TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Monday, February 24, 2014

From Quito to Agualongo and More

Activity Blog February 21, 2014

"My art is a way of praying, and of screaming at the same time...and the greatest consequence of love and solitude." Oswaldo Guayasamin 

The group encountered Ecuador's most famous artist, Guayasamín, last week in the nation's capital of Quito. Students were shocked by his paintings full of tear-filled faces and contorted bodies. Inspired by the struggles and anguish of oppressed peoples everywhere, Guayasamin's haunting paintings moved the students, fueling discussion of Latin America's political upheavals.

Madre y Nino, 1989
One quote of Guayasamin's in particular stood out to the students, and they frantically scrambled to write it down in their journals: "I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a child with no feet." This quote made the students think deeply on the concept of perspective, and how vital it is to keep perspective throughout our trip and their lives.

That afternoon we climbed  stairs and ladders of the Basilica de Voto Nacional to the heights of the clock tower where students could see a 360 degree view of the sprawling urban area. Impressed by the types of architecture, we contemplated different forms of urbanization.

Our final days at the Hacienda were bittersweet as we said goodbye to the first friends we made in Ecuador. On our last night there Beth led an amazing reflective experience where the students wrote down the emotional baggage they had brought on the trip. We then walked into the courtyard where a large bonfire awaited our slips of paper. Each student and teacher threw their baggage into the fire, and sat silently under the stars together. The ladies left at the end of the night were resistant to leave the fire, as they were staring at the embers, lost in thought.

We traveled to Otavalo, and into the small hillside community of Agualongo de Quichinche to meet our new homestay families. Vickie, Grace, Anne, and Kate lived at the top of the hill in a house overflowing with children. On Sunday their Quichua family dressed them up in traditional indigenous clothing to go to mass. Alizah and Lindsey lived near the community center; their favorite moment was teaching karate to their 7-year old homestay brother. Scout and Hannah lived in the center of town as well.  Initially shy, these girls were bursting with questions by the end of their stay.  Teacher Kate stayed with Lena and Sophie and had a blast gathering and carving sticks to roast s'mores with their homestay mother on the last night there.  (In fact, all of the girls has the opportunity to teach their host families how to make this delicacy, familiar to us, yet completely unusual for them!)  A tiny boy reviewed colors and numbers at Courtney, Erin, Charlotte, and Heather's house; and one of Charlotte's oral history interview questions induced an unexpected forty-five minute life summary from their host mother.   In a hilarious language miscommunication, Susannah, Rebecca, and Maisie invited their family to make s'mores with them "before" dinner, instead of "after" dinner...Chocolate appetizers and new vocabulary have never tasted so delicious together! Allie, Caroline, and Feyza were swept into the lives of three tiny boys, and spent their time in Agualongo learning how to play "Lobito," and how to cook "quimbolitos."

Our time with the community presented us with exciting opportunities to work with and learn from the local people.  On our first full day, we were fortunate to experience the epitome of Ecuadorian community building: "la minga." For a minga, the townsfolk send at least one representative from each family to take part in a day of community work projects.  Our students were honored to be invited, and happily picked up shovels, potato peelers, hoes, firewood, and chickens.  We helped set up the wiring for lights on their soccer field, placed new tiles in the community center, cleared irrigation ditches, and assisted in the preparations for a grand communal feast.  Once ours tasks were complete, we all sat down together to dine on a traditional meal of chicken soup, rice, beans, and "cuy." Typically  reserved for special occasions, eating "cuy," also known as guinea pig, was a novel experience for many of us!

Later in the week, we invited our host families to join us for a picnic at the Lechero tree.  Perched at the top of a nearby hilltop, the tree is said to have medicinal properties...we certainly enjoyed the view from our eating spot, as well as the chance to observe and contrast how the Quichua people carry out a picnic.  In an ultimate display of potluck posterity, all families bring a dish to dump out on a blanket.  The dishes are mixed together by a community member, and everyone scoops up a bowl-full.  We had brought bread, fruit, cheese, peanut butter and jelly, which didn't mesh as well with the other ingredients, but everyone enjoyed them anyway (separately)!  After the picnic, we watched a flight demonstration of various birds of prey at a condor rescue park.  Not only does the condor fly on the Ecuadorian flag, the majestic bird is considered to be the king of the Andes. The day provided fun-filled bonding opportunities for our students and their Agualongomanta families.
On our final day in the community, the students presented a song in Quichua that thanked our families for the chance to work, eat, and learn with them.  Many of girls were ecstatic to be presented with "cintas," traditional hair wraps, which they wore proudly as we boarded the bus back to Otavalo.

The Spanish immersion continues this week: the girls are enrolled in intensive Spanish courses with native speakers.  Soon, we will venture into the cloud forests where we will investigate local economic enterprises and dive into the concept of eco-tourism.

Pagui, ari tuta! (Thanks, good night!)

Your favorite TTS teacher team


  1. Thanks for the wonderful update!!! I was just reading more about the Tandana Foundation and Anna Taft. On Anna Taft's Facebook page she posted pictures as well as a couple of videos (including the girls singing the Quichia song) from last week. If you are on Facebook I encourage you to take a look. It's great to catch glimpses of our girls. Lisa (Courtney's Mom)

  2. Thank you Jennifer for the update, and thank you Lisa for the hint about the Tandana Foundation's website. I was thrilled to see a photo of Scout peeling potatoes! The girls all look great and seem to be really enjoying their experiences.
    Pat Curtin

  3. Soo much fun to see the girls singing in Cuichia!

  4. Thank you so much for all of these delightful details. I love hearing the names of 'who is doing what/where...even if I don't know who's who! I just found the video of the girls on the Tandana Facebook page...Thank you for letting us know about the post!
    Ellen-T. (Rebecca's Mom)