Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Greetings from Arequipa!

We have emerged from the jungle and now we have arrived in PerĂº!

Our week in the Amazon was muy interesante. We stayed in a lodge on a ridge above a village on the Puyo-Pongo river, and our project for the week was to build the stairs to get to the lodge! The path was steep and slippery and in need of a lot of maitenance. We perfected our machete skills chopping up trees to make steps and spent hours pounding them into the ground. We also got to trek through the jungle and visit a shaman. Andy got to hang out with a monkey. It was pretty chill.

The shaman visit was fascinating. He began each of our cleansing rituals by smoking a cigarrette and demonstrating how the cigarrette represented each of our bodies. Then he stuck the wrong end of a different cigarrette into his mouth and blew smoke all over us. The stains on the cigarrette were our ´mal aire´or bad energy. To cleanse us, he did a series of rituals like spraying us in the face with sugarcane alcohol, blowing smoke on our heads, and using magical rocks to call spirits from the jungle and cleanse us. We were all given a specific herb to smell six times per day, three times in the morning and three times before bed, for three days. After three days our current sicknesses we supposed to be healed. I think as far as shamanism goes it is nessicary to believe to be able to see, rather than to see to believe. For some of us the experience was more meaningful.

After a dirty ass week in the amazon, we took off for Quito at 6 in the morning with bags full of wet clothes and mud. Upon arriving we chilled in Quito for two days. Some of us got to visit el Mitad del Mundo - the official equator - while others got the chance to have a private tour of the US embassy with Jeff´s friend Mike, the head of security there. The US embassy in Quito is brand new, cost $80 million dollars, and is considered small. Don´t try breaking in, even to use the water-conserving toilets that can actually handle toilet paper (a major novelty in these parts). After a couple of days in Quito we all wke up at 3 in the morning to catch a flight to LIma Peru and then transfer to another flight to Arequipa, our new home...for two weeks.

Arequipa is a cool city - it´s hot and dry during the day and cold and dry at night. It´s actually on the north end of the Atacama desert... or you could just call it Tatooine. We´re living with wonderful families. OUr mornings are spent taking intense Spanish classes. Tomorrow we apparently have to give speeches in front of the entire school, to demonstrate our bomb spanish skills. Andy, Milo and Dawn entered an agreement on Monday: Andy and Milo would quit smoking for five days, and Dawn would fast. Andy and Dawn are holding strong on day THREE, but Milo not as much... and he has paid the price - he TOLD us to pants him if he smoked... and Keegan is not one to let him go back on his word.

We´ve passed the afternoons exploring this new place... we saw the market on Monday - anything you would ever EVER need. Yesterday, we went to the Monastary and explored the seemingly never-ending labrinth of bedrooms, kitchens, and sanctuaries. We´re also in the midst of planning our weekend to Colca Canyon - hopefully we can find a mule (or puma. or condor) for Maddie and her knee to ride down on! Free travel plans are also in the works - Lake Titicaca, here we come!

Peace from the SAMtastic team!

Hasta luego - photos to come!

Your bloggers, Maddie and Andy

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Alto Choco

hello home! que tal? we have some bad news... ecuador lost the world cup qualifying game...we were in quito that weekend and the streets were crazy. we even tryed a little dancing in one of the clubs that night... an interesting experience that some of us enjoyed more than others. then we packed up and headed into the cloud forest of Alto Choco for the week. we were planing on staying there for two weeks but our plans changed and come monday we will be at another reforestation project in the amazon! how great is that!!??!! hopefully no one gets jungle fever...uh ohh. i am personally hoping to see some monmkeys or an andaconda or soemthing very unique and tropical-like. in Alto Choco we planted a lot of trees, helped build walls out of bamboo, cooked, and went nof a very beautiful hike. the mornings were so beautiful- it aint called the cloud forest for nothin. right now we are in a cute little town called banos...we may even go to the natural banos tonight. today we all went rafting...it was a lot of fun. i am planning on posting pictures tonight on our shutterfly so keep checking that if you need to see more. we know that you guys love to live your lives through us. we love you. we miss you. muchos besos.

your blogggers- Shelby and Milo

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Week In Otavalo

This cloudy friday morning finds us once again happily settled in the mountain town of Otavalo. We´ve spent the week attending spanish school, practicing spanish with our new found ecuadorian families members, hiking liberally around the area, and imitating bird calls in an attempt to tease flight out of Andean Condors. We eagrly await reuniting with our group mates, now lost amongst the forest of clouds. This weekend there is a highly anticipated soccer game and if Ecuador can win and score 3 goals they automatically qualify for the world cup. The tension is palpable, and we look forward to being in Quito this weekend to witness the excitment boil over from the stadium and into the streets. We´re trying to upload pictures but are having complications due to poor internet connection. Hopefully we will have success soon. Till then, we miss you all and hope your time at home is magically delicious.
With much love,
Will, Dan, and the rest of the SAM crew

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hiking a Mountain!

Today we encountered our first mountainous obstacle as a team...literally. We climbed a mountian. We scaled one of the largest mountains in the area around Otavalo, a mountain by the name of Fuya Fuya. The views were incedible and the acsent steep, but we enjoyed every second of it, relishing in the challenge. At the top the clouds wisped up the mountain and enveloped us like a blanket left out all morning to collect dew. It was one of the most amazing experiences of the trip thus far, especially considering it came right on the heels of the group reunion after a seemingly never ending week of being seperated by many miles of forest. We all had fascinating stories to relate while many a hug was shared. While the other group was staying with their homestays in Otavalo and going through rigorous spanish lessons, myself, Will, Shelby and Milo were spending our week in the Cloud Forest teaching basic english (and sometimes basic spanish) to a fine group of youngsters living in the area. Even though some of the children (especially the young ones) proved to be more of a challenge than was expected, we still had a marvalous time. The other group explored Otavalo and the surrounding areas in the mornings, and perfected their spanish in the afternoons. They also visited many sites around the city like the Cascada de Peguche where our fellow traveler Kieran´s shoe descended the waterfall only to be retrieved by our fearless leader Jeff. More pictures to follow this weeks activities..