So, before I start, I need to put one thing straight.
I am terrible in the mornings.
I mean, not so much the grumpy factor, but I just can’t form a sentence together for an hour or so after waking up (ask Nicole, she had to converse with a zombie for two weeks in a tent, bless.) So on this particular morning, after hearing a mumble in the distance that we were having pancakes I apparently jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and took the ugliest selfie on Nicole’s phone (which I honestly have no recollection of) and walked to and fro from the toilets forgetting either shoes, toothpaste or a toothbrush.
The closest thing to a zombie you’ll ever see.
So after blessing Nicole with a puffed up, still half sleeping portrait on her phone, we ate our pancakes (shout out to Maddi and her fab pancakes skills) to find out that we had the morning off! Another coffee was calling!
Gemma and I took advantage of the free time and did the ever exciting task of clothes washing, which didn’t do much difference honestly, but there was so much more to washing clothes than the actual process. It always brought out the reminiscent side to everyone, (I know ridiculous, how can washing a t-shirt or minging socks make you so nostalgic?) and today was no exception as Gemma and I talked about the first time we met, how she thought I’d be an annoying blonde and seriously intense, and wouldn’t get along (Gemma as lovely and honest as ever ha!) and how we’d all grown so ridiculously close over the past three weeks. We couldn’t believe we were ¾ through our Ecuadorian journey.
After draining the clothes I helped myself to another coffee, chilled with a bit of Persuasion (great read by Jane Austen guys it you’re interested) and after Wentworth (one of the main characters) annoyed the heck out of me I decided to paint my nails, which then became a communal nail polish! We were all repping the coral blue nails by the end of the trip.
Lunch arrived and of course Will was the dusty bin once again. After running up to get seconds he’d wait like a vulture to see who was done so he could have theirs. It became a running theme throughout the trip, and by this point he didn’t even need to ask. His puppy dog eyes said it all, between him and Pillow (the Camp’s adopted polar bear lookalike dog) no food went to waste. Ever.
Project work started in the afternoon, and just when the path builder gang thought our forearms had recovered… oh, how wrong we were.
Today had a new challenge though, because we weren’t just making a path, but we had to move a MASSIVE tree trunk that blocked the path. Now, remembering the words the Camp Leaders had told us, ‘watch out for snakes, spiders, ants and anything else that looks dodgy,’ and then ‘don’t aggravate them,’ heaving a massive trunk into the deeper parts of the forest surely wasn’t wise? After debating what to do, we decided we had to do just that, someone had to do it and we were the idiots that decided to; Charlotte, Gemma, Nicole, Ellie, Norman, and me.
I’ll have you know we were uber strong and we moved it successfully, only to find a huge bee’s nest lying underneath. Bee’s in North Wales wouldn’t phase me, but in Ecuador, who knew what these bee’s were capable of. We carried on with the path, Ellie and myself singing along to Lion King and Les Mis, while Charlotte and Nicole danced along to Tom Misch.
As we were finishing the day’s duties, two local boys came up to us to give us some white wild flowers. We were all so moved with this sign of affection, we all placed them behind our ears and finished the day in an even better mood than before.
Now, afterwards we decided to have another game of netball. Again, I don’t want to go into detail, but for some reason someone decided that it would be a good idea for Will and myself to mark each other. (the two most competitive people in the group) After the screaming, threatening attitude and slight contact (when I say slight I nearly dislocated Will’s shoulder) we finally hugged it out. We had a heart to heart in the end, to make sure our friendship wasn’t at stake, haha lol. We walked back to Camp, and when we got back, the main topic was how horrible a sportswoman I am.
I’m not proud of this, but this has got to be an honest account hasn’t it after all?
While we were queuing for the shower I realised to my absolute horror that there were scratch marks all over Will’s back, something I did (not on purpose may I point out) while marking him. At which point I was mortified and made a conscious decision never to play against Will on a team. Ever again.
Still feel bad about that Wilhelm, soz!
The night ended with one of my favourite quotes from the whole trip. As we were all on our tip toes ready to run for dinner, Omar was the first to arrive. After asking him why the sudden rush, he said, I quote “My full African kicked in once I heard chicken.” I swear I nearly wet myself.
Anaemic toast and coco pops for brekky, whoop whoop.
Before project work started we talked all things related to DR. Who (which I am currently binge watching on Netflix, you can’t beat Tennant.) and turns out Sarah is quite to DR. who fanatic, aswell as Harry Potter (which we’ll get onto later.)
Project work consisted of cleaning the school, to prepare further work on it. After being the good domestic housewives we are, we decided to go and help the lads in building the foundations of the house.
We did have good intentions.
But, some of us just weren’t very good at hammering nails, okay? I gave it a try, but the poor locals didn’t want to say anything, but we were actually much more of a hindrance than help. After an awkward exchange of girls to try and hammer a single nail we decided we’d better go throw ourselves in another project, which was gardening.
I despise gardening.
I couldn’t have looked less enthusiastic ripping weeds, planting and replanting, doing all those lovely garden related jobs. But then I mentally slapped myself, remembering that I should’ve been grateful, doing even the little jobs, as the locals stared at me in wonder doing something so simple.
After the morning of project work we had a sports day with the community which was so much fun. We took part in the cultural sports, like throwing a spear at a parrot (a wooden, painted one), blowing into this heavy wooden pipe, which had a needle in it, and as you blew it was meant to hit the melon target.
Of course, now that I had a reputation as an awful partaker in sports, Iain was egging me on and provoking me relentlessly. It honestly felt like sports day for me, the ever-present nauseous feeling creeping up. Annoyingly, Iain got a packet of my favourite biscuits for getting first in one of the games, which riled me even more. I wanted to kill him at this point.
The next game was tug of war. This was the lowest point of my competitiveness, and I honestly look and sound like a mad woman. There’s a video on facebook, and all you can see is a shrieking blonde girl at the front, sounding as if I was being tortured. My side lost the first time, so the second time we made sure we won. The third time gave me blisters on top of my blisters, and all in vain because we lost. Iain was placed right in front of me in the last round, which everyone found hilarious apart from me.
Without a word of a lie, after we lost I jogged off and just started heavy breathing and sat by myself for a while. Iain started walking towards me and I thought he was going to be all sarcy, but, being the BFG he is, he just gave me a cuddle and said it was alright. N’aw, he’s a cutie.
We had another round of netball, with everyone playing this time, and we all thought it would be best if I ref’d. Apart from having to stop Ellie and Sarah killing each other, it was a good match.
The local shop (which was hardly ever open) was calling, and after running around all day Amor biscuits were calling.
To finish the day off, Maddi, Niamh, Tamara, Grace and myself went to teach the locals English. It was pitch black so off we toddled with out headlights on our heads, and I honestly was overwhelmed with how many people had turned up. The school was full of young kids up to the elders of the village!
We taught them numbers, colors, animals (obviously having to re-enact their movements out which they found hilarious) I’ve never wanted to be a teacher, but seeing these people who were so enthusiastic about learning another language was honestly so moving, they even had notepads and taking photos of the whiteboard. It was a great way to end the night.
Who knows, might become a teacher now…
Waking up to your alarm is bad enough, but when a machete wakes you up earlier than need be, it doesn’t leave you in the best of moods…
Today, our entire day was based around THE HOLE. Now I haven’t talked much about the hole until now, but it was the project that everyone loved to hate. Every day a group of people would make it wider and deeper, but it was never done, there was always more work to do. It’s where the wastage system would sit, so it had to be a certain size to make sure the equipment would work. Today, I was part of the team.
We pick axed, dug, scooped, and screamed for three hours. None of us had ever sworn so much in our lives, we were dripping, literally, as if we’d been stuck in torrential rain.
When we thought we’d done, we celebrated in style, with a granny smith. Never did a granny smith taste so good.
After lunch, chicken fajitas, we were told we were having a beading session, where we learnt how the locals use their natural resources to make bracelets and necklaces. It sounded really interesting, we saw how they used thin slices of banana plants for the thread and then a bunch of other stuff.
Personally, I just wanted to make a bracelet, so I got a bunch of colourful beads and started the process with Nicole.
It didn’t end well. Charlotte and Gemma were doing such a good job, even Iain was better than us (with Sarah’s guidance obvs,) and after what felt like a lifetime of trying to weave, we asked one of the local women to ‘help’ us, aka, complete it. As the elder was finishing our bracelet, rainfall started, and once it started it didn’t stop, and it just grew heavier and heavier.
Considering we had a metal, tin like roof, it sounded so much worse, we had to shout at each other to hear each other, it was the definition of torrential. I honestly thought the room was going to cave in.
Guess I can say I experienced a monsoon?
After loads of sbag bol, the English teaching gang headed out to the school. Tonight was the last teaching lesson, which was really sad. There was another great turn out as expected. Today we taught them simple daily phrases they could use, foods they eat on a daily basis, tools they use for their work, and at the end of the session we asked them what else they’d like to learn. They were extremely grateful, and I’m so glad we had the chance to teach such an enthusiastic and thankful bunch of incredible people. After the heart-felt speech we headed back to Camp.
It really was special being able to communicate and care for fellow humans that were from completely different backgrounds, and a noticeable language barrier. We laughed, some cried, and went to sleep feeling a huge sense of joy that our meer hour had meant so much to them.
Today me and Sarah were on lunch duty, which was meatball soup with garlic bread (which took actually a lot of time surprisingly,) and of course what else do you do while buttering a garlic paste on bread apart from a good ol’ DMC?
We talked about how weird it’d be to leave everyone. As we were talking, Colin (the Welsh legend) came in to greet us. He was so eccentric and just utterly hilarious. He was taking us on a jungle trek in two days time, and was here to plan the route that no one had done before.
In the afternoon after doing our lunch duties, most of us went on the yuca plantation trek, where we ventured into the jungle to look at the process of planting and growing the plant. Sadly it started to rain, so we all tried to shelter in the forest. We had to climb a mud slide (literally) and considering we had rain pouring from every direction at us, we could hardly see the path, which didn’t even class as a path. Ellie fell, and after she went it had a domino effect, but luckily I had a branch to hold on to which quite literally saved me from falling into the river beneath me.
We got back to Camp.
And things weren’t all plain sailing.
No matter what organisation you travel with, you’re going to end up arguing or getting annoyed with certain aspects of the trip. Since arriving at Don Biki we’d felt there was a barrier between us and the camp leaders, it was very much ‘us’ and ‘them’ which made us feel inferior. This had been building up for a few days, and today when we got back some of the guys felt frustrated that we were treated like children, for instance in Esmeraldas we were allowed to help ourselves to food and drink, while this wasn’t the case here. We were sometimes kept in the dark about what the plans were for project work. The point is that we were ultimately treated like kids, because this is what the leaders were trained and prepared for. We were expected to tidy their dishes, which wasn’t an issue in Esmeraldas.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the fact that we had to their dishes that was the issue, it was the hierarchy system that was very different to what we’d already had, the lack of consistency between camps was confusing. So we ended up having a discussion with some of the leaders about this, and once it was addressed they went about and changed the way things were run and thanked us for our honesty.
And then, our dreams were made.
The little local shop had restocked, it had Fanta, Coke, Inca Kola, beer, basically everything we needed! Happy dayz.
The afternoon consisted of one game, and one game only, and that being charades. Both Gemma and I were awful, the pure panic and hysteria against the ticking 60 second mark was so painful, but once Sarah had her Harry Potter themed round she absolutely demolished us. Towards the end of the night we started planning when we were all going to meet up next in, and we settled it would be in Cardiff, which is the most central place for everyone to meet.
Cardiff, watch out. T.I.E fam are in town…