Kathrin Rief Voluntariado en Ecuador
Traveling around Ecuador:
Out of all the countries I’ve ever visited, Ecuador has to be the easiest to travel within. Once you get over the fact that there’re no schedules and therefore exact meeting times aren’t possible, you can lean back, take a deep breath and travel with the confidence that no matter when and where you’re going, you will get there for sure. Cheap, safe and with regular leaving times the bus system of Ecuador is extremely reliable and, in comparison to the public transport systems in neighbor countries like Columbia or Peru, smoothly running. That, and the fact, that Ecuador is relatively small, makes for excellent travelling on weekends and on vacation. In the 10 months I’ve spent here, my friends and I have ceased every opportunity to see & experience this beautiful country and with a mere 4-hour drive to the Ecuadorian jungle (el Oriente), a 6-hour ride until you can stick your sandy feet in turquoise waters (la Costa) and a max. drive of 4 hours within the Andean mountains (la Sierra), we’ve been able to really get an impression of what makes Ecuador stand out so uniquely. So, get yourself to the nearest bus station and take in whatever you can of this fascinating culture! While I have loved getting to know whatever I could in my time here in Quito - the vibrant streets in Otavalo, lined with all the colors, fabrics and designs of your imagination or the canopy of Mindo’s rainforest or the sandy beaches in Santo Lopez – after all these impressions I’ve found my favourite places! The most beautiful city – as almost everybody will tell you- has to be Cuenca! Spending the 4 days of carnival in this artful city with its vibrantly painted facades, the handcrafted artisanry and the air of tranquility & serenity made by the cute little Cafés, stores and the small river separating new and old town, has truly been exquisite. Another favourite is the time we spent in the Caiman Lodge deep within the Ecuadorian jungle in Cuyabeno. There we made our way on longboats through the jungle rivers, in most parts the only way of transportation, learned all about the life of indigenous communities within the rainforest and listened to birds, monkeys and insects as they brought the dark night to life.
For me personally the most beautiful place in Ecuador and so far in the world however, are the Galápagos Islands. Breathtaking. Indescribable. Transcending.Ecuador incorporates four worlds that couldn’t be more distinctly and uniquely different, all in one country.
Upon first arriving, Quito seems like a fascinating chaos to most anybody. Situated in the valley of towering mountain ranges, the so idyllic setting doesn’t really fit to the busy and honking reality that is this city. Street venders on every corner, yelling matches between bus and cap drivers, a metro that is chronically overloaded, with passengers stuck between its closed doors and doesn’t seem to be running on any kind of schedule as well as the sheer magnitude of the place – it can all be a little overwhelming. After commuting 3 hours every day between my project in Parque Carolina and Tumbaco, a small suburb on the outskirts of Quito, I can tell you though: the day when you understand what bus to take, which metro line to follow and how to navigate in this urbane craziness does come. Now I can hardly imagine going back to my mountainless, silent home in Germany without missing the constant buzz of Quito’s downtown.
In a city as big and overflowing as Quito, I needed a place to give me grounding and explanation in order to navigate my new home town. I was lucky enough to find the place and the people within it who offered me exactly the footing I was looking for. My project COVI, situated in the Parque Carolina, and my bosses Tamarita & Alex became my number one advisor in every aspect of living abroad in Ecuador. By way of working with the children we guided, exchanging with Tamarita and her daughter, who have become such dear and loving friends to us, we now have a completely new and complex take on Quito, its people and the Ecuadorian way of life in general. In the time I spent here, I knew if all else failed, I would always be welcomed by the people in COVI, guided by a loving hand and working in a work place of respect, understanding, empathy and above all else, humanity. The children and teenagers I’ve had the pleasure to get to know, truly have changed the way I look at life. Have changed who I want to be growing up, changed the way I want to lead my life, changed my way of being. For this gift I am forever thankful.
The day my two closest friends, my co-volunteers, got into the airplane back to Germany after having completed their 10 month weltwärts-stay, was one of the hardest during my year abroad. Since I lived with my one friend, worked with the other and spent all of the remaining time travelling together, my life in Ecuador was unimaginable without the two of them in it. However knowing the time would come that I stay without them in Ecuador, I asked FIIDES to change my project for one of the two remaining months. With the help of Belen, I was able to spent one of those months in Latacunga, working in S.A.B.I.A. It was the best decision I could have made. For 4 weeks I experienced life in a farm straight out of a “Heidi” book: never-ending fields of green, mountain ranges all around, rivers and roses and strawberries and above all else 85 rescued street dogs from all over Ecuador. The magic and charms of this precious piece of land is indescribable as is the love and care with which the dogs are treated. Spending time with them and being part of this incredible foundation for just a short amount of time has touched my heart in a way that will follow me to Germany and will make me want to come back the moment I can.