An Andean Adventure

While it’s understandable that some might not want to spend their spring break digging a giant hole, I can’t imagine a better way to enjoy my first spring break at Northeastern! This past March I had the awesome opportunity to travel to Ecuador on an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) and volunteer with the Tandana Foundation. We spent the week in the highlands of Ecuador and worked with the indigenous community of Motilón Chupa to dig a water reservoir system. 

Some of the challenges:

  • No showers for a week: While not the most “appealing” aspect of the trip, not showering for a week definitely brought me much closer to my 10 other team members!
  • The language barrier: Perhaps one of the biggest challenges (but also my favorite aspect of the trip) was the language barrier. Not only was the Spanish language barrier present, but additionally the community members speak Kichwa, a language indigenous to the highlands of Ecuador. While communication was more challenging, I also learned words in a language that I previously never knew existed.
  • The length of the trip: ASBs only last a week, and this was perhaps the biggest challenge of the whole trip. At the end of the week, everyone wanted to stay longer because our time in Motilón Chupa had been so special. 

Some of the highlights:

  • The community: The warm and welcoming community of Motilón Chupa was probably the best aspect of the trip. Playing with the kids and talking with the adults of the community was always fun and I learned so much from them.  On multiple occasions, members of the community cooked us meals and went above and beyond to welcome us. They let us into their homes and taught us some of their traditions, including how to make queso fresco (which involved cow milking lessons)! Their generosity made a lasting impression on me. 
  • The views: The community of Motilón Chupa is situated high in the Ecuadorian Andes, which in my humble opinion might just be the prettiest place on earth. Waking up every morning surrounded by spectacular nature was an incredible experience and a welcomed change from city living. 
  • My team members: The ASB experience has been my favorite memory from Northeastern so far. Not only did I become close with the community members, but the bonds formed between my team members and I that week have proved to be lasting. Working alongside others towards a goal that is much bigger than yourself is very rewarding and a unique opportunity to make friends. 

Even if I was a little gross after a week of digging mud and not showering, ASB was an incredible opportunity and something I would encourage every Northeastern student to apply for.  It’s a great way to step out of your comfort zone and learn about a different community, while making friends along the way!

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