Day 1 By Danny Magrans, Upper School Spanish Teacher
“TRAVELING – IT LEAVES YOU SPEECHLESS, THEN TURNS YOU INTO A STORYTELLER.” –
So here we are. In Ecuador. Another year. Another group. Another country. Who would have known that traveling, learning and serving would have meant so much to my students.
After a long day of traveling we finally arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. We had an hour bus ride to get to our hotel. Needless to say we were tired. Lights out by two am.
Seven am. Time to wake up. I was worried about the fatigue factor. We had a full agenda planned to see as much as we could about Quito. After all it is one of the first world sites protected by UNESCO. Must be incredibly important.
Built into the touring Andes lies the highest elevated capital in the world, Quito. Through twists and turns we finally made it to our first drop, a beautiful statue, 135 feet tall, of the Virgin Mary. The only statue with the Mary carrying wings signifying the conquest over evil.
From there we hiked toward the plaza, towns square, to visit the main Basilica where we climbed to its highest point called the condor’s nest. The condor is the national bird of Ecuador.
While we did many more extraordinary things the day ended at 9 with a fabulous dinner and a short walk back to the hotel.
Despite all the amazing things we did and saw, I think the part that resonated the most for me was observing my students persevere through fatigue, lack of sleep, and nervousness. I thought there would be a bit of culture shock for some but it honestly didn’t phase any of them. They took this city with confidence and respect and as a result built a lot of confidence and respect for natives we recently met. For the guides, restaurant owners, store clerks, and any one else who served or worked with us they have a full understanding of what this group is about.
I can’t wait to experience more with them. Off to the Galápagos. More soon.
Updates from the group:
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” Hellen Keller
The Galápagos! How can one put in perspective the magnitude of it’s beauty? There is the physical beauty that is obvious the second one sets foot on these islands that have been hardly touched by human hands. Then there is the beauty of a culture that believes so strongly that every living organism matters….even nature is protected by the Ecuadorian constitution. Nature as created. Pure and overwhelming.
Adventure? Let me explain! Up through today we have walked close to 30 miles. Most of us have taken over 80,000 steps. Why? To explore. To respectfully share these islands with the sea lions and iguanas who roam and sun bathe freely, and pose for pictures with us as if they were models in a photo shoot. To observe the Herons and Boobies circle the sky for their prey which swim beneath the ocean waters. And watch them shoot out of the air like a torpedo to claim their victory. And then they repeat it again. And again. Truly spectacular!
Land Tortoises! Wow! What a history! What a tremendous story! Almost a tremendous tragedy. However two turtles, Lonesome George and Superman Diego, came to the rescue. One unfortunately died in 2014 at the estimated age of 100 years old. This is considered young for a Galápagos tortoise that can live up to 200 years of age. The other hero, Superman Diego. Still alive and going strong. Still populating the land with new generations of tortoises. Both provided biologist the information needed to rescue them. We trekked for miles where they thrive most. Saw their homes. Witnessed them feed. And learned so much about this tremendous comeback that the tortoises are making.
Snorkeling in the Pacific. What else can be said. If I stopped there one could wonder and create their own mental images about what it was like. Star fish, different types of pufferfish, King angelfish, sea turtles, stingrays, penguins, sea lions and many other species welcomed us into their play ground. They swam with us and us with them unafraid of any potential dangers. We shared the ocean for a little while but the memories gained will surely live in our memories for a lifetime.
The past few days was focused on adventure. We have tried to capture every moment. Tried to revel in every experience. We saw. We heard. We experienced. And that my dear friends is a full day. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” May my students never allow circumstances to conquer their sense of adventure.
Our group rented a restaurant in Quito and the owners taught us how to cook a tradition Ecuadorian meal. Soup, main dish and fruit dessert. The students enjoyed this wonderful experience.
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” Graham Greene
The end of our tour. Sad but proud. Tired but energized. Thankful to be home and hoping to one day explore again. Soon. Very soon. A story….no beginning and if it’s a very good story then it will never have an end.
For 17 individuals, two humbled teachers and 15 remarkable students, one thing is for certain, we proudly fulfilled the mission of why Winterim was created. We conquered fears. Demonstrated empathy. Immersed ourselves in the Ecuadorian culture. Learned about the effects of weather patterns. Discovered why some fascinating creatures are endangered and what biologists are doing to rescue them. We gained confidence and established new friendships. We built bonds that only those who were with us could ever understand.
We cooked, hiked, snorkeled, played, learned, negotiated, explored, and so much more. We laughed. We cried. We succeeded in the objectives of this trip.
For most the trip will never be forgotten. It will always be treasured in our hearts and memories. Like a great story this experience will never have an ending. This trip changed us and as a result it will always be a part of our lives.
Until next trip.