Hola! My name is Raine and I volunteer as an art therapist in Quito, Ecuador with Performing Arts Abroad. Ecuador is a stunning location full of various climates and cultural diversity, largely determined by the altitude. Ecuador’s three continental regions: La Sierra (mountain range), El Oriente (the East), and La Costa (coast), allow you to experience many types of terrain, and climates within a day’s travel. Making Ecuador the perfect destination for an indecisive traveler.
I travelled to Quito, Ecuador from Ontario, Canada, with very little knowledge of the language, a suitcase of excitement, and an interest in new cultures and experiences. My first month has been incredible. I have learned a lot, most importantly the language, as well as mastering the art of charades where my Spanish vocabulary falls short.
I spend my weeks living with a wonderful host family and working as a volunteer with children who have disabilities. On weekends I travel throughout the country. During my first weekend I met other volunteers with whom I enjoyed exploring Quito, Quilotoa and the Center of the World. Straddling the equator with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern was an incomprehensible experience. Apparently, while standing on the equator you lose about three quarters of a pound… so naturally, I treated myself to an extra large lunch (and fell in love with Ecuadorian food). The following day we traveled a few hours by bus to Quilotoa, a water-filled caldera and the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. The view from the top was just as incredible as the view from inside the crater. We hiked the 10km steep and sandy trail down and road horseback out (thankfully).
During my second weekend I met with a fellow volunteer in Riobamba (approx. four hours by bus from Quito). The next morning we took a 45 minutes bus to Chimborazo, an inactive stratovolcano with a peak elevation (20,564 ft) that is the farthest from the Earth’s center. We hiked a portion of the mountain and although the altitude was tiring, the view ahead generated an inexhaustible supply of enthusiasm. As we hiked, the clouds would roll in and consume us, as well as the view of the mountain ahead. Every so often the clouds would break and for a short period of time we were graced with the indescribable view of Chimborazo’s snow-covered peak. The next day we walked to the local market and chose to purchase fruit that we had not seen before and/or couldn’t pronounce the name of. Safe to say we purchased a lot. One of the many wonderful things about Ecuador is that the food, especially from the market, is incredibly affordable and fresh.
I spent the following weekend on the coast with friends, relaxing in Santa Domingo and on the beach in Esmeraldas. In Santa Domingo I spent time hiking and swimming within the forest. On the Sunday I took a bus two hours to the beach. As I lay in the hot sun, it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the previous weekend I had been touching snow in the mountains.
I thoroughly enjoy my project, host family, and the Ecuadorian culture. In my remaining weekends I plan on traveling to the jungle, Baños and a leather market. My experience in Ecuador has been incredible. I am grateful for the opportunity that this volunteer position has afforded me.
Written by Raine Storey, Performing Arts Abroad art therapy volunteer in Ecuador