Friday, June 19, 2009

Final Reflections...

"I think this trip has been defined by things I never would have thought would happen. I’ve learned humility both in realizing how fortunate I am in the visits to mud huts that people call home, to learning that my preconceptions about the trip would be false. Now as a graduate of St. Peter’s I didn’t think I would be able to connect with the rising seniors and juniors who I had limited to no interaction with before, but I was in ways that have truly helped me grow. I never would have thought that I would be able to connect to the residents here when I didn’t speak their language, much less be able to teach a high school girls’ English class. I didn’t think this trip would be anything more than lots of manual labor like the other service I’ve done, but instead it was so much more. My preconceptions about this trip were wrong, but instead of ruining the experience, it made it that much more influential to me."
-Matt Mullman

"It’s hard to try and summarize everything I’ve taken away from this trip because it’s been such an eventful experience. But one specific thing that I took away was how the kids here in Ecuador made the best out of what they were given. These children are out in the streets working at the age of 3 just to help their family run the household. They attend school because they understand how crucial an education is. And on top of all of that they always have a smile on. How they find a way to bring laughter and joy into their lives on top of working day and night is remarkable. These kids made me realize that life’s not all about working and material things, it’s about finding the laughter and joy that is all around but goes unnoticed by many."
-Kyle Robinson

"Over my two weeks here in Ecuador, I have seen and experienced a lot, all of which I will remember and cherish forever. Although most of these experiences were great, some came as a difficulty to me. I was faced with challenges that I had previously never encountered. Some included overcoming a language barrier, seeing people living in poverty, and helping to build a house. My time here has taught me to obtain many attributes that I could have only dreamed of before coming to Ecuador. I feel I have gained a strong sense of humility and appreciation. Though it will be much harder to have the same humility and appreciation at home in the states, I with try to live with the values I learned here. I hope these values will help me improve relationships, whether it is with family, friends, or even a stranger upon my return."
-Kevin Cunningham

"Camaraderie, Service, and Appreciation are a few of the many lessons I have learned in these last two weeks. Before this trip I always had the intentions of helping others, but I often found myself reluctant to act. More importantly, I never conceived the idea of working outside of my comfort zone. In these last two weeks I have truly stood in solidarity with my fellow classmates and with those here who were in need of so much affection and attention. Whether it was in the minga or in the classrooms where we taught children and adults, the value of service and its effects have become apparent to me. The spirit of welcome and of community was widespread while here, and it is evident that it has spread to our group. I, as well as the group, have learned the true essentials of life. Material possessions were lacking in the families we encountered here, yet they all had an overwhelming sense of love, hope, and joy. I will appreciate much more what my family does for me for they sacrifice so much to have a life that compared to the children’s lives here is like royalty. These families have helped me realize that all one needs to experience true joy in life is company, and if one does not have company it is the job for someone else to lend that helping hand and be company."
-Alex Diaz

"The most important thing I am going to take away from this week is the desire to become more childlike. What I encountered here were the words of the Gospel when Jesus talks about the need to become innocent like a child. Besides the fact that I learned a good amount of Spanish from these young children, I also learned how to become more humble and more joyous. When I did not have the energy to give my all, I just needed to talk to one of the students of the Center to become reinvigorated. By seeing God in their laughter, their hopefulness and their faces, I know what I need to do to become Christ-like in my own life."
-Mr. John Kilroy

"It’s difficult for me to try to sum up such a fulfilling and rewarding experience. These two weeks in Ecuador have filled me with many emotions and brought many things to my attention. This trip allowed me to see what the most important things in life are. Although the children here live in intense poverty, they live with hope and a lively, joyful spirit. It was an incredible thing to witness; the innocence and happiness of the children was remarkable. I was able to see where they lived and it made me think about how fortunate I am. I sometimes take what I have for granted, and this experience made me realize that. All of the families involved with the center work extremely hard, and it’s very motivating for me. I will take this experience with me and try to live my life with the child-like joy exhibited here."
-James Kuklinski

"This experience is certainly something that I will always remember. It is very difficult to sum up everything we have done during the course of this trip. I saw some pretty memorable things while we were here. I saw little kids working in the streets selling bracelets or shining shoes. I saw little one-room shacks that house up to eight people. Seeing these things will certainly allow me to greater appreciate what I have. I really enjoyed working with the children here at the center. Even though I didn’t speak their language, I was able to communicate with them as if I could. I enjoyed playing soccer with them as well as giving them piggy-back rides until I was completely exhausted. I got the inspiration to do all of this from the amazing volunteers here at the center. They work with these children almost every day and always give 100%. I will never forget this experience and I hope it will have an everlasting effect on me."
-James Shovlin

"The experience that these two weeks presented us was one that we will all look back on for a very long time. For me these two weeks were about what we could take back to our own homes. Throughout this week I saw God in everything I did, and through God’s presence I tried to carry out my faith. I saw houses that I would have never believe someone lived in, and I saw three year old children walking the streets looking to shine shoes for a quarter. This had an everlasting effect on my life and what my attitude is toward the people that I know. The most important thing about this trip to me is what I will bring to the United States. On this journey I learned from my friends and I learned from the children of Ecuador. I hope to bring this experience home and spread the love that I felt here. I will never forget this experience and I hope that I will carry out the promise that I have made God."
-Tom Tulp

"This time in Ecuador has been a great experience that has made a huge impact on my life. I never believed that I would be able to see such hope in people who live in such great poverty. Each time I played soccer or helped teach a class, I couldn’t believe that such happy and loving children could live in the small huts and shacks that we saw in the barrios. I will never forget the hope that each Ecuadorian child had despite their terrible living situations. They were welcoming to us despite a language barrier, and they always had smiles on their faces. My experience has taught me to appreciate the gifts that I have been given. Living in the United States and having the opportunity to go to a school like St. Peter’s is a gift that these children will never experience, and my time in Ecuador has taught me to appreciate everything that God has blessed me with. I will never forget these children, and they have inspired me to try to become as open and loving as they are."
-Peter LiVolsi

"Throughout our time in Ecuador, a concept that I learned in my Christian Ethics class this year continued to come to mind. At one point in the year, we were taught the meaning of living in solidarity with others, of recognizing the specific living conditions of others as unacceptable for our fellow human brothers. Understandably, this topic was difficult to grasp at the time. As a teenage guy living in the small suburban town of Rutherford, it seemed impossible that such conditions could exist. This trip definitely helped open my eyes. Visiting Los Barrios and witnessing the plights of the poor were painful to experience. At the time I was overwhelmed with feelings of anger, distress, and even guilt. Yet I leave this place not downtrodden but filled with hope. This trip to Ecuador provided us with experiences that allowed us to see the hardships that others are experiences but also with stories of promise. On our last night here, I consider myself a worker of God. I was able to see Him in the laughter of the children, in the desire to learn of parents coming to night classes, and in the dedication of the volunteers who have spent countless hours trying to better the lives of these people. One of the many lessons that this place has taught me is that understanding such hope comes only with living in true solidarity."
-Kevin Cevasco

"Volunteering with the Working Boys Center enabled me to witness very real poverty, and it was in those moments that I think I learned to more readily see Chris at work with and present in the poor. In desolate neighborhoods, in the classroom interaction with local children, in the folks who commit their lives to the WBC I saw love at work in the world. I was astonished, pretty consistently during our two weeks, by the amount of hope present in the families served by the Working Boys Center. I learned while I was here. People, who on the surface had nothing to give, taught me how to live and love authentically. School children who wore the same clothes day in and day out greeted us with smiles and hugs; their parents welcomed us into their homes – and into their lives – with such openness that the poverty (though real and present) didn’t grab my focus. The hope they shared with us did. I came to Quito to lead; I head back to the U.S. having done more following – and I’m a better man because of it."
-Mr. Ryan Heffernan

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 11 & 12: The Final Shadowing

These two days were like many others, long and tiresome yet rewarding. We all had different plans and went our separate ways (in pairs). After last Friday we were all much more familiar and comfortable with the concept of shadowing, and we knew what to expect. However the days were still unpredictable and challenging. Many of us started off around 6:45 in the morning and did not end until around 8:00 at night. On Tuesday and Wednesday a few of us had experienced the special-ed. class that the center offers; a few went over to the other center; and a few of us enjoyed gym class right in our own backyard. Once again most of us found that our experiences with the students benefited us as much as they benefited them.
In the special-ed. class our experiences were difficult and rewarding all at the same time. One of the students, named Bryan, was around seven or eight and could not even talk that well. Another, Armando, had been a very quiet kid outside the classroom, but they were able to make him open up and actually do work like counting and learning body parts. These kids despite all their set-backs and struggles were the happiest bunch of kids around. They were so excited by our presence in the class.
Over the past two days, many of us have made our way over to the Marin center downtown. Although we have all had varying experiences as a result of shadowing different volunteers, all who have gone to Marin seem to have had similar experiences. The courtyard at Marin is well-known for the piggy-back-rides that we've given, for the volunteer vs. student soccer games, and for the exhausting yet fufilling hours of play-time.
Overall, the past two days can be summarized in a few sentences. We've all had our own separate experiences, but there are common elements in all that we do here. Our hard work in the class rooms, on the soccer fields, and throughout the centers has revealed to us genuine joy and hope in these children. After witnessing the Barrios and becoming aware of all of those people's hardships, it is important for us to recognize the potential in these kids. With every smile that we give, every laugh that we cause, and every lesson that we teach, we are reminded of the purpose of our service here.

By: Tom Tulp and Kevin Cevasco

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 8, 9, 10: Voting Weekend

This weekend is election weekend in Ecuador, which means that the Working Boys Center is being used as a polling center. Because it is mandatory for all adults to vote in Ecuador, we had time off from service and used the weekend for vacation time. On Saturday, we headed off to Estadio Olimpico: Athualpa for the Liga vs. S.D. Quito game. Because the Liga stadium is so close to our home, we rooted for them despite it being a home game for S.D. Quito across town from the center. We all bought cheap jerseys and sat on the Liga fans' side, where we were surprised to see a huge, screaming crowd. As Liga ran out on the field, the fans unraveled a huge flag which covered an enormous portion of the stands, from the field seats to the nosebleeds. We cheered on as Liga scored the first goal, and after a goal by S.D. Quito the score remained 1-1 until the final whistle. It was a really exciting game and fun to be around the crazy, die-hard fans.

On Sunday, we went to Mindo, a community located near the rainforest. We decided to be adventurous and try zip-lining, which turned out to be a great choice. We took a pickup truck up into the mountains of the Ecuadorian jungle and arrived at a small hut which had helmets, gloves, and harnesses. We had a quick tutorial and soon we were off the platform and flying over the valleys and trees of the rainforest. Ten zip-lines and two hours later, we returned to Mindo feeling incredibly satisfied. We then decided to test out the rivers by going tubing. We split into two groups,and hopped on giant tubes which consisted of 7 inner tubes tied together. We floated over rapids and rocks for a half hour, and took a bus home feeling really happy after our adventurous day. To end the day perfectly, Mr. Heffernan and Mr. Kilroy took us to Crepes & Waffles, where we ate a huge meal and enjoyed the creative ice cream desserts.

Today, we woke up late and decided to go to Medio del Mundo, the Equator. After a short bus ride for less than an hour, we arrived at the Equator. We walked up to the huge monument and entered the museum inside, which held many facts about Ecuadorian culture. We took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed the beautiful day. It was cool to say that we were on both the northern and southern hemisphere at once. We spent the rest of the day playing soccer with the ninos and a match of volleyball. We look forward to another day of shadowing volunteers tomorrow.

-Peter LiVolsi '11 and James Shovlin '10

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 7: Shadowing the Volunteers

Today we followed the year-long volunteers throughout their daily routine. There are two centers, one on our campus and the other an hour bus ride away. Our group split into pairs to follow their respective volunteers. Some of us worked at La Marin, the center further away, while others stayed on campus. However most pairs worked at both centers throughout the course of the day. The volunteers help teach classes at the centers, make sure everything runs smoothly, and spend time with the children.

Four of us woke up early to travel to La Marin with the volunteers. When we arrived we watched "El Rey Leon" better known as "The Lion King." Then our volunteer Laura led us to our room where the "ninas" were learning how to make arts and crafts to sell. Today they were making rosaries, which turned out to be incredibly difficult to make as we learned first hand. Two little girls were trying to teach us how to make them, and even though we did not succeed, Ivis and Melissa remained happy and were glad to spend time with us. We then bought the rosaries which turned out to be very nice. The rosaries cost two dollars, which may have been a majority of their weekly income. Then we proceeded to the cafeteria where we came across many energetic "ninitos." Soon after greeting them we found ourselves throwing them up in the air and giving out free piggy-back rides. They loved taking pictures with us, and they were extremely eager to play with us. We moved this party outside to play some soccer. Each of us had a "nino" on our shoulders, and we took their direction on where to run in order to score. We had a great time with the kids, and the kids loved it so much it was hard to get them off of us. It was a pleasure to see the fatherly side of Heff. After this we went to mass where we saw the tight-knit community present at the center. Unfortunately we had to leave, but we were pleasantly surprised. We rode back to the center in the bed of Padre Juan's Chevy pickup; it's something that we've all always wanted to do. Padre Juan can definitely put the pedal to the metal. After eating lunch, we assisted the teacher with a first grade reading class. Later we helped teach adults how to type and use computers. It was a little shocking to help adults who barely knew how to work a computer, but it was still a good experience. We came home exhausted but satisified knowing that we had made a difference in the lives of the children. It was a very fulfilling day and we are looking forward to continuing the events of today next week.

-James Kuklinski '10 and Peter LiVolsi '11

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 6- Work Shops

After waking up at 8:00 this morning, we all gathered our dirty laundry and took a walk to the laundromat on the Working Boys Center's campus. Luckly our laundry is done for free because most of us are running low on cash. Once our laundry was taken care of, we split into groups and headed off to the workshops. Some of us went off to the auto mechanic shop. At the shop a very funny and wise mechanic showed us around. He explained how they teach the kids in three years. First, they learn how to use the tools and then they start working on small parts of the car. And lastly they work on engines. They also turned a few engines into electrical engines, which is not easy. Another group went to the bakery, where they were given a tour of the machines that make the pastries and bread. The second part of the tour consisted of making our own baked goods. The baker and his students allowed us to experiment in making the dough into different shapes. Once the patries were done baking, we got to eat them and see how we did. These different shops gave us the oppurtunity to appreciate the magnitude of the Center's effect on others lives. The seven teenage guys working in the auto mechanic shop were given the chance to succeed in something they enjoyed. Also the young girls in the bakery were being offered the skills needed to become an experienced baker. Todays work was short but its significance has not been overlooked.

By: Kyle Robinson and Kevin Cevasco

Day 5: Los Barrios

Today was a day that changed most of the group in the way we see ourselves in relation to world. We visited the barrios, or homes of the children, and saw poverty at it's greatest. We learned that someone living in a one room shack with six children, including ten month old Jon Alexander, and no husband could still find happiness. This shack was the first on our tour of the barrios. It was no larger than 12ft. x 12ft., and had one refrigerator (not even owned by the family), two small beds, a stove (if you can call it that), and a few clothes. This place was on the side of a mountain that took about fifteen minutes to walk to, DOWNHILL. It was made of old brick and was no higher than six feet. It was musty, hot, and full of bugs with a dirt floor. Also, it was hard to face that this place supported a family of seven that had nothing, with a little bit of nothing. The woman that showed us into this house was very small and seemed quite fragile, but she still carried her baby, Jon, on her back the whole way there. Her pride was severely hurt when she showed us her house because she was very ashamed of letting us see her home. This shook a lot of us and really made our view on poverty change.

Today's experiences only began with this one poor woman and her story. We continued on, with the woman, for quite a while and toured one or two more homes. They were all alike other than the number of stray dogs living in each house. These people's lives are centered around a few bricks and a piece of metal overhead. This showed us that our lives and what we take for granted makes us so much more well off than anyone could have ever imagined. The woman that we first visited stayed with us the entire day. We could barely make it up and down the mountains walking as young boys, but this woman did it all with a baby on her back.

As we were walking down one of the mountains I turned to Mr. Kilroy and said "I wouldn't be able to live in one of these nice houses right next to extreme poverty". His response was el mejor, "Whether living right next to poverty or far away it doesn't matter because in the end this poverty will still exist." He was very right and made me realize that poverty will always be there whether we choose to face it or not. This also brings me to a point brought uo in our daily reflections. Heff said that we face poverty everyday whether it be driving through the slums of Jersey City or walking through New York City. It is right in front of our noses, but takes a trip to a completley different country to help us realize this. So in the beggining of our day we were faced with questions of morality, self awareness, and respect for life. It was a long and very eventful day full of fun and serious moments, but definately a life changing one.

On a happier note,a few of us went to a local mall to get something to eat. Something we were happy to see was the large number of native Ecuadorians there to watch the big soccer game. The game was between Ecuador and Argentina and we enjoyed celebrating with the people when Ecuador won the game. It was amazing to see a whole country of people unified in such a amazing manner all due to a soccer game. Seeing all the people in the mall jump up and down screaming each time the Ecuadorian team scored a goal was something we will never forget.

-By Tom Tulp and James Shovlin

P.S. we don't want to forget to say that today we also had a great time with the niƱos today. Two of them played soccer with us today and were little animals.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day 4 - The Sounds of Unity

First I would like to take the time to thank all the readers that find the time to read our blogs.

For starters, today's purpose was clearly explained and we were prepared to paint an entire art room as one big group. This involved a unified effort on everyone's part and it clearly defined our motivation to succeed. While doing this, we managed to sing along with Heff's iPod and Kilroy's iPod. The day brought us together and clearly demonstrated our desire to fulfill what was asked of us. Although it was a long day, we found the time to take a break and connect with the children. Being with the kids, was a great oppurtunity for every member of our group since we divided into seperate groups in order to connect with a variety of children. I appreciated how willing every member of our group was by talking to a new group of kids regardless of their ability to communicate. Two people I would love to recognize for their efforts are Mr. Kilroy and James Kuklinski. Today they proved that they could manage themselves and speak freely without being nervous and critical of what they say.

Also, we once again saw a tremendous effort on the part of the kids to earn their money just to get by. While painting, they graciously enlightened us especially Kevin Cevasco who loved racing with Alex on his back. As if the singing along to the iPods was not enough, we were graced with all the energy of these kids that never failed to smile. Today's activity brought us closer to each other and to the many children that we have met over these days. Today was by far the most united day between all group members and will be remembered for its numerous events.

Edwin Ortiz '10

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 3 - Meeting Los Ninos

Today was an inspiration and a blessing in many ways. We woke up early to eat some breakfast at the bakery downstairs from our dormitories where we met a man from our area. This man is a year-long volunteer who lives in Hoboken and works at Goldman Sachs; he welcomed us while serving us our breakfast.

Today we toured the campuses of the working boys center. On the way to El Marin (the campus where we do not reside) I sat and talked to an elderly woman on the bus. The conversation contained a myriad of topics including soccer, thieves, and life. The most inspiring section of this conversation focused on the latter. Here is a woman who I just met and she opened up completely to me revealing that she suffers from Osteoporosis and feels like she is going to die because Ecuador does not provide good medical services. She is a native of Chile and she wants to pass to rest in her home country but she cannot afford to return there. Immediately after, she had to get off the bus and she parted by telling me to be careful and for God to Bless me. I felt at once sad and moved by her poignant tale; this, to me, was a revelation from God. However bad I think life can be at home, this story proved to me that what is difficult for me, these people would gladly accept it for their situations are much more dire than mine.

We arrived to tour the first campus in Marin and we came across a variety of rooms. I was surprised by the magnitude of the center. We first went through the autobody shop where the kids learn their trades. After touring through the building, which included daycare, a doctor's office, chapel, and normal classrooms, we met a group of children playing outside. Although most of us drew from a limited Spanish vocabulary, we were able to have a great time. We played soccer and the kids were incredibly happy and excited to play with us. Not only did the children have a great time,but also we were able to see the great hope that the children possess despite their circumstances. Along with having a fun time, our lives were put into a larger context seeing the joy on the kids' faces. It made me realize what we take for granted and the truly important things in life.

Then we took the bus back to our home center. We had not visited the center prior to today. We arrived at lunchtime and were quickly swarmed by children eager to converse with us. Some of us had a more difficult time than others communicating with the kids. My Spanish is very limited so I found myself rapping 50 cent and freestyling over the beatboxing of my friend Juan to have a good time. Edwin and Alex are fluent and were gracious in helping us translate. Some of us received nicknames such as "El perro grande" (Kyle Robinson), "El aplicado" (Alex Diaz) and "Chocolate blanco" (Kevin Cunningham). One child was so infatuated with Kyle that he offered to shine his shoes even during his lunchtime. After we finished eating we headed to the soccer field. We made teams and some of us found ourselves overmatched by the native Ecuadorians particularly the eight year old sensation "Ronaldinho" who scored three goals. This was another example of standing in solidarity with others despite the language barrier. We were able to play a very fun game even though most of us could not communicate well. After the game Diaz and I found ourselves swarmed by "ninas" thinking Diaz was the famous Domincan singer Romeo from the group "Aventura" and that I was High School Musical star Zac Efron.

After, we finished touring the center which included another auto shop and a woodshop. Our tour guides Marissa and Teresa were extremely generous and very informative. Although many people did not understand what they were saying, Edwin and I contributed by translating the tours to the rest of the group. We then returned home and participated in various activities such as playing basketball and soccer.

Today showed us that there are more important things in life than material possessions. The giving of joy was mutual between the children and ourselves. Not only did we instill hapiness and love in the children and bring smiles to their faces, but they did the same and moreso for us. We left the center with a profound sense of accomplishment and and a renewal of faith and strength which leads to our overwhelming desire to return to help the children and the people of Ecuador tomorrow.

- Alex Diaz '10 and James Kuklinski '10

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 2 (continued) - Mingas

We split up into two work groups today. This posting is from the group with Mr. Heffernan, Peter LiVolsi, Matt Mullman, Edwin Ortiz, Thomas Tulp, and Kevin Cevasco. (The other group's post follows this one...)

We got up early and boarded a public bus headed to the poorer districts of Quito, higher up in the mountains. The bus ride was only $0.25 but traveling was like being on a roller coaster with a fearless driver who appeared not to have a brake pedal on the winding tight roads in the hills. When we arrived at around 8 a.m., the group split into those moving rocks and debris from two rooms that the family hoped to eventually reppair while the others were digging a trench in the area above the house to prevent flooding. The work was intense especially in the high altitude of Quito.

Shoveling and carrying rocks in five gallon paint buckets was hard on the back and hands, while shoveling the trench with Jose, one of the owners of the house we were working on, posed an equal challenge. First the group had to clear plants and weeds from the area before they could begin shoveling, and it took a little while for the rock-moving crews assembly line to get coordinated, but in the end both groups finished and enjoyed a wonderful meal (chicken, potatoes, and rice) from the family. The bus ride back was equally fear inducing on the precipitous slopes of Quito, but we arrived back at the center safely at around noon.

After some downtime and resting we attended mass at the local Church. The church was small but the altar was ornate, a surprising fact considering the poverty of the area and the congregation. Both entirely in Spanish, and a very different style by the priest represented a contrast to mass in the states. The 12 members of our group then managed to scarf down 10 pies of Dominos pizza at a shocking pace and are preparing to reflect and go on a tour of both centers tomorrow.

-Matt Mullman and Peter LiVolsi

Day 2 - Vamos Duro

We split into two work groups today. This post is from the group that included Mr. Kilroy, James Shovlin, James Kuklinski, Kevin Cunningham, Alex Diaz, and Kyle Robinson.

Today we woke up at about 6:15 a.m. We were sort of reluctant to wake up so early but were much perkier after breakfast. We met the other volunteering school here as well. They are from Wisconsin(Marquette University High School - another Jesuit school) and are very nice. This was our first day of actual volunteer work. We took Ecuadorian public transportation on our way to our job sites. We were a little nervous due to the rumors of "pick-pocketers." The bus took us to our job sites and we began what would be a very tiring day.

When arriving at the house, we were very surprised. We saw a little cinder-block house that housed 11 people. Our job for the day was to do repair work on the house. The house was built into the landscape and our first task was to expand the back yard. To do this, we had to shovel out mounds and mounds of dirt. The dirt was later used for filling a large hole that will later support an additional room on the house. Next, we moved a large mound of gravel and rocks from the front of the house to the roof of the house. This took about three hours. This was a hard day of work for everyone. It involved a lot of lifting, shoveling, and the use of a pick-ax.

After the work was done, we were surprised when the people living in the house made a huge meal for us. It consisted of chicken, rice, potatoes, and beans. It was the best food some of us have had in our few days in Ecuador. We had a lot of fun attempting to communicate with the natives. They made many jokes with us and were very interested in our culture. They were so greatful of our help. WE were all very happy helping them as well and we believe we also got something special out of meeting these and having this experience.

-Kevin Cunningham and James Shovlin

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Day 1 - Finally Here

The group at a stop outside Otavalo. Click on it for a larger view.

At around 7 we woke up and left for Otavalo, a small vendor-village which was quite disconnected from the typical tourist attractions. Throughout the two hour drive we traveled through the mountains bordering Quito. We encountered a dualistic landscape, consisting of beautiful mountain ranges, vallyes, farms, as well as broken-down huts and a variety of wandering animals. After arriving in a small village known for its leather vendors, we took a look around and began to realize how different life is in Ecuador. Ninos (small boys and girls) younger than 7 who were either controlling their own stands or walking around carrying various items to sell. We spent around an hour there, sight-seeing and purchasing some of those items.

Our second stop was the village of Otavalo. It was a short ride from our last stop, but the trip was still as breath-taking. As soon as our bus arrived, we were greeted by three "salesmen" that were not so typical. The three 5-year-old girls began to speak Spanish to us and to ask whether we would purchase their bracelets. As the day went by we stopped to have lunch at a cafe. The meal took about a half an hour to make because the cafe was owned and managed by only two women. Split among 12 people, the meal cost only $57, not what you'd find at your usual Applebees. Once our meal was paid for, we split and walked around checking out the different stands.

Because we spent most of our time just looking at what the people had to sell, we were often greeted by persistent vendors despite our disinterest in the stands. When we responded with "No Gracias" the vendors were disappointd, but surprisingly very friendly. There was an atmosphere of hospitality that was not expected.

Throughout the day we were challenged by a language barrier, by our reactions to poverty, and by urges to sleep off our jet lag. Because we weren't physically doing volunteer work, we weren't expecting much from the day. However, the ecounters that we had have filled us with the satisfaction and hope needed to begin our service.

-Kyle Robinson and Kevin Cevasco


We arrived here in Quito last night at 9:30 P.M (10:30 NY time). Our flight despite the delays and storms was not bad at all. Today we will be going on a tourist type trip with Marquette Highschool, another Jesuit school from Wisconsin. We are departing now and will be out all day.

-Tom Tulp