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 early hours at the airport in Quito, ready to embark on an action-packed two weeks in the Galapagos Islands. We will always remember those 13 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 afew examples of the amazing encounters we had. It was also really neat to stay on the three different islands of Isabella, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal because the ecosystems were quite different!
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.
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 practising your Spanish with the local children.
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 hot sometimes but it was with great team work and perseverance that we managed to plant 70 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 the two coats of paint 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, so we would like to make some shout outs to;
Akshay, aka hop-along, lucky we didn’t forget him on the bus on the first day and his knee recovered because who else would have entertained us with such dramatic stories!
Maddy, the real soldier of the trip, despite being sick for several days she never once complained! What a great attitude.
Reed, who could never sit still for long and was our chief tortoise spotter (even if they were elusive), those on the viewing platform near the Wall of Tears will know what we mean 😂
What about Ella, the work horse, if anyone needs some stones moved she’s on to it!
Eliot, our wheelbarrow man, he put those big guns to use for a good cause at El Chato.
Ceci, our resident mermaid got to play with baby sea lions and turtles! She also bossed those boys on the surf roller, you go girl!
Maital, she has the best boot, despite playing a whole game in sweat pants she was a force to be reckoned with on the football field.
Walter, if there was a prize for breaking glasses it might go to him! Some bad luck there but he never lost that smile 😊
Cassidy, has a unique skill set and if you ever need to film a baby commercial she has you covered.
Caneel, our kinder queen and day dreamer.
Kai, our birthday boy on the trip, although we don’t know if he was awake for our midnight celebrations 🥳 everyone enjoyed our ‘little brother’.
Josh, takes the prize for all-round nice guy, bag carrier and polar plunger.
And who could forget Abby, the best at driving a bargain!
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 changes at both an individual level; like buying local foods, having shorter showers, shopping at thrift stores, buying in bulk, investing in reusable products and recycling, and at a community level; initiating beach clean ups, food drives and educating the public. How is this going for you? Have you seen any changes at home or in your community? We do hope you are making progress and that your projects are trucking along well.
Stay safe, have fun and please be in touch!
Em and Fer
Friday June 21, 2019
We are so exited to welcome our students to the Galapagos program! Despite the late arrivals, every one is in good spirit and happy to be in Ecuador. Have a good night everybody and get ready to have an amazing journey with us!
-Fernanda and Emily
Saturday June 22, 2019
Hello from Quito, Ecuador!
Today was our first full day in the country. We got to sleep in a bit because of the late arrivals. After breakfast we had our orientation seminar where we reviewed the code of conduct, leadership activities, schedule, and many more topics that will make our trip safe and meaningful.
In the afternoon we visited different landmarks of Quito such as The Basilica Church, El Panecillo where we had amazing views of the city, Plaza Grande, San Francisco Church and enjoyed a walk in old town which is a UNESCO Heritage site. One of the most interesting activities was learning about the process of making chocolate from the cacao fruit to the bar. Ecuador has the best quality of cacao and it taste delicious!
The day ended with our nightly meeting where students expressed how grateful they are for this opportunity and how excited they are to finally be in the Galapagos tomorrow.
– Galapagos B team
Sunday June 23, 2019
Hello from the Galapagos!
Today got off to a bit of a rough start, but in the end turned out to be an incredible day and bonding experience. We woke up at 5 in the morning to get on a plane to travel from Quito to Isabella Island in the Galapagos. However, our plane was delayed for over three hours, but we kept our hopes up and took the opportunity to get to know each other better by playing games and having large group discussions, which turned out to be a really fun and meaningful experience. When we arrived in the Galapagos in Santa Cruz, we boarded a speedboat to sail to Isabella island.
On the boat, we shared stories to get closer together. Although we were all a little frustrated with the delays, as it turns out, our plane delay was truly a blessing. Even though we got to a late start, the timing of it meant that we were able to experience a beautiful sunset together on this boat, the sky full of unbelievable reds and yellows, and we got to look up to the stars together sailing over the pacific.
– Joshua Parness, leader of the day.
Monday June 24, 2019
Today was Day 4 of our Galápagos trip, and so far it was the most demanding. We woke up at around 7:30, and ate breakfast at 8:00. We got together at 8:30 for leadership activities, and bonded over fun games. After the group was exhausted from the fun and games, we bonded again over deep and meaningful events that we each went through in our lives. After this we went back to the Home Base and ate lunch. The most demanding part began after the delicious lunch that was served at the Home Base: an 8.2 mile hike.
However, we kept our spirits up on the hike by playing music and having expansive conversations, covering topics all the way from geopolitics to music festivals. We saw a small part of a huge biosphere on the hike, with wildlife of all different shapes and sizes around us. We saw tortoises, iguanas, blue footed boobies feeding, pelikans. When we walked on the beach on our way back, we soaked in the beautiful Latin architecture and culture that was present all around us, and we also enjoyed a beautiful sun that set on the waves, sending vibrant colors splashing through the sky.
Many of us snapped pictures, but none of them were able to capture the beauty of seeing it in person. We returned to a special Galápagoan dinner prepared especially for us, which was a plate of noodles, a sort of Ecuadorian lo mein. After dinner, we had our nightly meeting, where we went over our favorite parts of the day, our least favorite parts, and what we were most excited for. After the nightly meeting, we went on a night walk, where we bought ice cream and played games in the night. Today was another day of bonding and connecting, and we in the Galapagos are eagerly waiting to tackle the challenges tomorrow might bring.
– Akshay Jha, leader of the day
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Hola this morning we went to a tortoise breeding center. When we got to the center we saw saddleback tortoises and flat-shell tortoises. We walked around the center looking at the different stages the tortoises were in. We saw two different pairs of tortoises mating.
After the center we walked back to to home base. We walked on a trail which is to some lagoons. In the lagoon we saw pink flamingos, some of them were sleeping. The way they were sleeping was so cool they had one foot up in their body and their heads were twisted and laying their head on their body.
When we got back to home base we got ready for snorkeling and kayaking. In the kayaks we had to buddy up. We kayaked out to a spot called Tintoreras. After we jumped right in ready to see some ocean life. While snorkeling we saw some parrot fish, rainbow fish, and sea cucumbers. The best part was seeing the sea turtles, the white tipped reef shark, and the stingray. When we kayaked back to shore we were able to snorkel in a little lagoon. Some of us went and some stayed at the beach.
The lagoon was so nice to swim in because we got to see the fish much closer because the lagoon wasn’t that deep. There was this little channel we swam though were we saw pufferfish and a bunch of crabs. When we walked back to the beach there we Sea Lion pups blocking our way so we had to be really careful not to step on them.
We drove back to home base ate lunch and had so free time. We did an activity were two people had to draw a picture and then one person looked at in and had to tell the next what it looked like. Then the two people at the end had to draw the same picture from what people told them.
After that we went to play soccer with some local kids at the field. We weren’t very good but Josh scored us 3 points and Reed got us 1. The other kids had so many points we lost count. Playing with them was so fun. The kids were super nice when we played with them. We went back to the home base, had dinner and our regular nightly meeting and we had some time to pack before we went to bed. Today was our last day at Isabela. We are heading to Santa Cruz Island tomorrow early.
– by Abigail, leader of the day.
Wednesday June 26, 2019
Hello GLA family and friends!
Today we had a very long but rewarding day because we started working on our service project today! We began the day bright and early at 6:30 AM and took a boat from Isabela island to Santa Cruz. While we were waiting on the dock for the boat, we saw sea lions and penguins swimming though the clear turquoise water while blue footed boobies were diving. During our 2.5 hour boat ride, we all tried to catch up on sleep we’d been missing out on. On the bus from the hotel to the service site, we talked about which famous person we would want to have a meal with and we talked about how large and incredible the universe is. Once we arrived at the service site, we split up into two groups.
One group cleared branches and pushed them to the side and another group moved rocks in a wheelbarrow from further up the ranch to the service site to prepare for planting trees tomorrow. While we were working we had lots of interesting conversations to keep us all entertained. We also took breaks to eat delicious freshly picked passion fruit, guava, and mandarins. We all agreed at our nightly meeting that all the progress we made in our first four hours of service today was definitely rewarding!
-Madeleine (Maddie), leader of the day
Thursday June 27, 2019
To start off the day, we visited a site called Los Gemelos (the twin craters), where we saw huge pits full of wildlife. After visiting this jaw dropping location, we then hopped on our travel bus to go to the tortoise ranch and started our day of service. During approximately eight hours of service work we found rocks to support trees and started the tree planting process. Meanwhile, the tortoises spent their time hissing at us as we got too close and followed us everywhere we went. Finally, after a full day of work, we all headed back to our hostel and cleaned up for dinner. When dinner concluded, we went out for a nice walk in the town, got some ice cream, then headed down to the pier. At the pier, sharks and sea lions rose above the surface of the lit-up water. Everyone was exhausted from the non-stop journey, and called it a night as soon as we made it back to the hostel.
– Eliot & Kai, leaders of the day
Friday June 28, 2019
Hello everyone! This morning at 12:01 AM we all woke up to surprise Kai for his 14th birthday. We all got to sleep in an extra hour before heading off to Las Grietas for a quick hike and a swim in the ravine. The water was pretty chilly but we enjoyed the experience anyways. Later, we hopped on a bus to El Chato Ranch to finish up our last day of service work on the island of Santa Cruz.
Some of us planted around 70 trees and watered tons of them (which is a lot harder than it sounds). The other group built a structure to use as a nursery for trees. Finally we had to say goodbye to the tortoises and go back to home base. After dinner we walked around the town and watched street dancing. Some of us even joined in. Overall our last full day on Santa Cruz island was a good one!
– Caneel, leader of the day.
Saturday June 29, 2019
Today was a great day. We got to sleep in till 7:30. After breakfast we had the chance to walk around town and get a last taste of Santa Cruz. After hanging out on the playground by the harbor we set off on a boat ride to the new island, San Cristobal.
San Cristobal is very beautiful with a stunning landscape. We went on a short hike to a breathtaking snorkeling cove with clear blue water. We saw many fish and even some sea turtles! We were lucky enough to swim with some goony sea lions. They played and swam around with us, it was an incredible experience.
On the hike back we stopped at a small beach and watched the sun disappear underneath the blue sea. Their were many sea lions on the beach that we were able to see waddle in the sand.
We ended the day with some dinner and a stop at the local corner store for some dessert. Over all it was a day for the record books!
– Cece and Maital, leaders of the day.
Monday July 1, 2019
Today we had an early start to a great day! After our early wake up, we set off to breakfast and then straight to La Lobería beach. Even though it was quite misty at the beach some of us were brave enough to jump in the water and some even snorkel! We saw turtles, an eagle ray and many colorful fish. After, we headed back to the hotel to have some down time and clean up from our morning at the beach.
Later, we set off to the restaurant for lunch. Once we were finished, we stopped by the hotel to grab some paint and ventured to a local school to repaint a basketball court. After our relaxing afternoon of painting, we had a short stop at the hotel to clean up and then ran over to a local pizza shop to grab a slice. We then headed back to the hotel and had our usual nightly meeting and wrapped up our last night on the islands!
– Maital and Cece, leaders of the day
Day 13 was filled with a lot of activities and fun. We started out our morning waking up and eating our scrumptious food in the cafeteria. After, we got our belongings and headed to the Inti Nan Museum to visit the equator line and take part in some activities. Later, we took a bus to central Quito to learn salsa with 2 professional dancers, which was really exciting. Our bus then took us to a restaurant called, Crepes & Waffles. Everyone got tasty food and after, enjoyed ice cream.
Then we walked to the local market in downtown Quito, where we split into groups and we walked around the market to buy gifts for our friends and families! Then we walked back to our hostel where we completed our ending evaluations. Some of our group then walked to the SuperMaxi to buy last minute snacks for our long travel day tomorrow. When we got back from the store we had our last meal in Ecuador and then we had our nightly meeting.
After our meeting we had our closing activity where we all sat in a circle with our eyes closed and we anonymously nominated our peers for funny, kind, and loving superlatives that relate to our time together! We are all upset and very emotional to be leaving each other after spending an amazing 2 weeks together filled with roses, buds, thorns and a whole lotta laughs! It is safe to say that we can all call each other family and we will all miss each other dearly!
-Ella and Cassidy 💙 leaders of the day
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Today was another exciting and thrilling day on the islands! Today was our second day on San Cristobal. We woke up at the crack of dawn for a delicious and filling breakfast with freshly squeezed juice and fresh fruit. After that, we took a hike and went to a beach, where we relaxed, swam, and played in the sunshine. We even got to swim next to sea lions! This beach trip was not just for relaxation, though – we also collected trash to help the environment. We went back to the hotel for a bit, then we got a tasty, authentic lunch.
After that, we went to a workshop about the effects of plastic on the local ecosystem and what people do to fight the effects of pollution. The woman that we met does something really cool with the trash – she turns it into beautiful art! In addition, we got to make glasses from discarded trash, which was fun and interesting. Overall, today was a relaxing day, but also a day in which we contributed to improving the islands and the environment.
– Walter, leader of the day