Estoy en Ecuador! Apologies for my lack of blog posts lately, it has been a busy couple of weeks/months! December ended with our homestays in Don Jiang. Those three weeks were probably my favorite of the trip so far. We were spending tons of time outside working with our host families, eating fresh fruits and veggies everyday, and there was always a beautiful sunrise or sunset to watch form the farms. The last night in the village we had a community potluck and sang karaoke with all our families. Every day I spent there I felt such a strong sense of community. Even though not everyone was related, they all treated each other (and us) as if it was one big family. Even though we barely spoke Thai, I feel that the connections I made there are probably the strongest of the whole trip. It made me realize that you don’t need words to show love.
We spent Christmas in the city of Chiang Mai, ice skating and visiting a temple. TBB surprised us Christmas morning with letters from loved ones- so a big thank you to all of you who wrote one, it made my day! Our last week in Thailand was spent in a super tiny village near the border with Myanmar. Some of the highlights from there were hiking up a mountain and learning how to make organic coffee. Then, way too soon, we left Thailand and hopped over to Cambodia!
Cambodia was super interesting and I wish we had been able to spend more time there. In Phom Phehn we went to the killing fields, a museum/memorial all about the Cambodian genocide. It was a very heavy day, but important and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to learn about it. We also visited Cambodian Living Arts, which is an organization started by a genocide survivor named Arn. His mission is to help get young people off the streets and give them opportunities to practice art. His dream is for Cambodia to be known for its rich culture instead of just its tragic history. We were very lucky to meet him and his students taught us some Cambodian dance! Our next stop was Siem Reap. We visited Ankor Wat at sunrise and many other temples throughout the week. I also ate a tarantula and got hit by a tuk tuk, so all in all it was an eventful stay.
Our travel time from Cambodia to Ecuador was a whopping 50 hours! We spent a week in Quito taking Spanish classes and exploring. We also got to visit the US embassy in Quito, which was super cool! We went on inauguration day, and we watched them change the portraits on the walls from President Obama to Trump, so that was depressing. But we got to talk to someone who worked at the embassy and one of his areas of expertise was environmental preservation. This was super interesting because we got to ask about how the US oil interests in Ecuador affect Ecuador’s environment, and how our relationship with Ecuador might change under Tillerson. We didn’t get very optimistic answers.
Despues de Quito, fuimos a una ciudad se llama Chone! Chone is on the coast, so we spent lots of time at the beach with our host families. Chone is a very energetic city, and we were constantly busy, whether at worksite, seminar, or hanging out with our families. In the mornings, I shadowed an english teacher and helped teach english to second, seventh, and ninth graders. It was pretty tiring, but my teacher was super nice and I got to spend a lot of time getting to know the kids. Our seminars have been focused on education, so we have been talking about questions like: who should decide what is taught? Should students and teachers be equal? Does education oppress or liberate? I had the opportunity to co-teach seminar 4 and 5, so I helped design the activities and facilitate group discussion, which ended up being a really cool learning/leadership opportunity. After seminars, Tessa, Monchi (host bro) and I would get our daily ice cream and head home to spend the evening with our family. My Chone host family was one of the kindest groups of people I have ever met and they made it super easy to engage and spend time with them. On the last night, there was a big dance party with all the families, and then the next morning we headed off for independent student travel.
I spent IST in a jungle/mountain town tubing, water falling, and visiting a butterfly sanctuary, and watching West Wing!! It was a much needed 3 -day vacation.
Currently, I am at my last homestay! Say whatttttt?? We are in a small mountain town called Toacaso. It is very cold here, and you can see an active snow-capped volcano from my bedroom window! Here we will continue to shadow English teachers and wrap up the education seminars. After this, we have a week in Peru and then we will be back in the States! I’m feeling both excited and bummed about that. On one hand I’m sad to see this crazy adventure come to a close, but I’m stoked to get more politically involved in the States. It will be great to see everyone from home, and I can’t wait to go snowboarding! I know this won’t be my last trip abroad. (May or may not have been researching plane tickets from PDX to Thailand yesterday…oops).
Thanks again to everyone who made this trip possible for me. I am learning so much both emotionally and academically, not to mention having the time of my life. I am forever grateful to all of you!
That’s all for now folks! See ya’ll soooooooooon!!!