Hannah, Ecuador

Hannah is a junior President’s Scholar majoring in political science in Dedman College and accounting in the Cox School, with a minor in Spanish. In spring 2012, she is in Quito, Ecuador, with BCA and SMU Abroad to study international politics, economic development, and social justice in Latin America.

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La Finca

Ecuadorian farmhouse

My home for the weekend.

This past week has been beyond busy as I attempt to catch up after a weekend away, so I apologize for my tardy update on the weekend adventures. First, I just have to say that the entire experience was absolutely wonderful. On Thursday evening, at the prime hour of 11 p.m., we began our journey to the coast of Ecuador.

About 7 hours (and one very rough sleeping experience) later, we arrived in the town of Guaranda and took one additional 30-minute bus ride into a mountainous region scattered with farms, tiny homes, and some of the most gorgeous rivers I have ever seen.

At this point, I thought the overnight bus ride was the main transportation challenge of the trip…of course, I was wrong. The true challenge was actually the river that separated the main road and our farm destination. The current was far too strong and the water was way too deep to wade or swim across, and the only bridge in sight was a jumble of skinny branches haphazardly strung together with rope. One side had a narrow handrail and the other, well, opened up to the river below. One by one, we cautiously crossed the bridge while simultaneously praying to survive. Despite the instability of this structure, the lovely house that waited on the other side – complete with two hammocks, fresh breakfast, and friendly faces – was definitely worth the bridge experience.

In the truck, ready for the farm tour

In the truck, ready for the farm tour.

My two friends and I spent the next three days living on the farm, and the list of new experiences is truly too much to describe here. Our days were filled with agriculture lessons (everything from how to plant yucca to how to correctly harvest cacao seeds), farm chores (yep, we milked the cows and fed the pigs), and lazy moments of relaxation in the hammocks…not exactly a bad life. We traveled to the market in town via “chiva,” a large truck with rows of seating on the bottom and a top rack for produce and some unlucky passengers. As the naïve Americans, we thought a ride on the top of the truck sounded the most adventurous. After 30 minutes of unbelievable wind, cold rain, and unsettling mountain road curves, we concluded that the experience was memorable but probably did not need to be repeated in the near future.

Carnaval celebration in Ecuador

Carnaval celebration.

We also made a surprise stop at a local Carnaval celebration, the centerpiece of holidays here in Ecuador. Although it technically only lasts one week in mid-February, the entire month is dedicated to Carnaval festivities and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join in on a local family’s lively fiesta. From awkward dance lessons to delicious tamales, we truly had the full experience. The music was loud, the conversation was fast, and the moonshine was awful…all in all, it was an unforgettable evening of fun with some of the most welcoming hosts you will ever encounter.

When it came time to start the bus ride back to Quito on Sunday morning, we were all sad to go and even more upset to face the 7 hours of travel. The scenery on the way back, however, was absolutely stunning and definitely well worth the hours spent on the winding roads. I could not have asked for a better weekend getaway, and I’m looking forward to what this weekend will have to offer. I’ll be sure to update next week before our next exciting trip…Galapagos in only one more week!

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