Living and Giving

The Wisdom of Ecuador: A Calm Life (Part One)

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This is the first of an eight-part series on my volunteer trip to Ecuador. This is an unedited account of a personal journey and will be followed by stories from a few more of my international volunteer trips. Many of the experiences on these trips would become the impetus for founding UniversalGiving™. 

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A Calm Life

Ecuador…beauty, country. 

The remarkable about Ecuador is its simple, pure, and very calm beauty.  Ecuador is a less touted country, and I find myself more and more striving to find the beautiful, calm, simple places in the world which perhaps the general don’t value or drive to – but I do.  For different reasons.  (The general I mean the general public. 🙂

For reasons of a calm life.  Of beautiful daily life and interactions.  Of calm, flowing community.  Of absence of crime, of presence of family.  Of walking the streets to interact with the market, and marketplace, and people of the marketplace…. so wonderful.  And, that, is a great word – “wonder – full.”  If only we were really attuned to how beautiful words are, and our choice of them.  I love words.  But love is in really meaning them, feeling them, living them.  Words certainly aren’t complete until we use them in ways which touch the spirit, and access Spirit with them.

First of all, I don’t see poverty here.  Yes there are grey, concrete buildings in the barrios of Quito, with laundry and laundry lines askance out the window—and in the countryside you see ramshackle or makeshift huts draped with a cloth for protection from the sun.  But if you want to see home, then see something different.

And this is what I saw.  I saw a father and daughter, he kneeling, she Indian-style next to him on the warm, brown dirt earth eating yellow, thick, mais soup together from a small stove and blackened pot.  Smiled, waved.  Wide, kind grins and gentle waves to us.   Community. Home.  Food, Nourishment.  Life. Living. Calm.  Communion.  Companionship. That’s not poverty. It might be no resources – but it’s not poverty. 

People travel slower here.  There isn’t anywhere near the traffic – it’s no Mexico City or Guatemala City.  It’s a simple city, a long town.  We stayed at Café Cultural with peacocks in the yard, and lovely mural wall paintings over the entrance and every wall, fires at night. Warm mustard, rose, brown, deep green hues, a sense of beauty, art and nature on every wall, gracing the hotel as you wandered in.   A lovely entrance to the country…

Quito itself has its traditional restaurants, and a museum, and a lowkey airport. I love those airports. Walk off the airport into the cool not cold air.  Customs is a five-minute line, pick up our bags, and the customs official matches our tag and you are off.  It’s always a shock to see the hoards of visitors at the airport ready to greet their family and friends.  Traveling is a big deal here, and so the welcome team is beautiful.  Quite a mob at times!

Ecuador is so wonderful in the little beautiful things of life – could be the day-to-day or the beauty of trekking in the rainforest. Daily you have a ton of different juices. As with many Latin American countries, there are a ton of different fruits we have never seen. They experience the exotic daily!  Some morning we have papaya, guava or mora (blackberry) juice.  There is this long green fruit, about one foot, that looks like an extremely large peapod – you break it open to separate furry white pods which are light and sweet. Here, it is called guava.  $1 for three long pods, each with 8 fruit inside. 

When we first left Quito, we traveled through many beautiful winding hills to get to where we would take a plane.  First we stopped in Los Banos, a gorgeous mountain town and did a wonderful hike to the top where there was a cross overlooking the city.  We went into the town later – a simple town square with locals selling their fruit and wares.  At the entrance of a church, an elderly woman beckons: “Que Linda, que Linda, embrazame…” with her sweet crinkly smile… so we do.  She is just love, here to embrace us and welcome us… glad to have us here as are we. 

Many Europeans and Ecuadorians come here, due to the hot baths, which are seen as healing springs.  I got up early in the a.m. with Marisabel in order to take a dip!  They are natural and right at the base of a waterfall.  Mostly locals come here for healing and there is a ‘regular’ and “superhot.”  I tried the superhot one and it is scalding!!!  No dice!!  Jump out, yow!   But you look up at the edge of the mountain up at the cascading waterfall – and then look at the faint pink sunglow of early a.m. coming over the town….

A perfect way to start the day.  We were then off in the bus through some of the most amazing mountains and waterfalls.  They call it the “Valley of the Mountains,” and then “Valley of the Waterfalls.”  You are on a winding edge of the mountain, and looking down to rushing waters, and beautiful waterfalls and steep, great green mountains winding, curving, leading, beautifying all around.  Quite a road!  No real sides to it, and the mud and dirt of the mountain goes down, straight. You hope the bus driver is on track through this natural beauty, for one slide of the turn and you’re down the mountain.

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You can take action.  Support projects in South America:

Give $10 to plant a tree in the rainforest
Give $25 to give water to a villager
Give $115 to give light to a villager
Volunteer in conservation in Ecuador
Spend the summer teaching in Ecuador