Monday, August 31, 2015

Ending and Beginning

After thinking about it for two months, I still haven’t decided how to start this post, or how to even write it really. I have yet to figure out how to describe what it’s like to be back in the US, how I’m feeling, and how to sum up what my year in Ecuador was. But I want a definitive end for this blog, so I’ll try and describe it all for you. There’s value in trying, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you expected, right?

The last time I wrote I was about to leave Guaranda and didn’t feel quite ready to leave. For the rest of the time that I was in Ecuador, I felt that way. There were no definitive things that I still wanted to do, but I couldn’t help but feel that my time there couldn’t possibly be over. I was a ball of nerves as I flew to Denver, got off the plane, and walked towards where my family was waiting for me. A part of me wanted to turn around and get back on the plane, until I actually saw and hugged everyone. That moment of seeing them for the very first time was like a punch in the gut and my first deep breath in a long time. It meant that my exchange was truly over, but that I was finally back to familiarity.

Reverse culture shock works in the same way that culture sock does: the superficial things hit you first and the deeper, harder to see stuff comes later. For the first couple of weeks, being back was weird for kind of amusing reasons. I found that I could think of some words in Spanish, but not in English. I kept forgetting to throw my toilet paper in the toilet and to put my seatbelt on. I had no sense of time in the evening, because in Ecuador, the sun rises and sets at 6 every day, but not until 8 or 9 during the summer here. I had to break the habit of kissing everyone on the cheek when I arrived or left anywhere. There were just a bunch of little habits that I had become natural to me that I had to consciously stop doing.

The second part of reverse culture shock hit me later and it hit me hard. Coming back to your home culture after being away from it for an extended period of time is one of the strangest and hardest things I’ve ever had to adjust to. Denver and the US are home to me. I naturally know and understand how things work here, how people relate and interact with each other, and where I fit into the whole picture. What I found in coming back was that I no longer knew how to fit comfortably here. Everything as generally the same. I was around the same people, places, and situations, but I no longer felt like I fit exactly right. I didn’t know how to make myself fit into the same space and life that I had before I left. I am very different from who I was a year ago, and I’ve struggled a lot with figuring out how I fit into the relationships that I have with people here. Now that I’ve had time to process everything and settle in, I no longer feel overwhelmed by everything, but it took a month and a half of mental chaos to get here.

I promise there have been upsides amidst the chaos. There have been two best parts about being back, realizing all of the ways Ecuador affected me and appreciating the U.S. in ways I never did before. I’ve learned to trust myself and be self-confident. I’ve learned how to handle making mistakes and to not be afraid to try.  I’ve learned to understand what causes the differences between people. I’ve learned to be comfortable in new and confusing situations. I now know all of the stereotypes about the U.S. and have learned to explain the ways they are and aren’t true. I’ve even learned to appreciate all of the wonderful things about this country I call home.

So where does it all leave me? Writing my last blog post from my new dorm room at the University of Wisconsin Madison! I’ve been looking forward to this move basically since the day I got back from Ecuador. There are countless reasons I’ve been dying to be a college student, readiness to be back in the classroom, being at a place where I get to choose the way I spend my time, taking the first ‘official’ step towards being an adult, taking on a new place and the challenges that come with it. I could go on, but what I want to leave you with is that a big part of why I feel so ready for college is Ecuador. 

All of the experience I gained there and things I learned have prepared me more for the rest of my life than any other experiences I’ve had. I can’t be thankful enough to myself for having the courage to actually go through with it and for everyone who supported me along the way. My exchange year in Ecuador was terrifying and awe-inspiring, challenging and rewarding, and most importantly it expanded my horizons farther than they ever would have gone had I never lived abroad.  



Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Definition of Bittersweet

I've been struggling with how to write this post, because ultimately, everything that I want to say can be boiled down to one sentence: I am excited to go home, but, at the same time, I'm sad to leave.

It's hard to write a whole post about one sentence, but I think it's important, because that one sentence describes 90% of my thoughts at this point.  In 21 days, I'll be walking through my front door in Denver. I'll be "home". Believe me when I say I'm excited, because there are things you come to miss like crazy after 10 months with out them. Sure, I'm excited to see my family and friends again, but do you know how much I miss waffles for breakfast, swinging in my hammock with a good book on summer afternoons, and the ability to wear a skirt without becoming more of a spectacle than my "blonde" hair already makes me? A lot. I miss those things, and so many others, more than you could possibly imagine.

Knowing that I'm so close to all of that sometimes makes me want to pack my bags and get on the next flight to the US. I've spent months trying to not think about all of the little things that I miss, because I knew they were too far away to be worth pining over. Now though, they're within reach, and my friends and I often talk about the things we'll eat and places we'll go as soon as we're back. There's something very comforting about hearing everyone "mmmm" along with you when you mention how much you're going to enjoy your first strip of bacon in 10 months. So as you can see, I have lots to look forward to about being back!

What was hard about leaving the US was knowing that I was trading everything that was familiar for a life that was one big question mark. What made it okay was that I knew that it wasn't forever and that I was beginning the biggest adventure of my life.

What makes this goodbye okay is that I'm excited about coming back. What's hard about it is that I'm also leaving home. Once again, I am leaving behind all of the things that are familiar, even in their foreignness. I am leaving my school, my friends, my daily bus route, and the places my friends and I always go to. I'm leaving my family and my house that have become my home. I'm leaving the music and language that I've fallen in love with. I'm leaving a culture that has taught me what it is to be different, but that has also showed me the satisfaction of being accepted. I'm leaving a country that caught me in its whirlwind of diversity and took a part of my heart in the process.

The hardest part is knowing that I can't come back. I don't mean that I wont come and visit, or that I'll never see any of the people I've met again. I will. What I mean is that I will never be able to come back to this year, the way things are now. I'll never be in school again, with my classmates. I'll never live with the same people or see the same group of friends everyday. There's a quote that I've fallen in love with recently, because it captures the part I haven't been able to put into words:

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place... like you'll not only miss the people you love, but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again." 
- Azar Nafisi

I don't quite know how to explain how true this is. Maybe it's something you either understand or don't. I can tell that this won't be the only time in my life when I feel this way. I think it's something that comes with every ending/beginning. I felt it after my last play. I felt it on my last day of high school. I felt it when I got on the plane to Miami back in August. I feel it now, as I sit and try to process that the hardest and most rewarding year of my life will be over in three weeks. 

I don't have answers. I can't tell myself or anyone else how to best to deal with this kind of situation. What I do is just live. I go to school, eat lunch with my family, and see my friends in the afternoons. I smile to myself when I get on the bus in the morning, because while being squished between too many uniformed kids was uncomfortable in the beginning, it's now seems strange to get a seat right away. I laugh when I go to the terminal and hear the bus company employees shouting "A Quito, a Quito, a Quito!", because as disorienting as it is to hear them all shouting over each other, they're actually quite helpful if you don't know which bus to take. I try not to get too annoyed when my classmates are all squealing and laughing at the top of their lungs, because I know that I'm going to miss their stupid jokes and obsession with boys when I'm gone. I've come to the point where I appreciate everything, simply because it's all become normal and I know it won't be my normal for much longer.

These kinds of things are always so bittersweet, but they're worth it. As a very wise person wrote on the bathroom wall of my favorite cafe:

"Life is better when you're traveling!"

Hasta luego,


Thursday, May 7, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, I went on a five day trip to the Galapagos Islands with AFS. It was, to say the least, the most amazing trip I've taken in Ecuador thus far! I saw giant tortoises, penguins, a sea turtle, sea lions, land and marine iguanas, albatrosses, flamingos, blue-footed boobies, the second largest volcanic crater in the world, lava tunnels and the most beautiful beach I've ever seen in my entire life! But instead of writing about it, I'll just give you guys pictures, because they're much more interesting!
Our welcome party on Santa Cruz

Yes, that is a cactus. Yes, it is huge and weird looking.

 Baby tortoises!!!

A land Iguana

A marine iguana

Tortuga Bay (aka the most beautiful beach I've ever seen)

Our welcome part on Isabela

So in Colorado we have deer crossing signs. In the Galapagos, you have to worry about iguanas...

One of many giant tortoises

Volcan Sierra Negra (it has the second larges crater in the world)

Behold! A wild giant tortoise!

The famous blue-footed boobies!


More sea lions! They were literally everywhere!

This is a picture of the sunrise we got to see on our boat ride back to Santa Cruz.

 The lava tunnels. Volcanic islands have a lot of cool geologic formations :)

As always, I posted more pictures on my Facebook page, so check those out if you want to see more!

Hasta luego,


Elisa's Guide to Ecuador

I've seen a lot of Ecuador outside of Guaranda in the last couple of months. I absolutely love traveling here, because I feel like a tourist and a native at the same time. I get to discover new places without being completely clueless about the country I'm in. In the process of both traveling and just living here, I've picked up some valuable knowledge about how Ecuador works. I figured I might share it with all of you, so that if you ever travel here you'll know some things the guide books might not tell you and if not, you'll have a little glimpse of some lessons I've learned.

1. Pack your entire closet. You'll need it.

Ecuador is home to four very distinct regions: the coast, the mountains (locally referred to as the Sierra), the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. This ecological diversity makes packing for any trip a little complicated, because you have to go prepared for anything. In the Sierra, it's best to always layer up, because the weather can change from hot and sunny to freezing thunderstorm at the drop of a hat. For the coast, you'll want to wear the least amount of clothing possible. It's hot and humid, whether the sun is out or not. The climate in the Galapagos is similar to the coast in that it's hot. Bring every swimsuit you own, because once you see how clear and blue the water is, you're not going to want to get out! When it comes to the Amazon I have only thing to say: it's called the rain forest for a reason, so come prepared. Believe me, it's not so fun to end up with all wet clothes and have no way to dry them!

Also, make sure to always have an extra pair of shoes with you. A few of my friends and I made that mistake once, and so trust me when I say that hiking in muddy and wet shoes will not be the most enjoyable part of your day.

2. If you don't know, just ask.

This goes for anything from directions to hotel/restaurant/activity recommendations. Ecuadorians are always willing to help out and give their opinion! It's comforting to know that when the bus you thought was taking you to the terminal actually drops you off in the middle of an unfamiliar city, any one of the people walking on the street is more than willing to tell you what city bus to catch. Just about everyone has a brother/cousin/friend who owns a restaurant/hotel/tour company nearby and will be more than willing to point you in that direction. All of this being said, if you're asking for directions, ask a few different people and then go with the most common answer. It's probable that different people will give you different directions.

3. Ecuadorians have a different idea of what is "far away"

Ecuadorians think everything is far away. They may advise you to take the bus or a taxi to the city center, even though it's only a handful of blocks away. My advise is to ask exactly how far away something is, then ask how much a bus/taxi costs, before deciding how to proceed.

This goes for travel across the country as well. To give perspective, Ecuador is about the same size as the state of Colorado. If you're from the U.S. and have gone on any road trips, then you'll know that a 5-10 hour drive isn't that long. So, if an Ecuadorian says that getting to Cuenca will take you forever, know that it will never be as long as the two day drive to your grandparents' house in southern Texas.

4. Street food: It's either your best friend or worst enemy

Go to any city in Ecuador and you're guaranteed to be bombarded by people selling food in the streets. I've had tremendous luck with street food and haven't ever gotten sick because of it, but not everyone I know has had the same experience. Like with street food in anywhere, be mindful of what you're buying. I'd say fruits are the biggest thing to be careful around. Those fruit salads that guy is selling probably do look delicious, but you don't know how long they've been sitting out. I'd say it's better to go to the local mercado (market) and buy whole fruit there. It'll be cheaper, and you'll likely get a nicer snack anyway!

Another note on food: Make sure to check the expiration dates. We aren't very accustomed to doing that in the U.S., but here, it's a good habit to have, because it's possible that the yogurt you picked up isn't going to be good for much longer.

5. Always bring your own toilet paper, and never throw it in the toilet.

Not throwing toilet paper into the toilets is a pretty common thing in Latin America, and probably in a lot of other countries too. The sewage systems can't handle it. It can take a little getting used to, but you'll get the hang of it, I promise! It's also important to bring your own toilet paper, because most public bathrooms don't have any. Sometimes you'll have to pay to use the bathroom, in which case they'll usually give you paper, but don't always count on that.

6. Bartering is key

Going to any artisan market here will make your eyes boggle at everything you can buy. The few times I've gone, I come out thinking I've spent all of the money I have left. Surprisingly though, my shopping escapades haven't ever been as expensive as I thought. That't because I've learned to barter. Any vendor will take one look at an obvious foreigner and raise their prices. Don't fall for it! They may say the alpaca sweaters are nearly $30, but I bought both of mine for under $20. People here don't usually put up a ton of resistance when you haggle with them, so don't be afraid to ask for lower prices!

7. Do Not Forget Your Camera Charger. Ever.

I made the mistake of forgetting my camera charger on a trip once, and regretted it when my camera decided to die as soon as I turned it on. Needless to say, I got no pictures. Don't let the same thing happen to you! Always double check that you have your camera's battery charger or extra batteries. Believe me when I say that you'll want pictures of everything! You'll probably want an extra memory card too, because Ecuador is astounding and you'll want pictures of everything!

8. Try not to fall asleep on the bus!

I've always liked watching landscapes roll by from car windows, but I've completely fallen in love with it since being here. It's incredibly tempting to pass out once you get on a bus and I'm certainly guilty of doing just that, but I suggest you not do the same. There's no better way to appreciate the crazy diversity that exists in Ecuador than by watching it roll past you on your way to another city. I can't even begin to describe my awe the first time I took a bus to the coast and watched the vegetation shift from long grass and pine-like trees to full on tropical jungle (banana plantations and all!). It's spectacular to cross so many different climates in just a couple of hours! So try not to fall asleep, because I promise that the view is worth it :)

I'll be posting some pictures from my trip to the Galapagos soon, so keep an eye out for those!

Hasta luego,


Monday, March 23, 2015

The Inevitable Awkward-ness of Beginnings

The beginning is awkward. Every exchange student, host parent, and host sibling knows this.

A couple of weeks ago, all of the AFSers in Ecuador participated in a short exchange to another city for a week. I got placed in Salcedo, a small mountain city about three hours from Guaranda. I was excited at the prospect of getting to spend a week in a new place, but I became a little less excited each time I asked anyone about Salcedo. I always asked what there was to do there and the only answer I got was "Nothing, but they have really good ice cream!" Well, I was determined to make the most of it, so I decided I try as many ice cream flavors as possible. 

I ended up getting really lucky. Not only did I land in the nicest family, but the volunteers in Salcedo had organized a couple of trips for us! We went to Quilotoa, a nearby volcano with a lake in it's crater, and to the amazon!


Tena (in the Amazon!)

I also had a wonderful family. They were all incredibly caring and I got along well with them. My host mother willingly picked me up and dropped me off from wherever I need to go, even if it was the middle of the night (we got back from Tena around 1AM...). They took me to Quito and Ambato to see movies, to eat ice cream, and had me try all sorts of other things that I'd never had before. Of course they invited me back to visit any time I wanted and offered to take to to Cotopaxi (another volcano nearby) when I did. I cannot stress how caring and sweet they all were! 

And yet, no matter how great of a family they were, beginnings are inevitably awkward. Think about it: the concept of hosting/being hosted is that you go to live with people you've never met before, in a completely new place. Regardless of how weird that sounds, it's ultimately a wonderful experience. The thing that has to be understood, is that it's not going to be all rainbows and butterflies right away.

When you first move in with a family, you're treated more or less as a guest. Everyone is very polite with each other, and there's a lot of tiptoeing that goes on. This is especially true when it comes to exchange, because it's not just new people learning to interact with each other, it's different cultures as well. No one wants to  mess up and say/do something potentially offensive.  It's awkward, and no one really says anything about it, because admitting things are awkward feels like a strange thing to do. But that eventually goes away. You learn how to fit into your family, how you fit into the household and your new life. Sometimes, that's a hard adjustment for exchange students. We often gain more responsibilities and aren't treated like we're special anymore. But in the end, it's an important shift to make, because then you truly become part of the family, and that's where you learn the most.

I remembered all of this while I was with my short exchange family, because we were all very polite with each other and everyone kinda tiptoed around me. I remembered the first month that my family in the U.S. hosted Melissa and how I felt the need to constantly take care of her, because I knew that she was new to it all. I remembered the week that I spent with Tiril (the girl from Norway that my family is currently hosting) and all of the small talk we tried to make. Most of all I remembered my first weeks in Guaranda, when I was trying desperately to feel like part of my new family even though, most of the time, I wasn't sure what to do with myself. As much as I loved my family in Salcedo, my week with them made me miss my family in Guaranda and knowing where I fit in. 

Hasta luego,

P.S. The ice cream really was fantastic!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Que Bonito es Carnaval!

There isn't much to do in Guaranda. It's a small city in the middle of the mountains, has very few tourist attractions, and it isn't particularly close to any other cities. All that being said, if you ask any Ecuadorian about Guaranda they will tell you one thing and one thing only: Guaranda has the best Carnaval celebration in all of Ecuador.

Carnaval usually falls on Valentines Day weekend, from February 13th to the 15th. In Guaranda, Carnaval is a month long affair that starts at the end of January and isn't over until mid-February. It starts in the schools. As first semester exams are taking place, school courtyards and the city's plazas turn into water war battle grounds. Kid throw water balloons and buckets of water at each other and even throw each other into the fountains. Do not think for a minute that it matters if you've got your uniform on, have a cell phone in your pocket, or you took the time to put makeup on that morning. Everyone is a target and no one is safe. Students start carrying their phones in plastic bags and make sure they have a full water bottle ready to retaliate when their friends attack. The first time I got soaked was when a classmate and I got a bucket of water thrown on us from a second story balcony. In the following weeks things escalated from getting pelted with water balloons as I left school to an an all out war in my school courtyard on one of the last days of classes.

The warfare continued all throughout Carnaval, but as the other celebrations started up it wasn't just kids who "played Carnaval" (that's what they call it here). Eventually the whole city was playing, and instead of just water people also threw flour, eggs, "pintura" (beer mixed with colored powder), and most of all "espuma". Espuma is essentially a foamier form of Silly String and ends up covering most Guarandeñans from head to toe at some point. While I thoroughly enjoyed playing Carnaval with my friends and family, after nearly a month of having to be on guard any time I left the house, I was happy to be able to come home dry at the end of the day. 

My cousin David and a little girl spraying each other with espuma in the park.

My friends and I covered in flour and "pintura" 

The second big part of Carnaval are the "comparsas" or parades. There are two or three different ones every day for about a week and a half. I'm pretty sure I watched 90% of them. The comparsas consist mainly of different dancing groups who all wear matching costumes and dance behind the truck carrying the speakers that blast their music. The majority of the groups are just regular people from schools, businesses, families, etc. who choreograph their own dance. I'd say the comparsas are 60% people dancing to reggeaton or salsa and dressed in what American's would consider tacky Halloween costumes and 40% people in traditional/indigenous clothing, dancing almost exclusively to the Carnaval song. There's not a lot of variety in the songs that people choose to dance to, so it's safe to say that I've had enough of BailandoFireball, and the Carnaval song for a lifetime. 

I participated in a few different comparsas. One was with my mother's school, in the comparsa of the elementary schools. The second was with my high school and the third was with a group of my family members. I absolutely loved the elementary school comparsa because hundreds of little kids dressed up together is basically the cutest thing in the world! 

Sunday, the day I participated with my school, is the biggest comparsa of them all. It's a four hour long ordeal that covers the entire city and is the most important event during all of Carnaval. No one believes in "The show must go on!" like Guarandeñans during Carnaval. How do I know this? Because mother nature decided to unleash the thunderstorm from hell during Sunday's comparsa. It was drizzling when we started, pouring a half an hour in, and by the time we got to the first big plaza hail was falling from the sky. I don't know about you, but I certainly thought that they would postpone the comparsa until the rain passed. That was not the case. My classmates and I, along with the rest of the parade, danced and smiled throughout the whole thing. It then rained on and off for the rest of the comparsa. Needless to say, I was completely soaked and frozen to the bone by the end. Nothing like four hours in the rain in an itsy-bitsy dress to give you a sore throat and the voice of a smoker for a week! Regardless of the rain, there were parts of the comparsa that I enjoyed, and if nothing else, I got a good story out of it.
Me and my wet classmates

The last big part of Carnaval are the fiestas in the city plazas. A big stage is set up at one end where various artists play sometimes good and sometimes crappy music, while the entire population fills up the rest of the plaza and dances. These fiestas are the main battlegrounds for espuma wars and there's no way to leave without flour-covered cheeks and wet clothes. This is also where the majority of the drinking goes on, although that happens during the comparsas too. I'm convinced that between pajaro azul, leche huevona, and pata de vaca (some of the special Carnaval drinks), half of Guaranda spends all of Carnaval in some state of drunkenness.

More Pictures! 
Most of these are from a professional dance exhibition in the central park.

I purposely waited a while to write about Carnaval, because I knew I needed to give myself time to process and appreciate it. Truth be told, I was excited for Carnaval to be over. I hadn't really known what to expect, but utter exhaustion wasn't part of my picture. I was tired of getting up early, standing and watching parades all morning, then dancing all afternoon/evening, every day for more than a week. I had expected more variety. 

I was also disappointed by how much pop culture was on display. I had thought Carnaval was more of a celebration of traditional, indigenous culture. That wasn't the case. What I've realized now is that Carnaval is just a celebration of Ecuador, all parts of it's culture included. You see everyone represented: indigenous groups from all regions of the country, groups who represent the more European traditions, and also just regular people dancing to popular music. I criticized how much popular culture was part of the show, because I didn't find the things I see in every day life  interesting. I see now that those things are just as much a part of Ecuadorian culture as anything else, and have every right to be celebrated as much as the rest, even if I don't personally find them as interesting.

Hasta luego,


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

I am a nerdfighter, which for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, means that I'm an avid follower of Hank and John Green and their YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. They make videos about all sorts of different topics, create events to raise money for charity, and have started various educational YouTube channels that have saved my grades on several different occasions. I could write about all of the cool things Nerdfighteria does, but that's not the object of this post. If you want to know more, check out the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel, or click here. The point I'm trying to get to is that today the Vlogbrothers posted a new video titled "Will Life Get Better for the Poor?". In it, John Green describes the "empathy gap" that exists between many of the people like "us" who live in developed countries, and the millions of people in developing countries who live in poverty. He quotes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Annual Letter:

"There is overwhelming evidence that people care about others who are suffering—when they can see the suffering."

Green goes on to describe how hard it can be for us to be truly empathetic towards extremely impoverished people, because it's as if we live in a separate world from them. Those people aren't our family friends, our neighbors, they don't even live in our cities. It's hard to empathize with people you've never seen or interacted with.

I was like that too. I've always had a good life. All of my basic needs have always been met, I've had a great education, a supporting community, the opportunity to travel internationally. How many people get the chance, and have the economic resources, to be an exchange student for ten months? I've always been in environments that have made me aware of how lucky I am to be born into this life, but despite that awareness, I still didn't really understand poverty until now. Sure, I'd had brushes with poverty in Mexico and Peru, but you gain a completely different perspective on the topic when people living in various stages of poverty become your family members, friends, and classmates. In his video, Green says that its easier to empathize with people who feel like "us", who we can see and interact with. If you've never spent time in impoverished places, it's hard to feel connected to the people there, which isn't any fault of our own, it's just how we humans work. But I have that experience right now, I get to live and connect with people here and what I'm most grateful for is that living here has made me think of Ecuadorians not at "poor people" or "rich people", but just as people. These people and their situations have become part of my "us", they are part of my world, which means I can empathize with them far more than I ever could in the past.

I'm more than halfway through my year now, I've officially spent more time in Ecuador than I have left, so I've been thinking a lot about what my favorite parts have been. What I realized is that the most exciting parts of exchange have been while I've been doing touristy things, but the most meaningful parts have always been during "normal life", while connecting with people. Realizing that makes me happy that I get to be both a tourist and just a person here. I get to travel to the tourist traps, take a million pictures, and get 'jump up and down' excited about things like zip lining, all while also being a student, a friend and a daughter. It's pretty amazing to have both, because one without the other isn't as interesting. If I was just a tourist, I wouldn't get the same cultural insights, and if I never did the touristy stuff, I'd get bored with normal life. It's a good balance to have. 

So in celebration of being past the half way point, let me share one of my highlights with you all! A few weekends ago, I got to travel to Baños, which is one of the big tourist attractions in Ecuador. I went with my family and some of the AFSers in Guaranda. We went biking, zip lining, hiking, swimming, saw a magnificent waterfall, and just all around had a good time!

This is at the "Casa del Arbol" or the tree house at the end of the world.

Zip Lining!!!

We biked all over the place, mostly in the rain, but it was fun anyway

This is the entrance to the "Pailon del Diablo" which is a huge waterfall. The entrance has 'welcome' written in 30 different languages. You'd be surprised how similar some of them are.

Me and my friend Bram at the bottom of the "Pailon del Diablo". I had my dad take the picture from up above since there was absolutely no way to go down without getting COMPLETELY soaked, and I didn't want to damage my camera.

A very wet group picture on the way back down.

This is the waterfall, from the other side of the mountain, but it's too long to get the whole thing into the picture.

More pictures from the "Casa del Arbol"

A map of all of the volcanoes in Ecuador. The red ones are active, the blue are dormant, and the green-ish are potentially active. Chimborazo (the volcano near Guaranda) is potentially active.

Check my Facebook for more photos :)

Hasta Luego,