Hello! I hope everyone that’s following my blog is doing well and had a great Fourth of July!! I’m sitting here between my two midterms faced with two choices… study or blog. Well that’s an obvious decision! I need to update you all on my busy, busy life before I leave for the jungle tomorrow!
Let’s start with last Monday. After I blogged in the morning we went to a Panama hat factory. Fact: Panama hats do NOT come from Panama. They are made in Ecuador. Cuenca, specifically. Bring that one up at your next dinner party! It was so interesting to learn how the hats are woven and pressed to get different shapes. I was so tempted to buy one (for only $15! What a steal!) But unfortunately I am not a hat-wearer and just couldn’t pull off the look.
Tuesday we continued our factory touring with at stop at the San Miguel Rum factory. It was so interesting to learn how rum is made! And we got to walk through the storehouses lined with barrels that the rum needs to sit in for three years to mature. You’d be amazed by how big some barrels are!
And if I’m not broadening my horizons enough… on Wednesday we had our first charla or chat about migration. In Ecuador migration is a huge issue (I think I’ve mentioned this before) but just to impress this issue upon you even more: some grotesque number (like 86%) of Ecuador’s income comes from remittances (money earned in another country and sent back to Ecuador). Yikes! Our talk was given by a Cuencano who migrated and lived illegally in the United States for five years. It was very interesting because this is definitely a perspective we don’t hear enough from in the US. He talked to us about his motivations for leaving and, eventually, returning. He also discussed how he managed to cross the border illegally which was a very scary tale. It’s incredible what risks people will take to try to have what we were born with.
Thursday afternoon we had another charla, this time about different environments in Ecuador. Our speaker was an amazing woman who works (along with her husband) making documentaries for the Discovery Channel. And I need to mention one other little detail about her: she was British. Now, anyone who knows me will understand my excitement about this last fact. I am a self-professed Anglophile and could barely contain my excitement at listening to her melodious British accent for a solid 2 hours. I thought Ecuador would be the last place I would encounter a Brit, but thankfully I was proven wrong! This chat made me want to become a biologist! We learned all about new plants and animals that I’ve never seen before. It was amazing! And I can’t stop thinking about how fun it would be to camp out in remote places trying to film footage for wildlife documentaries.
Friday was a busy day full of errands (in preparation for our jungle adventure that starts tomorrow!) and a little bit of fun, too! I finally picked up my pottery and since I promised you a picture of my artistic display…
Sorry it’s a little dark. The little bowl all the way on the right is the one I made myself on the wheel! The two plates I decorated.
After lunch I met up with my friend Rebecca and we headed to the Catedral Vieja (the Old Cathedral) to explore. It was beautiful but has the most interesting history one could imagine. The church was built before the city of Cuenca was even founded. Which was a long time ago. We’re talking 1557. It was added to over the years but officially closed in the 1980′s. And during that time it was left to fall apart. It was in a complete state of disrepair until restoration began during the late 1990′s. It’s such a tragic history. Now, everything that can be seen in the “Old” Cathedral is new because nothing was salvageable! Here’s a look inside:
Also on Friday, after a few weeks of bachata and merengue we finally started learning salsa in our dance class! Fun, fun!
Saturday was an adventure. And I bolded that because it was a BIG adventure. We knew we were going to Girón to see the waterfall there, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Which was, a very long and difficult hike… UP a mountain. Saying it was intense would be an understatement. It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done!
Point of reference: see on the left there’s one waterfall on top and then it splits into two below that? We hiked to the split waterfalls. Yes. That high.
We hiked up rocks for a good hour before hitting a very steep field which was then followed by a trek through the mountain forest. But the end result, the top of the waterfall, was incredible and completely worth every drop of sweat and out-of-breath moment!
On Sunday, we decided to celebrate the 4th of July in the most un-American way possible. A soccer game! It was the last Deportivo Cuenca fútbol game of the season that we would be able to make it to, so we decided to go for it. What a fantastic decision! It was such a fun experience! We met early to buy jerseys and grab seats. Fútbol fans in South America are wild so we weren’t bored for a moment, even though the final score was 0-0. Also, I had Rebecca sitting next to me whispering rules and regulations in my ear so that now, I think, I finally understand soccer! What a momentous day!
Although, my favorite part (and everyone else’s too, I’m sure) came when we took a group photo. We stood close to the field and were met with the loudest cat-calls and cheers from our entire section! I think it was the loudest they cheered throughout the entire game! Here’s the end result:
You’ll never guess what we did on Monday. I climbed my second mountain in three days! I can’t even tell you how sore I’m feeling today! For our Indigenous Culture and Literature class our teacher took us on a field trip to the top of a mountain to perform a ritual offering to Pachamama (aka Mother Nature). It was much more fun than I thought it would be!
And when we got to the top we looked down on a lake… of clouds! I will never forget that as long as I live. What a view! I should mention that we were at 3,100 meters which is the equivalent of about 10,170 feet. As a reference, Mount Everest is 29,029 feet. So technically, I was as high as a third of the way up the highest mountain in the world. Wow. Did I mention I climbed there?
Today I’ve already taken one midterm with one left to go! Tonight I plan on packing and talking to my parents (yay!) before I head to the jungle tomorrow morning! I’ll be spending five days there as part of our midterm vacation so I’ll be back on Monday (or maybe Tuesday) to let you know how it went! I even started taking my Malaria pills yesterday so it’s all starting to become real to me!
Thanks again for all your wonderful comments! I know I say this a lot but they really do mean the world to me! Don’t forget to watch the final of the World Cup on Sunday, July 11th!