by Areli Hernandez
on October 13, 2017 on 10/13/17
Chicos, what a past couple of week(s?)!
So apart from having my hometown up in flames & getting bit by a dog, life is pretty good.
Long Weekend in Cuenca (South Ecuador)
During our three-day weekend (Monday was Guayaquil’s Independence Day), 11 of us from the abroad program planned a trip to the colonial town of Cuenca in South Ecuador which is really famous for its cheap silver & gold products, European style, and Catholic cathedrals.
The bus ride (10pm-7am) had a cute but crying baby, a loud action movie full of gun shots, uncomfortable seats, and a wait time of one hour in a random town while some important guy who missed the bus caught up with us. Saturday morning we got off the bus, got some churros & chocolate, quimbolitos, and coffee.
The trip was so good just walking around, playing tourist, and running into Pumapungo, an archeological park with the remains of the once most important administrative, military, and religious center of the northern part of the Incan Empire.
We got to swing on top of the Mirador de Turi yelling Mexican things like “no manches guey,” and “está cabron,” and I don’t know why, but I thought this was the funniest thing ever. The Mirador overlooks the whole city & honestly I felt so at peace.
The next day, we hiked a trail in the national park of El Cajas. As soon as we stepped off the bus, my breath was immediately taken away–literally. The park was so big and majestic, with big rolling hills, a nice fog, and an elevation that made it hard to breathe, let alone hike in (at least that’s what I told myself). My friend talked to a Cuencan guy on the bus & he offered to lead our group on the hike (which was a good thing cause we would have gotten super lost without him). The hike was sooooo good for my soul, and totally worth the little bit of oxygen that was available.
We got home to Quito at 11pm, and the next day we had to be up at 6am for our class field trip to the north of Ecuador. Tired, but never bored in Ecuador.
Academic field trip to Otavalo, Cotacachi, Ibarra (North Ecuador)
So this week’s field trip we got to visit different organizations/schools.
We visited a school for deaf students (there are only 4 in the country). It felt so strange not to know the sign language.
A lot of their families do not know sign language either, so really they only have each other. I asked how many of them had friends who could hear, but everyone said that they had none. Honestly this society is so messed up, and I realize that I am a part of it.
One thing that I like is how Ecuador has sign language translators on their national channels for newscasts and such. I see this in abundance compared to the United States. There are also quichua news channels as well.
We also met with various indigenous women empowerment organizations.
One lady told us her story with domestic violence, as her husband is an alcoholic, and she has daughters in high school who she cannot afford to send to college. She just cried. It was honestly really tough. I wanted to be there for her and listen, but I could offer no psychological support, and the whole situation was really messed up. I realized how much indigenous culture can be overly-idealized, when problems within the community continue to happen: alcoholism, patriarchy, rape, etc. Having no psychological experience or background, I really could offer no professional support but just tried to listen to her story, knowing that it did not have to be that way.
Man, I really outdo myself sometimes.
We got to run (or walk) up the waterfall at Peguche.
While I was taking in the beautiful magnificent views and running like there was no tomorrow, the dogs started to chase us, and I knew I should have slowed down, but kept going because I felt invincible… Well what do ya know, ya girl got bit by a dog in the leg. I don’t think I have rabies. The blood seeped through my pants and we took a taxi back home, but hey, honestly it was worth it.
Now, moving on to the internship/research phase of the study abroad program. I originally came to Ecuador with the intention of learning more about the rights of indigenous communities and hoping to intern in an indigenous community with some type of grassroots organization. There have been many organizations ranging from food sovereignty to domestic violence and empowerment. All of these options have been amazing.
Something I did not anticipate getting really interested about was the “migration issue” where many Cubans, Haitians, Venezuelans, and Colombians have had to leave their home countries and relocate to Ecuador.
As the daughter of two Mexican immigrants in California, I have been very personally interested in exploring the differences and similarities between these very distinct experiences.
In visiting these migrant service organizations, it was heartbreaking to find out that because of Donald Trump’s decision to defund support for these organizations, they have had to do away with critical services that have been crucial to helping the migrant population.
One girl was actually from Belgium, but she had so much passion and knowledge for the topic that I feel like I could really learn from her. Whenever I see someone “woke” enough to be spreading all this knowledge, I gravitate towards them hoping some of their enlightenment can maybe rub off of me. They say to surround yourself with people whom you want to be more like, so I think this might be the internship place for me. In making my internship decision (soon because we move to our new locations on Oct. 23), I have to figure out my life soon.
Sitting on top of the Pumapungo and having a spiritual connection con la Pacha Mama, God and myself. The world is so beautiful.
The moment during my run before getting bit by a dog.
Eating Tango cookies with peanut butter after hiking the Incan Trail
And feeling accomplished, tired and loving the peanut butter and chocolate cookie combo
Getting bit by a street dog and not getting rabies
Surviving my first hostel stay!
Leaving my friends at an overpriced bar because I was craving street popcorn and the salsa at the bar was $4 and probably wasn’t even gonna be spicy, so I put myself first and left with two other friends and didn’t find the ice cream we wanted at 11:30PM but we sat at the plaza and talked and it was beautiful.
“La constitución del Ecuador es muy bonita, pero esa no es la realidad”
“Nada mal estoy haciendo al decidir mis derechos”- mujer indígena
“Hola me llamo Emilia y mis estudios son la vida”