Time Capsule Letter
Wow! Time does fly doesn’t it! You must all be back at your desks and perhaps day-dreaming about those sunny island days last summer. In some ways it still feels like yesterday that we met in the airport in Quito, ready to embark on an action-packed two weeks in the Galápagos Islands. We will always remember those 18 weary faces staring at us, fraught with anticipation and excitement to be there. It takes real courage to step into the unknown and I applaud you for taking that step on the GLA Galapagos programme.
We are sure that the whole experience has now had a chance to really sink in. The time that we spent together will definitely be significant to everyone for different reasons. For some we know that the chance to spend time and interact with the many rare and unique animals on the islands will have left a lasting impression on you.
Snorkeling with baby sea lions, rays and turtles, working alongside giant tortoises, watching blue footed boobies feed and side stepping marine iguanas are only a few examples of the amazing encounters we had. It was a privilege to stay on the three different islands of Isabella, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal because the ecosystems were quite different and we really got a taste of the archipelago as a whole.
For others it will be the friendships that were formed on this trip, everyone seemed to get on so well and I’m sure you have made some life-long connections through your shared experiences together. For some it might have been the cultural immersion itself, delving into Ecuadorian cuisine (I’m sure you haven’t forgotten those soups) , exploring the well preserved churches, markets and dancing the salsa!
The contribution that everyone made to clear the introduced trees at El Chato, dig holes, plant natives and cart stones to protect them, will always be appreciated by the people and tortoises on Santa Cruz. Restoring the land to its native self provides a better environment for the tortoises to thrive and with some species particularly threatened, this is an important job.
It was hard and wet sometimes but it was with great team work and perseverance that we managed to plant many trees! Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without hard work and you should all be proud that you stuck with it until the end. Not to mention all the sanding and painting you managed to finish on the basketball court at the local school in San Cristobal, it really will help the kids have a sense of pride in their school!
We did pack a lot of activities into those two weeks and we shared some great laughs. Some moments we won’t forget are;
When Austin ate a whole raw cacao bean at the chocolate shop, those facials were hilarious🤣
The amazing karaoke sessions on the bus back from El Chato, especially Nash’s singing 😊
Getting soaked on the bumpy boat rides between islands, sorry Julia!
When the mangroves took Julian’s shoes.
Natalie’s unique talent of baby lamb bleating.
The amazing sunsets we witnessed from the beach and the hostel rooftops.
When snorkelling got abit more adventurous and Ari and Camie collided with sea urchins.
Learning about Jose’s napping philosophy and seeing it work.
The amount of clumsy fails we had; Sofia’s coffee spillage at the airport, Charlie’s shelf demolition in the honey shop, Maddy’s hard time with stairs and Lily’s collision with the letterbox in old town.
Spotting a string ray while snorkelling at La Lobería beach and watching one get chased by a baby sea lion at Tijiretas.
Watching sea turtles feed up close with Jesse.
How much Jackson could eat!
Surviving a turbulent landing back into Quito.
Watching Keita use his colourful poy’s.
The creative tactics used during the soccer game on Isabella.
Learning about the human history of Isabella Island at the Wall of Tears.
The group’s amazing salsa dancing skills.
Rock gang at El Chato, you really rocked it!
Eating delicious ice cream on Santa Cruz.
When we left Kay, Sidney and Sofia in the loo.
Cooking a delicious dinner of spaghetti bolognese from scratch with vegetables and garlic bread on our final night in the Galapagos.
It was amazing to be a part of this group. To watch you grow and learn from each other. We hope this trip has enriched your story, challenged your perceptions of what is possible and motivated you to pursue your passions!
We trust you are enjoying school, college and all the other endeavors you are pursuing in life right now. We wonder how the OMG – One Meaningful Goal that we created at the end of the session is going for you? We pledged to help reduce our impact on the planet by making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.
For example; buying local/organic food and wasting less of it, having shorter showers, shopping at thrift stores, investing in reusable products instead of plastic, buying shampoo bars, metal water bottles and composting. We also wanted to do more at a community level, for example; making time to join volunteer groups and educating our friends and family on small changes they can make to live more sustainably.
How is this going for you? Have you seen any changes at home or in your community? We hope your projects are trucking along well.
Stay safe, have fun and please be in touch!
Em and Fer
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Hello from Quito Ecuador!
The sun shone bright from the get-go today and after enjoying a wee sleep in (we didn’t arrive until 2am from the airport), the team started orientation on the roof top terrace of the hotel at 9.45pm. There was a lot of content to cover but the time flew by and we enjoyed getting to know each other with name games, and playing poison dart frog! After lunch it was off to explore Old Town Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Everyone really enjoyed our tour with Marcello, he was very knowledgeable and we got to marvel at the Basilica church, La Compañia church, and the plaza before learning about how Ecuadorian chocolate is made from bean to bar, how a local company makes honey products and finally ending the tour with a beautiful panoramic view of the city from the El Panecillo. We were even lucky enough to see the top of the Cotopaxi volcano poking out above the city sky line.
Although many of the students were more interested in the dogs:). Then it was time to stock up on snacks for the Galapagos, have dinner, nightly meeting and get packing to leave for the islands early in the morning. Reflecting on a great day 2, we shared some laughs as we walked though town and the group showed some real kindness, inclusiveness and positive energy! Keep it up 💖
– Emily Wilson, mentor
Friday July 12, 2019
We started the long day at 3 in the morning in order to get to Isabella island. After 2 plane rides, 4 boat rides, 2 buses, several naps and snacks, the whole group was exhausted when we finally arrived at 5 in the evening. During the whole trip, the girls and guys talked more and there wasn’t as much of a gap. The very tight bus ride helped a lot. Everyone got to know each other much better, enough to make fun of each other when we weren’t at our best.
It’s amazing to compare the cultural differences from home as well as Quito. The people are very kind and welcoming, especially towards visitors. The wildlife is also spectacular. Within hours of arriving to the island we saw blue footed boobies, tortoises, crabs, iguanas, sharks, and sea lions. Everyone was ready with cameras and phones in awe of this beautiful place. We’re all very excited for what tomorrow entails.
– Lili, leader of the day
Saturday July 13, 2019
Right after breakfast, the whole group went to the beach and did teamwork and leadership exercises and activities. After that, we all relaxed by the beach, and either got ice cream, or enjoyed the waves. Then, we had lunch, and, soon after, went on a hike to, and around, the wall of tears. We learned about the history if the Galapagos, and saw a number of interesting animals. We then hiked home by the beach, and had dinner.
– Austin and Nash, leaders of the day
Sunday July 14, 2019
Blog Post: Part 1 by Julia, leader of the day.
We had a bit of an early morning to start our very busy and therefore very fun filled day. We visited the turtle breeding center and saw different types of tortoises of all different ages. We saw tons of, to our surprise, very active adults wandering around there beautiful enclosure.
As well as tons of baby tortoises that were only two years old. We were even lucky enough to see two tortoises mating. On our walk back we saw multiple flamingos, as well as many other types of birds, enjoying their afternoon. We all agreed it was awesome to see flamingos in the wild.
We then got the amazing opportunity to play the local soccer team. Though we played our best and worked together taking on their small team with all 18 of us, we still lost by a lot to a little. We did however manage to get two goals, thanks to Julian and Sidney. We may not have won the game, but we certainly all enjoyed running around and having fun.
We ended the day by heading to the beach for our first snorkeling excursion. We walked past tons of iguanas along the paths as well as some very cute sea lions laying on the beach and hogging the space on the public benches. All of us got the chance to snorkel in a lagoon as well as kayak out to a little inlet area and snorkel off of the kayaks.
The group spotted tons of white tipped reef sharks, parrot fish, sea urchins, penguins, blue footed boobies, sea lions, and my personal favorite, green sea turtles. Despite the strong ocean currents and frigid water, we all enjoyed our time snorkeling and including our walk home, it was a wonderful way to end a great day.
Blog Post: part 2 by Cammie, leader of the day
Hola! Today was a very exciting day for GLA. We started off with an early wake up call at 7:00 so we could be ready at 8:00 for the bus to the Tortoise breeding center. There we learned about how the Tortoises almost went extinct and how the breeding center takes care of them.
On our walk back we saw Marine iguanas, Flamingos, and some Ducks. Then we played a game of soccer with the local team (the island champs!) and we defined ‘tried’. We managed to get two goals and only lost by about twenty points.
Then we had a nice lunch of beans, soup, salad, and beef. We then left for snorkeling where we saw white and black roped reef sharks, parrot fish, green sea turtles, pufferfish, sea lions, penguins, and of course more Blue Footed Boobies! While we swam, the sea lions played with us!
We then ended with some beach volleyball and walked back to the hotel for a dinner of soup and sweet potatoes, chicken and some salad. We finished with a nightly meeting where we passed the torch to our new leaders, Sidney and Sophia.
Monday July 15, 2019
In the morning a brief stop was made on the way to El Chato in order to buy coffee for some and chocolate bread for others. El Chato is the Galapagos Tortoise sanctuary where we spent most of our day performing service work with a focus on habitat restoration. Lunch at the visitor center would exceed my expectations of both presentation and quality, and the sheltered, outdoor setting was pleasant despite the inconsistent rain.
Our work would resume after a walk through now empty lava tunnels and would include the construction of a foliage wall and planting trees. Throughout the day we would be surrounded by some very indifferent tortoises. After we had completed our tasks we were taken sightseeing and at the end of the day celebrated Nash’s 17th birthday, who would have his face pushed into his cake in celebration.
– Jess, leader of the day
Tuesday July 16, 2019
Today we went on the boat from Isabelle Island to Santa Cruz. It was a 2 hour boat ride and a little rainy. Then we took a bus to the hotel from the harbor and got organized in our rooms. Later, we headed to the tortoise sanctuary and helped clean away land to plant trees by clearing branches. It was fun to give back to the community, but unfortunately there were many biting ants. On our way back from the sanctuary we all had a fun karaoke session on the bus.
– Sidney and Sofia, leaders of the day
Wednesday July 17, 2019
Today was a later start than normal. We had breakfast at 8 and then headed off to Las Grietas, a sink hole. We had a relaxing swim for around an hour before heading back to home base to have lunch and get ready for our final afternoon of work at El Chato. We worked for around 3 hours. After all the hard work it was satisfying to see the end result. We went back on the bus with our favorite part of the day, karaoke. Finally after dinner we headed into town for some free time.
– Katherine and Maddie. Leaders of the day
Thursday July 18, 2019
Day 9 was a little off schedule, because our boat from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal was late. We began our day with a late wake up at 8:00am. After breakfast we did some leadership activities where everyone explained their views on what it means to be a leader. Then we went into town for shopping and at 11:00am we departed from the harbor. We arrived in San Cristobal and ate lunch right away. After lunch we went to the hotel and got dressed for the beach. We walked to the beach where a lot of sea lions lay. A group of people went into the water. After the beach we ate dinner and ended the day with a nightly meeting.
– Jackson, leader of the day
At the start of the day 10 we ate breakfast. After that we took a mile hike to go snorkeling at La Loberia. After about an hour of snorkeling we went to a local school to paint as part of our last community work. After that we ate dinner and had nightly meeting, then we went to bed.
– Julian, leader of the day
Thursday July 19, 2019
Today we woke up early and ready for our walk to the Galapagos natural history center. After a stroll through their informative facilities we began our hike down to Las Tijaretas for a snorkeling session with some playful sea lions and graceful rays. Afterwards we walked to the beach for a bit of relaxation before heading back to base for lunch. From lunch we went to our recycling workshop for an informative lecture on the importance of recycling in the Galapagos.
There we made our own reusable souvenirs, grocery bags made out of recycled t-shirts. Once we got back to base, the team began to cook dinner for ourselves for our last night on the islands. A menu of spaghetti and veggies with desert crepes was served as we all laughed through or last night in the archipelago. It was a tiring day but a magnificent way to end our journey here. We are all very excited for voyage back to the mainland tomorrow.
– Jose and Keita, leaders of the day.
Saturday July 20, 2019
Day 12 started off with an early breakfast before we walked to the airport. From there we left the Galapagos and headed back to Quito, and arrived at our hotel around 4:00. We then had a couple hours of free time before we had dinner and our nightly meeting. Afterwards, we wrapped up our day with some leadership activities.
– Charlie, leader of the day
As the sun rose on our final day in Quito together, we packed our backpacks and headed down to our 7:30 breakfast. From breakfast we hopped on the bus bound literally for the middle of the world. Here we learned about Ecuadorian history and culture as well as the many scientific phenomenons in relation to the equator. Some left with bracelets, others with lama key chains, and a couple with egg master certificates, but we all had a new stamp on our passports, and a better understanding of Ecuador’s past and present.
The next stop was salsa dancing. Here we learned the basics of salsa from well renowned professionals in the area. We had a chance to give each move our best, before watching in awe as the instructors twirled across the floor effortlessly. From the dance class we stopped at a crepe and waffle restaurant. Some of us enjoyed sweet chocolate covered meals, others savory entrees, and a few hurled everything up instead.
Either way, it was a lunch for the books. Finally, we stoped at a local market full of amazing Ecuadorian art, and trinkets. We struggled to bargain with eager sellers to get everything from sunglasses, to sweaters, to dream catchers…. many, many dream catchers. Then we went back to home base to pack before dinner. After dinner we did nightly meeting as usual and finished the day with an appreciation circle where we showed our gratitude for our fellow peers. The night ended bittersweetly as we said final goodbyes to some of our friends, and to the trip as a whole. A trip that not only taught us the beauty of the world around us, but also the beauty in the people whom we are lucky enough to share that world.
– Nathalie and Sophia, leaders of the day