Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our last days in Ecuador

Closing week on the farm has been bittersweet and a little nostalgic. Upon leaving tomorrow, there is seemingly a lot to reflect on since our last post. We dabbled in making salves, have come to understand the historical context of the city of Quito through the Catholic Churches there, and went through a guided meditaion to find our power animals in a sweat lodge.

With one of our hosts, Marcea, we made medicinal salve. We combined collengella, chamomile, plantain, and essence of lavender, for fragrance, with melted beeswax to create a soothing balm. Marcea then showed us the various other products that can be produced from from these beneficial herbs. These products included: face creams, calming tea, muscle rubs, and tinctures.Then later that night, Marcea led a knitting circle. The day was calm, which we were thankful for, considering we had just returned from jungle. These craft making activities created a space for us to further consolidate our relationships.

The following day we prepared ourselves for our trip to Quito. We readied our day packs and set out. The ride was long and bumpy. But thankfully, as opposed to the last trip to Quito, we took a chartered bus and  it took us less than two hours. It didn't take us long to feel the vibrance and passion in architecture of the Historical District. On every block we saw elaborate churches, ordained with pounds of gold. In fact, our guide in the city mentioned that if Quito's churches were to sell all their gold, they would have enough money to pay off the national debt, twice. Nonetheless the churches were magnificent, and upon entering one could feel the power of the church reaching through time. In the Grand Plaza, across from the Presidential Palace, we saw two opposing demonstrations taking place. One group for the president, and one against. They vehemently argued each other in the plaza, demonstrating their right to outwardly protest, a right that isn't so apparent in the United States. We ended the day with a nice dinner in the oldest hotel in the city. Dinner was delicious, but we faced a dilemma of sustainability: We were served water in individual plastic bottles, which made us all cringe. Our time, though short, has changed our perspectives.

Yesterday, our second to last day, started at four in the morning. We were to spend the day, isolated in various locations around the farm. We were told to bring the minimum, consisting of water, a blanket, a notebook, and headlamps. There, we fasted all day, left to meditate on the events of the past three weeks. Spending twelve hours alone was no easy feat, especially after having spent every waking hour (and sleeping hour) together. After our time was over, Thomas, collected us to begin our time in the sweat lodge. We spent two hours inside, each half hour hot rocks were added, rasing the temperature with each addition. Kristen, our professor, led us through in meditation. We began by thanking the East, South, West, and North. As well as thanking the four directions, we thanked our ancestors by speaking their names aloud and sent good inentions to those in need. We then repeated mantras and the guided vision began. By the end of the second hour the heat was nearly unbearable, and all of us were drenched in sweat. Upon stepping out of the sweat lodge we bathed ourselves in the stream nearby, a shock to our overheated bodies. We gathered in a circle and broke our fasts. Dinner consisted of fruits and vegetables. We recounted and analyzed our visions of our spirit animals as we sipped tea quietly around the meal. It was quite a powerful experience.

These last three and a half weeks have been enlightening. We have all gained so much knowledge, theoretical and practical, individual and communal. Many of us have voiced apprehension about returning. How our friends and family will react to the changes we have undergone. How we will react to temptation of returning to our routines. And how we will implement the knowledge and skills we have gained throughout this course. But we all keep these words in our minds: "Sabiduria que no se comparte, no existe." "Wisdom that is not shared, does not exist."

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