For the lasts two weeks I've been absent from home traveling with 27 grade 10 and 11 students on a humanitarian trip to Ecuador. We were three adults, my collegue Lyne, Mrs. BB and myself. We always hear that adolescents are self centered and indolent but let me tell you that my students are far from that stereotype.
After having landed in Quito after an unintentional side trip to Guayaquil (Quito airport was fogged in) we left for the small mountain village of Chilcapamba. There the students worked for 5 days digging trenches for the pipes that will eventually supply clean water to the village. We must have dug at least 4 kilometers of one meter deep trench for the pipes that will carry the water. Since there is no heavy machinery there it was all dug using picks and shovels. Working along side the villagers my students learned a lot about how to dig correctly using the minimum of effort. It was interesting to see the villagers teaching the kids about how to do the work. We were told later that the villagers were really pleased to have been able to teach something to the "gringos" since in South America there is quite a bit of prejudice against the indigenous population and they are often looked down upon.
Since there must be pipes in the trenches part of the money we paid was used to buy eight kilometers of pipe that will connect the houses to the water reservoir which has yet to be built. As they say one step at a time.
This was the third time that I have been to the village and we've made friends and memories that will last for a life time. The people of the village are poor but are always willing to open their hearts to us. We were a part of their family and when we left there were tears all around.
After having worked for five days we finally left to visit the rest of that beautiful country. We visited lake Cuicocha a sacred lake of the Incas in a caldera of an extinct volcano. On the way we stopped at the official line for the equater lat 0.00'.0". It is fun to see the line on the ground and have a foot in the northern and southern hemisperes. We also visited the town of Otavalo with its marked and artisans. Later we climbed the Cotopaxi the highest active volcano in the world. The bus took us up to 4500 meters and from there we climbed to the glacier at 5000 meters. At that altitude the lack of oxygen is like jogging while breathing through a drinking straw but it was worth the climb. We then went on to Baños at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano, which is still very active, to try out the thermal baths with the students. They really liked the hot baths but didn't appreciate getting up a five am to beat the growds. Finally we left Baños to spend time in the the Amazonian rainforest in a camp by the river Napos. There we walked in the forest with a very knowledgable guide, went down the river in an inner tube and panned for gold. The last night we drifted down the river to listen to the dark and mysterious forest around us.
After all of this we drove back lot Quito where we visited the old city and the next morning boarded the plane for Montreal.