If you’ve been following me along with the semester so far, you’ve probably noticed a gap in my posts upon arriving to Ecuador. Time (as well as my 15 page research paper) caught up to me, but I’ll do my best to recap the whirlwind of the last month now!

45 straight hours of travel from Nepal to Ecuador left me utterly wiped and badly in need of a mind and body reset, and fortunately the program brought us to just the perfect place: a beautiful resort with everything from three hot tubs to a zipline to wandering alpacas. This, in tandem with the comfiest bed and some killer meals was more than enough to get me feeling both back to normal and incredibly optimistic about the month ahead. 

We spent this month stationed in Quito, living once again with homestay families in the community. I was placed with my incredible friend, Aniela, and the most caring and welcoming couple, Felix and Chari (as well as Gati, their perfect cat). Being able to speak Spanish made all the difference in the world when it came to connecting with our family and sharing our thoughts over delicious, home-cooked dinners about topics such as food and farming, the state of the world, and the value of open communication, among other things. Chari’s cooking was certainly a highlight of the month, since it’s pretty hard to top starting the day with fresh fruit juice and yummy spreads on warm bread and ending it with hearty soups and homegrown veggies. Other special moments with the family included a Thanksgiving Day ceramics class, Felix’s powerful orchestral concert, a potluck with some family friends, and a lovely morning park walk that featured gorgeous flowering trees and so, so many hummingbirds.

driving with the fam

I started off my time in Quito by exploring the Old City with a small group of friends, seeing sites such as the Basilica de Voto Nacional and the Iglesia de la Campania de Jesus while snacking on a phenomenal piece of fresh watermelon. Quito was probably my favorite city we visited throughout the semester and had endless things to do, including:

  • Peddle boating, playing volleyball, and strolling through the beautiful botanical gardens in La Parque Carolina
  • Visiting the beautiful art museum of Guayasamín 
  • Accidentally stumbling upon a sketchy but incredibly fun amusement park featuring bumper cars, an arcade, a roller coaster, and a slingshot ride
  • Taking the teleférico cable car up over the city and admiring the view from a swing 
  • Getting daily almond croissants and chai lattes at our go-to cafe, FANKOR (perfect fuel for essay writing, especially with a touch of pumpkin spice)

Outside of Quito, we had a variety of excursions, many including some truly unforgettable hikes. Our first field trip was to an organic farm, Chaupi Molino, where we met an incredibly wise and passionate farmer, Pacho, who gave us a farm tour and taught us about the power of organic practices. We also had what was hands down the best meal of the semester: a vegan lunch packed full of just-harvested veggies and rich seasonings, topped off with fresh juice and a wonderfully delicious banana dessert. For our next trip, we headed out to Antisana for a day hike and some more community building. Being at such high altitude, it was more challenging of a hike than I anticipated, but the warm sunny weather coupled with the unique sierra terrain (and I can’t forget the phenomenal tamarind lollipops) made for a lovely trek.

Our next excursion was an overnight trip to the rural village of Yunguilla, which was an inspiring example of how community-based ecotourism can be an alternative economic model. In Yunguilla we toured the town, learned about their local businesses, stayed with homestay families, and had a quasi-Thanksgiving dinner, complete with dancing. We topped everything off by taking a beautiful hike up into the hilltops, through some muddy troughs, and along some winding bends. 

The next day we took yet another hike, this time up the famous volcano Cotopaxi. The walk — once again fueled by tamarind lollipops — through the snow and ice above the clouds was truly gorgeous. It was the highest I’d ever been at an elevation of nearly 16,000 feet and left me absolutely breathless (but in the best way). We ended it off with a picnic lunch back down at the base of the mountain, before walking around a lagoon dotted with beautiful shrubbery and horses and then busing back home. 

Our main excursion for the month was to the Galápagos Islands. Here we learned all sorts about biology, evolution, ecology, and ecotourism while spending tons of time in the sun. The afternoon of our arrival we were taken on some guided tours through twin craters, lava tunnel caves, and a giant tortoise reserve. We spent the next morning swimming and kayaking around Tortuga Bay after a beautiful stroll through a cactus forest, and we spotted creatures such as sharks, turtles, and blue-footed boobies. We also had two separate snorkeling excursions, definitely the highlight for me. I was able to swim through schools of colorful fish, look sea lions in the face underwater, and spot more turtles, sharks, iguanas, and eels. A truly magnificent moment was when we boated to what is considered one of the prettiest beaches in the world and spent an hour wading around and swimming together. During the evenings, we spent several hours dining at a fancy establishment on the waterfront, watching the sun set over the crystal blue water. All in all, an incredible getaway. 

To wrap up classes, we all gave short presentations on our research papers for the semester. For my topic, I had decided to look into the politics surrounding food waste in Morocco and Nepal and how this subsequently affected food sovereignty in these countries. I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to research the food systems of such places so different from the US firsthand, and I ended up gaining a lot of valuable insights into how building agroinfrastructure and incentivizing youth in agriculture can really affect the amount of food loss in a nation. 

As I write this, I’m en route to Baños de Agua Santa for our final retreat before we say our farewells and head our separate ways. You can expect to hear from me once more, with one last post featuring my final reflections as well as a video compilation with snippets from each day of the semester. 

Hasta pronto!

Published by Molly

Class of 2025 Majors | Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Political Science Program | SIT IHP: Climate Change Locations | San Francisco, U.S.A.; Morocco; Nepal; Ecuador

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