By: Isha Patlola
“Poderosa. Hermosa. Divertida.”
These are just a few words that Spanish teacher Ashley Warren used to describe WW-P’s trip to Ecuador this past August. Poderosa, meaning powerful in Spanish, describes how the trip to Ecuador introduced the students to a rich, new culture and experience, leaving a profound impression on the whole group. Hermosa, meaning beautiful, describes not only the physical beauty of the Andes and the Galapagos islands, but also the beauty of learning more about Ecuadorian culture. And lastly, divertida, meaning fun, sums up the whole trip. “I haven’t laughed so hard or smiled so much on one trip in my lifetime,” Warren said. Though the district gives students many opportunities to visit new places and learn, the trip to Ecuador was different. It was not simply a trip; it was a rewarding and life-changing experience.
Planning and Organizing:
Before encountering the rich culture of Ecuador, there was much planning and organizing to be done. Warren worked with a tour company in order to alleviate some of the stress of organizing an 11-day trip with 13 kids to a completely different continent. Discussion of the trip began in Warren’s classes starting in May 2015, over a year before the trip. With so much time to sign up, students were able to figure out financial plans and clear up time in their schedules.
Before the students could actually volunteer to sightsee and tour the country of Ecuador, they had to endure a nine-hour flight. “Flying there was hectic because I over-packed in a duffel and I ended up arriving late,” sophomore Kavitha Rao said. Although flying to another continent with friends was certainly chaotic, once the group got to Ecuador they shared experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Finally, the students arrived in Ecuador, ready to experience new culture, take on new challenges, and use their Spanish-speaking skills with native speakers. Their schedules were extremely busy. Students volunteered on a local water project in the Andes, participated in leadership training, and visited a sustainable development farm outside of Quito, observing a myriad of projects intended to benefit the regional areas. But of course, there was no dearth of sightseeing: students enjoyed snorkeling at three different sites, touring the Charles Darwin Research Station, visiting the first Catholic Church in Ecuador, and learning about exotic animals. They were able to have fun while volunteering their time to help out those in need, and they were able to learn a lot by doing so.
“Nothing topped our snorkeling adventures in the Galapagos,” said Warren. Even with the mask and snorkel, I could see the awe in the teens’ eyes and the smiles on their faces. Swimming with the turtles in a natural, unplanned environment was amazingWhile Warren was most taken by the beautiful mysteries of the sea, Rao cherished a different memory of the trip. “My favorite part was volunteering up in the mountains, despite the hard work. The people there made everything enjoyable. I spoke to people and explored grocery stores at night and even ate some guinea pig, but only because I kept saying to myself, ‘You’ll never get to do this again. Try it!’”