World Challenge Ecuador 2016

At 14,000 feet in 30 degree weather and feeling like we are on top of the world!

Hiking our way to Pegucha Falls in Otovalo

Hiking our way to Pegucha Falls in Otovalo

By Katie O’Hara – Assistant Special Education Coordinator – West

When I threw my name into the ring to chaperon the 2016 World Challenge expedition, I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping for an adventure and a positive experience with students from both campuses. Ultimately, my World Challenge experience surpassed all of my expectations. I am getting ahead of myself…

After our first World Challenge meeting, I knew I was in trouble. I would be responsible for leading students on a two week expedition in Ecuador, yet I would not be able to give them directions, take charge, or let them know when they were making a mistake. In a way, these students were leading Creighton Hulse and I on a two week expedition in South America! To put it simply, I am a control freak. I experience tremendous unease when I am not in the driver’s seat or at the helm of the ship or (insert metaphor here).

In order to prevent myself from taking control of a situation, giving advice or directions, or meddling in any form, I created a code word, “Pickle” if you’re wondering, for my colleagues to mention as I was on the precipice of intervening. I know now that the word Pickle can get tiresome after awhile.

Celebrating the harvest and solstice with the villagers of San Clemente

Celebrating the harvest and solstice with the villagers of San Clemente

We embarked on our adventure and the students led us from the moment we arrived at Logan airport. It was trying and an exercise in self-control to resist the urge to take over and lead the group in the most efficient way. As a result, we spent quite a bit of time in the main entrance of the international terminal at Logan. Quite frankly, I was worried about what the next two weeks had in store for us.

Overall, the trip was quite what one would expect. The students had assigned roles which they performed quite responsibly. We reflected every night on what went well that night, what was challenging, and what we plan to do differently.

ecuador-group-shot-2The students learned to manage money, public transport, equipment, cook for fourteen people, and make travel plans all in a foreign language while the adults learned to hold their tongues and let go.  We traveled to beautiful cities, had amazing experiences within the Andean community, summited challenging mountains in the Andes range, and took in breathtaking vistas. 

We also laughed, a lot. There was the time we were camping on Jorge and Magarita’s farm and the pig got loose and stormed Spinello’s tent, or the time we tricked Becca into thinking it was time to get up to make breakfast (it was midnight), or was it Hulse’s relentless struggle to remain upright?

Saying goodbye to our host-family in San Clemente

Saying goodbye to our host-family in San Clemente

We also cried…a lot: when we said goodbye to our host family who welcomed us into their home and into their community with open arms; when Cat took ill and she and I had to split from the group for 3 days; when we said goodbye to Sean, our World Challenge leader; and finally when we said goodbye at the end of our journey.

Upon reflection, this trip was just as much of a growth and learning opportunity for me as it was for the students. I had the good fortune to accompany 11 wonderful students to Ecuador, where we pushed ourselves,  fell in love with another culture, and made memories that will last a lifetime.

Video by Emily Spinelli, Class of 2017

Climbing a monument in Quito

Climbing a monument in Quito

Itinerary

June 24th – Depart Boston for Quito

June 24th-26th – Arrive in Quito and acclimate, explore the city and gather equipment needed for cultural exchange
June 26th-29th – Meet host family in the indigenous village of San Clemente and complete our service project of painting their home and building a table
June 29th-31st  – Arrive in Otavalo  and stay at La Luna Hostel
Descending from the top of the Andes through a cloud forest and into the jungle

Descending from the top of the Andes through a cloud forest and into the jungle

Group needed to complete two acclimatization hikes reaching an elevation of at least 14,000 ft: we hiked to Pegucha Falls  and Fuya Fuya

July 1st-4th – Trekking Phase

Hike the Paramo in the Andes – camping and self-catering throughout

July 4th-5th – Arrive at the Volcanic hot springs for rest and relaxation
July 6th-7th  – Otavalo – Quito explore markets and see sights
July 8th – Arrive in Boston

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