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Ecuador + Galapagos : 1 • June 15-June 28, 2016

Last Days in the Galapagos

June 28, 2016

All the campers just walked with Jake past security and I can’t believe the trip is already over, and I’m so sad that our first group of students are gone! Jake and I will miss all of you  the rest of the summer! We had an amazing group of kids, and we shared some amazing memories together. Since our last update, we spent two days snorkeling, hiking and hanging around the beautiful San Cristobal Island. Here’s a closer look at what our days looked like:

Day 11: We took a bus ride to the highlands of San Cristobal and got to see giant tortoises at the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado! There were so many, and it was fun to turtle watch. Seeing the baby turtles was a hit, and we had a fun time learning turtle facts from our naturalist and guide, Harry. We then headed over to Puerto Chino where we got to walk up to an overlook and get an amazing view of the beaches around us. The group then played in the waves, and Garrison and Ben had an awesome time boogy boarding the waves. The group was in to getting their tan on, especially Mary Frances, and we all hung out on the beach for a while before lunch. In the afternoon we went on a very vertical hike to the top of Cerro Tijeretas, where we got an epic view of what we were getting ready to snorkel. We ended up taking a longer route to get a snorkeling area where we did not have to wait in line to snorkel, and the group was in great spirits despite being completely surprised by a big climb of a hike. Patrick sang songs such as  “I like to move it, move it” from the Madagascar movie with our guide Harry, which made the hike go by quicker for all of us. When we got to the place where we were snorkeling, the water was freezing and the campers were champs for swimming in it. Kate and Parker stayed in the longest, and the whole group loved seeing two sea turtles and playing with a baby sea lion. Anna impressed us all by snorkeling even though she was just sick a couple days beforehand and wasn’t feeling 100%. The group then warmed back up by walking back up and down a hill to get to our bus.

Day 12 : We started this awesome day in the Galapagos off by taking a 30 minute boat ride to Isla Lobos, where the water was crystal clear! We got to see blue footed boobies, frigate birds, and sea lions! Beth hung out by a tiny, sleeping, baby sea lion and took some good pictures of it. Then the whole group jumped into the cold, bright blue water for a good snorkel. Tap, Maddie, and Noelle went back to hang out on the boat in the sun, and soon the whole group joined them to jump off the top of the boat into the water. Mary Brice was a pro a taking her Go Pro with her everywhere and getting good shots of the day. After lunch we all went to La Loberia to hang out with sea lions on a wonderful beach. While the group was sitting together on the beach, a sneaky sea lion came up right behind Parker, without her noticing, and licked her shoulder! The whole group screamed and ran away, and no sea lions got that close to us the rest of the day. We all missed having Ross on the trip, and we talked about how much we missed him daily. Since this was our last night as a group, we had an awesome last Moonup, led by Noelle and Garrison. We talked about our favorite memories during the trip, and how much we have learned about each other in such little time.

Jake and I are so thankful to have been able to spend these two weeks with such a high quality group of students, and we will miss y’all so much! Thanks for making this Ecuador trip unforgettable, and for being so much fun to be around. We hope y’all have an amazing time during the rest of your summers, and we can’t wait to hear what you’re up to!

Thanks again for being an amazing team!

Emily and Jake

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands!

June 25, 2016

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands!

We have had an action packed three days since you all have last heard from us and I am really happy to bring everyone up to speed. We all really enjoyed our time spent at Remanso de Amor and our service opportunity was meaningful, fun, and full of laughter. On our first day at the school, we split into three groups. We sent one group out into the community to perform “home visits”, a program that was created to continually check in with members of the church and ask how we can help. This allowed everyone to literally and figuratively step into the lives of a traditional Ecuadorean household to talk, eat, and play with families of the community. Another group taught English lessons all morning to students between the ages of 6-10. Mr. Ben Smith and Ms. Anna Tarkenton led a wonderful lesson teaching numbers and short phrases. The final group organized a seemingly endless pile of books and flash cards that had been donated to the children. Mary Frances and Parker became librarians for the morning and we were all amazed at the results. After we enjoyed lunch on the playground with the children, our afternoon consisted of a massive painting project which required all hands on deck. We have many Picasso’s in this group, but we all agreed that Noelle was the best so we elected her to paint some of the more detail oriented areas. After our day of service, we had a pizza party at the founder’s house who also serves as the pastor. He and his family then took us to a soccer game which was an awesome experience of cultural immersion. Mary Brice quickly purchased a vuvuzela and many others followed suit. We have not yet encouraged anyone to get out of bed using this instrument but we still have three mornings remaining! Our second day consisted of the same activities but we all rotated to a new group. One of the many highlights involved Garrison’s wonderful program in which he provided soccer jerseys to all of the students that were at school. This was extremely meaningful for all of us, but the joy on these students’ faces in their new jerseys was something we will remember for a long time. Patrick has become an excellent goal keeper and everyone loved practicing shooting in their new jerseys against this brick wall of a keeper.

The following morning we woke up bright and early to catch our flight to the Galápagos Islands. All of the students in this group have made these travel days extremely easy through seemingly difficult situations. In order to get to our hotel yesterday, we took a bus to the Quito airport, hopped on a plane to the Galapagos, took another bus to a boat, and then took one last bus to our rooms. In the airport we all found some cool souvenirs. For example, Beth found a blue llama on a keychain that is one of the many intricate items that were collected. Upon our arrival to these wonderful islands, we explored a field littered with 400 pound tortoises and marine iguanas among massive craters caused by collapsed magma tunnels. This only began our exploration because today we swam among fish and crabs in the teal blue waters of tortuga bay. Kate and Maddie took some really cool pictures on the go pro, getting some great angles climbing on one another’s shoulders in and out of the ocean.  After a two hour boat ride to San Cristobal Island, we have arrived at our hotel for the final three nights known as Casa de Jeimy. Tap had some really interesting knowledge regarding boats in general based off of his extensive experience on the river in Washington.

We have a big weekend planned in this amazing region of the world, and we are all very grateful to be here. Tomorrow we will all be breathing through snorkels in the morning as we enjoy our remaining days on this island!

Bienvenidos a Conocoto!

June 21, 2016

Bienvenidos a Conocoto!

We’re in a part of town outside of Quito that is close by Remanso de Amor, which is where we will be doing our service project these next two days. Since the last update, we spent a day in Baños, Ecuador on Saturday where we had a tour of local waterfalls on a chiva, which is a type of open-air bus that blasted fun, Latin music.

One of the first stops on our chiva ride was to a place where all of the students were able to zip line across a valley outside of Baños. Tap and Patrick were the first to go, with Tap choosing to zip across in an upside down bat-like position, and Patrick going across in the superman position. We then went to a different spot along the valley where we were able to take a cable car along the valley. We split up into two groups to fit into the cable car, and Beth and Mary Frances loved it so much, they chose to go twice! The next stop on the chiva ride was to a huge water fall called El Pailón del Diablo, which means the Devil’s Cauldron, and Maddie enjoyed getting completely soaked by the water splashing off the side of the waterfall. We then went back into Baños to try melcocha, which is a local taffy, and we then ate pizza, which was a big hit. After pizza, we drove to Tena, and we stopped at a local artisan market on the way. The group got some great souvenirs, and Mary Brice got an awesome, colorful belt that she was really excited about.

The next day in Tena, we drove to the area where we started rafting the Jatunyacu River. Jatunyacu means ‘big river’ in Quichua, which was the native language of our raft guides. Our rafts guides were awesome, and they were a huge reason that we had an amazing time on the river. It was cold and rainy when we hopped on the river, but the group had positive attitudes and they had a blast. Kate was nervous at first about rafting, but she paddled super hard and had a great time jumping in the river during the calm parts. Parker was the first in her raft to sit at the very front of the raft and take the biggest splashes to the face. The guides made an effort to push all of us in, and it was a source of laughter for all of us. When we stopped at a town called Shandia to eat lunch, we played raft-themed games. Ross won many rounds of the team relay game that we played in the sand, and we all had a fun time playing the games. When we got back to the hotel, Anna had fun practicing Spanish with kids that were playing at the hotel pool.

Today we left Tena to head to Conocoto, but our journey was delayed by a small landslide that happened earlier in the morning on the road ahead of us. While we waited an hour in the bus for the police to clear the road ahead of us, Garrison and Ben entertained us with jokes. The group did an awesome job of turning an unexpected hour of free time into a really fun group activity. When we arrived to Conocoto, we were met by the partners that we will be working with at Remanso de Amor, Jenny, and her two children who are around the ages of our campers. They gave us a presentation about Remanso de Amor, and then we walked to a nearby park where everyone participated in an epic soccer game. Noelle and Beth impressed us all with their amazing soccer skills, and their team won the game! We then ate dinner with Jenny, her children, and her husband Ramiro, and we got ice cream after! We are now back at the hostel, and we are excited about starting our service project with Remanso de Amor tomorrow morning!

Saludos desde Ecuador!

Greetings from Ecuador!

June 18, 2016

We have had an awesome start to our trip and everyone is having a blast. After we all grouped up in the Quito airport on the 15th, we hopped on our bus and headed to “Fuente de Piedra”, a very cool hotel located in the heart of the city. We had a quick moon up and got to bed for an early start to our first full day. We all enjoyed some scrambled eggs and toast at the hostel for breakfast on the 16th and then we loaded up and headed to the “Yungilla project”. This is a sustainable community where all members pitch in and the entire community receives the benefits. We learned how they made cheese, jelly, and many other food items. Patrick led the charge in trying some of the foods that were offered and we all really enjoyed them. We got to play on a large rope swing at the end of the tour and Mary Brice was brave enough to take the first turn. As we enjoyed a traditional lunch, it was really cool to watch Anna give Ross some of her food when she was finished. In typical Moondance fashion we were freely sharing food with one another within the first 24 hours! On our way back into Quito we did some sightseeing and stopped at a number of incredible monuments, churches, and viewpoints. Some highlights include “El mitad del mundo”, “La basilica”, the golden church, and “el panecillo”. At “el mitad del mundo” monument, we were given a challenge of balancing an egg on a nail over the exact line between the northern and Southern Hemispheres. Ben and Garrison quickly achieved this feat and received certificates as well as passport stamps for the accomplishment! As we headed over to “La basilica”, Maddie had the awesome idea of getting some ice cream. We all enjoyed the spontaneous ice cream social in a park in the old town Quito area.

As we woke up this morning we were all very excited to get to know Parker and Kate. They joined us late last night and adjusted quickly after a missed flight and a long travel day. We have all been really intrigued by Kate’s stories about living in Hong Kong.  After breakfast, we left our hostel in Quito and headed to go horseback riding in Cotopaxi National Park. Parker was incredibly brave to get back on a horse after her last experience was not so pleasant. Beth showed some serious skills on the horses while filming with her GoPro as well. Mary Frances led the pack for most of the trip and also showed us how to dismount. We all stayed away from Tap’s horse because she had an attitude, but Tap and the horse got along just fine! Noelle and Garrison were our first leaders of the day and they helped us through many activities, proper packing, and Moon up as well. We have had a blast on our first two days, and we have many incredible activities to come!

Nos vemos!