Saturday, August 4, 2012

Transitioning Back- Liz Bjordal

We have reached the promised land! However, upon entering Atlanta, we found no milk and honey; instead, we reacquainted ourselves with Starbucks and potable ice for the first time in three weeks... And while many suffer from over-exhaustion and over-stuffed hand baggage issues, what affects me most is the realization that we are living in the present moment again: no more secretly counting down the days until departure with bittersweet consequence. We are here, we have arrived! 

In the immediate sense, this arrival signifies the sad termination of a program that has meant the world to me. But, truthfully our long-awaited homecoming signifies nothing more than a new cycle coming into fold. It is a time when we can reflect upon the new sensations and philosophies we discovered during Servicio's five weeks. Even more, it is a time for us to apply these new principles to our own lives and search for even more insight. 
Today, we find ourselves in transition: South to North America, plátano to banana, and even a premature switch from Spanish to English. The curiosity that hides in this transition, however, is that it is far more persistent than we assume. Returning with nothing more than mosquito bites from Ecuador seems a defeated obstacle, but it is fallacious. As many begin now to speak of the apprehension they hold for the next great transition in life (speaking here of the inevitable transition to DPU during Orientation), I fear that they might forget the awesome effect this program has made in our lives and our minds. Humbly, I can only hope that this transition back to an American culture we share takes a lifetime. I hope there is often reflection of what we have sensed and discussed during our time in Ecuador and Greencastle. Speaking for myself, I can promise that this is no experience I'll soon forget: I left Ecuador with a tear for Quito's Virgin and and an ambitious goal to apply my new found Servicio knowledge to every present moment of my stateside life. 
I told you it was an ambitious goal, right?
-Liz Bjordal

Back in the U.S.- Mary

Hola todos! 

We have officially made it safely back to DePauw, or as the Ecuadorians try to pronounce it "DePow".
I have to give kudos to our leaders who planned this trip because we left Quito with amazing memories and new friends that we know would run frantically to alert a leader that one has fallen ill as well as share our joys and sadness with--we have become a big family here at Servicio. 
Monday and Tuesday morning were spent volunteering at a new school--Monday night we went to the the Northern Quito's historical street La Ronda, which was a lot a fun to wander around finding little shops, drinking canelazo on the streets, buying unique trinkets from the street vendors, and almost being run over by an army of bicyclists; Tuesday night we celebrated Sharon's 21st birthday practically all day with a group serenading her awake in the morning, a breakfast greeting of "happy birthday" and finally sharing cake among the 26 of us that night. Wednesday, it finally started to sink in that we were leaving in the coming days with our adventure to the teleférico to see the patchwork of buildings that lines up and down the mountains that surrounded Quito then to an evening of football with Jamie and I screaming ¡Dale! at the SD Quito team. For Thursday, we certainly know how to end the trip with a bang, we went to visit the Gran Cascada del Pita, this massive waterfall, like many things in Ecuador that was hidden away,that challenged each and every one of us as we attempted to venture into the waterfall; it beat us with freezing waters and fast winds, but locked in hands knowing that we were safe with each other, the end was just a couple breaths away as long as we stayed calm. That night we were treated to a dinner out in historical Quito; it honestly felt strange to sit at this fancy restaurant knowing that the following night we would be on a bus driving to the airport. 
Friday morning, I got up determined to see the sun rise in Quito, at the Centro, this place that I have called home for the past three weeks, in that hour waiting for the sun to peak through the clouds, watching the lights of the houses in front of me turn off, listening to the silence slowly be broken by street vendors calling and cars honking, fighting for their place on the road, and seeing the sky become a crisp blue, I couldn't help but think about how we had been waiting for this day to come, just like we had been waiting for this trip to start, and now we are waiting for the school year to begin, and it was a bittersweet start to the day knowing that the next day I won't be able to hear those sounds, walk down the streets seeing the graffitied walls on our way to the Panaderia or Centro de Comerical, or smell the food being cooked in the kitchen by Maria, Lupe, Elsa, and Marco and hearing them greet me as I walked in to help. 
It was hard leaving this friendly, beautiful country, and my illness most of the plane ride made me wish that I never left because things were good back in Quito, and if you ask me what I miss the most, I honestly miss it all, particularly the tea at the Centro, but I am glad to be home in Indiana where you can walk several feet without any inclines. It was strange to sit and have dinner at 7:30 with the sun still out, have the tap water be safe to drink, and be in shorts. 
This month has gone by incredibly fast and it has truly been an honor to have spent it with my 25 friends. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

8/26- 8/30 - Jamie

Once again, this weekend we left Quito for a fun excursion to get to know Ecuador better. A stop at an indiginous town left all 26 of us exhausted, so we made our way to a hotel of sorts to relax and be refreshed in some of Quito's natural hot springs and spend the night in luxury. Once refreshed, we drudgedly left the hot springs on Friday morning to make our way to Siempre Verde.

After a long and scary bus ride, we made it to Siempre Verde, starved and ready to eat! Once we got settled into our living quarters, which consisted of rooms crammed full of bunk beds and dust, we ate dinner, made plans for the next day, and had reflection time by candle light. The center we were staying at didn't use electricity so at night we were forced to rely on candle light and the few flashlights that some of us remembered to bring. Fortunately, the living conditions were much better than we were expecting. 

The next day after many of us had problems sleeping, we energized ourselves on a nice full breakfast, made complete with coffee and tea for those who needed the extra energy. We then split into groups for the day's activities. Some of us tok a nice hour long hike to a waterfall and then proceded to go for a swim/shower before realizing the water was literally freezing and getting out of fear of hypothermia. Others took a steep four hour climb up the mountani, while others still stayed back at the house, reading, relaxing, and enjoying a few moments to themselves. As the night came and everyone came back together, we helped prepare dinner in the kitchen, caught up on our reading of Panama Hat Trail, and played card games with the family that ran the center. After dinner and helping was dishes we all came back together for reflections and the handing out of the parent's letters. We cannot thank you enough for them! It was a night full of laughing, crying, and every emotion in between.

Leaving Siempre Verde the next morning was one of the msot difficult parts of the trip. No one wanted to leave the jungle that we fell in love with in a day and the relazing atmosphere Quito doesn't quite have to offer. But at the end of the day we all made it back to Quito safe, sound, and in one piece... except for Scott, Katie, Adriana, and I. We may have gotten a little sick along the way.

- Jamie 

8/26-8/30 - Stephany

I am at a loss for words in regards to our excursion at Siempre Verde (the cloud forest). The hike up to the reserve and being sick afterwards could not lessen the experience in any way. Simply gorgeous. The mountains, trees, plants, river, everything. A place where my options of things to do revolved aroud hammocks, books, a firplace, and playing cards. It was just lovely. There was just so much time to reflect and relax (finally). Night was the best part. No electricity and just candles, or flashlights, a raging fire, people playing the guitar, singing. No distractions, no problems, just life, simple good life. Albeit, I did get rather cold, and I ended up being in the fetal position both nights shivering for warmth, it was the perfect place. Tension, homesickness, and being plain exhausted: these things had been building up over the past 2 weeks (homesickness being the worst of it for me). Siempre Verde seems to have given many a second wind, especially after some good reflections and receiving the letters from our families, which personally had me crying right away. But it was a good feeling afterwards. I am relaxed and ready for another week here in Ecuador, and although I wish we could have spent more time in Siempre Verde, we have more stuff to look forward to this week. 

--Stephany Cook

8/26-8/30-Morgans Experience

Welcome to the jungle... of Siempre Verde. Unlike our previous excursions here in Ecuador, our stay in Siempre Verde was more of a peaceful getaway where we all had time to relax after our busy days we have had throughout the program.

Our lodge was run by an extremely friendly family that made some amazing food for us while we were there. I am sure I can speak for everyone when I say that spaghetti and garlic bread dinner was absolutely delicious.

But besides the amazing food, our stay at Siempre Verde allowed everyone time to just simply relax. Whether it was lounging in a hammock or reading by candle light, everyone really enjoyed their stay in this peaceful place surrounded by vast and beautiful nature.

On Saturday, we had the options to travel to a nearby waterfall or climb another mountain.

I was one person in the group of nine who decided to take part in the five hour adventure up the mountain. Although it was difficult, the journey was especially fun. But the best part of the whole trek was the view from the top. It was truly amazing, and if the view did not take your breath away, standing on the rock that jutted over the edge surely did.

Our nights at Siempre Verde were filled with not only wonderful dinners, but also meaningful group reflections about how sometimes good intentions can be disasterous in the world of service. 

Also during reflections on Saturday night we recieved our surprise letters from home. Although it was amazing hearing from our loved ones it was also quite emotional. And as you read this blog just know that every member here loves and misses their family, and we all can not wait to see you in only a week.

Although a lot of us wished we could have stayed longer at the beautiful Siempre Verde, we sadly had to return to Quito. But just like we will be sad to leave on Friday, we will all be excited to reunite with family and friends, eat the wonderful American food, and for me, catch up on all the Olympics I have missed.


-Morgan Graves 

8/26-8/30 - Ellies experience

¡Hola Todos!

My favorite part of the trip so far has definitely been going to Siempre Verde. It was so relaxing to sit by the fire and read with everyone. I also felt like it brought us closer as a group to be in the jungle without electricty. We did my favorite reflections sitting around the common room with candle light. We also had an entire day to choose what we wanted to do. Some chose to stay and read all day. Others took a hike up the mountain and some others chose to go to a waterfall. Everyone had a gre4at experience (even though some of us ended up covered in mud) It was also very emotional when we got our letters from our families. I cant believe our time in Ecuador is almost over!

- Ellie Hoover

8/26-8/30- Taylor

I think everyone on this trip can unanimously say that this past weekend at Siempre Verde has been the most relaxing time of our trip so far. The scenery was beautiful and there were options to climb up into the Cloud Forest and to bathe in the (freezing) waterfalls. We also had some free time to read, write, or just lie around in one of the numerous hammocks. It was a great couple of days for the group, as a whole, to relax and regroup a little bit.

On our second and last night in the Cloud Forest we recieved a gift during reflections. The letters from our loved ones were much appreciated and had us all very anxious to see them soon. This trip has been an amazing, exciting experience, but dont worry, we are all thinking about and missing everyone back home. It is crazy to think that we have less than a week in Ecuador! It truly has been an amazing experience. 

- Taylor