By Scott Buksbaum, Mitzvah Corps Ecuador 2017 Participant
The weekend was special compared to the rest of the week. After day in and day out of tiring work, we all craved a break. Little did we know that that was close to impossible.
Friday began like any other day, except it was completely different. We woke up for breakfast, and then we left for a relatively flat hike around a beautiful lagoon. We arrived at Cotopaxi National Park full of energy and ready for a relaxing hike. As a group, we all despaired as we laid eyes upon the path and terrain ahead; it was anything but flat, with stairs stretching up the mountain higher than the clouds. Despite all this though, we pushed through and that made it ever more satisfying when we made it out the other side. When all the travelers emerged from the trail, we were greeted with one of the best sights that someone in our position could have ever dreamed of: lunch. After that delicious meal, we made our way to our lodgings for the night. At the lodge, we had an amazing dinner preceding our community Shabbat service. To see all nineteen of us come together in song and prayer was a sight to take one’s breath away. A nice dip in the thermal pools at Termas Nangulvi and a long sleep later, we were all ready for the next day to come.
On Saturday, our staff shared with us the information they had received, that today would be a short hike up to a coffee farm where we would be given a tour. Once again, the hike was anything but short. And once again, that made the success at the end ever more satisfying. When we got to the top, we were greeted with gigantic dogs and a very nice lady named Monique and her son, José. Then the tour began, and we learned so much about growing coffee, different crops, and the overall process of making coffee. Afterwards, we went up to the house, which was beautifully made out of bamboo and brick, and tried coffee and tea made from coffee shells. We relaxed for a bit as we learned more about Monique and her history. We walked back to the lodge and enjoyed the long ride back to the village. The rest of the day was relaxing in the village; we were back home.
Sunday began with a bus ride to a bird sanctuary, where we saw our fair share of owls and hawks who were rescued and healed from the wild. We even saw some condors, the largest bird in the world, who is also endangered. Afterwards, we headed to the Otavalo Market, where we were given a couple of hours of free time in the market to get lunch and shop. The market was made up of local artisans’ handcrafted items, such as blankets and sweaters made out of Alpaca wool and local instruments. I got a super soft blanket made out of alpaca wool. When we arrived back in our village, we decided to cook for the family who has been so gracious to us during our stay in their village.
Overall, the weekend has been eventful and exciting. We laughed and lived in Intag, Chilcapamba, and Otavalo. We learned more about ourselves, our Judaism, and our ongoing mission to improve and fix the world. I am glad that I was able to spend this amazing weekend with such wonderful people; it’s been just another piece in this overall incredible adventure that we are on together.