My First Week

Neil Singh - Ecuador


October 10, 2013

The 12 hour bus ride to my homestay Quingeo in Azuay, Ecuador was full of a lot of excitement and gorgeous, varied landscapes. Beautiful rolling pastures, a wide variety of exotic trees and shrubs, and magnificent snow-capped mountains pass by quickly through the windows. You could smell just about everything as well; some odors intoxicating, others overwhelming. That bus ride made me appreciate just how diverse Ecuador is despite its size. I though back to the hustle and bustle of Quito in contrast to this tranquil, pastoral setting.

Since I left the States I have been awestruck by how different and this part of the world is from what I knew. Everything right down to the milk tasted different, and it didn’t take me long to get used to the fact that I’m in South America. I learned a lot over the past month, mostly about language and the cultures in Ecuador but I did learn a lot about myself, and I felt like I was ready to spend a productive 7 months here. My goal is to be an active community member and resource to both my host family and neighbors, and to get to know myself a little better and recharge my batteries before heading back to the states. I want to refocus how I spend my time and be able to do something where I actually feel like I’m learning and doing something important. I already feel as if I’m slowly changing, and for the better.

I arrived in Quingeo on 22nd of September and immediately fell in love with the place. It’s very isolated, mountainous collection of farming communities with about 5,000 people total, and an hour and a half bus ride from the main city Cuenca. Here there’s a harmony between the environment and the townspeople; everything seems to just work well. There are a total of 24 small communities in Quingeo, all connected by dirt-roads and almost everyone has a farm as a backyard. The town square is centered around a large church, and on Sunday’s everyone gathers for mass and spends time with one another. Everybody knows each other and when they saw me they all gave me warm welcomes and exchanged pleasantries.

My host mother (who is also my supervisor) told me more about what I’ll be doing and showed me around her farm. Her family consists of her grandmother, her sister and her niece, which makes me the only boy in a very independent and entirely woman-run household. We have 3 dogs (Zuko, Nene and Brutus), a family of pigs, 6 cows, some sheep, and a lot of chickens along with a couple of vegetable patches and 2 small fields for a variety of crops. For now I’ll be going around the community and attending any needs or concerns of community members as well as working in tree nurseries and greenhouses for a reforestation project.

I would like to apologize for not keeping up with my blog for so long, it was very difficult to find time between Spanish classes and training seminars, but I’ll be sure to write more frequently now that I have more time. I’m really looking forward to my time here up in the mountains and very grateful for this opportunity that I have. I couldn’t ask more from life right now.

Neil Singh