We went to get food for dinner at the Supermaxi, a supermarket. Last time we were here, we made our own dinner, including empanadas. However, this time due to the departure time we did not have enough time to make everything like we did last time. We perused, looking for fruits, cheeses, pre-made empanadas, ready-made chicken, tuna, and bread. We were also going to make caneloza, a cinnamon drink. When we got back, we washed and cut the fruits, fried the empanadas, took the meat off the chicken bones, and made caneloza. We laid it out buffet style; it was our last dinner.
Our last day in Quito!! We were able to go to the crafts market. This was the first time that we took a taxi in Ecuador and we learned something unique about the taxis!! All taxis are equipped with video cameras and a panic button for both the driver and the passengers. I asked if the taxis were being watched 24/7 and if there was a GPS in the taxis. The driver said that if one were to be push the button, the police would be alerted and have their locations and they would be able to track the taxi down. When we got to the market, we looked around.
It was time for lunch. We walked for a while and then found a place to eat. We had the opportunity to try different soft drinks, Inca Kola and Pony Malta. I personally enjoyed the Inca Kola. It had a lemony taste to it and I liked it. On the other hand, the Pony Malta was extremely sweet. It was good to try it and maybe have it as a treat once in a while.
Afterwards, we decided to go back to the market and look for someplace to have dessert. Then, Omar called Jeff. Instead of dessert in the market, we were going to meet Omar at the mall and have dessert there. We savored our last taste of Ecuadorian ice cream!!
This time we have the great opportunity to display photos that we took during this trip and the ones taken during our previous trip two years ago when we were in Ecuador at Casa De La Danza. The photographs used in our exhibition at CityArts in Providence, Rhode Island were used here as well. Each artist created a coherent body of work with five photographs along with an artist statement. The students’ artworks from Colegio Filippo Brunellschi were also displayed there. It was a great night that the parents of the students were able to attend.
Language is a mechanism used for communication. What if you do not speak or understand the language? Does this handicap you from expressing your feelings, inhibit you from communicating your thoughts, and exclude or isolate you from others? At first, I thought not speaking Spanish was most certainly and definitely a challenge. Nonetheless, I was excited about the adventure ahead of me. I learned that language was not the only way of communication.
Art speaks to us in a language that we need to use our heart to appreciate, our hands to feel and our eyes to capture the enduring beauty. Knowing that photography can affect people in many ways, I wanted to fully explore photography as a form of art. I have always known that photography was used in social documentaries. However, it was not until this trip that I truly understood what it meant to be living with art. We found beauty and grace with the people of Ecuador. We found harmony and serenity in the landscape of Ecuador. Our cameras not only captured the moments but also the compassion and the empathy. Experiencing something firsthand rather than from a spectator's point of a view was very different. Art was presented as a communication breaker, a bridge between different cultures. I learned art was everywhere; the role of art in bridging cultures and the role it has in capturing the beauty of the land, culture, and the individuals we met. If we could just slow down and take in the beauty around us, then we would be able to live in art everyday of our lives. Taking pictures in Ecuador allowed me to slow down and appreciate life.
We went back to Colegio Filippo Brunelleschi for a closing farewell. It was great to come back and see friends that we had met the week before.
There were amazing many performances. There was singing, dancing, a mime skit and a puppet show. It was phenomenal!! After that we presented the skits that we had created with the Peace Promoters the week before to the whole school. After that, the winners for the ones that created the best artwork representing Peace and Justice were being judged. The little preschoolers that I was playing with went inside to paint.
During lunchtime, I had gone inside to where the little children were eating lunch and joined them. I was talking to the preschool teacher. She was wonderful. She helped us communicate by translating for us. After lunchtime, we were playing catch and it was fun to play catch with the children. They were throwing the ball all over the place and it was really funny!!
After lunch, the winners of the art competition were announced. We had time to play with the children a little more and then it was time to leave. But we will see them again soon!!
We went to the Refugee Education Trust. There we explored, and also learned why communication and listening are two key elements in achieving peace and justice. Everyone introduced themselves and told us where they were from. As people were going around, I noticed that many were from Columbia.
An orange and a banana… We were able to use the fruits as a way to demonstrate this. We broke up into groups and the orange was the first fruit used. The scenario that was presented was that two people wanted an orange, but there was only one, how does each person get that orange. Someone came up with the idea that you can cut it in half. The next question: what happens if one person does not like the idea of sharing the orange? We discussed in our group and we came up with the idea that we do not need the orange, but give it to someone else instead of us having it. Some of the other ideas were: squeezing the juice out, tossing a coin, one person gets the orange today and the next day the other person gets the orange. Therefore, we learned that there are many different solutions and that exchanging ideas is important. Thus, communication plays a vital part in solving problems. After that, we ate the orange.
Next, the banana was used as means to show how competition can cause havoc. We lined up in three lines and then passed the banana from the back to the front moving in a crisscross path from person to person. When the banana reached the front that person would run to the back and pass the banana up to the first person in the line and the team that got everyone done first was the winner!! When the game started it was great, some people were running, some were walking, some jogged, but all in all it was fun. When the first team finished, some were not happy. Someone even said that that team was missing a person and that was why they finished first. There were a lot of things going and the only thing I could do was star at the bananas that were in my hand, what happened to the poor banana. Thus, the question: when there is a competition, does our need to win disable us from remembering that there are other people or things involved? That sometimes we need to take a step back and evaluate what is around us before moving forward? Similar to the banana, when we feel the need to win, we forgot about everything else. The poor banana became banana mush.
We watched a video the students made about being refugees. It was a great video explaining that despite being a refugee or being a citizen, everyone should have the same rights.
The most exciting part of the whole trip!! I anticipated this part of the trip ever since I knew I would return. We were here for three days and two nights, two years ago and it was amazing!! This time we are here for a week!! I learned, even three days is enough to forge lasting relationships.
When we got to Pijal, we picked up Antonio, the president of the community cooperative, whom we had met last time!! I hoped I would be able to live with the same host family that I stayed with the last time I was here. As we were driving to the community center, the road changed. It was great fun!! I had faith in Juan Carlos who was driving the bus. He was driving pretty close to the hill and if the bus moved in the opposite direction, we would have an adventure. I am not sure why, but I was actually having fun!! When we got to the community center, we all got off and the community greeted us with open arms. We saw many familiar faces and it was very emotional. Everyone introduced themselves to everyone. We also met Mercedez, one of the community leaders, who we also met last time. It was really great to see familiar faces again!! As they were figuring out where everyone was staying, there was a little girl who I was playing peekaboo with!! After the families were set up, everyone was updated as to what was going to happen.
After that, those that lived close to the community center went to get their luggage and went with their host families. The little girl that I was playing with went with us on the bus. She was four years old and we were enjoying the wind blowing in our faces while we were dropping people off.
You cannot forget a visit to the equator when you go to Ecuador. The equator splits the world right down the middle! Being on both hemispheres at the same time is an experience that one cannot pass up!! We also visited the equator two years ago. However, last time we did not have the chance to see the fake equator. It has been scientifically proven that this equator is indeed a fake! It is about 240 meters off from where the actual equator is located. However, the ironic thing is that the fake equator has a monument denoting its presence while the real equator just has a sign.
We visited the fake equator first. We took lots of pictures and of course took ones that captured us jumping. Then, we went to go visit the real equator. We were going to have a tour. Before we began, I spotted the tour guide from our first visit. Then, our tour guide came and she gave us a phenomenal tour. There were spiders that were as big as my hand!! We learned why the houses were designed the way they were. One interesting fact was the lack of an opening on the top of some houses. The purpose of this is so that the smoke and tar would act as natural installation, keeping the house warm in winter and cold in the summer. There were also experiments that proved that we were indeed at the equator. One experiment I enjoyed was the water experiment. If you are in the northern hemisphere, the water will drain clockwise. If you are in the southern hemisphere, the water will drain counterclockwise. However, right on the equator, the water would fall straight down. Another great experiment was the egg experiment. Right on the equator, the egg could remain upright on its tip. It was great to see the equator again!!
We had lunch at the fake equator and we tried some cuy (guinea pig) with peanut sauce and avocado. When I went to Australia, we camped in the Outback and it was probably the first time that I ate something I was unfamiliar with. I had a steak and a sausage. Most people will think, “Steak and sausage, I grew up eating that, how bad could it be?” When I ate it, it tasted like steak and sausage. And yet, there was something different about it, something I could not pinpoint. I thought it was because I was in a different country; the food was going to taste a little different so I did not think much of it. When we finished eating, our tour guide Ducky said it was steak, not from a cow but from a kangaroo and the sausage was camel. At least this time, I knew beforehand what I was going to eat.
Graffiti is a means of communication in Quito. It is the message that is portrayed that is important. Last time we had the opportunity to hang out with some of the graffiti artists such as Diego; his logo/trademark is a ghost. We were able to go back to the same wall that we saw last time. There were new graffiti there, but some of the old ones remained. However, when we got to one place where there used to be graffiti, we realized that it was covered. It was heart breaking to see it gone. The interesting part was that it was covered, but not all the way… so one could potentially see what once was there. This reminded me of 5 Pointz, an outdoor graffiti art exhibit space, in Long Island City, New York City. In November 2013, the building was painted white overnight, but you can still what is underneath the white coat of paint. Now the train ride from Flushing to Manhattan will not be the same. I used to enjoy the few seconds that I had to see all the graffiti from the train and now it is partially gone… But where there is a wall, graffiti will come.
CEMPROC is a non-profit organization that aims to ‘reduce destructive conflict and promote global peace.’ Collaborating with schools, Jeff and Omar are working with Peace Promoters. Knowing that there are other ways to solve a problem, the Peace Promoters are equipped with skills and resources to solve these problems peacefully through anti-bullying and conflict resolution programs.
Last time, we went to Escuela FAE, a military school, and it was a remarkable experience. Witnessing children being taught things that were probably beyond anything that I learned when I was in elementary school and actually comprehending them was astounding. When I was in elementary school, we had English, math, social studies and science classes, but all I wanted to do was have gym class all day. These children were wise beyond their age.
This time we went to Colegio Filippo Brunelleschi. They welcomed us with open arms. They sang songs and had individual students come up and welcome us as well. Then, we went with the Peace Promoters and worked in little groups. We had to create a skit that would include not speaking and relate it back to our theme of visualizing peace and justice. Each group was given a word and the brainstorming began!!
Our group was given the word communication. We had to come up with a skit that would show how communication is an essential component in promoting peace and justice. Karissa was our translator and we came up with ideas about why communication is important. Even though there were lapses in conversations due to the need of translations, we were still able to come up with a skit. For our skit, we were going to show the difference between good and bad communication. I was going to be the photographer. Karissa displayed bad communication. I took photographs of her and showed her the pictures. She would tell me that she did not like them and we would take more. After a few tries, she got angry because she did not like the photographs, however, she never explained to me why she did not like the photographs and stormed off. With the good communication, I took group picture of Danielle and two Peace Promoters and showed it to them. They then explained to me what they did not like about the photograph and wanted to take another one in a different way. After a few more tries, communicating our likes and dislikes, a photograph was produced that both sides liked. Thus, communication is key. Both parties need to look and listen in order to understand what the other party needs.
We had lunch and it was time for recess!! The children were playing marbles and then it time for the potato sack race, a game that I really enjoyed when I was a child!! When the children had finished, Fernando Sanchez asked if we wanted to play and Asha, Danielle and I were ready to play the potato sack race. It was great fun!! After all the jumping, I needed to do a jumping photo and some of the kids joined me in a jumping photo. Then, they played the egg and spoon race but instead of an egg, they used a ball.
After having much fun, we had to leave. As we were boarding the bus, and unbeknownst to me, the whole school practically came outside to wish us safe travels. The bus went in front of the school and everyone was outside waving us good-bye. It was great!!
The altitude change did not hit me until Mount Pichincha. Mt. Pichincha is a volcano and we had the most amazing opportunity to go to the top of it. Last time, we were able to see the whole city from the top. From the Basílica del Voto Nacional, we were able to see the city. However, on Mt. Pichincha you really see the whole city!!
We went up via the Teleferico cable car. I enjoyed it!! I love heights, so this was something that I was definitely going to enjoy!! I loved seeing the treetops and buildings get smaller and smaller as we got closer to the volcano-top. The whole city was getting smaller. Some of us that went in the same cable car as me did not enjoy heights, but I was having a lot of fun. I was joking that going down with a mountain bike would be extremely fun!!! They did not agree with me… Once we got to the end of the cable car ride we were pretty high. And the first thing that I wanted to do was jump!! After about seven jumps, I could feel that I was out of breath. The altitude was really hitting me. We continued to walk and every few steps we had to stop to catch our breaths!! The ups and downs were really getting to us. Normally, I do not think it would be that bad, but on Mt. Pichincha it was another world. The effects of altitude change were evident. We walked and rested quite a lot. We also took a lot of jumping pictures and enjoyed the view along the way. As we were going back to the city, it started to rain. It was drizzling at first and it was not that bad. However, shortly after, it started to pour. It was raining cats and dogs, and there was some wind, which caused the car to shake. This made some of us scared. When we were very close to the end, the car abruptly stopped and due to the wind, the car was still shaking too. Two minutes from our final destination, two minutes from land, we were stuck and literally hanging by a thread. Some of the people in the cable car were extremely scared, but we were very close to the ground so if anything were to happen, we were going to fall on the grass. Once we landed, the Disney movie The Pacifier came to mind especially when Lulu Plummer said, “Land! Solid land!” while kissing the floor after her older sister Zoe, who had not passed drivers education, was driving. I think that sums up what some of us were feeling on the cable car.