John, outbound to Ecuador

Hey everyone! I'm back with another journal all about my ventures here in Ecuador!! So in my last journal I mentioned that I'd be taking a trip to the Amazon Rainforest with Rotary. Well I did, and it was amazing!!! It started off bright and early at 4:30 AM when I woke up to get ready for my flight to the capital: Quito. Rotary divided all the kids in Ecuador into 4 groups based on your location in the country and each group went to the Amazon on a different set of dates. In my group there was about 44 kids.

After arriving in Quito we took another plane to a small town called Coca and we took a 2 hour boat ride to get to our lodge in the jungle. Our lodge was amazing it was right in the heart of the jungle and you could see monkeys from your room and walking around the lodge every day! Each day started off very early in the morning with breakfast being between 6 or 7 in the morning. We would then break off into our groups with our designated guide.

We did so many things! We walked through the jungle seeing all forms of wildlife like monkeys, snakes, spiders, huge ants, and birds! We went piranha fishing and we swam in a lake with piranhas and gators! We also went up into a huge treehouse that had an amazing 360 degree view of jungle as far as you could see! There was also a bridge that we walked in and was about 200-300 feet off the ground! Not going to lie, it was pretty scary being that high up on this bridge but at the same time it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done for sure! The view was breathtaking and we went up when the sun was making its way down and the sky was a beautiful orange!

So after my amazing trip in the Amazon I came back to Portoviejo! This was just about the time of Christmas! Christmas here is really different from the U.S. First of all we open presents on the 24th at midnight and not on the morning of the 25th. And right before you open presents you eat a huge dinner. Yah, I had to wait until midnight to eat dinner! Another thing that struck me as very odd was the lack of Christmas trees! Nobody here puts up trees! No one in my family had one up and only one or two of my friends' families had one up. Here it's more about the religious aspect of Christmas and they take it very serious. Although my house had no tree, the house became covered in religious Christmas knick knacks literally overnight!

Anyway! The day after Christmas I set off for my 5 day school trip! We left at 10 PM on a bus headed for a city called Baños! About 8 hours later we had arrived! Baños is in the Sierra which is where all the mountains are, the elevation is very high and it was pretty cold. Baños is a city known for extreme sports such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, and paragliding! I got to bungee jump and it was one of the most intense things I have ever done! It was an awesome rush and I'd love to do it again!

Another thing I got to try was Cuy! Cuy is a food eaten in the Sierra in cities such as Quito, Baños, and Cuenca. For those of you who don't know what Cuy is you might know it by Guinea Pig! Yep, that's right I ate Guinea Pig and as you might guess it didn't taste very good! It wasn't absolutely disgusting but it's definitely not something I'd pay 20 dollars for again. My friend from Germany split a whole Cuy with me so it was 10 dollars each.

Also on my class trip I got to ride a zip line over a large ravine, not sitting but with my stomach and face, face down so I was forced to stare down at the river 200 feet below me both ways there and back, don't get me wrong it was a lot of fun and a really nice sight but staring at the ground while being attached to just a cable gets a little scary. Nonetheless it was an awesome trip and I had lots of fun with all the kids in my grade.

After an exhausting bus ride back to Portoviejo we arrived on the 31st just in time to celebrate New Year's the Ecuadorian way! Here in Ecuador they celebrate New Year's just a little differently than we do back home.. Here you make life size dolls out paper and stuff them with paper, you paint them and give them a face and everything then at midnight you and all your friends throw them all into a big pile and light them on fire! And also men will dress up like women and beg for money in the streets saying that the doll is their husband and they need money to pay to stop their burning. They're all over the city and run up to your car at self-made road blocks and at red lights it was really fun!

I've had a great 4 months so far here in Ecuador and I'm more than ready to see what this New Year has in store for me! In the next month or so I'll be going to the Galapagos so I'll be sure to write a lot and take lots of pictures to share with you guys! Thanks for reading!