Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 11: Departing Yachana and Back to Quito

January 14, 2011

By:  Stephanie Box

Today we said goodbye to Yachana--to all the people who changed our lives over the past ten days. Following our usual symphony of wake-up alarms, we ate an early breakfast, a choice between fried eggs and oatmeal with raisins, at 6:30 to be ready for our 8:00 departure. Hugh, and a few staff members, saw us off at the dock as we started our journey back to Quito. A canoe carried us and our luggage, and a few villagers, upstream about twenty minutes to a small community where we met our van.

Leaving Casa Quest.

Leaving our work gloves behind.

Loading up the canoe for our final ride.

Working our way to the port for our trip back to Quito.

Robert and the Yachana staff.

Michael found a friend on our canoe ride.

Adam hauling the luggage up the hill from the river to our van.

A store at the port where we waited for our van.  The group stocked up on snacks for the long ride.

Unfortunately, the van was considerably smaller than the now-luxurious bus we had arrived on. However, Robert, our guide Jose Louis, and our driver managed to fit our bags in with a little ingenuity and rope, and we were off. After two hours of travel and a tire change, we stopped in the city of Tena to eat lunch--packed sandwiches prepared for us by Yachana--and to stretch and walk around. Another long (five more hours) and cramped, but uneventful, ride later, we arrived in Quito. The change from the rainforest was jarring. Not only is Quito’s altitude much, much higher, but after our stay at Yachana, the sights of bustling city life--cars, buildings, people, concrete--felt unfamiliar and slightly overwhelming.

Stacy, Lillian, Aashish and Celine enjoying lunch on our trip back to Quito.

We had arrived in Quito around 5 pm and had a very short time to check in to Casa Sol hotel and quickly freshened up before leaving for the Teleferico cable car high in the mountains above the city to see the sunset. The ride lasted about twenty minutes and carried us over one kilometer above Quito. From that vantage point, we had a breathtaking view of the city, sprawling twenty-five miles long in a valley tucked between the mountains. In the distance, we could see multiple volcanoes, including Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in Ecuador. From that altitude, we stood above planes landing at the airport in the center of the city, as well as the cloud forest, a thick blanket of clouds creeping thickly along the mountains. As the sun set behind the clouds, the sky was illuminated with beautiful splashes of orange, red, and yellow. 

Rithu, Regina, Damaris, Caitlin and Stephanie getting ready for their cable car ride up into the mountains.

The view was beautiful.

Adam, Nick, Michael, Zach and Aashish

The entire group.

The clouds were beautiful.

Quito in the distance.

Quito at dusk.

After the return trip down the mountain, we travelled to Cafe Mosaico for dinner. As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted happily by a dog that quickly became the center of our attention and spent the rest of the evening lying beneath our table. The restaurant was decorated colorfully and cozily, with a terrace that overlooked the center of Quito, including the old city center. The delicious Greek and Ecuadorian food satiated our seemingly insatiable appetites, and we returned to Casa Sol completely stuffed and ready to sleep. While the day began somewhat sadly with our departure from Yachana, it ended happily back in Quito, ready for the new adventures of the next day.

Outside Cafe Mosaico.

The view at dinner of the old city of Quito.

Day 10: Our Final Day at Yachana

January 13, 2011

By: Rithu Raman

Once our stomachs were full from breakfast (we had a choice of fried eggs or granola with milk), we were ready to begin the morning’s activities. Today we helped the Yachana high school students with their minga, or community-building activity where the students help with the upkeep of the school. Once we completed our routine walk to the school, we were split up into two groups. One group of us carried gravel from the Napo River bank to the high school, while the other group leveled out the school’s yard with dirt. It was the perfect opportunity to mingle with the students, while simultaneously helping out the school. One thing that was definitely  a common factor was music - a group of students and volunteers sang together as we worked away.

Regina and a student carrying bags of gravel from the river to the school.

Stacy getting some much needed water! It was hard hot work.

The group working hard to level the school yard.

Nick's promoting Green NYU on his shirt.

Michael entertaining the group.

Look at that leaf!!  It's great shelter from the sun!

After quite the morning workout, we were treated to a delicious lunch. We had an assortment of vegetables- radishes, mushrooms, peppers, onions- with rice on the side. And for dessert, we had bananas covered with chocolate sauce. YUM!

After lunch, we had a free afternoon, which consisted of several activities. Some of us laid out in the sun deck, while others took a nap (including myself!). After being well-rested, we rehearsed The Lorax, which was produced by Stacy and to be performed for the high school students at night.

Once we scarfed down our dinner- carrot soup, jungle pizza (the group favorite), and chocolate cake- we were ready to perform at the Yachana High School! Once we reached the school, we could feel the excitement from the students. They were especially excited to be participants in our play, since some parts required volunteers. Mchael’s rendition of the Lorax character was an audience favorite in addition to his intense, funny dynamic with Stacy’s take on the Once-ler. Everyone helped to make the play a great success! Once the play ended, we cleared the room for our Going Away Event. First, several students performed a traditional Quichua dance and encouraged us to dance with them. Then, it was our turn to teach them some of our moves!

Our final sunset at Yachana.

Jaimie, Zach, Robert and Michael at our final dinner.  The group presented Robert with gifts and a warm-fuzzy bag filled with notes from the group.

The group performing the The Lorax by Dr Seuss to the High School students.

Michael and Aashish performing in The Lorax.

Regina narrating The Lorax.

All smiles after the performance.

The entire cast of The Lorax.

And then we continued to spend the night dancing away as we said good-bye to the Yachana community. 

Students performed traditional dance.

Everyone enjoyed a dance to end our last night at Yachana.

Celine and a student from the high school during the dance.

The guys with Robert.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 9: More Service, Fun and Sunset

January 12, 2011

“Most people are on the world, not in it - having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them - undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate”  - John Muir quote

By: Regina Saavedra

This day was full of wonderful surprises. After breakfast, a few of us left Casa Quest to teach an English class for the high school at 8:30. The rest of us stayed behind to wait for the morning rain to dry up, so that they could get to work. By the end of the afternoon, a set of stairs was rebuilt, another bridge was finished, and two railings were installed near the Colegio, plus we taught two different classes, a total of 4 hours of English lessons.

Zach, Rithu, Stephanie, Aashish, and Jaimie finishing up the stairs.

Our stairs made of palm tree bark.

Rithu, Jamie and Robert checking out the new bridge.

A view of the Mandana (the community where the school is).

Aashish and Michael checking out the other new bridge.

 Lunch began with many of our favorite soup: Sancocho (filled with beans and yucca). Then we ate delicious fried rice with shrimp, and a side of avocado and tomatoes. Not surprisingly, it was one of my favorite parts of the day. Especially because we had a total of three saucers of my absolute favorite “aji” (chili sauce).

Afterwards, we set out for a relaxing afternoon: tubing on the Napo River for the last time! A few members of the group even treated us to a synchronized swimming show :).

The group getting ready for another tubing adventure down the Napo.

 Then came our visit to the “Mirador,” or viewpoint. After climbing about 350 stairs, we got to soak in an amazing view of the Napo River and its scenery. Obviously, Adam took as many pictures as possible. Nick and Robert took the photo opportunity to show off some chic jungle-wear in a mini-fashion show.  

Nick and Stacy capturing the view on their cameras.
Robert and Regina being goofy.
Damaris and the beautiful view.
The group (minus Michael, Kate and Robert) at sunset.
Zach reflecting on the day while enjoying the beautiful view.
Caitlin, Lillian and Zach... friends forever.
Nick posing with new jungle undies.
Zach and Robert showing off their new jungle undies.
Zach and Aashish
Another beautiful sunset.
Our last meal of the day was not a disappointment. It began with a green mystery soup, and then an incredibly satisfying plate of fried eggs with veggies and french fries. The kids of Yachana treated the recently-arrived tourists to a traditional dance. We all joined in and danced with some of our favorite students! Can’t wait for tomorrow - our last full day here at the Yachana Lodge.

Celine with Ayner at the traditional dance.