ABST Team Ecuador
Follow the Ecuador Alternative Break Service Trip on their blog, and read an excerpt below.
We started our day in our usual spot near the pool for breakfast at 7:30 this morning. We woke up early because we were informed the night before that we would be milking cows today. Before we could set off on our adventure at Don Domingo’s dairy farm, we did a short reflection. This entailed us using a ball of thread and throwing it to each other and discussing our culture and background. This activity showed us the connections that each of us has to each other despite coming from diverse backgrounds. After this, we loaded into the van to stop at Don Roman’s house in order to grab a block of the cane sugar that we helped create the previous day. We took this block to Don Domingo’s house to use later in the day.
When we arrived on the farm, there was no restroom. Many of our group members were desperate and therefore used the world as their restroom, as encouraged by Don Domingo. At this point, we were finally able to milk the cows. We eagerly watched Don Domingo and his grandchildren milk the cows with ease. It was then our turn to try. Each of us realized that this task was harder than it looked, and we started to struggle. Kathleen, who grew up on a farm, gave us some advice and we began to make progress in the milking procedure. Some of the group members were brave enough to drink some of the milk. Don Domingo milks 50 liters a day from 8 cows and sells it for $0.42 a liter – which is $21 a day. This is his only source of income and there are 10 people living in his home. We then ventured up to Don Domingo’s house and he started to tell us his story of establishing La Bolivarense. He informed us of the obstacles he faced in establishing his community when he first arrived in 1968. Don Domingo talked about how he had to travel a long distance with all of his belongings from southern Ecuador due to drought there. He began the journey north when he was 17 and had to cross raging rivers and wild jungles to do so. He explained the struggles of trying to find work and having to make the long trip between his newfound home and Santo Domingo. He and his neighbors helped each other build their homes and survive during the early stages of the town. His story was very eye-opening and makes us appreciate the ease that we have in everyday life back home.
From here, we put on our work boots and grabbed our tools for the day. We began pick axing the pile of rocks, shoveling them into wheelbarrows, and moving them down the driveway in order to fill the holes leading up to the house. The path to La Bolivarense was extremely muddy with the numerous puddles. By filling in the holes, we were making the path easier for travel. We affectionately call our labor "Ecuador Cross-Fit" as it is a great workout. After our work, we took a break for lunch, but before this, we were shown how to make a paste similar to cream of wheat and here we used the cane sugar that we made at Don Roman’s house and the milk that we got earlier in the day. We used this paste as a spread on fresh rolls and enjoyed a snack before lunch. We took a short tour of the farm where we saw the many different animals present. Soleil finally got to hold a puppy and the entire trip was worth it. After the tour, Sripada and Tristin read a book in English to Don Domingo’s grandsons.
We were very warmly welcomed into the house for lunch. We enjoyed fried plantains, rice as usual, beans, a side salad, and chicken for those who wanted it. During lunch, we had many deep conversations about our morals and values. Lunch was a great time for all of us because we were able to connect with the Domingo family. The meal was amazing and very much needed after our hours of work, especially considering this is the hottest day we have encounter so far. The family invited us into their home despite the fact that we were covered in mud and sweat. It was integral to them to make us feel like important guests. We were delighted to be so warmly welcomed into such a positive atmosphere.
After we finished eating, we took a short break and got back to work. This time, we were covering the patio area with a thick layer of rocks. The purpose of this was to establish a path for cars and motorcycles to easily reach the house. We had to take a break from this task because it started raining heavily. We ran over to the patio and waited for the rain to calm down. While waiting, Gita taught and played hot hands with one of the grandsons. The other grandson enjoyed throwing water at Amy and Sripada. Some other group members were teaching the children words in English. Even though it was raining, we enjoyed playing with the kids and making the best out of the wait. After the rain cleared and the sun crept out, we got right back to it and quickly finished our work. At this point, we sadly had to leave the Domingo family. We said goodbye to everyone and thanked them for their kindness and generosity. We drove over to Nido de Vida and made ourselves at home. Some people played card games while the majority of us learned how to make empanadas from the family. We attempted to make them and even had some good turnouts. For dinner, we ate rice with salad, and of course, our empanadas. We also enjoyed a variety of flavors of ice cream. After dinner, we continued to relax and participated in a short activity where we made bracelets out of the yarn that we used in the morning reflection. After many hours of fun, we headed back to our hotel for quality reflection time. In the van, we continued the fun by singing along to our playlist and enjoying each other’s company.
For today’s reflection, we focused a lot on culture and our different experiences. We reflected on Ecuadorian culture and how it relates to our values. Many of us realized that even though we come from a multitude of backgrounds, we share similar core values and find importance in many of the same objects. We then had to use everyday items and tie it into our high, low, and lesson of the day. It was interesting to see how everyone was able to creatively relate their random object to their experiences throughout the day. Many of us shared the same lows, and that was getting burnt and getting bit by bugs. Many of us also had several highs of the day. It was very nice that we were all able to relate to each other on a more personal level.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We will not have access to Wi-Fi until Friday night in the Quito airport. Tonight, we are staying on the Nido de Vida farm. But do not worry, we will post blog updates when we get connected to Wi-Fi.