Friday, September 16, 2011

Coleman and Megan kicking ass at the partido de busca

Buenos dias amigos :) Coleman and Megan are kicking ass at the scavenger hunt in Bahia de Caraquez -- nbd...

It did take us a while to type an @ sign, though...


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

We're Baaack!

And missing all of you.

It was a long few flights back home with Jefe and Sarita and then we said our goodbyes, and then there were 2. We are back in Portland now going through photos and budget (it never ennnnnddds...) and can't believe that its all over.

So many good memories, laughs, long meetings, card championships, oreos, band practice, rice, headstands, bread, and looooove.
Thank you all for an unforgettable 3 months. Can't wait for the reunion, if anyone ever plans it. For those of you who are still down in SAM land, hope you're not getting into too much trouble. Send our love to Pachamama.

Long live SAM.I.AM.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Week 12: The Last Hoorah of Sam I Am

Hey everyone,

It's a little weird for me to write this blog now, considering that I'm now securely back in Colorado, EEUU. This is my first chance to catch up on blogging since our final, busy week ended! I have been totally overwhelmed in the last day by the abundance of cereal varieties in my family's pantry and the large quantities of free toilet paper. What is this strange foreign land?

After we got back from the jungle, we had almost 3 full days in Cusco to "acclimatize" to the altitude. This time was spent relaxing, eating out (some of us discovered a couple really cheap and delicious vegetarian restaurants that we visited more than a few times!) taking long hot showers, doing some last minute shopping for friends and family, watching the NBA playoffs, etc.

Last Friday morning we were painfully dragged out of bed at 2:55 a.m. for a 3 hour car ride to begin our Maccu Picchu trek! We had an early morning breakfast, and by around 8 we began our hike! The first day was definitely the hardest. We started at an elevation of 3800m, climbed to a maximum height of 4600m (difficult to breath up there for sure) and then descended back down again to the place we camped. The scenery was beautiful and ever-changing as the miles went on. We reached camp around nightfall where horses were waiting with our things and our guides made us popcorn, hot chocolate, and eventually dinner. By the time we got to go to bed most of us could barely keep our eyes open!

The next morning we were kindly woken up by our guides at 5:30 to eat breakfast and begin another day of trekking. This day's walking was through the "eyebrow of the jungle," though I don't think any of us ever quite figured out what that meant. It was another beautiful walk. The place we stayed that night was pretty bizarre- there was 80's workout music blasting, strange white chickens with Afros running around everywhere, and a cow being slaughtered right next door.

Our third day we opted to go ziplining in the morning. It was awesome... one of the best ways to see good views that I've done! That afternoon, after an excessively large lunch, we walked about 3 hours along some railroad tracks to arrive in the touristy town of Aguas Calientes. We spent the night in a lodge there and woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the bus up to the ancient Incan ruins of Maccu Picchu. They were incredible and it was easy to spend hours exploring. We had a guided tour first, although our guide, Saulo, wasn't the most accurately informed person I've ever met. (Ex: he told us bananas come from Europe...) After that some of us went on a hike to get some good views and photos, while others continued to wander around and expore. When we went back into Aguas calientes that afternoon for lunch and hanging out, I couldn't help but imagining that in 600 or so years, tourists might just flock in large numbers to see the ancient ruins of a strange town called Aguas Calientes!

That night we took a train then a bus to return back to Cusco. The following day was our last day of the trip. It's crazy to think that it's over, but when I think back to all the incredible and different things that we did, I realize that it has been 3 months after all! Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible for us- it was an amazing and unique experience. I will miss all of you... Simone, Ari, Miguel, Joseph, Campos, Nick, Erin and Daniella. Thanks for making this trip great and being a part of my life for the last 3 months.

Miguel, Simone, Ari and I had a long but smooth day of traveling back to LAX... and everyone else stayed back in Cusco to continue their travels. Good luck everyone- it's going to be a blast.

Well, that's all for now. It's been quite the three months!

Carpe Diem,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amazonian fun

To start off our week in the amazon we met at the port of the tambopata river to take a 4 and a half hour boat ride up river to see where we will be working for the next week. when we arrived at Camino Verde we met Don Goyo who would be our cook for the next week, his food was absolutely amazing. Robin wnded up being a wealth of information on most things in the jungle, like one tree whos sap tastes like milk and is good for asthma, and a tree called Dragons Blood whos sap is a deep red and it speeds up the healing process of cuts. We spent out week in the jungle clearing trails with machetes and axes. Our last day of work was more laid back because we had finished clearing the trails and in the moring we spread a cover crop and watered some plants and we spent the afternoon swimming in the river and listening to stories that Robin told us. Sunday we took the boat back to Puerto Maldonado where we resupplied on snacks and water and then headed out to lake Sandoval, a 45 minute boat ride and a 45 minute hike and another 30 minute canoe ride to the lodge. Later that night we wnet out on a caiman hunt on a canoe with our headlamps to spot them. After seeing 11 of them and catching 2 small ones we headed back for a great dinner and a terantula hund and some well needed rest. after a 5:30 wake up call weheaded back out on the lake in search of some giant river otters, or lobos del rio. We found a small family of them hunting fis by the shore and we watched them as they dove back and forth through the water. Then after a tasty breakfast we were back on the lake headed to the other side for a short hike. After a delicious 2 course lunch we had a nice rest and then started out travel back to Puerto Maldonado.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Continuing Saga of Sam I Am: Week Nine

After a couple weeks of living in a very full homestay and passing our days with Spanish classes, salsa lessons, and some slightly chaotic construction work we were all ready for some serious rest and relaxation. Lucky for us, Sunday brought the beginning of our highly-anticipated yoga retreat just thirty minutes outside of Cusco in the stunning Sacred Valley. It certainly turned out to be restful and relaxing, but more so on a spiritual than physical level as we started off our mornings at seven with an hour of meditation followed by two hours of yoga in addition to a second two hour yoga class in the evenings. Our classes definitely erred on the side of more advanced which led to many sore muscles but also had the majority of the group doing handstands and exploring a few acro-yoga moves by the end of our retreat. The morning meditation sessions ensured we were challenging ourselves on a mental level as well. Throughout the retreat we had the opportunity to experience the unique benefits of mantra, breath, and chakra meditations. If I do say so myself, the intense reverberations and power of our collective 'oms' were downright otherworldly by the time our final classes rolled around.

When we weren't busy quieting our minds or "twisting ourselves up like pretzels" as Sarah would say we were busy participating in other activities aimed towards personal growth. For starters, we had an hour long morning seva. A seva meant doing chores around the retreat center including sweeping, dusting, weeding, helping with cooking, or anything that could help beautify or improve our living space all with the intention of showing appreciation for the incredible place we were sharing together. We were also able to participate in art workshops aimed at personal introspection, attend classes about vedic astrology and the seven principle chakras, and  even had the opportunity to delve into the history and practice of reiki massage with a local master. Fortunately, amidst all our spiritual growth we managed to stay true to classic Sam I Am form in eating a lot of very good food, this time of the delicious vegetarian variety! Every meal presented a plethora of fresh fruits a veggies in the form of pastas, soups, salads, juices, cookies, and pizzas proving that healthy, delicious, and environmentally friendly can very easily go hand in hand.

Just so we didn't get too relaxed while soaking in the gorgeous sunny weather and towering green mountains, Michael C. orchestrated our second group game of Assassin. For those of you who are not familiar with the game here's a quick rundown: each person is assigned a "victim" that they have to kill during our day to day activities by getting them to do, or refuse, a certain task or action. It has to be rather sly though as to not alert your victim or others present to your ulterior motives. In this round Nick was assigned the near impossible task of getting our loving Simone to refuse a hug. In the end he had to resort to the not-so-sly measures of walking out of the kitchen open armed after having coated his chest in honey and a few other remnants of breakfast in order to finally commit his "murder".

Wednesday brought the end of our retreat. We were all instructed to write down habits we wanted to leave behind in addition to something we wanted to take away from our four days there. We then proceeded to sing, chant, and share around a small fire before dropping our papers into the flames to burn physically so they could then manifest in our lives. Our final and greatest triumph of the week came about thirty minutes after we should have left the retreat center in the form of a five-person, three-story, downward facing dog pyramid. Hopefully, technical difficulties will not prevent me sharing the epic photo evidence with all of you.

We then proceeded to make our way into Cusco and bummed about the city for the evening before taking off on an overnight bus to visit Lake Titicaca. We stumbled off the bus at the lakeside city of Puno at 5:30 in the morning and proceeded to our travel office. After a very early and sleepy breakfast, we all climbed into our tour boat for a quick ride to the famous floating islands of Titicaca. The islands are made of reeds and anchored to the lake floors with rope, the same reeds provide building material and food for the islanders as well. While it was an incredible experience, it was definitely the most touristy situation we have found ourselves in as of yet. We had an hour to explore the islands and be pumped for as many soles as could be extracted from us before taking off on another boat ride. The second ride allowed a few of us three glorious hours to nap on the sun-drenched rooftop above luxurious blue waters before arriving on the stunning island Amantani. We then spent the afternoon recuperating from our bus-ride. However, Sarah and Michael C. opted to jump into the freezing cold waters of Titicaca instead of take a nap as their form of rejuvation. It certainly looked invigorating and luckily no one suffered from hypothermia post-swim. We then reconvened to hike up to the second-highest mountain peak on Amantani in order to watch the sunset and soak in the full glories of Lake Titicaca. From there we could see the snow-capped mountains of Bolivia and even soak in the intense sights of a far off lightning storm on another side of the coastline. The view was certainly one to remember, but even our brief hike at the 14,000 foot elevation winded us enough to make us all a little curious about how this four-day trek up to Machu Picchu is going to treat us...

The evening brought some dancing and singing with the local Quechua poeple of the island and then very sound sleep for all after a long day. The next morning we were up bright and early to catch a boat to Taquile, another island about an hours ride away. Simone had to dig into our med-kit and rustle up some motion sickness pills for a few folks for this particlar ride as it was certainly a rocky one! After arriving we then had a couple hours to explore Taquile and enjoy a yummy trout lunch before loading up for our final three hour boat ride back to Puno. We all ventured off into the city to acquire dinner and kill time before our second overnight bus ride in three days. We arrived in Cusco bright and early this morning and ventured to our hostel to drop off our luggage before all going abouts our various explorations and activities around the city for our free day. Simone is teaching a yoga class this afternoon at The Healing House, a local living space and learning center that collaborates with the yoga studio we worked with this week. I am looking forward to attending the class if I don't find myself in need of a nap after last nights bus ride.

This week has certainly been an eventful one. The yoga retreat was an excellent opportunity to cement and further explore all we have learned on this trip, and take a closer look at what we may want for ourselves in the future. We're reaching the last leg of our adventures together, with only the rainforest and Machu Picchu ahead of us but I'm sure those will provide a bounty of incredible experiences and memories as well.

Lots of love and good energy headed to all our friends and family back home,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

After a rigorous week in Cusco spent Salsa-ing, getting massages,
putting on puppet shows, and other draining tasks (such as playing on
slides), we are reading to head to the Sacred Valley and finally be
able to relax.

This past week has been filled with a wide variety of super sweet
activities. We started out the week, Sunday, by attending the local
soccer team´s home game, but only have of the group really Carpe
Diem´ed things by staying the whole time, despite the torrential rain.
I never really understand what kind of person would leave when a game
is tied 2-2, despite the weather, but I learned this past weekend.
Unfortunately, our ´´seizing the day´´ mentality didn´t particularly
help us, given that the game ended in a tie, and there is no overtime
or shootout. Whatever.

During the week, we continued our daily 2 hours of grammar lessons
mixed with a further 2 of practical Spanish. It seems as though
everyone has enjoyed the school here more than anywhere else, and we
all have improved our Spanish. We also supplemented our work with the
task of building a theater for a poor school, and putting on a play.
The finished piece was colorful and crackerjack aesthetically pleasing
( says ´´crackerjack is another word for super´´), thanks
to the beautiful artwork and well-crafted architecture. The audience
of the play described it as ´´bonito´´ and ´´wow´´, but then again, we
didn´t expect much more from 4 years olds. One critic noted,
´´Extraordinary theatre, extraordinarily powerful, impeccably
performed and produced. A night of theatre to remember´´, after
viewing Kafka´s ´´Metamorphosis´´ performed.

After the play was finished, we spent a couple of hours playing with
the kids at the local ´´Pigeon Park´´, feature precariously moving
attractions and dangerously high slides for the average 4/5 year olds.
One highlight was when Nick went into the spinning ball thing. Another
was when two kids threw up inside of it.

Later in the day, the entire Spanish school took an overly-packed bus
to a nearby, maximum-security prison for women, where we spend about
20 minutes looking at their sewn, knit, and crafted goods, and talking
to a few of them about how they ended up there in the first place.
Although we weren´t allowed to go inside because of some shenanigans
supposedly going down, we had a good opportunity to learn from the
experiences of two women who were caught trying to smuggle drugs and
cake mix. Or something like that.

This morning, we moved out of our homestay and into a nearby hostel,
and we´ve happily spent the day being able to do whatever we needed to
get done before we head to our yoga retreat.
We´ll all be zen and stuff next week.
Miguelito de los Campos

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cusco: Week 1

This was our first week in Cusco. We arrived here last Sunday on a plane from Lima. We are all staying as one big family in one house, which we share with the old couple who lives there. We're studying at a Spanish school called FairPlay. FairPlay helps reduce poverty by providing jobs and training to single mothers who may have been involved in abusive relationships. Every afternoon we have 4 hours of one-on-one Spanish classes, which are usually exhausting but very effective. Half of the time is spent learning grammar in a classroom, and half of the time is spent practicing what we've learned, out in Cusco. We're also building a puppet theatre, and 12 tables for a local school. In our free time we've been visiting markets, getting massages, eating food, and playing spades (in our own tournament). Myself excluded (not a dancer), we've been taking salsa lessons. Everyone seems to be learning a lot and having a great time. On Saturday night, we went to a salsa club. On Sunday, we went to a soccer game, which ended in a tie (2-2) and a torrential downpour which thoroughly soaked us all. Today, Nick and Erin bought two ducklings, (for 5 soles each (2 dollars each)) which they named Sampson and Deleila. After we leave Cusco, they'll leave them with their Spanish teachers. As our comfort zones and fun-limits are being pushed, we all miss our families very much and hope everything is heavenly at home.
Michael L.

P.S. I will be posting photos on the blog either tomorrow or the next day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

sup dudes

                Free travel couldn't have gone by any faster. Though at first we were somewhat nostalgic of the times we had in Agualongo, it was any easy adjustment to life around Trujillo. The sandy shores of Huanchaco graced us with their beauty and hospitality giving us the perfect opportunity to unwind and relax. We filled our days shredding the gnar, eating, and getting our golden tans. Our nights being spend putting on our poker faces and having show downs in talking spades. The world championships of spades are beginning to look like a run away. With all our pride and self respect on the line, Ari and Mike L are getting spanked by Mike C and I, 2 sets to zero. I hope they feel terrible about themselves if they get sweeped. We were able to get a van ride out to the shore known for having longest pipeline in the world. Although it wasn't at its 2km record fashion we were able to get some of the best gnar sessions of our lives while indulging in the tranquility of a traditional low key beach town.

                Yesterday marks the last day of beach life for the rest of this trip, but we are all anxiously awaiting time in Cusco, the Amazon, and Manchu. We have a home stay awaiting us in Cusco, one casa housing the nine of us, for the next two weeks where we will be able to resume our Spanish course and get cozy with each other. Missing you all back home but not really, we having a ball and will completely forget about you guys once we get another frisbee. There´s supposed to be a superhero party tonight and I have an insider telling me Spiderman and Superman will be making appearances.


                                                                                                                                      With love, hugs, and kisses,

                                                                                                                                                                              Nick Cash Kessler


Week 6 in Equador brought many things for some of us it brought important lessons, like don´t put paint thinner in sprite bottles because some of us, Ari, will drink random open sprite bottles. It also brought a slew of sicknesses to our group, taking me out for the better part of the week. While I was out for the count the rest of the group continued on with the healthcare work and teaching at the school. In the classroom Nick and Erin excelled at teaching english to the 8th and 9th graders by introducing Jepordy and entertained the third grade by repeatedly singing "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes" faster and faster and teaching them the english version of one of their favorite games, "Que Hora es Sr. Lobo". While Campos, Daniela, and Ari took a different swing on it and taught the older kids to sing along to "Hey Jude" and played games with the younger kids. Out in the field it was cool to see how the communities really appreciated the healthcare work that was being done, it was also awesome that Nick got the opportunity to play dentist and not only pull a tooth but also administer the local anesthetic. Our last night in Agualongo was spent in the near by town of Quichinche at a festival which included a parade which most of the group danced in. Simone, Daniela, Sarah, and Erin looked stunning in the traditional dress and Nick really pulled off the early westernesque traditional attire of a cowboy hat, a red bandana, a leather vest, and very furry chaps. While Ari tried to fit in with black pinstripe overalls, and a traditional shirt (because his costume was infested with scabies after both he and Miguel got it). Nearer to the end of the night we migrated to the carnavalish area complete with a swinging dragon ride, haunted house, and assorted other games. I think I speak for everyone who whent both on the dragon ride and in the haunted house that it was worth the dollar it cost to obtain a state of freefalll for a few moments on each peak of the dragon or get scared better than some of the haunted in the states can. Our last day in Agualongo was bitter-sweet because we were saying good bye to the families and community which had taken us under its wing for the past two weeks, and slightly sweet because we now only had a short bus ride between us and hot showers and proper beds. After a wonderful meal and a parting song performed by SamIAm we gathered our gear for a final ride down the hill in the back of Guevarra's truck to the bus stop, where after a mad dash for some last minute pie we boarded the 2 hour bus to Quito.
-Joseph "Maverick" Sariego

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sam I Am kicked off our fourth week rounding out an eleven hour bus ride. We rolled into Otavalo at 6:30 in the morning for a free day to enjoy the city. From the bus terminal we groggily stumbled the eight or so blocks to our hostel. Luckily, we found it to be equipped with hammocks, delicious breakfasts, and the best damn showers we have encountered in Ecuador thus far.

After a lazy morning of snacking and Spades we decided to make our way to the Peguche waterfall. We have been informed that on a normal day at Peguche you can enjoy the beautiful sights in peace and even whisper your secrets to the falls and be cleansed. However, last Sunday we were still in the heart of Carnaval so we had a different experience entirely that included crowds, an excess of foam, water fights, and the occasional explosion of colored flour. Our superheroes once again made an appearance and were kind enough to provide the public with photo-ops upon request. The rest of our day was spent roaming the world-famous Otavalan market, Plaza de los Ponchos, and indulging in more good food.

Monday morning brought the start of two weeks of homestays in Agualongo and our work with the Tandana Foundation, an organization devoted to building relationships and providing support for the towns of indigenous Ecuadorians around Otavalo. Anna, the founder of Tandana along with a few other volunteers met us at our hostel for orientation. We had a quick crash-course on life in Agualongo and our schedule for the next two weeks including a brief lesson in Kichwa, the native language of Ecuador that our homestay families speak in addition to Spanish. From there we made our way to Agualongo. We were each dropped off at our homes to meet our families and then promptly made our way to the community center for a welcoming ceremony followed by a slightly chaotic game of soccer. Unsurprisingly, us gringos did not come out ahead.

Immediately after our day took a turn in a quite different direction and we headed to Las Palmeras Hotel where a small gathering for volunteers and visiting donors was being held. The party was hosted at the hotel owner, Nik´s, home. Nik is a rather eccentric older Englishman who splits his time between Manhattan and Otavalo. He got to know Tandana through volunteers staying at his hotel and included the construction of a medical storage facility for the foundation when he built his new home.

Tuesday we participated in a local minga, which meant the nine of us spent the morning picking up trash around Agualongo along with the other young people of the town. A minga is an alternative to taxes that most of the indigenous villages use around Ecuador. A project is selected and planned that every family must contribute to, whether that be sending a member to help work or providing refreshments for the volunteers. Our afternoon was spent taking inventory of the medical storage facility at Las Palmeras in preparation for our health clinic work for this upcoming week.

Wednesday morning was spent weeding and planting seedlings at Muyo, a tree nursery dedicated to the rehabilitation and reforestation of indigenous plants in the area. From there we spent a long afternoon in a cooking class hosted by Claudia, a former scholarship student of Anna´s who is now opening a cooking school with her family. We made llapingachos (fried cheese potatoe dumplings), carne colorada (steak curry), rice and pea empanadas, and quimbolita (an angel food cake made by steaming heaps of batter wrapped in giant leaves). It took us about five hours to make dinner for twenty people and the results were certainly worth it.

Thursday and Friday were converting the old kitchen into a new library at the local school. Some group members sanded and painted the room while the rest meticulously covered books with contact paper to ensure they would have a long life span in the library. There was a lot of book covering. We had a quite pleasant afternoon on Friday harvesting Frigole (beans) at the house of Campos´ homestay family. We spent about twenty minutes filling our bagswith beans before plopping ourselves down in a potatoe patch in the middle of the corn fields and eating as much choclos (raw corn on the cob) and caña (the sugar-cane like substance in the center of corn stalks). We were joined by a few young children of Agualongo who put us to shame with our swiss army knives by peeling the caña with their teeth and chowing down on about five full cornstalks a piece. Luckily, our brief bean-harvesting work still provided Campos´ family with enough beans for the rest of the year!

Saturday morning brought another minga. The project was tiling the community center floors, however, the level of organization involved was minimal and after scrubbing away at the cement ground and soaking a few tiles we ran out of ways to contribute. Then we had a free afternoon to enjoy some timein Otavalo. Saturday is the biggest day for the outdoor market so many of us returned home with a new accessory or article of clothing. In Nick´s case, a full new outfit of traditional Ecuadorian attire in the form of red-striped overalls and a bright green fedora. We´re all seriously considering following suit. It could be a good look for Sam I Am.

Our week has been very busy, but very enjoyable. Our familes have all been very kind and welcoming and each day we have plenty of opportunities to practice both our Spanish and Kichwa.

Hope all is well where you are, much love to our friends and family.

Your blogger for the week,

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Second week in Cuenca

Dear readers of SAM blog,

We started our second week in Cuenca off with an amazing hike through a national park in Cajas. We continued our Spanish classes, which took place in our classrooms and out in the city, where we visited markets, museums, a zoo, etc. After searching for the past week or so we were finally able to acquire a frisbee, which got a lot of use in the park. Cuenca was an awesome place to be during the Ecuadorian ¨Carnaval¨ celebration, because there´s a tradition that invites everyone to throw water-balloons and spray foam at pedestrians on the streets. We went through multiple 100-packs of water-balloons, some of us going out with backpacks full of them at a time. Campos, Nick, and I bought superhero costumes (Spiderman, Superman, and Batman, respectively) which further enlivened the Carnaval experience for us. On Saturday, we all packed our bags, said goodbye to our host families and Cuenca, and left on an overnight bus (12 hours long) to Otavalo. We´re all having an amazing trip so far and miss everyone back at home.

Michael L.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

¡Hola from Cuenca!

Well, here we are in cuenca, Ecuador! After travelling from Canoa on an overnight bus on Saturday, we were all rushed away from the bus station by our respective host families on Sunday morning. I have my own family due to the odd number of poeple in our group, but  most are living with partners. We´ve all been having a really good experience with it so far. My host dad, Oscar, is Columbian and very funny. He is always telling me to ¨tranquila" (relax) and that his casa es mi casa. He claims to be a member of the Mafia, but he is kidding... I think... Ha. Anyway, we´re glad with the way things worked out there! People here seem to eat much smaller meals than we´re used to, so that has been an adjustment!
Monday through Friday, we have Spanish class from 8-12. The school is beautiful, comfortable, and has a constant suppy of teas, coffee, and hot chocolate to keep us going- that much Spanish  can get exhausting! However, I for one can definitely say that my Spanish has improved in just the three weeks that we´ve been in this beautiful country. The school has also supplemented our lessons with cooking classes, city tours, and salsa dancing lessons (involving many laughs and stepped-on feet!)

We have spent our afternoons and evenings exploring the markets, shopping, playing ultimate frisbee in the parks, spending time with our host families, eating (local cuisine, along with KFC for a few of us!) . There continues to be at least one deck of cards in play during every free moment. This weekend, we checked out a local discoteca for some cultual experience! An experience it certainly was, although personally I could have done with a few less local chicos pursuing me for being a gringa, and a few more of those free cotton candies!

On Sunday we took a bus to El Cajas National Park for some hiking and picnics (definite emphasis on the latter)! It was a great day and awesome to relax and explore such a beautiful place! What could beat hiking, eating, sunbathing, Lord-of-the-Rings photo shoots, and watching Simone continue her streak of accidentally stepping into deep mud pits?

As I sit here writing this update in my bedroom at my host family´s house, ¨Don´t Stop Believing¨ is blasting loudly outside the window. So begins another week in Cuenca, and who knows what adventures it might bring!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that we miss our families and friends a lot, but we´re also very thankful to be right here where we are in such a unique part of the world. We hope you all are well and can´t wait to share even more memories and experiences with you!

Que te vayas bien,


Sarah and the rest of the SAM I AM crew

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rio Mu¨Manchas¨

Hola Amigos y Familia!

I (we) are writing you this update from the small town of Canoa, located on the Northern coast of Ecuador. Currently I am lounging in a hammock at our beach front hostal after being woken up by a pan flute enthusiast who decided to raom the streets at 7:15 this morning, not that I´m complaining. Thus, I now get to sit and reflect on this past week (thanks to my duty as ¨blogger¨) so that the rest of you can live vicariously through our experiences.

We spent our time up in hills by this coastal town at the lovely organic farm of Rio Muchacho. The surroundings were green and lucious (especially considering the season); the buildings were glorified wooden cabins that were dripping in hammocks, bugs, and pen air window-walls; and the food was primarily fresh from the finca (farm) - organic, vegetarian, and full of flavor. The lack of meat certainly started to wear on a few individuals as the week went on, most likely a withdrawl from the westernized diet, but no long term damage seems to have been done.
In short this place is a perfect representation of sustainability, so much so, that they didnt even have trash. All food waste was either composted or fed to the pigs, all humand and animal waste was turned into fertilizer to be used on the farm or sold, and natural rain water catchements, as well as, water conservation and treatment processes were used for drinking, cleaning, and irrigation. The garden itself was then planted in a way that emphasized biodiversity (in plants, animals, and bugs), seasonality, lunar cycles, and the local ecosystem. Nicola and Dario, our hosts, have been improving their practices for the past 20 years, more or less, developing new projects that encompus sustainable agriculture and livelihoods. This includes their environmental school (the only school in their region), indroducing new crops that will thrive in the coastal ecuadorian climate, and buliding their popular ecotourism/volunteer lodge that supports the many locals and traveling individules who are interested in this type of work. But what might we (the volunteers) do you might ask?
Well each day they provided a new lesson on either organic framing principles, the concerns with conventional farming, the ¨how to¨ on being sustainable at home, composting, and the influences of lunar cycles on farming and life in general. Speaking for all of us, I would say we learned a lot, especially considering the work it takes to run a place like this.....
Each morning we started our day at 6- 6:30 with daily ¨chores¨ before breakfast. This meant cutting grass-hay with a machete for the horses, collecting vegetables from the garden, feeding the chickens/pigs, helping in the kitchen, and for the lack of a better term - shoveling shit. I think we can all agree that Simone can atest to the wonders of shit shoveling seeing as she lost her boot and nearly her whole leg to a 4 ft deep pool of pig cacca during a terrential down pour.
The rest of our days were then spent in the previously mentioned lessons, touring the farm, making handicrafts our of seeds and mate (goard like fruit) , eating, siesta, lounging in hammocks, making Nick and Michael L do the dishes for sleeping through morning chores, playing with Manchas (the 3 month old dalmatian puppy.... so cute), participating in ¨band practice¨, änd doing farm activities.¨¨Farm Activities¨ is code for weeding, heavy lifting, shoveling shit, squating in mud, planting seeds, and pretending to understand spanish.

Our last day we took off back to Canoa and found this beach side hostel thanks to Sarah... our ¨cribs¨for the week. Luckiliy we got the last rooms! And friday night we spent a better part of our time salsa dancing - pretending to salsa dance at a local spot right on the beach, my personal favorite. Jealous yet?

That about covers our past week, and now we are off on our next adventure - the language school in Cuenca with our homestays (which are so far amazing... but more on that later.)

please direct all questions and concerns to personal emails.


Erin & SAM I AM (our band... we are unbelieveably talented so stay tuned for recordings and CD artwork)

photos: valentines gifts homemade, SAM I AM album cover, seedlings, manchas, the lodge-cabin, and the beach at canoa.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hola! I have arrived safely for all those who were worried. I have 4 limbs, my passport, sanity, and a water bottle so we are in the clear. Yesterday was our first real day on the ground after 24 hours of traveling and no problems. Currently we are staying at a beautiful retreat center in Bahia Ecuador called Siananda. To sum it up its a place with a plethera of animals (peacocks, chickens, bunnies, horses, quail, goats, dogs, cats...), great food, right on the coast filled with delicious cerviche. Yesterday afternoon we boated over to Isle del sol  (island of the sun... sounds lovely right?). It was an island made of knee deep mud... so refreshing and good for the skin. We basked in a mud bath, played with crabs-small mud fish, and practiced some mud slides straight into the water..... photos coming soon. For the ride back home I and a few others insisted on swimming across the river back to Siananda :). So for a good mile/hour and to the amazement of the locals: Ari, Nick, Joeseph, and myself cruised through the tasteful warm brown aqua as athletic prep for the machu pichu hike. I found an orange half way across which proved useful for mid-river catch until Ari speared it with his thumb. Our night then concluded with a jam sesh with SAM I AM - an up and coming new band with a phenomenal album cover....

The people, food, and scenery are amazing.

Ciao for now.

- Erin

Hey everybody its Joseph.
I´m just dropping by to say that everything is going great and I am having a wonderful time here in Equador.
hola from ecuador!

everything has been great so far! we played on an island made of mud, had a group jam session that involved guitars, tamborines, a drum, and tibetan singing bowls. This is a beautiful area of the world and I am very excited to experience it with such a great group of people. 




Dear blog,
The trip has been great so far. I don,t know what has already been written on here but I,ll update it with the most recent thing we,ve done. Miguel Campos, Erin, Joseph, Sarah and I just ate ceviche at a little restaurant in Bahia. I,m having a great time. The place been staying at is awesome and I want to live there.
Hello to friends and family of the SAM Spring 2011 group (now better known by our spontaneous jam-band name, Sam I Am.... hopefully we´ll get some recordings up soon)
Three days in Ecuador and every moment has been amazing.
Hope everything is well wherever you may be.


ecuador is awesome

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This is Amy from headquarters and I'm happy to report the South America group has arrived safely in Guayaquil! Ari and Simone phoned the office today to say they had landed, all accounted for and all were healthy and happy. (Albeit, a little jet-lagged.)

The group is currently on a bus heading for the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez where they will begin their orientation to each other and the semester. You should be hearing from them very soon after they get some much needed rest!

Check back here often and journey with them through Ecuador and Peru!

Headquarters, once again, signing off...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The group is found!

Well, it's a little past 10pm and the group, its leaders, and loads of enthusiasm have united what promises to be an excellent journey. Stay tuned to this page for more blogs everyone, and for tonight, rest assured that everyone have boarded their flight and will be heading South ... waaaay South, soon enough!

Yours truly,

Friday, February 4, 2011

No podemos esperar!

Hola, from your very enthusiastic trip leaders, Simone and Ari!!

This blog is a place for you to post photos, tell stories and share your experiences with friends and family back home. Send your loved ones this link so they can see and read about the places that your adventurous spirit is taking you.

Throughout our semester, each of you will have the opportunity to post to this blog, documenting our journey for the world to see. Blogger is one of seven roles that each of you will fill as the semester progresses. There are six other roles, and you'll have at least one turn in each. They are:
  • Hot Wheels – arranging transportation
  • Cribs – organizing our housing
  • Bleeding Heart – who reports on social issues
  • Librarian – who will carry and care after our books
  • Culture, History & Headlines - who reports on the local culture, and finally...
  • El Capitan – the person who pulls it all together and MC's group meetings

Sharing the responsibility for success will help our group build a tight-knit community, and help each of you develop great travel skills.

Reminder: We are meeting at the Tom Bradley Terminal in LAX, at the eatery tables on the second floor. Just look for some goofy looking people with giant backpacks. We'll gather there at 9:30 pm and reconvene at that spot every hour until our entire group is together.

We're looking forward to an educational journey with you, full of adventure, smells, toil, sights and laughs. Hopefully you've already had a chance to read through the itinerary. For now, eat the foods you love, hug your families and pets, and pick up those last minute travel-essentials. Next stop, Ecuador!

Simone and Ari

Monday, January 17, 2011

Greetings from CT

Better late than never, right? I miss you all so much!

This is me in my room with my dog Jake.
It has been snowing a lot here. This is me and my dog Romeo in front of our house.

Just to keep you all updated, Natalie and I are leaving for India on January 31st. Also, I'm going to Greece for 3 months starting on March 7th. I hope all of you will visit me.