June 18, 2012
In this space you usually find a version of a story that I have managed to chop to three or four sentences. I could find nothing to cut in this beautiful travelogue that I received last night from Dr. Lynda Jentsch of our Department of World Languages and Cultures in Howard College!
Hola, Dr. Westmoreland!
Now that we're home, I'd like to report on the absolutely marvelous trip that I was privileged to make with the second cohort of Latin American Studies Scholars. I was assisted in this venture by first-year cohort veteran Kyle Young and my husband, Bart Grooms. Here's a brief summary of what we did:
May 27-30: Sani (low-land Quichua) Community, located three hours by motorized canoe from the town of Coca, deep in the Ecuadorian rain forest. To cries of "This is incredible!" and "I can't believe I'm here!" we bird- and monkey-watched from a canopy tower, observed a school and shared with the children, toured women's initiatives (gardening and making jewelry), made chocolate, ate grubs (grilled!), hunted black caimans by night (with flashlights), danced with local people, held an unhappy--but beautiful--boa constrictor, and went piranha fishing (I had a good bite, but only our guides pulled some in).
May 31-June 3: Salasaca (high-land Quichua town), high in the Andes, where we stayed with an Indigenous weaver and his family. As the cries of "I can't believe I'm here!" continued, we hiked a NARROW trail down into a valley (that looked like the Garden of Eden must have looked) in search of medicinal plants. Then back up in the thin atmosphere to the hostal, where we learned to clean wool, card it, spin it by hand, then weave it. Side trip to Baptist camp and future seminary at Chacauco. Awakened every morning (early) by donkeys braying. Too high for chickens, I guess!
June 4-6: Cuenca: Beautiful colonial city (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in the south of the country, stopping at Inca ruins on the way. While in Cuenca we had lectures on Ecuadorian history, health system(s), and economy (traditional and export) by the staff of the Ecuadorian branch of Estudio Sampere, our long-time affiliate in Spain. Here we also visited with one of our visiting profes from Ecuador, Elma Quinde (06-07).
June 7-8: Hacienda Guachalá, with a stop at the equator (both the one determined by the French in the 18th century and the near-by one determined more recently by GPS). Here we learned about the hacienda system and rested after all our fancy footwork in the rain forest, Andes, and Cuenca.
June 9-11: Quito, with stops at the famous and long-anticipated Otavalo market, Peguche waterfalls, and Condor Park. In Quito we toured churches and museums, took the teleférico (cable car) up to 4100 meters, and saw the stunning art in the Fundación Guayasamín museum, dedicated to Ecuador's premier artist (images available on their website).
The twelve students in our merry band (some seasoned travelers and others never having been outside the US) were outstanding ambassadors of goodwill and intellectual curiosity. They were pre-prepared by general and group-specific readings, thanks to Barry Robinson's meticulous planning. Groups facilitated discussion and blog-posting at each stop. Wesley Ballew (you had a cameo in one of his previous videos), is putting together a video of our trip in lieu of blogging. I hope he'll be able to share it with all of us soon.
Most of all, I want to thank all involved for supporting the Latin American Studies Scholars program. This trip is these students' "capstone" in many more ways than one. I know that they will look back on this as an unforgettable and life-changing experience, as will I.
Gracias, gracias, gracias,
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