Location: The Amazon

Today was by far the best day of the Amazon and possibly one of the best of my life. We began our morning with a leisurely wake-up time of 7:30 for breakfast at 8:00 o’ clock. Breakfast consisted of eggs fried or scrambled, bread with jam and butter, fruit, fresh juice, and coffee. We took various boats through the river until we got to a bus with an overhead roof. With some bus singing to pass the time, we finally reached our destination- the Sumak Alpa School. Piling into the school, we were a little nervous, but the smiles on the kid’s faces put us at ease. After a short introduction, we went outside for a game of Simon Says. A quick game of international soccer broke out, and we were amazed by their skills. We then broke off into smaller groups, including frisbee games, working on soccer skills, and dancing. The kid’s smiles were from ear to ear only matched by our own. I instantly clicked with a young girl named Vanessa. Although a language barrier existed, we were still able to teach each other our traditional hand games and play frisbee. After a long wait for the kids, we brought our little treats and toys. Toys, paint, tattoos, balloons, and coloring books were passed around, and the kids loved every second of it. We gave the kids temporary tattoos and painted some faces and snapped some pictures. After a long morning of play, we sat in the kid’s desks and were treated to a traditional Ecuadorian meal. Hector, our tour guide, informed us that it was customary to finish our entire meal of chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, lentils, and yuca. We were again treated to another surprise after lunch. We watched a traditional dance by the women and men and then were invited to join. We all danced together to some music and then went inside for a traditional lesson taught by our fellow Lifeworks friend Mariela. She taught about recycling and the difference between organic and inorganic. We then put into practice what we preached and began collecting garbage from around the school with the kid’s help. We set up a fire to burn some of the items that were in the designated bag. While we tried to get the fire growing, some of us played some more with the kids. They taught us more traditional games, and lots of hugs and smiles were exchanged. Lifeworks was challenged to a rematch, but this time with the teens and adults. Slipping and sliding in the mud, we all took off our shoes and embraced the mud. It was a good game (Lifeworks are the reining champs) and while we were playing torrential rain broke out. We all slipped and fell in the mud getting down and dirty. Even Alejandro, who was enjoying taking pictures of others falling, fell himself. Finally, taking inspiration from the kids, we all dove face-first and on our butts through the mud. We were all laughing and smiling, taking joy from the little things in life. We went into the back to be washed off. We were drenched with the hose and cold water, and we left soaked but smiling from ear to ear. We piled back in the bus taking in the whole day, which led to the Jayda quote of the day “Oh look, they have Direct TV here.” We rode back to our hotel and reveled in our hot showers. For dinner, meat with bacon sauce was served and a vegetarian omelet followed by papaya. As our night came to a close, we tucked into bed, and Mariela and I took to our usual violent card games. After such a long night, we finally went to sleep excited for the Andes tomorrow and thankful for such an amazing day today.