Tag Archives: experiences

So . . . did I summit Chimborazo?

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chimborazo.pictureAnd the answer is . . . no.  But . . .  I am completely at peace with the outcome because it was an amazingly beautiful (and challenging!) weekend.  Here’s a play by play for you.  Also, after you read the chain of events from the weekend, check out the pictures at the end of the post that show you more details about the journey.  (By the way, if you have no idea what I am talking about so far, read this post first.)

Friday, June 21

  • 2:30pm: I was driven to Casa Condor (about 30 minutes away) by a friendly taxi driver named Roberto.  Ironically, he ended up being the father of one of my previous students here in Riobamba.  I stayed at Casa Condor because it is at a higher altitude (3800 meters/12,400 feet) than Riobamba and it’s wise to slowly acclimate to the higher altitude of Chimborazo.
  • 4:00pm: I went on an incredibly challenging “walk” to acclimate to the higher altitude (this was suggested by my taxi driver).  The place I walked was so steep, it was quite a challenge!  Here’s a video of me while I was resting on my walk.  As you can tell, it was a bit windy!
  • 6:00pm: I went to scope out the kitchen in the hostel so I knew where I’d be cooking my dinner.  That’s where I met two other guys that that I learned would be hiking with me the following evening.  They are both from Australia and their names are Garrick and Ron.  They are nice guys and as it ended up, I was really glad that we all took this journey together.  That evening, we made a pasta dinner and talked a bit to get to know one another, since we’d be spending plenty of time together over the next 36 hours.
  • 8:00pm: I went back to my room and was asleep by 9:00pm. 🙂

Saturday, June 22

  • 8:00am: I got out of bed after reading for awhile, took some pictures of the beautiful countryside, and made breakfast.
  • 10:45am: Garrick, Ron and I went on a walk around the community where we were staying.
  • 12:30pm: We were picked up by our guides and drove to the first refuge (4800 meters/15,700 feet) of Chimborazo.
  • 2:30pm: We drank Coca tea (apparently helps with altitude sickness) and soup at the refuge.
  • 3:00pm: We went to rest/sleep to let our bodies get ready for the upcoming demands of the evening.
  • 4:30pm: We woke-up and ate “dinner” and then hiked to the second refuge (5000 meters/16,400 feet).
  • 6:30pm: We arrived at the second refuge and got ready for bed.  We were supposed to sleep from 7:00pm until 10:00pm to rest for the hike.
  • 6:45pm: I walked outside to see an amazing sunset and filmed a short video before going to sleep.  Watch it here.
  • 10:00pm: We were woken up and to eat “breakfast” and then got dressed and ready to leave for the hike.
  • 11:30pm: 3 hikers (me, Ron, and Garrick) and 3 guides (Fabian, Raul, and Alberto) left to begin the journey up Chimborazo.

Sunday, June 23

  • 12:15am: After hiking for about 45 minutes, we stopped to put crampons (equipment you put on your shoes in order to hike in snow and ice) on our boots for the rest of the journey.
  • 12:20am: I had no idea how to walk with crampons.
  • 1:00am: I started to partly understand how to walk with crampons.
  • 2:00am: Our group of 6 discussed our progress at that point.  We were pretty exhausted already.  Our guides decided that at our current pace (apparently rather tortoise-like), it would take about 6 more hours to summit Chimborazo.
  • 2:15am: Two of us decided to go on and continue to hike onto the glacier.
  • 3:30am: My guide, Fabian, told me that we still had about 5 hours until the top.  At that point, I needed to stop about every 30 seconds to rest and I didn’t foresee that getting better as the altitude increased.  After hiking through a lot of ice and snow, I decided to call it quits (5700 meters18.700 feet) and surrender.
  • 4:00am: We started to descend and head back to the refuge with another hiker and his guide.
  • 6:30am: We arrived at the second refuge and tried to get a couple of hours of sleep.  (This was very difficult because it was freezing!)
  • 9:000am: We walked down to the first refuge, were picked up and driven back to Riobamba to end our adventurous journey.
This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

After going on my "walk," I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at Chimborazo.

After going on my “walk,” I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at gorgeous Chimborazo.

Several cute sheep hanging around the hostel.

There were several cute sheep that lived next to the hostel.

The incredible view from my room . . . for only $12/night.

The incredible view from my room for only $12/night.  Amazing.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met.  We all hiked together with our guides.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met, Garrick and Ron. We all hiked together with our guides.

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.  Note the Hershey bar that cost $1.50!  That was quite a splurge!

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.

This is the first refuge.  We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This is the first refuge. We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This was the sunset from the second refuge.  Look at how cool it was that we were above the clouds!

This was the sunset from the second refuge.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

My wonderful guide, Fabian, who hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!

Here I am with my wonderful guide, Fabian.  He hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!  Holy cow!

You wondered what crampons are?  They're the spiky things that are on my boots here.

You wondered what crampons look like?  They’re the spiky things that are on my boots.  Interesting, huh?

Here I am - looking a little chilly.  But, I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me - with the crampons on.  Yeesh!

Here I am – looking a little chilly.  I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me – with the crampons. Yeesh!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike.  This picture is at about 6:30am, when the sun was coming up.  The moon is amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike. It was so bright, we didn’t have to use our headlamps.  This picture was taken at 6:30am.  The moon was still amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

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Mis Meses en Ecuador . . .

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Hello there!  While I was out of town the past two weeks, I had an idea to write a post summarizing the events from my months in Ecuador thus far.  I thought it would be fun for me to reflect on my time here and hoped you might enjoy it too!  Here we go!

equatorIn September . . .

  • I arrived in Quito, Ecuador for my 10 month adventure of living and teaching abroad.
  • WorldTeach had orientation for 33 volunteers for four weeks to teach us about Ecuador and how to teach English.
  • four other volunteers and I rode the teleferico up to the top of a mountain in Quito.
  • my host mom, Susy, and I visited the equator and had a wonderful time!

In October . . .pajaro.1

  • I moved to Riobamba.
  • my host sister and I went to my first Ecuadorian soccer game.
  • another volunteer and I traveled to Manta and Isla de la Plata (the beach) and saw the famous Ecuadorian birds called Blue-Footed Boobies.
  • I took my first – of MANY – bus trips.
  • two other volunteers and I traveled to the city, Banos, for one day.

In November . . .

  • I started teaching my first English classes at my school, University of San Francisco.
  • my Spanish classes with my teacher, Cesar, began.

In December . . .chimborazo

  • I spent a few hours with friends from the U.S. in Quito.
  • some friends and I climbed part of the amazing volcano, Chimborazo.
  • I traveled to the U.S. to spend time with family and friends for Christmas and New Year’s.
  • I acted and danced in my first Spanish play – A Christmas Carol.

In January . . .

  • I began teaching new English classes.
  • I went to Esmeraldes (the beach) for a WorldTeach meeting.

dancingIn February . . .valentines day

  • my students celebrated Valentine’s Day.
  • I danced in my second Spanish play – Hawaiian Adventure.
  • I celebrated the Ecuadorian holiday of Carnaval.
  • three other volunteers and I visited Tena (the jungle) and went whitewater rafting.
  • I began feeling homesick and missed family and friends in the U.S. – a lot. 😦

robinsonIn March . . .

  • the students at my school decorated AMAZING Easter Eggs.
  • I had vacation time and took a cruise with my parents.
  • I felt very homesick and contemplated leaving Ecuador early to return to the U.S.  But then . . .
  • I found out that I would be returning to Robinson (the previous school where I taught) to teach fifth grade. 🙂

In April . . .bolones

  • I took a last minute trip with a friend to visit Cuenca (the sierra).
  • my Spanish teacher’s wife, Paty, taught me how to make bolones. (Here is a recipe!)  Yum!
  • I danced in 15 Latin American dances (with the other teachers) for the students at my school.
  • a student, friend and I went canyoning.  Check out this video.  Yikes!

galapagosIn May . . .

  • my friend and I visited the Galapagos for five, incredible days.
  • I visited Loja and Vilcabamba (the sierra).  Read about amazing Vilcabamba here.
  • I began my last teaching cycle and have 30 students – so far.  Yikes!sea lion

In June . . .

  • Oh yeah . . . I can’t write this one yet . . . but you can!
  • What are YOUR plans for June?  Reply to this post because I’d love to hear from you!
  • Plus, I’ll reply to you after reading your comment. 🙂

Sopa de Pollo para tu Alma

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Listen to this – because my two English classes are A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

In our class workbook, my students recently read a story about Random Acts of Kindness.  After discussing this concept, I challenged each of my students to do a Random Act of Kindness and write about it.  (Well, it was their homework, so I’m not sure if they really had a choice in the matter, but I just wanted them to do something.)  After reading their journals, I thought that it might be interesting to do something together as a whole class, to be kind to others.

Each class took this challenge and did an amazing job with it.   Since we had to plan for when and where we were going to perform our Random Act of Kindness it did take away the “random-ness” of it, but I still believe it made others feel good and encouraged my students to think about what it means to serve others.  Read below to find out what each incredible class did last week.  I think it will make you smile.

candyMy 5:00pm class, which consists of mostly teenagers, made cards for the other classes at our school and bought a bag of candy for each class.  Then, each student delivered the card and candy to the other classes.  While this might not seem like a big deal, it is very intimidating for a teenager to walk into another class of strangers, interrupt the teaching and speak to the teacher in their non-native language.  I was so proud of my students for doing this, even if some of them needed a friend to join them as they walked into the classroom for support.  For some odd reason, we had extra bags of candy leftover.  So, my students decided that they wanted to walk outside and give candy to people in the community.  Wow . . . this was really neat to see.  As they gave out candy, they found out that people reacted quite differently to their offer of free candy.  Some took it willingly, some took it reluctantly, some  completely ignored them, and some asked how much they were charging.  Afterward, my students had an assignment to write about their  “random” act of kindness and giving out candy in the community was undoubtedly the most rewarding part.  I love this because that part wasn’t even planned!   How fun, huh?serving heart

My 7:00pm class chose to help a family living near Riobamba, that recently had a particularly difficult time.  The father in the family passed away, and now the wife is left to raise 8 children.  Ugh.  My amazing students decided to bring things to donate to the family – awesome, huh?  The next day, each student came in with multiple items, such as clothing, books, shampoo, food, shoes, and more.  Just seeing the generosity of my students filled my heart.  But . . . it gets better.  The next day, I went with three of my students to deliver the items to the family.  There is no way around calling out the truth that this family is very poor.  Without going into all of those details, I just need to say that it was a complete blessing that my students wanted to love them during this time.  Outside the house, we sat and talked with the mother for awhile, gave her the bags of items from the other students, and then got ready to leave.  And you know what was really sweet?  Because they live on a farm, they wanted to give something to us to thank my students for their generosity.  They gave us a huge bag of habas beans, which clearly shows her heart and her appreciation toward the gifts from my students.  Good stuff.

In my last post, I wrote about how these classes helped to positively change my heart during my most difficult months in Ecuador.  And now, I am sure that after reading the stories about what they did last week, you can see a glimpse of why I think they are wonderful people. 🙂

As always, now it’s your turn to comment.  Choose one – or both – to reply to please.  I look forward to hearing from you.

  • What is the most special random act of kindness that someone has done for you?
  • What is the next act of kindness you would like to do for someone?

Yo soy una montana rusa!

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roller coasterYou might be wondering what the subject of this post means, right?  Let me tell you.  It means, “I am a roller coaster!”  I say this because I feel that over the past few months, my emotions have been quite similar to a roller coaster.  Yikes!  At some points, I have absolutely loved Ecuador.  But at other points, I felt like I was done and wanted to go back to the U.S.

And now . . . the good news!  While many tears were shed during those months, now I feel like my heart is peaceful and Ecuador is where I am supposed to live right now.  I feel like I am over the hump and am pleased to be here until July.  Yay!  If you knew where I came from recently, you would know that this truly deserves a celebration.  Seriously.

During the difficult times the past few months, I have to honestly tell you that I continued to experience God’s faithfulness.  Even when I didn’t feel like looking for God’s presence and was starting to give up on everything related to Ecuador, He was still with me.  Amazing . . . but not surprising.  Here are two situations where God continued to be by my side.  First, during the beginning of this teaching cycle when I was contemplating whether to return to the U.S. early because I felt horribly out of place and sad, God gave me a beautiful gift of security and predictability.  He secured a position for me to return to the same elementary school to teach this fall – Robinson.  This was an incredible comfort for me and settled my heart in amazing ways.  Next,  I received my two favorite groups of students this teaching cycle.  These students and I have connected and have fun and learn together – simultaneously.  There is a comfort with these students that I have not experienced with other students thus far in Ecuador.  And again, I believe this is another example of God’s faithfulness that has comforted my soul.

As I was reflecting the other day, I realized what a weird feeling it is to enjoy where I am living, while simultaneously craving another place too.  It’s hard to be caught in a place of tension between Ecuador and the U.S., but it is thought-provoking too.  I think I find it fascinating because each culture is very distinct and I am in awe that I can feel comfort in both locations.  I have a feeling that the tension between living comfortably in one place while desiring another is going to travel with me when I return to the U.S. in July.  I am going to miss Ecuador and that is difficult for me to digest.   So I begin to wonder, is there a way to combat this?  Unfortunately, I think that this tension is simply a part of the process when one lives in another country for an extended period of time and while it will fade over time, it will always be a part of who I am.

So, now what?  I soak in as much Ecuador as possible, right now, and happily anticipate the familiarity of the U.S. in a few, short months.  I work on “being present” and not rushing through my days, like I so often do.  I live . . . moment by moment, and do not worry about trivial things that can so often snowball into anxiety and worry for me.  I trust in my God and know that He has everything taken care of for me and know that He will continue to be faithful in everything Ecuador and everything U.S.

This morning, as I was walking to my Spanish class, I was thinking about how when I return to the U.S. I will (surprisingly) miss the blasting, dance music that shouts out of appliance store entrances . . . our stores in the U.S. just aren’t that hip. 🙂

As always, thanks for traveling on this journey with me.

Me . . . the Different One.

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eggI am the different one in Ecuador.  So my question is, “What does it feel like to live as a minority on a daily basis?”  Well, it feels a lot like these pictures.  Kind of adventurous, kind of lonely, and kind of awkward.

My intention in this post is not to throw a “pity party” for myself.  However, my intention is to communicate what it feels like living as a minority and for many of us to (hopefully) open our hearts to those we interact with on a daily basis, who are considered minorities.

After living in Ecuador for almost six months, I believe I can speak about what it feels like to be a minority.  Not only do I look different; I think, cartoonact, and speak differently too.  In a recent post about the things I love about Riobamba, I wrote about how sometimes I feel like a celebrity from the attention I get because I look different.  In parenthesis, I added that I have a love/hate relationship with this fact.  When I walk down the street, people often stare at me.  When I walk into a store, sometimes I am the one that a child stares at.  When I am out in public, I am often told at a later time that someone who knows me saw me in the street – because I am that recognizable.  As a result of my cultural upbringing, I often do things differently or expect other people to act differently.  As a teacher, I usually think and teach differently because I am have lived in a different culture for 95% of my life.  Sometimes these events are really funny and sometimes they are eye-opening for everyone involved, but sometimes they are uncomfortable and make me feel sad.  So I begin to ask myself the following questions:

  • Is it a disadvantage to be in the minority?  If so, why?
  • Can there be positive aspect about being a minority? If so, what?
  • Do some people thrive in the minority? If so, who? (I’d like to meet them!)

In the interest of keeping this post short, I will spare you with long, detailed stories.  However, if you’d like to hear more from me directly, just let me know via email.  Needless to say, my experience thus far has proven to be difficult.  But to take a different spin on things, maybe it does not have to be as difficult, or as negative, as I make it out to be.  Maybe I am thinking into things too much.  Or . . . maybe I am solely looking at things from my perspective and there is another way to view the situation.  And maybe, just maybe, there is as way I can use my “minority status” in a positive way to serve and love others.  After all, when I had an opportunity to teach English to indigenous children, my appearance definitely got their attention because I looked markedly different than everyone else in the school.  Plus, they might have even learned a little bit more as a result. (I sure hope so!)

When I return to the U.S. in July, I ask myself, “How will my temporary experience as a minority change my perspective about those who are living in cultures where they are in the minority – either temporarily or permanently?”  I wonder how my perspective will be different in two specific areas.  One area is with people originating from other countries or cultures, and another is with students in my classroom who are considered minorities.  Will I have a different sense of empathy for each individual?  Will I identify with them from a heart level, instead of just from my head?  Will I love them differently?

Ok . . . you knew it was coming, so here is your part. 🙂  Seriously though, I desire to hear your perspective and what you think about minorities in your culture.  Please write a comment and share your heart with me about any of the following questions.

  • How do you view and treat minorities in your life?
  • What can you do differently today to treat minorities differently?
  • Am I being too analytical and serious with my perspective of what it feels like to be a minority? (I tend to over-think things!)
  • How can I use my “minority status” to serve others in positive and loving ways?

I love living in Riobamba because . . .

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*people give me a kiss on the cheek when they greet me or say goodbye to me.

*when I am walking down the street, I often hear loud music coming from an assortment of stores.

*it is always an adventure when I go running.  Sidewalks have obstacles such as:

metal posts, deep holes, rocks, mud, dog poop, and trash.

*Ecuadorians take such pride in their family relationships that they often live with their parents until they get married.

*I can eat foods like habas and choclo anytime I want.

*most days, I can see beautiful views of Chimborazo and other surrounding mountains.

*I teach English to students from 8 – 45 years old (in different classes, of course).

*I can wear a t-shirt and sandals in February.

*my students love to learn English – on most days.

*a taxi ride is still $1.00.

*sometimes people treat me like a celebrity because I look different (I have a love/hate relationship with this one).

*tea seems to solve all illnesses – or at least many people think so.

*my students have such pride in their country that when a student was taking her oral exam and said that there

were no disadvantages to living in Ecuador, the rest of the class applauded.

*there are parades about once a week and no one seems to clearly know the meaning behind any of them.

*I can walk everywhere.

*the trash truck plays the music we know as the ice cream truck music.  This makes me laugh.

*it is not unusual for me to see horses, sheep, alpacas, pigs, dogs, and cows – in the same day.

*it is not uncommon to see people jump in church when they are singing.

*I can buy a bottle of Coke Zero for 64 cents.

*people strike up conversation with me often, just to be friendly.

*Ecuadorians love to eat ice cream – so it’s for sale everywhere.

*I can travel to the beach in about 4 hours.

*I have started to relax about being on time for things and am beginning to feel comfortable with

being 5 minutes late – even for class because my students aren’t there anyway!

*everyone comes home from work to eat lunch together – and then return to work in the afternoon.

So . . . what do you love about the city where you are living right now? 🙂

Post a comment and tell us two things you love about your city!