Ninth Grade Four Point : Ecuador!

March 13, 2018

Day 11:  Finishing up at Sinchi Warmi!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

(From Mrs. Barstow)

We had a HOT last full day at Sinchi Warmi! A highlight was the chocolate tour. We visited the cacao chacra (farm) and got to see how cacao is harvested, fermented, and then prepared for various delicious forms of chocolate! This activity culminated with most of our crew getting chocolate masks; everyone looked fantastic – before, during, and after! We then had some time to prepare presentations for the final event at Sinchi Warmi.
Just as we were about to start the final presentations, the lights went out! We managed with flashlight and candles, and the show went on. The local girls started with a crowd-pleasing traditional dance and invited all of us to join in.  The Gould students then performed some songs and dance numbers that were a big hit! The most special part of the evening was when all the homestay partners presented the donations and shared their heartfelt thanks. The hosts were as grateful and presented thoughtful, handmade gifts. Overall, it was a wonderful cross-cultural experience. Everyone is off to bed, and tomorrow we will start our journey back to Quito.
– Nancy

Day 10:  Service, Swim, and an Animal Rescue Center

Monday, March 12, 2018.

(From Mrs. Barstow)

We had another full day in beautiful Ecuador!  We started off the day helping out a little more with tuning up a walking path at Sinchi Warmi. It was really hot today, so we took a break and headed to a BEAUTIFUL swimming hole! It was a little adventure: swimming, jumping off a rope swing, hiking to another spot, and more water fun!

After a delicious lunch we headed down the Napo River in covered, motorized canoes to an animal rescue center with the local hosts. The students were tired after the day and returned to their homes for dinner and sleep.

We’ll be in touch soon!


Day 9: Rivers and Work

Sunday, March 11, 2018.

(From Ms. Wilkerson)

This morning students returned to Sinchi Warmi from their first night of homestay. Although we hadn’t been apart for long, there were plenty of stories and laughs.

After a check-in, we set to work. While at Sinchi Warmi, we offer to help with a variety of projects. Today, we helped maintain a walking path through the forest. With sacks, we carried sand to wet and uneven parts of the trail. After that, we ate lunch and headed out to the Napo River.

The Napo River runs through the small town of Puerto Misahuallí, just a short drive from Sinchi Warmi. From the town, we headed up river in taxis so we could come downriver with inner tubes! The 4-kilometer float had enough whitewater to ensure we got wet! Some of the homestay kids joined us, which made the trip even more fun!

Back on shore, we saw monkeys! That was pretty exciting for most of the kids. The students stocked up on snacks and came back to Sinchi Warmi.

Tonight we were able to deliver students to their homestay “casas,” and it felt great. All are in good hands here with generous and warm families. 

Tomorrow morning we’ll be helping with another project at Sinchi Warmi before visiting the Animal Rescue Center.

 -Ms. Wilkerson

Day 8: Guayusa Ceremony

Saturday, March 10, 2018.

(Mrs. Barstow and Ms. Wilkerson)

4:45am came early but the group was up and rolling in the dark to meet the Shaman who lives with and serves La Libertad. We walked in the dark to a hut up-river of the community. Guayusa was prepared for us as the shaman and others in the community interpreted our dreams. Next the students were offered a traditional healing. They were forewarned that while the healing isn’t painful, it can be uncomfortable. I’ll leave the details to be recounted in person. Each student chose to receive the Shaman’s work. This is an all in group! Before we broke down our campsite, we had a little tour of the Chachra, an agroforest within La Libertad. 

We then moved onto another indigenous community, Sinci Warmi. Before the families arrived, our students had a chance to do some activities and games with some of the local teenagers and children. They had a lot of fun! We all had a wonderful dinner, and then the students met up with their homestay families. The families were so welcoming and happy to meet them! Some walked to the homes and others took a short ride in a cab. 
(We’ll get the rest of the host family pictures up soon)
– Tracey and Nancy

Day 7: La Libertad!

Friday, March 9, 2018.

(From Mrs. Wilkerson)

Is it possible that each new day in Ecuador is our best day in Ecuador? We left the town of Tena on the morning of day 7 and made our way to the community of La Libertad. Though La Libertad isn’t far from the town of Tena, it feels decades away. 

Our introduction to the people of La Libertad was through the children. After brief introductions in Spanish and Kichwa, our Gould students offered presentations about their country of origin. I think we can all agree though, the USA national anthem is challenging to sing well! The tall and the small were then paired for an activity, developing a secret handshake. It was hilarious, touching, and sweet to see our big kids interacting so well with La Libertad’s small kids, without a common language. A rousing game of soccer and of Ecua-volliball left most of us sweating (jungle air) and very happy. 

We headed into the Chakras (forest gardens) in La Libertad to plant some chonta trees. The trees are used primarily for lumber in the community. The community of La Libertad practices agroforestry, which is perfect for their rainforest ecosystem. Rainforest soils are fragile, and need the constant input of actively living and dying forest plants and animals. Rather than clearing the land to plant food and medicinal crops, the community encourages biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem by both planting and supporting native forest species. 

After planting trees and eating fresh-off-the-tree cocoa seeds, it was time for a swim in the river. The water comes cool and fast down the mountains. The community of La Libertad is upstream of all the other communities, so the river is as clean as it can be.

A delicious traditional lunch and dinner were prepared for us over an open fire in Bijao leaves.

We returned to the tents we’d set up earlier in the day for a short night of sleep, but not before an optional walk in the dark through the Chakra. 

This group of students embraces every opportunity to get the most from their short time in Ecuador. 

-Ms Wilkerson


Day 6: Exploring Tena and Preparing to go to the Kichwa Village, La Libertad!

Thursday , March 8, 2018.

(From Mrs. Barstow)

Another fun day was had in beautiful Ecuador! We started the day with another fabulous breakfast of homemade bread and jam, fresh fruit, and eggs. We then took a walk down to the edge of the jungle to get our bearings before we start our adventure tomorrow.

I think we would all agree though that the highlight of the day was our trek through the Jumandy Caves. It was a stunning sight of stalactites and stalagmites, GIANT spiders, bats, and more! It was a really fun adventure that the students will tell you all about upon their return, I’m sure!
The students are starting to prepare presentations for the first indigenous village that we will visit tomorrow. We will visit a Kichwa village called La Libertad. The following day we will move onto Sinchi Warmi, where the home stays will be.  Our service may be spotty the next few days, but we’ll do our best to get some updates and pictures out to you.

Maria trying an Amazonian worm!

Until next time,

Day 5: Otavalo to Tena and the Amazon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018.

(From Mrs. Barstow and pictures by Louis and Maria)

The views as we dropped down in to the Amazon valley from Papallacta

We had a full day of traveling today. We left Otavalo quite early and headed to the Papallacta Hot Springs that sits at approximately 11,000 feet above sea level. We ordered our food and then enjoyed the hot springs. What a beautiful place and wonderful experience! We then had a great meal and hit the road to Tena. The ride from the mountains to the Amazon was stunning!

Papallacta hot springs

Upon our arrival in Tena, we met up with our Amazon guide, Andy. We had an introduction to the Amazon, took a walking tour of Tena, bought boots for the jungle, and had an amazing meal at the Guayusa Lounge.

Walking into Tena

Looking over Tena

The group has been having so much fun, and we are excited to learn more about Tena tomorrow before heading to La Libertad village

-Mrs. Barstow

Day 4: Cuicocha, a Dormant Volcano

Tuesday, March 6, 2018.

(From Ms. Wilkerson)

After a wee little sleep-in, we greeted our second day in Otavalo. Breakfast of freshly baked bread, fresh fruit with granola and yogurt fueled the morning. We met our friend Juan (the man with the van) on the street and headed off for the day. Driving down the road, out of the city, we passed sheep and cows tethered and grazing near the side of the road. Stray dogs roam free and look like Siberian huskies, labs, shepherds, Yoda, and everything in between. 

Our destination was a crater lake, Cuicocha, in the basin of a dormant volcano. We hiked along the rim of the basin. From the ridge, we could look down the steep slope to the lake below or out across miles of green farm land and misty mountains.

After the hike, we went for a boat ride around and between the large islands in the lake. We were told that the islands in the lake are home to guinea pigs (cuy), rabbit, coyote, and more. Despite my eagle eyes, I didn’t see any wild guinea pigs. Nor did anyone else. We did, however, see many birds. Although we’re not far from the equator, it isn’t hot here! After the boat ride, we were treated to a traditional cinnamon flavored hot drink. Delicioso!

Lunch was next. At a restaurant looking over Cuicocha, guinea pig lake, you might guess what was on the menu for lunch. Guinea pig. Guinea pig is a traditional Ecuadorian food. Prepared in the traditional way, it looks a lot like a guinea pig when it’s on your plate, ready to eat. That was an adventure!

There was free time in the afternoon for kids to go to the market, take a nap, journal, or sit in the swinging chairs in the hotel entryway. It’s been great to hear all the Spanish being spoken by our savvy travelers! They can all navigate the market pretty well.

Tomorrow we’re off to Tena. The journey takes us over high mountains and down into the Amazon jungle. On our way, we’ll stop at the town of Papallacta for a dip in the natural hot springs.

-Ms. Wilkerson

Day 3: ¡Bienvenidos a Otavalo!

Monday, March 5, 2018

(From Ms. Wilkerson)

Today we left Quito and traveled by van to Otavalo. Otavalo is a beautiful small city. It’s surrounded by emerald green farms and misty mountains. One of those emerald green farms is the home of Mr. Quinatoa’s mother.

I can’t even express how wonderful it was to be with Mr. Quinatoa’s family harvesting corn, beans, and potatoes. After the kids harvested the food, shucked the corn, and removed the beans, the harvest was immediately prepared for a typical Ecuadorian meal. The food here has been wonderful, but today’s lunch was a real treat. It doesn’t get any fresher or tastier than in Mr. Quinatoa’s house! It was also a treat to spend some time with Mr. Quinatoa’s family.


After a quick stop at our hotel we went for a short hike to a beautiful waterfall.

The kids had free time to explore the market and the shops in Otavalo before dinner, and nearly everyone now has a fab new poncho.


Day 2: Exploring the Equator!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

(From Nancy Barstow)

Wow, it was a full day of getting oriented and acclimated in and around Quito! We started the day enjoying some delicious empanadas and fresh juice. We loved it so much we are planning on going to the same place tomorrow morning! Our next stop was a gondola ride called Teleferico. We rode the gondola to the top of a volcano called Rucu Pichincha. The views of the city and natural scenery were amazing. We then moved onto The Equator (Mitad del Mundo). We had a guide and the students had a lot of fun with the equator-related activities. Half the group walked away with the title, “Master of the Egg.” Fun was had by all! We finished the day having a lovely meal in Old Quito (Centro Historic).

Learning about the many fruits and vegetables in Ecuador.

A view of Quito.

The streets of Quito.

Tomorrow we are headed to Otavolo. We will be in touch with photos and news of our next adventure!

– Nancy


Here We Go!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In a few days, we’ll have ninth graders all over the world in China, Ecuador, and Tanzania as they take part in their first Gould Four Point experience. 10 students will be in Ecuador learning about the country, staying with local families, visiting schools, and immersing themselves in the culture there. Students have been working on various topics related to their destinations in their History and English classes. They have also been preparing their journals, packing their bags, and thinking about all of the things they might learn on through this experience. Our older students who have already completed a Ninth Grade Four Point trip look back on their experience and say, “I learned more than I ever thought I would!”

We can’t wait to hear what this year’s students have to say about their experience.

Keep up to date with their trip by following this blog. Trip leaders will do their best to post updates regularly.



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