Genesis 1. God created and saw that it was good!
The last nine days here in Ecuador have been somewhat of a surreal experience. We left Cuenca on Saturday morning at 5 am for our 8 hour bus ride into the jungle. As we drove through the mountains and felt the air gradually get warmer and warmer, I sat in awe at the majesty of the creation we were driving through. Although Ecuador is a small country in comparison, it is diverse and gorgeous. As we were in the Jungle for the first few days, I saw so many incredible sights and expereinced so many things that I couldnt even have imagined before. On the first day we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool. It was really hot out and on top of that, the humidity in the jungle blows the humidity in Indiana out of the water, if you can imagine that! When it started to get dark we had a great time of relaxing, talking, playing cards, and laying in the hammock on our back porch. It was so great to have a little time to relax and get to know the other students more. The next morning we woke up early to go on a hike through the amazon rain forest. I still cant believe it as I write it here, we literally were in the amazon rain forest discovering more of God's beauty in person. As we were hiking we saw more varieties of vegetation than I have ever seen in my life, I expereinced more sweat dripping off of my body then I have ever felt in my life, and when we got back and jumped in the pool, I experienced on of the most refreshing moments of my life. It was incredible! At one point on the hike they had a rope swing that we could swing over a bunch of trees and see really far. It was a little scary to know that I was holding on for my life, but it was beautiful. That afternoon we got to go to a Butterfly nursery where they had millions of butterflys everywhere with colors that I didnt even know existed in nature. Then, later when we got back to the hotel, a few of us decided to go exploring on some of the other small islands that surrounded our hotel. We swam across a small part of the river and we were exploring when we found a patch of coconut trees, monkeys swinging from the trees, and a freshly dead horse. It was really funny because as we were standing there trying to decide whether it was a horse of a cow, it started to deflate (we are guessing built up gas started to release?) and it smelled like death. Literally, we couldnt handle the smell so we started to run away and swim back and in the process we lost our coconuts. It was a really funny situation, but interesting none the less.
The next day was my favorite day of the whole trip. We started off at an animal reserve where we got to see a ton of indigenous animals in their natural habitat including, monkeys, leopards, toucans, parrots, anacondas, turtles and some other animals that I dont know the names of. Some of the animals were beautiful and nothing like I had imagined them. After a few hours of hiking and discovering animals, we went really far up the river so that we could take the current back. We then got out of our boat and sat in tubes like a lazy river and rode the river for hours. It was so fun, all of us together were enjoying the rain forest from a slow ride down the river in a tube. Also, half way through the ride we found another rope swing that went into the river, so we all stopped and got out and were swinging into the river. It was so great, then we asked the guide if we could climb the big tree and jump in from there and he didnt seem to care, so some of us climbed this huge tree and jumped in from there. It was really scary, but so exhilarating. Then we finished off the day going to see some indigenous people where we got our faces painted, we got to shoot blow guns (I hit the target on the first try, who knew?), and we also got to see them make some of their handicrafts. Then we got back, took showers and had a Euchre tournament. It was a beautiful day!
The final day we had to get up early and catch a bus to Quito where we met up with Maria DeLourdes and prepared to go to the Galapagos. We had the afternoon in Quito where we got some Pizza Hut, this seems to be the norm when we are all together, and spent time doing a Bible Study and Worship. It was a great relaxing day before we had to do some more traveling. The next morning we woke up at 4 am to grab some breakfast and head to the airport. I was so stinking excited to get to the galapagos, that the four hour plane ride felt like forever. But, as we were sitting on the plane and looked out and saw islands, we all freaked out! We were in the stinking Galapagos, which we so lovingly call the Galaps. When we finally got all of our stuff and made it to our hotel, we changed quickly and then went to the Charles Darwin institute. There we got to see Lonely George (I'll be honest, not as exciting as everyone says) and other large tortoises. They were enormous and really interesting, the way that they moved everyrthing was so cool. After we did some of that tourist stuff we finally got our first taste of the Ocean. Although saltier than I remember, it felt so great! We had some time to chill in the water, and the headed back to the hotel to change and find a place for dinner. We ended up going to this place that kind of reminded me of a fair, they just had alot of booths where you could get fresh pretty much anything that you wanted. I ended up getting a mango smoothie and chicken on a stick. A great way to end our first day in the Galaps.
The next day we spent on a boat touring some of the islands, snorkling, and swimming with the sea lions. While we were touring we saw some really interesting animals, the blue footed boobie, penguins, sea lions (which in spanish is actually aquatic wolves), and other interesting looking birds. As we were snorkling we got to see some really beautiful fish, coral, and (prepare yourself for this) Sharks! Literally, swimming beneath us as we were snorkling we saw a HUGE shark. It was probably 8 or 9 feet in length. I was so scared, but it was just so unbelievable. Then as we were swimming with the sea lions they would come over and get really close. Then if you would do a flip or something in the water, they would play with you and imitate you as well. It was so incredible! I still cant get over it. In fact the rest of the time in Galapagos was spent on boats, snorkling and swimming in the clear water. For those of you that know me, life doesnt get much better than that. As we were heading back on the last day out there, we started to see dolphins. There were hundreds surrounding us jumping and flipping and showing us how great they are! It was surreal standing there on the boat and looking out as the sun was setting seeing these dolphins surround us. I was in awe.
The ride back was a bit rough, but we got some McDonalds while we were in Gualaquil, so that made it a little better! This week we have alot of work to catch up on to get everything done, but the break was incredible. I would love to write more about it, but for now I am out of time. Thanks for all of your prayers and support. You are blessings.