by Desmond Wadley
Editor’s note: The following is an abbreviated
version of an essay by Desmond Wadley, a
student who spent spring break in Ecuador.
Our group arrived at Guayaquil late in the evening. We desperately wanted to see our surroundings but darkness cloaked the city. In the morning we woke up and were met by a vast metropolis in full swing.
The astounding numbers of shops and restaurants was outdone only by the beauty and intricacy of the architecture that encompassed the city. Roberto, our tour guide, accompanied us, showing the standard sites for most tours: cathedrals, downtown, and the riverfront. While these places did not disappoint, the most notable thing that I witnessed was the zeal and passion with which Roberto spoke about them. He took such pride in his people and their accomplishments. Later, I would find out that this sentiment was echoed by all of the people I met in Ecuador. Roberto issued us a heartfelt farewell as we headed to our next destination, Uzhupud Hacienda.
Not dissimilar from our arrival in Guayaquil, we came upon the hacienda well past sundown. On that night fog and darkness worked in concert to keep us from seeing the full of view our surroundings. We went to bed after dining on a traditional potato soup topped with popcorn. The next morning I discovered a scene which can only be described as magical. As I stepped out of the charming antiquated manor the sprawling hillside revealed itself to me. The horizon was dotted with trees and mountain slopes. The wide open expanse was a bit vexing. I was in such an isolated and remote place, but somehow I felt more free than I have ever felt before. Cows grazed in luscious green pastures that would be the envy of Ireland. This natural beauty could be surpassed only by the grandeur and majesty that we witnessed in Cajas national park. Our time at Uzhupud was very brief but, indeed, unforgettable. Cuenca awaits.
Unlike Guayaquil, we entered Cuenca during the day. We saw clubs, stores, and other fingerprints of an urban area, but we felt the pulse of a suburb. Cuenca was eerily quiet when compared to Guayaquil. A large portion of the residents had traveled to the coast for carnival, a time-honored holiday and tradition. Aside from a few surprise pails of water, we were not seeing much of carnival or of what Cuenca really had to offer. So we waited. Wednesday was the end of carnival and the beginning of the real Cuenca experience. The difference was mesmerizing. Upon departing Hostal Macondo we were greeted by a city teeming with life. The endless merchants, school children, taxis, and buses were a feast for my eyes. Being a part of the morning rush was just the exhilarating charge that I needed for my first day at CEDEI.
My time at CEDEI School is something I will never forget. The staff was warm and receptive. The students welcomed our unfamiliar faces so graciously. Despite the fact that I had come there to teach, it was I who learned quite a few lessons. The most poignant of those being that language barriers do not negate the connections that all human beings share. We all know happiness. The actual word may vary among languages, but the smile of a child incites the same rewarding joy regardless of where you are or what language you speak. My days at CEDEI were few in numbers; however the impression that the incredible students left on me will last a life time. The same can be said for my entire excursion to Ecuador.
There was so much to see in so little time. We crisscrossed the country stopping to see cities and their precious gems. Yes, there were bumps along the way but with each second I drew closer to my travel companions, whom now I consider close friends. As we traveled great distances on our bus, to escape all I had to do was look out of my window. Now at home, I find myself missing that view. I vow to see it again. Until then, Ecuador, you will always be in my heart.
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