We woke up in Quito for 7am breakfast this morning. The day began with fresh eggs, toast with homemade blackberry jam and cantaloupe juice. Miguel, our gifted and energetic guide introduced us to Luis and Adoabierto (who is going by Alex), two Ecuadorian teachers who will be traveling with us.
After a simple breakfast we headed to Heifer International’s Ecuador headquarters in Quito to assemble our teacher boxes and developed a plan to co-teach at Alex’s school on Friday. Maria Fernandez gave an inspirational presentation on the incredible work Heifer is doing here. Thanks to the initiative of the Ecuadorian people and Heifer’s partnerships and work, poverty is being reduced using sustainable methods. Food sovereignty is one of the major goals of Heifer — helping people gain control of the land and resources, so they can grow their own food and eat nutritiously. There are multiple strategies to this end, including empowering women, making farm-urban connections (such as farmers’ markets), and preserving natural resources. The latter is especially important in this country that contains every major biome and the most environmental diversity in the world.
Several people from Heifer are joining the group: Monica, Maria, Marcelo, and Marta, plus our patient bus driver, Roberto. Heifer has ingeniously planned our trip to be a true partnership between Heifer, the Museum, and teachers (of both countries). Together, we can do so much: the power of relationships! Most of us are trying to communicate in a mixture of Spanish and English, while Miguel translates (when necessary) with great patience and expression.
Our diverse and excited group left Heifer International at 9,000ft and ascended to 11,986ft in the Paramo (highlands). We stopped at a Hacienda for a fresh four-course delicious meal and viewed a variety of birds, alpacas, llamas, burros, horses and farms with livestock staked out in their fields to eat the lush green grass. One of the highlights of our day was the viewing of Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano on Earth. We learned that the glaciers on the mountain have dramatically receded in recent years, due to global warming. Nonetheless, they were magnificent to behold. In addition, we roamed Boulder Field identifying volcanic rock and taking pictures of the awesome views.
We have arrived in Latacunga, a busy and beautiful colonial town, with elaborate architecture. Everyone checked into rooms in our charming hotel, which is centrally located and very old. Our evening team meeting ended with Maria Fernandez speaking about how the traditional people here see the mountains as living spirits — like a grandparent. She emphasized that it is important to respect the mountains.