Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
How has so much time passed since we were all in the Galapagos together!? I would give anything to be back in your company, snorkeling in 65 degree water among the sea turtles, sharks and beautiful fish. You all were a one of a kind crew! Thank you for such a memorable few weeks in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Our time there has left us all with some great memories:
-Our first port in Santa Cruz Island where we saw sharks, rays, and sea lions all before we even got on our first boat! Also, that inspiring man who collected all of the cigarette butts in Santa Cruz and worked to educate people about litter in the ocean. Did anyone else who bought his book finish it? I read it and it was a wild story about how he survived being stranded at sea for 77 days! Can you imagine?! Most of our crew could hardly stand being on the boat for more than 1 hour!
-Isabela Island was so good to us! It was here that we became (in)famous for our exceptional soccer skills. Our practice games at Campo Duro prepared us for our epic community soccer game in town. We had the most heart and team spirit, but unfortunately we lost because apparently in soccer the winner is actually determined by which team scores the most points. Shocking, I know! We drew a decent sized crowed and made more noise than that town has heard in a while (with the exception of America’s granddaughters quinceanera party that went on all Friday night and played the Titanic song over, and over, and over again!) Shout out to our super star soccer players, our amazing goalie, Adam, all of you amateurs who played like your life depended on it, and also that random guy who joined us and scored us some much needed points!
-You all were such hard workers at service! Special shout out to your epic machete skills and the blisters you earned along the way. Those tortoises could hardly recognize their surroundings after we were done. Big shout out to Carson for working that machete like no other. Because of his distinguished work ethic his absence was noticed pretty quickly that one time we accidentally forgot to bring him with us to Campo Duro! In contrast, it took us a bit longer to realize when we left Kumbi in San Cristobal. Ooopps!
-Aky Aya, aka the best movie EVER made about water!
-“Unicorn! Twinkle, Twinkle”
-Ayden’s excellent birthday at Sierra Negra Volcano and her face dive into her (second) birthday cake.
-Snorkeling, snorkeling and even more snorkeling! Maddie was a snorkeling queen and Patrick had really keen eyes for spotting marine life. Shout out to Kamar for harnessing the courage to get in the water pretty deep! That water was frigid, but I was impressed by how many of you enjoyed snorkeling and were rewarded by swimming with so many sea lions and sea turtles! If Alimameh had been in the water, every single one of those sea animals would have had a proper name and a back story. However he was too busy naming all the stray dogs in town!
-San Cristobal was so good to us! We were lucky enough to see a wild tortoise at our final service day; proof that your hard work makes a difference for the Galapagos Tortoises who are in constant search for food, shelter and nesting sites! San Cristobal also treated us to one evening of star gazing. We had a lot of very knowledgable, future astro-physicists in our group! Thank you for taking the time to blow my mind with space facts and I look forward to seeing you all land on Mars someday!
-The stakeholders debate, which everyone got (too?) into! You all demonstrated a deep understanding and empathy for the challenges and opportunities in the Galapagos Islands. I am sure many people have asked you a lot of questions about your time there and I am confident you have given them very insightful and informed answers. Maybe there is also a memory of how strange Carolyn and Bridget were dressed during the debate, a true testimony to our professionalism and creativity! In all seriousness, we were utterly awestruck by how amazing, stupendous and intelligent you all are!
-We hope that you are practicing your salsa dance moves and staying warm in your Galapagos windbreakers! That your meals are still mostly just rice, and that your scalp contain grains of salt for many years to come!
I am still in disbelief by how well connected you all were as a group. Maybe this was because of the lack of wifi? Maybe this was because the Galapagos has a way of simplifying life and slowing us down. Maybe it was purely because you all are amazing people and you were very grateful for the experience and recognized that opportunities of a lifetime are worth making the most of. As a trip facilitator I can tell you that your group’s energy was unique! You arrived as strangers, but by our first dinner together you all acted as if you had known each other for ages. I hope you stay in touch with each other and continue to share memories from the trip, and most importantly inspire each other to keep traveling, put your values into action and keep the goodness going!
Bridget and Carolyn
Summer Blog Posts
Author: Bridget Tinsley, International Director
Everyone arrived safely in Quito and we are looking forward to our first full day in Ecuador together. Everyone is really friendly and the group bonded quickly. Today we will tour Quito and see many of its historic and cultural highlights.
Authors: Serena and Sarah
Today we woke up for breakfast at 7:45AM. We had a delicious meal of cereal, fruit, bread, eggs, juice, and even more. We then went to orientation where we went over the rules and code of conduct. We broke off into groups of 3 to put on skits demonstrating what NOT to do – some were pretty funny.
After orientation, we took a walk to a grocery store to buy snacks for the next day’s traveling. The store was surprisingly (at least to me) very similar to the ones we are used to in the US. They had a lot of similar brands, however they also had a lot of interesting foods unique to Ecuador. I got some delicious dark chocolate and we all sampled different fruits.
We walked back to the hotel to have a 3 course lunch of soup, chicken and rice, and dessert. The hotel staff did a great job of filling us up!
After lunch we went on a city tour of Quito. We started at the Basilica, a gothic style church with gargoyles representing the different animals of Ecuador, including the tortoise and iguana. After, we walked to the Gran Plaza, where the presidential and archbishop palace are located. From there, we walked to one of the most famous churches in Quito, Compañía de Jesus. It is a baroque styled church because of all the intricate designs. Inside, there are more beautiful wooden carvings all painted in a breathtaking shimmering gold. After the tour of the church, we headed up to the overlook, where the stature of the Virgin Mary with wings. Up here we saw a beautiful panorama of Quito and the Andean mountains that surround it. After many pictures and some trinket shopping, we traveled back down the mountain to the hotel to finish packing for our journey to the Galapagos.
July 14, 2016
Written by Mackenzie and Erika
We made it to the Galápagos! The day started off super early at 3 am with a flight to the first island, Baltra. Our stay at Baltra wasn’t very long. We went through the airport, where we met our naturalists and tour guides for the trip, and then took a 5 minute ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island. At Santa Cruz, we had a chance to explore the town. We saw a lot of wildlife such as blue footed boobies, sea lions, puffer fish, black fin sharks, crabs, lizards, and manta rays. After about an hour of exploring, we regrouped for the 2 hour boat ride to Isabella Island. Almost everyone slept the entire boat ride. When we arrived at Isabella Island, we took a short tour of the town and then walked down to the beach for some free time. We wrapped up the day with a yummy dinner of codfish and a group meeting. ¡Hasta luego!
Today our group continued our arduous service at Campo Duro. Alongside the endangered tortoises we cleared their precious habitat. After a few long hours the habitat was cleared! We then relaxed in hammocks and a played a competitive soccer game. Upon returning to our home base we had lunch and had time to explore the main town. After exploring, we took a bus to the beach. One group took to the water in kayaks and explored the nearby satellite islands, keeping an eye out for sea lions, penguins, and crabs. The other group went snorkeling in a secluded cove where rays and colorful fishes swam beneath us.
Our first day in the Galapagos was such an adventure! We began service at Campo Duro, a privately-owned tortoise reserve. We learned about the conservation of the environment and then spent a couple hours clearing trees in the tortoise sanctuary. We finished our visit with a soccer game. After lunch, we took a long walk on the beach into the Wetlands of Isabela island. We were able to swim in an area in which fresh water meets the ocean. This occurs because the Mangrove trees desalinate the ocean water. On our walk back we explored lava caves and ate ice cream. What a day!
July 17, 2016
Today it was Ayden’s birthday and we were lucky enough to spend it doing fun things such as climbing to the rim of a volcano, seeing flamingos as well as seeing the “national geographic moment” of tortoises mating!
-Alimameh and Emily
July 18, 2016
Today we woke up for a 7 AM breakfast of bread, fruit, and eggs. We left for a school house at 7:30 where we volunteered and created a fence. We celebrated our hard work by playing soccer and hanging out with the kids.
We then went to Campo Duro to make marmalade – it was delicious! After a yummy lunch of fish, rice, soup, veggies, and fried plantains, we headed to the beach to swim and pick up trash. Then, we had our soccer game. It was over an hour of intense playing against the local soccer teams. We lost…badly…but it was still a ton of fun. Our dinner of hot dogs, salad, and potato was certainly earned that night.
We ended the night with the usual evening meeting and went to sleep to prepare for our traveling the next day.
Written by Sarah
Photos by Grace
Today we had an early morning wake up in order to start our long boat ride to our next home base on San Crístobal. After breakfast we got bussed to the port and took a two hour boat ride to the small island Floreana. There, we changed into our swim suits and had a chilly snorkel at the beach. We were lucky to swim with many sea turtles, manta rays and fish. After changing and warming up we hung out at a nice hotel that also had interesting information on the history of Floreana. We also found out that the grand daughter of one of the founding German families works at the hotel, which was very neat. After a reviving lunch at a local restaurant, we got back on the boat for three more hours, but we got the pleasure to see a pod of dolphins jumping along side the boat. Once at the port of San Crístobal, the capital of the Galapagos, we were free to roam the city and shop for trinkets and food for an hour. After our touristy needs were met, we gathered in a bus to go to our new home base, a quaint lodge on the top of the hill with a great view of the coast and the stars. We then got assigned our new roommates (bunk beds, yay!) and sat down for a delicious group dinner. At 7:40 we started our group meeting and broke up into our stakeholder groups (conservation, tourism, local community) to plan for our upcoming debate. Later, we gathered to watch a movie about the history of Floreana and soon went to bed to get ready for service work tomorrow.
Authors: Ayden and Grace
The GLA group started off their first day in San Cristóbal by working with machetes to remove invasive species such as blackberries and guavas from a natural tortoise habitat. Thankfully, no major injuries ensued. After a delicious lunch back at our home base, the group headed to La Lobería. At the beach we snorkeled alongside sea lions, sea turtles, fish, and various other marine animals. Post beach, salty and invigorated, we headed downtown for “charla con chocolate”, where we played a few fun Spanish language games while eating some chocolate snacks. After the español, we had an hour of free time in town to wander and shop. ¡MUY BIEN! :~)
Today we woke up bright and early and headed to the service site. The service included the clearing of invasive species and the planting of some native plant species on a nearby hillside.The purpose of our service was to create a restore a native environment for the wild tortoises who are being re-released in the area. After working for a few hours, we came back to home base for lunch. Next, we loaded the bus and went to a nearby sugarcane, coffee, and fruit plantation. We walked around the land, made our own sugarcane juice, rinsed off in small freshwater stream, and played with the owner’s cute pets. After our excursion, we enjoyed an early dinner before our evening soccer game. The game was super fun and filled with lots of laughs! When the game ended, we made our way back to our rooms and went to bed.
July 22, 2016
Today was our final day together. Our group has really formed strong connections and each day I am impressed by the kindness, selflessness and friendships in our team. It will be sad for us all to say goodbye tomorrow, but I feel confident that the friendships formed will be maintained! I hope our team members continue to inspire, humor and support each other post GLA. Thank you for an amazing end to the summer, team! Be good, do good!
Some photos from our time at the Equator Museum this morning: