Archive for the ‘Hilary in Ecuador’ Category


Hilary: It’s been a while

September 26, 2011

It has been a while!!  I have been busy and been traveling!  Since the new program started I have read many articles about Ecuador, globalization, westernization, the Andean cosmovision, education, the new constitution, and so much more.  I wrote a group paper, and spent great time with amazing people.

As a big group of gringos we travel to communities who are working to sustain their indigenous cultures, cultivate their land, offer everything and more to their youth, and contribute to the world or larger community market.  First we visited a rose plantation, which is communally owned and is on its way to being organic.  (It takes a long time to de-contaminate the soil!)  The roses are beautiful, but for me it was a little sad because, well as one of the workers put it.. “we send the best and most beautiful roses to the United States and keep the others for ourselves.”  This community is struggling right now to sustain their communal plantation and sometimes the full time workers do not receive a salary for the month.  But all the same this community needs the work and income to sustain their lives.  I would love to see us use our amazing technology of the world to know about these kinds of cooperatives and what companies work with them to sell flowers in the United States. With a system of transparency that shows where products come from, how, and in what conditions we could really transform the way international business is run!

The next community we visited was called Cariaku.  This community has made amazing strides in terms of investing in their own communal interests and sharing their lives outer communities in Ecuador.  They sell the milk of their cows to outer communities, but the food they cultivate they keep for themselves.  Cariaku has a very unique community structure, which includes and assembly at the top and many representatives that link the local government to other communities in the surrounding area, the province, and the nation.  They also have eco-tourism, this involves the youth in the community to care for the nature, welcome tourists and get involved in sustaining the local culture. 

I have had some great weekends in Quito exploring the city; riding the teleferico, running in the parks, spending time with friends, practicing, writing a huge paper, dancing in clubs, finding live music, and seeing shows of amazing Andean dance!  This past weekend I had a wonderful surprise and was visited by an amazing person who I met on the coast.  I can’t wait for my next opportunity to be able to travel, share stories, spend time, and stop thinking about graduation!!

My classes the past few weeks have been ok.  I am not learning as much as I would like to in class, and most of the other students talk in English… meh.  I am at one of those low points in the study abroad curve where things aren’t exactly as I would like, but with each weekend and time with people outside of the city my experience gets better.  


Hilary: 24 new people!

September 8, 2011

The semester has started!  And along with it came 24 wonderful amazing new people!  We are now a strong group of 26 women and 3 young men.  That’s a lot of estrogen!!  As I walked into the auditorium this past Tuesday which is usually empty, I was confronted with 24 new people and a collective anxious and proud energy.  As the week went on I kept switching from staying in the background and watching quietly, to interacting and telling jokes and stories in English and Spanish.  This past weekend we all had a retreat in Los Bancos (a small pueblo just outside of Mindo, about 2.5 hours northwest of Quito).  This was a magical place.  The hotel was beautiful and set in a forest reserve.  I can’t begin to describe all of the flora and fauna that I encountered.  If I only leave with one concept when I leave Ecuador, for now I want it to be diversity.  Diversity of nature, animals, insects, plants, land, and finally diversity of peoples.  Over the weekend I learned the names of all of my new compañeros, learned about their lives here and in the states and started some beautiful friendships!

There are 4 different “tracks” in my study abroad program.  The first 3 weeks in CIMAS is a general program to learn about development and politics in Ecuador.  After these 3 weeks we will be split up into our prospective tracks.  These tracks are education, social services, public health, and environmental studies.  I am in the track of education. It is one of the smaller tracks—only 5 of us!  But I am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely with these 5 people!

Now to backtrack a bit… Last weekend the 5 of us from the pre-session took a tour of the northwest coast!  We visited Atacames and Mompiche in the province of Esmereldas and then traveled to Canoa in Manabí.  The ocean is so tranquil and calming!  I had a great time getting to know other travelers from all over South America!  From Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Guatemala.  We had great campfires on the beach with guitars, drums, accordions, flutes, singing, dancing, and great conversation. If anyone is in Canoa, please stop by the Hostal Iguana, wonderful people with buena onda (good spirit).  

This past week we had an amazing lecture by Doc Haliday, an ethnomusicologist who has been living in Quito for the last 6 years. He gave a lecture about embracing a new culture and letting go of inhibitions and habits from the U.S. I was loving it. He was describing the process I went through in India and in Guatemala to accept, grow, change, and learn different ways of interacting with the world and then he challenged us to spread our knowledge and what we learn, how we change so that the eyes of the world’s peoples can be opened as well. I am so fortunate to be able to be on this study abroad program, and in Ecuador no less. I am hoping to take advantage of all of the opportunities I have to grow and learn, and then to share with you and anyone who I bump into along the way!

One of the main things that I am learning about here is rights for the land and nature. Right now Ecuador has one of the most progressive constitutions in history. It has mandates protecting the land and the indigenous peoples and cultures who live with the land. This constitution clearly respects that we need the land to live and that if we take advantage of it we will suffer because it provides life for us. (In a nutshell, that is the point of view..)

Another idea that we have spent a lot of time talking about here is energy, the energy of the earth, of people, and the energy of the universe.  This is based of of Incan beliefs of the balance between north, south, east, and west; and also the balance between the four elements, wood, fire, air, and water.  We need all of these to live and to create an equal balance in our lives.  One of our guides was explaining the “myth” of 2012.  It is not that the world is going to die—it is that our poles are shifting, and that is creating off-balance in the land.  In 2012 they don’t have an exact prediction of how many degrees the poles will shift, but it is expected that they will.  He talked about the last tsunami/earthquake that hit Japan as an example of a repercussion of this shift. After this little talk, he took some volunteers to measure the size of their personal energy.  He used to metal sticks that cross when they encounter an energy field or force.  We were standing on the equator at this point and so he could show us the force between north and west/east.  He picked me and discovered that my “energy field” is actually quite large.  So cool to see it!

I am continuing to love my time in Ecuador and am ready and open to keep learning.  I hope you are all learning something too. Continue on your journeys, stay happy and healthy!


Hilary: A whole month gone

August 23, 2011

One month down and one semester to go!

Tomorrow I finish my first month of classes in Ecuador!  I can’t believe how fast this is going!  I have a final exam tomorrow and then need to finish reading that huge packet of articles over our 5-day weekend.  I am going to find a conservatory to practice voice on Thursday and then going to have a fantastic workout at the gym and get my censo (id card for residents who are non-Ecuadorian).

Below is a picture of the lunch I eat almost everyday: Ingredients: fresh bread, fresh cheese, kale, avocado, grapes, and a clementine. Cost: $3.50/week. 

Fun food facts for Ecuador! You can buy 25 mandarin oranges for $1, 4 or 5 avocados for $1, 2 big loaves of bread or 8 small loaves of bread for $1, almuerzo normal (classic lunch which consists of a delicious creamy soup, followed by rice and meat, and juice) for $1.50.  You can buy a beer for $2 but they only have Club and Pilsener… not my favs, but I’ll take a Club thanks! Things that are expensive here: chocolate, any alcoholic drink besides beer (unless its ladies night!) granola… don’t think I’ve tried to buy much else!  Oh they don’t have chocolate chips here!!  Soo.. if you want to send me something, send me chocolate chips so I can bake chocolate chip cookies with my sisters! (My Ecuadorian sisters, yes dad, they aren’t my real sisters)

Bueno, todo es muy bien aquí y estoy súper feliz y emocionada por este semestre!  Shout out to the LU Spanish faculty: Muchísimas gracias por todo su trabajo y apoyo en LU, con nuestras clases estaba preparaba para el tiempo aquí y estoy feliz que tuve la oportunidad practicar hablando durante clase junto con la gramática! 

This weekend I’m going to the provinces of Esmereldas and Manabí (aka the beach!) we are going to rent a car and drive the coast!  I am excited to have this adventure because once the semester starts I will have 4 classes, 5 days a week and lots of homework.. ah school, yay for my last year!! 

In the past month I have written several papers, the most interesting one is about an Ecuadorian Indigenous Woman named Transito Amaguaña (1909-2009) she died a month before her 100th birthday!  She has been recognized just this past year for her work fighting for indigenous and women’s rights. She was one of the first women in Ecuador to step forward and commit her life to human rights and she had many successes. Her testimony has been printed (in Spanish) for all to read. Her story is super interesting and it is a great book to go along with the testimony of Rigoberta Menchu (from Guatemala).

Spanish gets harder and easier depending on the day, but I finally figured out subjuntivo. Goodness, seriously we spent a week on it and I finally get it!!  (well really only the beginning, but at least it makes sense now!)  I hope that all who are able take advantage of studying abroad and learning a new language. It opens up so many possibilities in linguistics and in life! 

Something random that I just figured out today (just a side note, thought it would make you all laugh):  I am used to editing my papers on actual paper so I actually read the mistakes I am making out-loud and see them, I think my brain thinks that the computer words aren’t actually real…  Anyway, I need to adjust to my idea about saving paper and to not having a printer!  Hence, I have a new mindset with editing papers on the computer.  The words I type are real AND I read to the computer instead of to the paper!  Wow, sometimes I can really trick myself!


Hilary: Quito, Ecuador—Week 1

August 17, 2011

This is a gigantic city! The cab drivers on one side don’t know where streets are on the other! I am getting used to using the bus system, the buses are easy to take and are cheap, but knowing where you want to go and what bus to take is a completely different thing! I am learning slowly but surely. 

My school is amazing, I never ever would have dreamed of what my school looks like, my apartment too by that matter.  I live with two twin 12-year-old sisters and a mom; they are sweet and very accommodating.  There are 4 other students in the pre-session intensive Spanish grammar program.  Everyone is really nice and we are all at pretty much the same level grammatically.  Our teacher, Luis is awesome, he is a complete socialist but keeps his political views as in the closet as possible.  My speaking/comprehending abilities have improved so much!  But it is hilarious to see the difference in my writing and grammar.  I second-guess myself all the time and just have so many things wrong!  But that is why I am in the Spanish language pre-session I suppose! 

Last night Greta, Rebecca and I went to a dance show of indigenous Andean dances!  It was amazing!! It was great to hear all of the amazing music and see the dancing.  It makes me miss dance and realize that I need to kick my voice back into shape.  There is a possibility of going to a Jazz University in Quito for lessons and what not. 

Internet is going to be less frequent here—no WIFI but I can hook my computer up to my family’s wired set-up.  I am trying to limit myself to every other day until I need to be using the internet for research papers and stuff. 


Hilary: Arrival in Ecuador

August 10, 2011

I arrived in Quito, Ecuador yesterday and was picked up by my awesome and beautiful friend Mari Ayali and her family!  Thank you so much!!  We went out to eat lunch right away and all shared a gigantic plate of seafood!  It was so fresh and tasted delicious; I even at the octopus, yummy!!  After we stuffed ourselves we drove around the city a bit to pick up some bread and cookies (those were for later :)) and went to their house.  

I will meet my host family and start my program in two days!!  I almost have all of the reading done..whoops!  I will be living in an apartment near my school with a mom and two 12 year old twin sisters!  I am really excited to meet them and to meet the other people in my program.  



Hilary: upcoming adventures

July 7, 2011


This is the start of my first blog!  I will try to update as often as possible with pictures, stories, notes, and whatever else inspires me. I hope you enjoy reading and sharing in my experiences!

I have been traveling to Guatemala for a teaching assistant position with an organization called Safe Passage (Camino Seguro). Go to their website and check out this awesome organization!  Their mission is to create opportunities and foster dignity through the power of education!

Then on to Ecuador, where I will be studying abroad through a University of Minnesota program: MSID Ecuador, check the program website out here:  For the first half of the program I will be living with a homestay in Quito, Ecuador and the second half of the program I will have a rural home-stay along with an education internship somewhere in the Andes mountains!

I wish you all a wonderful summer and a beautiful fall.  I hope that you find something that challenges you and delights you, that you find happiness and gratitude, and that you stay mentally physically, and spiritually healthy!

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