New Year, New Adventures!

Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
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Trip End Apr 09, 2013


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Where I stayed
La Luna Hostel
Hostel Tutamanda
Yunguilla

Flag of Ecuador  ,
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holy Guacamole its been WAAAAAYYYYY too long! A month out and the adventures continue. Been away four months now, still enjoying the freedom and spontaneity of travel, but I am missing family and friends :)


OH CHRISTMAS TREE, OH CHRISTMAS TREE:

Lets trasport ourselves back in time shall we? First off I would like to wish everyone a very very VERY belated Merry Christmas! Although it was almost a month ago now, I still remember the fuzzy feelings and excitement that comes along with this holiday. Even down here in Ecuador, I experienced the anticipation for Christmas, despite the lack of snow! Being a dominantly Catholic society, Christmas is perhaps the biggest fiesta (party) of the year. I spent this holiday with two extraordinarily special people I consider my family, Arden and Kelby. I still remember the day of their arrival - sprinting through the airport looking like a ridiculous gringo to throw myself at them in a big embrace. Three months of independent travel and Iīll admit it was amazing to be amongst familiar company. I am unable to measure my appreciation for the laughs, stories, and memories we shared together. For two weeks the three of us travelled, visiting Moņtanita (a crazy surf town where days go from noon til 5 am - every day of the week!), experiencing Navidad (xmas) in Cuenca, and living in luxury for Kelbyīs 19th at Hacienda Uzhupud near El Cabo.

Christmas together was unforgetable. To continue the tradition, we went on a scavenger hunt for a real Christmas tree in Cuenca only to quickly discover that in this part of the world, real Christmas trees donīt really exist! I remember the excitement Kelbs and I had, however, as we found a real cedar bush at a department store and racing around the place with a cart full of supplies, getting a few funny looks from people at the sight! Our tree, ok that might be giving it a bit too much credit... our BUSH, was awefully delightful if I donīt say so myself! We pulled out of our memories the olī Waldorf ornaments and made others from chocolate wrappers and other peculiar sources to ensure we could celebrate around a Christmas bush of our own :)

My time with Arden and Kelby went by too fast. The swimming and cooking on the coast, the Christmas Eve Parade in Cuenca (in which it seemed was the enitre population of Cuenca plus the entire donkey, pig, sheep, and horse population of the surrounding regions! It lasted over 6 hours!), what became our famous room changes in hotels (reception got to know us and our Spanglish skills awfully well!), Kelby shooting awake completely panicked in the middle of the night hearing what she initially thought was an air-raid alarm and waking us all up only to find out shortly after it was just the bomberos (fire hall) alarm, and as well, playing sports and enjoying the worldīs greatest chocolate cake, the three of us together, surrounded by the Andean mountains.

I enjoyed their company so much and felt so grateful to be able to share the holdiay season with them. I have never been good at goodbyes, and spent another tearful taxi ride to my hostel after having to say goodbye to them at the airport :( Thank you Arden and Kelby. This is a Christmas holiday I will NEVER forget.


THAT WASNīT NO SILENT NIGHT!:

2013 holds a lot in store for us all. I sincerely hope everyone has had an extraordinary start to the new year!

This past month has been action-packed with all sorts of crazy new South American adventures. One of the most memorable surely has to be New Years in Cuenca. During New Yearīs day the markets were full of stalls selling masks, fireworks, costumes, and more, busy with customers preparing for the night. As evening approached, groups of young lads dressed as females could be found in the middle of almost every street, preventing the passage of cars with skipping rope and singing until said cars gave them a few coins each. As the night progressed, and darkness dawned upon Cuenca, the first of the fireworks took off. When the clock struck midnight, it seemed that all hell broke loose! The custom here in Ecuador is to create a lifesize aņo viejo dolls to symbolize someone who has created grief in your life this past year, then at midnight, burn them in streets. As 2013 officially begun, you could peer down the streets and see bonfire upon bonfire of these dolla erupting into flames. The scary part? They put firecrackers into the dolls, so when they burn, random bits of doll corpse go flying in every direction, necessarily being dodged by passersby. With the added handheld firework explosions in addition to the burning piles, it appeared that the entire city had been set ablaze! Throw in some beer, champaigne, dancing, blaring music and another custom of jumping over the roaring doll fires, and you have officially experienced a piece of New Years in Cuenca!


BACK TO SCHOOL..... AGAIN?:

My theory is that I took a gap year to AVOID school, tests and stress, but my initiation into the second leg of this crazy year off, put me right back in the seat of a student again, in learning a wee bit more spanish.

A ten hour bus journey delivered me to a hostel/spanish school in Quito at which I nervously awaited the arrival of the Quest Overseas group from the UK. For the next three months I am a component of a gap year group during which we divide our time into three phases: language, volunteer, and expedition. These first three weeks of January have been the language phase in which we attended spanish lessons 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. The rest of the time we explored everything Quito and the surrounding area had to offer. A group of five chicas (French, Belgian, two Brits, and me the Canadian) with leader, we've taken on salsa lessons (and came out with only a few stepped-on toes!), observed the basilica, paid a visit to a British inmate at the women's prison, and wandered through the Museum of Contemporary Art.

We've managed to wander a little further out of town, stopping in Otovalo and checking out the gigantic artesian and animal markets, swam in freezing cold waterfalls, experienced an authentic Shaman cleansing of one of our own - Maddy (including projectingly spat alcohol and branch beatings!), trekking crater lakes at 3500 meters, visiting thermal springs, partaking in experiments at the Mitad del Mundo (equator), and surfing in Mompiche. We've also spent a night with local family homestays in Yunguilla - an Eco-village in the cloud forest and faced competition with the Spanish professors - maintaining the legacy of victorious Quest football (soccer) matches.

We also trekked through the cloud forest for hours on a weekend. Mother Nature is pretty darn amazing as the forest boasted 200 species of orchids, various mammals, and we even had a run in with a tarantula (with many a girlie shriek to accompany this sighting). I'm also certain I fell on my behind dozens of times due to the muddy conditions, and walked into gazillions of spider webs! We all came a away with mud covered clothes, wanting a shower asap!


NEW COUNTRY TODAY:

4 months and only two countries down, yet I still feel like I could spend more time in both Nicaragua and Ecuador! Today I must say my farewells to the absolutely stunning country of Ecuador. My time here has been out of this world, filled with hidden treasures, wild experiences and incredible people. I definitely plan on returning one day.

This evening the Quest group and I are hopping on a jet plane and starting our volunteer phase in a barrio of Lima called Villa Maria. Peru here we come!

More pics to come!
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Comments

William on

Happy New Year Alysia.
The adventure continues. Your writing is so detailed. I truly appreciate you keeping us up to date. My best wishes travel with you :) Journey on.Life is Awesome. LOVE. William

MOM XOXOXO on

So much wonderful culture!!! So good to hear Alysia, that your travels are providing you with so many once in a lifetime opportunities! Much gratitude to Arden and Kelby, our precious family, for sharing in a Christmas, that brought you so much love and support!!!! It seems that the chapter in your book only gets more exciting as you turn the next page. Missing You Lots and Lots Alysia!! XOXO MOM

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