It’s that time of the trip… leaving one city and moving on to the next!
Today was our last day in Baños (yes, we are aware that this translates to the word “bathrooms” in English, but it is named Baños because of the hot springs there which are like one big bath tub!). This morning (Friday) we took a bus at 4am and headed back to Otavalo where we will spend the day preparing for our next home stay! Baños has been an amazing experience and a memorable stop on our 3 month long journey through South America. After the day in Otavalo we will head to Pukara and start out third homestay! Everyone is excited to see what this new town will bring and what our new families will be like.
Here are some of the highlights from the past two weeks in Baños: hiking up the volcano that borders the city, going to the hot springs late at night or very early in the morning and relaxing, multiple trips to our favorite restaurant Casa Hood for AWESOME milkshakes, the hunt for the perfect chocolate bar, cracking open fresh coconuts that we just purchased from the massive fruit market, touring the church museum that included dead snakes in jars and of course history of the church, spending a lot of time at the “Love Park” located in the center of the city and having group meetings there, venturing out to the “secret pizza place” that is only kown to locals because of its unique location, embracing the Choco burn/tan lines on our feet, white water rafting down the Rio Verde, horse back riding up the mountains, and making friends with the locals, especially Jorge.
The homestay in Baños was one I will never forget. Compared to our first homestay in Achupallas, where most families were lucky to even have an outhouse, the houses we stayed in were mansions. My family was extremely welcoming and I felt comfortable there right away. I stayed at a house with Ian and we even had a bathroom connected to our bedroom! It was definately a luxury that we don´t encounter often on the trip. My family also owned a dog, Romina, so that helped with the transition (but also made me miss my dog at home A LOT). Between laughing at our Spanish mistakes with the family, watching Disney Channel in Español with my younger sister, and tasting my mom´s homemade meals (which always included some form of potatoes and rice) and her delicious freshly squeezed juices, I would say Baños was a crazy and fun time. My homestay mom had the not-so-fun task of nursing me back to health after a food poisioning scare (Coleman´s mom has to do the same). She constantly made me tea and cheaked in on me every chance she could. She made me feel as comfortable as possible when you are sick in a different country and I am so thankful for that. Some other fun things that happened with the home stay families was when Dan and Marina made their family calzones for dinner one night, Emma´s family took her out to dinner to their favorite restaurant, Julia´s mom made her an incredible chocolate cake, and Cole´s family got us a deal on rafting because they were local travel adjents.
Everyday in Baños we would start out with a few hours of Spanish classes. I think I learned more during that time than I had in any Spanish class I took in High School. After class we would go home and eat lunch with our families and rest a little bit. Then we would return to the school and we taught English classes, directed short plays for elementary school kids, or coached basketball. On the last day of volunteering we painted a mural on the outside of the school and painted other parts of the school to brighten it up a little bit. Even though we were covered in paint after, it was fun and the school definately appreciated our hard work. Also, the basketball team seem to be improving which is close to a miracle because of the language barrier! The plays that Dan, Daniel, and Coleman created were the cutest things in the world and even included songs! We built lasting relationships with our students and I was sad to leave the school.
I am LOVING this trip so far! The group has been getting along great and I think everyone agrees with me when I say that we are all happy we decided to do this trip. Whenever I feel a little homesick I try to find pleasure in little things here. For instance, finding a snickers bar that was very “satisfying”, buying a perfectly ripe avacado for 10 cents, or looking around and appreciating the beautiful mountains surrounding the city (but I am still trying to find a chocolate chip cookie as good as my mom´s back home).
Tomorrow we will be in Pukara (I might have spelled that wrong) for a week. I think this next town is going to inbetween Achupallas and Baños in relation to how rural it is. We never exactly know what to expect when it comes to homestays so I am going to enjoy possibly the last hot shower I will have for awhile.
Hope everything is going well back in the USA!