Here is Liz Lucas’ daily journal from her experience down in Ecuador with SALSC. She, along with Jessica Miller (field hockey), Angelo DiGiacinto (men’s swimming) and advisor Julie Sterrett went to Ecuador this June to help build a school for the indigenous people. She chronicled the entire 10-day, beginning with travel day, all the way through her return trip home.
Well, I am back and what an amazing trip it was! Here is little bit about what I was able to do while I was there. We really helped out this community and we thank you so much.
Day 1: Travel Day. Denver to Miami, wait for 5 hours then go into Quito… a long day. The terrain of Ecuador is mountainous; the mountains are rounded at the top and are full of fields. It looks like patchwork all over the mountains. The elevation in Quito is about 9,200 feet and in the community, it’s about 11,000 feet. The lights that we saw as we flew in were amazing. They were a dim orange color and just covered the city. It was so, so gorgeous.
Day 2: I am officially an egg master? We went to the equator and did a bunch of tests. We had to balance an egg on a nail and I did it! Then, we also saw how the water spins as it drains. In the northern hemisphere, the water swirls counterclockwise and in the southern, it goes clockwise. And at the equator, what do you think it does? It goes straight down with no spin.
Day 3: We traveled to the Totorillas where we will be staying the rest of the time. We stopped at the Rose Factory and went through several greenhouses, seeing all the different kinds of roses they have. The workers in this rose factory were some of the few that were treated right. They wear masks and protective gear when needed. They make minimum wage, which is $260 a month. That equates to less than a dollar an hour. The factory sends over 50,000 roses a day. Further on our journey, we got to stop at the Chimborazo volcano. That was very cool; it is huge. The top of the volcano is the furthest point from the center of the earth; this is due to the already high elevation. The clouds were lower than the top, so that looked really cool.
Day 4: BUILD DAY. Finally, we are able to begin the construction of the school. We are making the school for a 4th grade class. Currently, the class is being held in the cafeteria area. The job of the day is to dig trenches all around the perimeter. The way to do this is to use a hoe to loosen the dirt and then shovel it out and dump it in the middle. There are no rocks in the dirt, which is very nice. That is because we are so far back into the mountain. Then, there are people hauling the dirt from the foundation to another pile that is used to make adobe bricks. The way we get the dirt moved is to put the dirt on something like a large potato bag and then 2 people team up and carry it to the other place. Not much can get transferred, so it takes a lot of time. The community members are required to help out and they helped dig and make bricks. They were much faster than us, but in that day, we got the foundation dug.
Day 5: We got to really interact with the children today. In the morning, when we got there, we just played and played with them for a couple of hours. The national sport is ecua-volly, which is similar to volleyball, so we would get the balls and team up with a couple of kids and toss the ball up and just keep it in the air. It was a lot of fun!!! We would talk to each other a little, but mostly just played. They not only speak Spanish, but they also speak Quechua, which is their own language. Then in the afternoon, we worked some more on the school. We had to carry big boulders and place them in the trenches that we dug. The boulders were about 100 yards from the foundation. So, we would load up the wheel barrow as much as we could and then wheel it up a slight incline to the steps and then hand it off to people where they would walk it the rest of the way to the trenches.
Day 6: In the morning, we got to go to the local market. The previous night, we were split up into several groups then given a piece of paper that gave background of a typical family and all of their expenses and income. Our task was to figure out how much money we would get per meal each day. The family that I was in was a husband, wife, 1 year old baby and another baby on the way. The amount of money we were allotted was 27 cents per meal. We grew some beans and potatoes, so that helped. At the market, we were given 30 cents to go and buy a meal with. We got an egg, 2 carrots and a pepper. They don’t have much money to do anything with; what an eye opener. We also purchased some guinea pigs; they are a delicacy food there. After lunch, we went out and watched the kitchen ladies kill and clean the guinea pig. I asked to help, so I was able to clean it and do all of the cutting. We ate that for part of dinner. It tasted like tough chicken; I didn’t really like it.
Day 7: Our last day of working!! Today was out last day on the job and it was really sad. We had to make concrete and pour it in our trenches with the boulder. The concrete is made a little differently there. We had to take 14 wheel barrows full of sand and 14 barrows of rock and then 6 bags of concrete to mix together with water. Then to mix it, we needed water. The water that was available was in the creek. We had to use a bucket to get the water and then take it in a wheel barrow to the pile of sand, rocks and concrete. Mixing this big pile was interesting; there seemed to be a particular way to do it and once we did, we got it done. While we were doing that, the other group was inside the cafeteria painting a mural. The mural was of a boy sitting among the mountains juggling different things - a volleyball, school, books, a pencil and a soccer ball.
Day 8: We went to a women’s club today. This is something that a woman created, where it gives women a chance to come together and learn how to be a strong woman. Women were the bottom of the food chain and were taught to not have a voice and to not do anything but the housework and the work in the fields. This idea is trying to be changed. The club is to teach women how to do handy craft and make and save money. So they have some sheep that they shear and make cotton yarn and then make scarves and jackets and other things out of it. We were able to shear the sheep and try to make cotton. That is really hard; I was terrible. In the afternoon, we got to go with a woman to her field up in the hills. We hiked up there. First of all, the view was amazing. We helped her cut weeds and feed her cows. This was very cool for me, one of my favorite things to do. She goes up there 3 times a day to feed her cows and then a 4th time to take her cows down to her house for the night so they don’t get stolen. The cows have a leash on them that is staked into the ground. I have so much respect for her!
Day 9: Trip back to Quito. Today, we went back to Quito and got our last look at all of the scenery and taking in every moment that we could. We finished the night at the top of the hotel looking out on the town of Quito with all the lights. It was a great place to take everything in and reflect on the experience.
Day 10: We head back to the states. All and all, it was an amazing trip. I truly enjoyed it and I thank you for the support. This experience will last with me forever and it has really helped me understand another country and has me realize what I may want to do in the future.