Posted by: adegraffenreid31708 | 3rd Nov, 2010

Work and Mindo

Hi all,

So, work is…work. I am SOOO not a kindergarten teacher on sooo very many levels. I need adults. Which is not to say that I don’t like the kids – they’re wonderful. They’re so cute, even when they’re trying to pull things on me.

So, stories from the playground:

The two most constant complaints: “teacher Aley, _____ doesn’t want to be my friend.” Me: “Then find someone better to play with.”

“teacher Aley, ____ is looking at me.” Me: “then turn around and face the board. Then she won’t be looking at you and you’ll be paying attention.”

“Teacher, I love you.” “Sweethart, I love you too, even more. Eat your lunch/do your work/sit.”

One of my kids: “Homework, again. Aww….I don’t like homework. I am going to tell me mommy to tell you not give me any more homework.” Me: “Ok. Good luck with that.”

oh, and Diego the Escape Artist..continues to escape from Cristine…hee. Although, he has friends now and looks happy.

So, we last minute had to do a program for the parents about Dia de los Difuntos (as in, 3 days…yeah). So, we work hard, prepare. A lot of parents show up and LOVE it because the kids are all dressed up as Spaniards and indigenous. One kid was even dressed up magnificently as a monk. Cutest. Thing. Ever. The whole, making of the Colada Morada and Guaguas de Pan (traditional food) goes GREAT. Then, Christine announces the kids are going to dance. So, IN THE MIDDLE of the program, the assistant director grabs the microphone from Christine to scold her that the kids shouldn’t dance because death is sad and shouldn’t be celebrated, AS THE KIDS ARE LINING UP, delaying the music. It was so unprofessional looking. Then, as the kids bow, she grabbed the microphone again to lecture the parents about how the dead are dead therefore they don’t actually need flowers, food, or to be celebrated and we should all spend the day of the dead holidays concentrating and celebrating the living.

All of us were shocked at how she completely insulted the entire holiday she forced us to do a parent’s program on in the first place. Additionally, we were like, “ok, fundamentalist lady. We get that you don’t like the indigenous roots of the holiday, but even ALL CHRISTIANS celebrate the dead with wakes and flowers. WTF.” We were all so upset by her hijacking what we’d worked so hard on and demeaning it – especially since it was her idea to do it in the first place.

Whatever. The continued adventures of working in a fundamentalist school. At least they give out turkeys as a Christmas bonus.

So, with a five day holiday, my friend Ruth and I took off to the Mindo Cloud forest reserve.

Saturday bright and early we caught a bus, but had to sit separately because it was so full. When I got off the bus two hours later, Ruth came off with a guy all, “Hey, this is Philipp, our body guard.” Me, “???????”. Apparently she had sat beside Philipp on the bus and they got talking and befriended each other. She found out he was traveling alone, having just come from Germany to start a volunteer job in a school and then later in a hospital to help his education in medicine. So, in two hours she convinced him to be our body guard for the weekend because we were two women traveling alone. Me, hearing this, was still about “??????”.

So, with our new friend, we went off in search of a hostel (because of the feriado, everything was booked). We ended in this beautiful wooden hostel a little out of the way. Only problem: there was only one room, with three beds. The hostel owner was like, “the three of you can share.” and ruth was like, “great.”

Me, on the other hand was thinking…”Ruth. You’ve known this guy for TWO HOURS. I’ve known him for about TEN MINUTES…and you want to share a room with him??!!”. But hey, it was a room and it was 6 dollars a night…and he was really nice. We got lucky. Not only was he nice, but he was a perfect gentleman and friend the whole time. Traveling: you meet all sorts of interesting people. Lol.

So, we all headed up to try and find the butterfly garden. On the map it looked close….not so much. It took us a good hour or more to walk there. But on the way, we got to see the countryside and the river and climb rocks. It was great fun. The butterfly garden itself was beautiful. Hundreds of butterflies flying around our heads. You could even pick them up by dipping your fingers in banana juice.

From there, we decided to walk to the waterfall trails. Also, on the map…looked close. Ha! A three and a half (at least) kilometer hike up a mountain. But that was ok. Because I LOVE cloud forests and the views were fabulous. Not to mention, great company. It was up a dirt road, so all the plants were brown with road dust. When we got about one kilometer up to where the canopy tour was we were…tired. Moreso, when they told us it was at least 2 more kilometers up. Bear in mind, it was almost noon. We’d had lunch at 6am, didn’t have food or much water with us, and had been hiking since 10am. So, tired and hungry. So, we flagged down a camioneta (pick up truck), hopped in the back, and rode the last 2 (ha! two longest km ever!) km up to the waterfall trail.

Got there. Then we found out we had to cross in a cable car (open metal case on a cable) between the two mountains in order to GET to the trail to the waterfalls. At which point, the entire hike to all the falls was about 1.5 hours each way in the jungle. So, we got in the car. I couldn’t believe I actually did it considering how afraid I am of height…and we were a LONG way up. It wasn’t too bad. I actually had fun crossing, even though my hear was pounding. And the view was just…WOW.

So, we hiked through the tropical cloud forest to the waterfalls (we were so tired and hungry, we made it to two…of about 6 or 7). It felt great to go hiking again. And the trails were cool (since they were through the forrest)…full of obstacles, steep, sometimes dangerous, and BEAUTIFUL. To get to the falls, we would have to cross these rickety wooden suspension bridges, with boards moving. Now, suspension bridges…they bounce, they swing…and sometimes you feel like you’re either going to be tipped over, or, the old boards are going to break and you’re going to fall through. Again, great fun. SOOOO worth it. The falls were amazing. At one point, we took a short cut through the river because the choices were 1) go wayyy around and up the very steep path, or, 2) go across the river, hold onto a rope, and climb up a sheer rock to the path. We went with option 2. Using the rope to climb a rock – super fun. And we all cheered each other on to do it.

Doing so led us to the second waterfall. But to get the best look at it, we took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and walked up the stream. It gave us a MAGNIFICENT view of the falls and cavern that you couldn’t see from the trail. I don’t have a picture of it because I didn’t want to risk my camera. But, WOW was it amazing. And standing under falls in the middle of a cloud forest….worth. everything.

Then, we continued on until we decided to turn back because it was 2pm and we didn’t want to get caught on the trails during afternoon showers.

Speaking of meeting people. We kept meeting these three men on the trail – two Koreans? and an Ecuadorian who were hiking together. The funny thing was: every time was saw them, this one Korean guy kept adding something “indigenous” to his wardrobe. First, he put a stick on his head like a radio antenna. Then, he added a leaf and stick headdress. Then, he made a bow out of a fallen limb. It was hysterical. We kept joking that by the time he got out of the forest, we was going to be in full regalia and speaking Kichwa.

When we got back to the village (in the back of another camioneta), it was 4pm. And, we got food. At which point we got screwed over by the owners of the restaurant even though we had an ECUADORIAN in the group. Now, both RUth and I swear she never mentioned anything about certain dishes costing more than others. She said: two dollars for everything. And yet, when the bill came, both Ruth and Phillip suddenly had to pay four dollars. Oh, and the soup costs more. We were all so shocked. But they paid it anyway.

Then, we went back to our hostel and sat in our hammocks to read (we were tired. we’d walked a good 20+ kilometers. Most of it uphill). Lovely. Beautiful view of the mountains, with hummingbirds flying around us. It was so peaceful. The net morning, I woke up 6:30 and read in the hammocks to the view of misty mountains, singing birds, and flying hummingbirds. I never wanted to leave.

That night, we headed out to (dead) bars. We ended up teaching each other silly camp games from our childhoods. I got them addicted to the cup game. It was so funny, and fun. And, except for on incident with a very large spider on my sweater, relaxing.

Net day, bright and early…tubing. Again, couldn’t believe I’d gotten talked into doing anything resembling going down rapids – in a tube. But again, super fun. They tied all these tubes together, which we sat on and hung onto ropes. Two guides went with us to guide the tube raft. Oh my god was it fun, and frightening. There’s nothing like holding on for dear life while hanging, stuck upside down on a rock with rapid water coming over you waiting for guides to free you. And going down rapids backwards….just about sent me into a panic attack. But still, we all had a great time going down the cloud forest river, seeing the flora (and one bird, which I swear was mocking us) and bouncing all around. We got so wet. Poor Ruth spent most of the trip going backwards. I felt so sorry for her…until I realized that it meant I spent most of the time going forwards (love you Ruth!!!) :).  We all were sooo sore from tubing, we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the town.

Then, Ruth and I took off (Philipp stayed another day) to go to her grandparents’ house. We took a bus to Quito (which arrived at la Ofelia station about 7:30), then the Metro (not like our metro, basically a fancy bus line) to la Marin station, then a bus WAYYYY to the south of Quito to a barrio in basically the countryside. The bus left us on the side of the road, in the dark. So, we grabbed a cab the rest of the way to her grandparent’s. They, along with Ruth’s aunt and uncle, live really in the countryside. It was a great way to see how the majority of Ecuadorians live.

Ruth’s family is great, so very nice and welcoming. Going in, Ruth whispered to me, “Just so you know, they’ve never seen a Gringo before,” which was a useful tip. It was great. Some of Ruth’s littler cousins just kept looking at me, until we got more comfortable together. I got to talk with them a little (both Ruth and I were basically dead tired from the day). They gave us soup to eat, and Colada Morada to drink. Colada Morada is a traditional drink for Dia de los Difuntos. It’s a deep purple drink made from all sorts of spices and fruits. When I’d tried it at work, it was disgusting. Ruth’s family’s Colada Morada was absolutely delicious. I ended up having it for both dinner and breakfast. I got to try several new things there. Also, for breakfast, we had Guaguas (bread, decorate to look like babies – wawas in Kichua – and filled with marmalade or chocolate…delicious) and colada morada. Then, I went out to walk the countryside with Ruth and her cousins. It was really great to meet and spend time with Ruth’s family and to experience traditional ecuadorian living.

So, I had a great vacation….can’t believe I have to go to work tomorrow. I want to go back to Mindo. Seriously, the bus ride back was an AMAZING tour of the Sierra. Completely reminded me why I wanted to come to Ecuador in the first place. Astoundingly magnificent is the only way to describe it.

Oh, and pics are on facebook (if you have access).

Write again soon! Hopefully, sooner this time.


Looked at the pictures. Awesome. What a great experience you are having. Wonder of you will stay in contact with Philipp? Nice find along the way.

As you know, I am having my own work woes, and while it is not easy for me, the advice I’ve gotten repeatedly of just do the next thing in front of you, get done what you can, then go home, is most of the time working to relieve the pressure.

I hope when I come down I will be (a) a good enough travelling companion; and (b) in good enough shape to do things like you did in Mindo. I am not exercising — no time. And now I need to start shlepping resumes around.

Love you….keep in touch.

wow! Lexy tubing on a river? In a cable car? On rickety bridges? Wow! I’m so proud!!! Way to go girl!