I really cannot even begin to say enough great things about the BCA program here. As my study abroad program, this group organizes most of my weekend trips as well as various educational experiences during my time here in Quito. I love that the program directors (Daniel and Marta really are the best) always make a genuine effort to ensure that we get a realistic and oftentimes overlooked view of Ecuador. Our trips focus on environmental issues, indigenous rights, local culture, and Latin American history – things that are vital to truly grasping life on the Equator.

This weekend we traveled to Bomboli, an ecological center about an hour and a half from Quito. This reserve is run by one phenomenal family, and I was continuously amazed by their understanding of the natural environment around them. Our tour began with a trip to some of the nearby waterfalls. Aside from its natural beauty, this water is unique because it is completely pure and free from any sort of treatment, chemicals, or contamination. With this water source and a natural septic system, the family at Bomboli essentially lives off-grid in complete harmony with the environment surrounding their home.

After piling in to three small trucks, we made our way up the mountain to see the family’s home as well as the farm and gardens that surround the property. We were immediately greeted by (at least) eight dogs, and we proceeded to observe the farm’s organic process for making cheese, manjar de leche (kind of like a milky version of caramel that is amazing), and chocolate syrup. Everything is done completely by hand, and the result is an array of products that are incredibly fresh and delicious.

We also got a chance to see some of the wood products made on the property – all of which are created out of recycled materials and natural supplies. Essentially the entire home (and the guest rooms made for volunteer groups who visit to help plant each season) are made by the family, including all the beds, mirrors, and other furniture. It was so humbling to see our guide describing the way he constructed every item with care. I loved the way he talked about his work ….

He repeatedly told our group that you need only three things in life: water, food, and love. It became especially apparent that this man possessed a great amount of wisdom and scientific knowledge as we began our tour of the various plants near his home. He seemed to know every leaf, tree, and flower by name, and he could recite multiple healing abilities of each species. On the property, he grows a wide variety of orchids in a unique and beautiful way. The orchid is one of the most expensive flowers to grow in the US due to the amount of chemicals and supplements we use to enhance growth, but in Bomboli the process is entirely natural. Growth occurs thanks to the symbiotic relationship between the flowers and the moss that is planted alongside the organism – a reminder that we often overlook the simple solutions solely due to a lack of understanding of nature.

The lifestyle in Bomboli is becoming more and more rare in our ever-developing, globalized world. I was refreshed and challenged by the way this family lives, and I couldn’t help but comprehend my serious lack of education in the practicalities of agriculture and forestation. Sure, it’s easy for me to just drive to the local supermarket and purchase whichever product I need, but I am basically clueless about the intricate environmental relationships that create such food and resources.

It was an eye-opening experience, and I am so thankful that places like Bomboli exist to teach and share their story with the rest of the world. We definitely have a lot to learn from them.