When we first arrived in Quito, the first thing we saw was Cotopaxi and how beautiful it was. From then on we began our 3hr bus ride to Mindo. Mindo is a small town located Northwest of Quito, and is a cloud rainforest. There you can find 13 different species of hummingbirds, toucans, spiders the size of your hand, and hundreds of tiny “sand fleas.” We all stayed for a little over a week in a “Robinson family” like treehouse. The home was very exotic and open. Each of us shared one level, with some lofts.
In Mindo we began taking Spanish classes everyday for 3hr. We were all divided up into three different sections: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Along with Spanish classes, we also had many seminars throughout the week. These seminars had consisted of: Group Expectations, Communication, 10 Principles of Learning & Teaching, What are the Shapes & Colors that Make up your Identity? (race, religion, culture, origin, sex orientation, ethnicity, gender, social class, age, physical appearance, profession, education and nationality), How Big is Our World? (discussion on manufacturing and exportation of goods), Personal Assumptions, TED: Hans Rosling, and a Jeffery Sachs & William Easterly Debate. Each of these seminars has given us a new look at how we perceive the different cultures that make up our world.
Aside from all the work, we were all able to find ourself some free time. One of our first trips in Mindo was to a waterfall that had about a 40ft drop. We all took our turns jumping down, but in order to do so we need to be hooked up into a harness for safety precautions. While coming back from the waterfall jumping, it began pouring rain. Two pick up trucks drove the whole group back to our home where we were staying. On the ride, all of us were balancing ourselves in the back, while trying to stay warm and not get hit by any branches or vines hanging down. Another activity we had done, was go zip lining. There were 10 lines at about 100-200ft up in the air. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We all also participated in “Baliterapia,” similar to Zumba. Definitely one of the hardest things any one of us has had to do. We left the local center dripping in sweat and headed over to a restaurant to have our first TBB “happy hour.” Another day we had also met up with the TBB Gap Year group at the Mariposario, a large house of butterflies.
On September 22, we headed back to Quito. There we spent the next four nights in a hostel on the North end of the city. During our time there, we continued Spanish classes, toured the Old Town of Quito, did some shopping, visited the equator and took more dance lessons.
Today, we drove 2.5hr to San José de Minas, directly north of Quito. San José de Minas is a small town that consists of about 7,000 people and is 8,000ft above sea level. Upon our arrival, we met the president of the town and were able to be a part of their annual cowboy parade. After the parade, we watched horse competitions that were being held in a local stadium. Once that all ended, we had late lunch and then met with our host families. As of right now, my roommate Brooks (from Tulsa, Oklahoma) and I are waiting for dinner.