WARNING: This post has a ton of photos.
Dare I say it, a crap ton of photos.
(Fifty-two, to be exact…which is technically a crap ton and a half.)
Yet after a few days of reflection, I realized there was no better way to capture my South American adventure than through the images you’re about to see below.
Also…if you scroll down far enough, you’ll see a photo of yours truly demonstrating extreme bravery while covered in giant Hercules beetles.
A small section of the city of Quito. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes mountains, it has over 3 million people. We spent most of the first day touring the city.
Quito's historic Basilica, which dates back to the 15th century.
Quito's historic downtown. This was formerly the palace of the Archbishop.
The Presidential Palace. There were group of protesters outside while we were there.
A view from the central square in historic downtown Quito.
One of the many cathedrals we passed. We were allowed to go inside during Mass.
A typical city street.
No idea what this is...but it looked cool.
Literally, the center of the World. Also, where the nation of Ecuador gets its name.
Me, in both hemispheres. Boo-yah.
I realized my gut was sticking out in the above photo, and decided some plank work might tighten up my flabby abs. Also? I totally wanted to show off in front of the alpacas that were watching me.
I don't think he was impressed.
Traditional Ecuadorian lunch. Trout, rice, salad and fried plantains. This definitely didn't help my flabby ab situation.
An active volcano! With smoke coming out of it! We saw this on our three-hour drive to the city of Ambato. This area of Ecuador is framed by two volcanoes that are known as husband and wife. This one smokes and erupts constantly, and is known as the angry wife as a result. Yay for volcanic gender stereotypes!!
Me and my homies. And by "homies" I mean "Ginormous Hercules beetles that totally got stuck in my scarf".
Driving through the foothills of the Andes mountains to reach the World Vision communities we would be visiting. At one point, we were over 13,000 feet!
A group of young people in the first community we visited who had started a savings box. The savings box teaches youth in the community to pool their savings so they can provide community members with low-interest loans to pay for education and various business ventures. Most of the kids in this photo are former sponsored children. These teens also started their own radio program!
An alpaca farm we visited. World Vision funding helped pay for the animals to start this farm that supports the local community.
I think this is my favorite photo I've ever taken.
A little boy proudly shows off his baby alpaca.
I wanted to take one home. Something tells me Jolie wouldn't approve...
Two young girls taking care of sheep.
I got up close and personal with this guy.
Real-life sheep dogs!
This young man is the provider for his family. His father is unable to work because of a heart condition, and his mother had fallen ill and needed surgery. He used a loan from World Vision to set up a pottery business that was able to pay for his mother's surgery, and now provides income to support his family. His two younger sisters are both sponsored.
Demonstrating his pottery painting technique. In addition to his art business, he's also studying law at a local university.
Money from sponsorship helped this young man start a business sewing jeans. Over thirty young people in his community work on the jeans and benefit from the profits.
The finished product.
Oh you KNOW I wasn't leaving Ecuador without a pair.
More breathtaking scenery from the Ecuadorian highlands.
This cow had a heart on his head...which totally made all of the other cows green with envy.
See? Totally jealous.
This community participates in what World Vision calls a "community pot". Mothers with children under five gather together to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their children. World Vision staff educates them on nutrition and other important health-related issues. The community even created their own fruit and vegetable garden!
The women at the community pot compost! (I had to take a picture to show to Scott.)
The women from the community pot presented us with an extremely generous gift -- fresh fruit and vegetables from their garden!
One of the mothers with her daughter in the kitchen used by the community pot.
Next, we visited a community school. These cuties were playing outside.
More kids from the community in their classroom.
- Me, eating a guinea pig.
And yes…I totally ate a guinea pig. Read more about it here.
The teens in this community put on a play for us about sexual health and HIV prevention. They wrote the entire play themselves! It was creative, hilarious and totally wonderful. The play was entirely in Spanish, and hearing our translator try to interpret it on the fly was nothing short of amusing.
The highlight of the play? When the boy dressed as the HIV virus was wrapped in a giant condom, of course. 'Twas magnificent.
World Vision helped these parents partner with other families in their community to form a co-operative that earns money by sewing men's dress clothes. This was their work room.
Another community with an early stimulation center for children five and under.
We brought a bubble machine for the kids as a gift. Their reactions were priceless!
Joy and innocence.
This little guy LOVED posing for photos while giving the "thumbs up" sign! The nose-picking was pretty adorable, too.
Most of the kids at this school are sponsored through World Vision. The school, which educates children from kindergarten to eighth grade, also receives funding from World Vision and is well on its way to being officially considered a health-focused school by the Ecuadorian government.
The kids were proud to show us their multiplication and long division skills.
Having fun on the playground.
The children took turns running around the playground and giving each of us giant group hugs. I think my heart literally melted into a giant puddle right then and there.
The trip was truly an adventure…yet it was so much more than an exciting journey to a new and unusual place.
If I had to take away one thing, it is that sponsorship works. It touches not only the lives of real children, but also their families and communities. It makes an undeniable impact–a true transformation.
Take it from me — sponsorship is one-hundred-percent real. It’s also life changing. I hope my experiences move you enough to consider sponsoring a child through World Vision. You’ll not only be changing the life of a child, you’ll also be changing your own.
Don’t worry! There’s plenty more Ecuador stories to come. Tomorrow I’ll be giving a riveting account of my bout with everyone’s favorite topic: traveler’s diarrhea.
But not really.
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