As with any journey, it officially starts with a packed suitcase, a passport, and a ticket. I arrived to Dulles Airport with heightened awareness of the fact that this would be my first official time stepping on an airplane and not knowing anyone. The whole car ride I was filled with butterflies of excitement and the nervousness of not fulling knowing what I was getting myself into. What I would soon come to realize is that I got myself into one of the absolute best experiences of my life. After getting off of the plane and going through immigration I was greeted by Nico, an International Student’s Coordinator for CEDEI, who along with the other coordinators, Janae and Felipe, have assisted making this program an easy and successful transition! The program starts off with a week long orientation like no other. It was an intense action packed week starting with visiting the home of the artist Guayasamin, a social justice artist. This particular visit was extremely interesting for me, as while I am in Ecuador I am conducting research regarding art and its vocalization of the voice of the people. After this visit, we began our voyage traveling to Otavalo, which is located in the Andean highlands and highly known for the Otavalo Market where indigenous individuals sell their work along with other touristic crafts. While visiting this city, we had a tour to watch a young woman create this beautiful instrument right in front of our eyes in only minutes. In addition, we also received a tour of other handcrafted instruments and a lecture on indigenous people throughout the years and their current circumstances. One of my favorite components of this study abroad program is that the backbone is cultural exchange, truly assisting one’s comprehension of the traditions and history of this country. The mountainous landscapes breathe life into you as you have never felt so small on a van ride where to your right there is a huge drop, whereas on your left, the sights go straight up!I cannot believe I am in Ecuador!
It is now official that I have been on the equator! Here is a picture for proof! It is amazing to learn about the astronomical advances hundred of years ago. It truly is unfathomable. We keep hustling and bustling as we arrive in Quito and explore this city’s treasures and the abundantly beautiful churches it holds. We actually climbed to the top of the Basilica to see a breathtaking view making every step worth it. There were many other stops along the way, making it so we were able to see as much of the city as possible! The following day, we left Quito to travel to Tena (the jungle). The morning after we arrive, we set off on a motorized canoe and arrive at a destination to hike through the jungle, where there is an amazing waterfall that awaits for us to swim! The hike is full of biodiversity and beauty. Our guide assisted in pointing out extremely interesting components of nature, such as huge tree trunks which were used for communication. After our hike, instead of taking the motorized canoe back, we tube down the Napo River, which hands down is a spectacular experience! The excitement doesn’t end there as we continue to explore Tena and the meet and learn from the indigenous people. We go and see ceramic artists work, and I had the absolute pleasure of working alongside them! As an art major, this was a dream come true and I could feel my soul radiating with joy. The cycle of constantly learning continues as we visit a local animal rescue center and see the process of a woman searching for gold. For the rest of the week we continue to explore the beautiful cities of Ecuador, while on our orientation for the semester in the Andes program! Everything has been completely mind boggling and I cannot even begin to understand how life-changing this semester will be if this is how I feel now. Someone pinch me. I am bewildered how this is actually my life!