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Summer Programmes

“In Steve We Trust!”

5 August 2017

I mean, it was inevitable. We were going to encounter a not-so-nice critter at some point… just not all at once…

 Day 5

If you’ve ever wondered if Ecuadorians like to party on a Saturday night, you should’ve seen our faces on the following Sunday morning after a few hours sleep. When you sleep in thin tents, and the local village next door are blasting Spanish music at 10pm, you know it’s going to be a long night.

Regardless of the lack of sleep we ploughed through with the weaving of the roofs that we didn’t finish the day before and started the process of cement for the walls.

Cement. Cementing. Making cement.

This was interesting to say the least.

The process of making cement, in the humidity and having hardly any sleep, was not the best start to the day. The process started by collecting 10KG bags full of cement mixture, which we then had to mix with water.

Prior to this, we had to sieve mountains (ok, maybe small heaps) of pebbles and rocks and grit over wheelbarrows and collected only the finest of rocks to use in the cement mixture.

And then the mixing began.

To begin with we were enthusiastic, especially the Cardiff lot, but when you get to the point where you can’t see because either your sweat or melted sunscreen is streaming down every single crevice of your face and all you can think about is rehydrating yourself, to then realise that you ran out of water half an hour ago… it’s challenging.

Girls, what a workout for your abs and glutes. No amount of squats or crunches have ever had that kind of effect on me.

Today was also the first time I washed my clothes. Me, Will and Nicole washed them in buckets, listening to some D.M.O, (a band Iain introduced me to) watching as the river flowed beneath us, the crickets singing, birds chirping and the banana-tree leaves falling to the ground. Not the worst setting to wash your rank clothes.


Day 6

 Sadly, my tent partner was ill today and I honestly felt like a part of me was missing. I mean, ‘who was going to walk with me to the toilet,’ was my main concern (when in the wild, this isn’t a silly question.)

Today we were based in Cacha, where we sanded and painted the run down tables and chairs in the school. My OCD kicked in, and I took this supposedly quick task very seriously. The locals were so kind, coming around to check if we needed anything, and blessed us with fruit, drink, and on this day we tried coconut water which was really refreshing.

On the way back for lunch, a spider jumped from one end of the boat to the other, seemingly flying across the water. We all squealed and rose from the boat which swayed precariously on the river-bank, but thankfully it wasn’t poisonous.

If only we knew what was ahead of us later that day…

As we were about to leave for the afternoon session, discussing the spider we’d seen a few hours before, Lucy (a blonde traveller who isn’t home ‘till Christmas because she’s travelling all over South America- how cool is that?!) was tying her laces and the most disgusting spider we’ve ever seen came from nowhere and landed on her back. Maddi screamed, I paled, Will tried to hit it with his shoe at which point the Maestro (who was chilled about everything) shouted something along the lines ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ at which point we all panicked, apart from Lucy the animal lover.

Cut a long story short, it climbed onto her head, her face, all over her hair and finally the maestro managed to kill it (I want to stress they were against killing animals but this was a super dangerous one and would instantly hospitalise us.) I’m still so shocked how chilled Lucy was, and Omar (her boyfriend) was even more chilled, and even giggled!

I burnt my forehead badly afterwards, which was a hot topic for most of the trip, curse these Celtic roots and my face that burns so easily.

After our afternoon session of more painting and sanding, we had a scenic boat tour on the way home, where me and Cami (the youngest of the group, who was French and had awesome hair) sat next to each other and discussed how incredible the surrounding scenery was. Not a bad way to end the day, huh?


Day 7

 A quick wet wipe shower (no judgment please) and brekky, and another day began in the rain, which we were all thrilled about considering most of us were so lethargic from the heat or had burnt badly.

When we learnt it was another day of cement making, we were all a bit hysterical. So, what better way to do a not-so fun job than to dance around in between? Maddi showed us her Australian moves (the window wipers were my personal fave) which the kids loved, which I will for sure be using in Pryzm or Live Lounge come September (at which point all the volunteers will bow their heads in shame…).

I should probably point out at this point that Maddi, the bubbliest Australian you’ll ever meet was and is, quite literally, off her trolley. So we made a good pair. We also jumped rope which the kids were amazing at, but me and Maddi? Not so good, we lasted about 20 seconds.

I should also point out at this point that I’m a bit gullible.

While eating dinner, Maddi and I were talking about Steve Irwin and when Maddi said (as a joke) ‘In Steve We Trust,’ as an Australian I thought that she respected him so much and that a non-Australian like myself talking about him was offensive, so I blubbered away trying to apologize and I just said ‘Oh, um, steve, I’m sorry!’ to which everyone burst out laughing and kept reminding me for the remainder of the trip. I don’t think I’ll ever live that down.

The second part of the day consisted of building a wall. So Iain, Sarah and myself were on wall duty. Up until this point I’d been a bit scared to speak to Iain because on first appearance he is frightening. He’s a Scotsman, big, ginger with an impressive beard, a chain smoker and I thought up until that point judgmental. I was so, so wrong.

Because quite frankly, Iain is now one of my favourite people. His blunt approach to life is hilarious, and no one can deny that a Scottish accent just makes everything a wee bit funnier.

After making our wall, Paula destroyed it, so my hopes of being a builder were shattered, but hey-ho shouldn’t dwell too much on the past and all that should you?

Night approached, and we were all in good spirits, chilling with beers, chocolate and biscuits on hammocks and cushions under a star-lit sky. Poor Ellie (the annoying cousin who had the cutest face) though was truly in the wars between being ill and to top it all off she had mould all over her rucksack.


Apart from that though, it was a pretty good day.


Day 8

 Maddi started our day by giving everyone a running commentary (the footage is on Nicole’s camera) while crossing the river about the probability of dying while trying to reach the other side… just what you want to hear on halfway day.

We started making holes, which would be for the swing that we were building, mixing some more cement and heaving some wheelbarrows full of grit backwards and forwards, up and down the hill in Cacha. I had a machete (I know, I know, what were they thinking?) and was leading the way, slicing the long grass as we went along, making sure no snakes were lurking beneath the greenery.

After our morning session, and lunch (hot dogs, which we were all super excited about, which Precious was also really excited about) we made some more holes (which would be for the shelter we were building) and more cement. Afterwards we ended up legging it to the shop in hope for some muecas (I can’t explain how incredible these biscuits were) and sweets. Our bucket showers were very much appreciated today.

Aleena had many a talent between her hockey skills and multilingualism, but one thing she had hidden up until this point was her bollywood dancing skills, After dinner, some of the kids came to chill with us, and Aleena having her speaker nearby chose bollywood/indie music, and taught the kids how to dance. They picked it up instantly, and so did most of the girls.

I decided to observe after my first and final attempt.

Cards Against Humanity was suggested for our entertainment tonight, and all I can say is that I am 100% the worst Card Against Humanity player that’s ever lived. I am EXTREMELY competitive (more on this later on,) sometimes too much, but in this game I was mute and speechless at some of the sentences. Despite my muteness, it was a lot of fun to watch others crease at some of the stuff that was said.

It was another late night, 9pm (gasp, shock, horror!) and off we trundled to bed.

I forgot to mention, Omar had found a scorpion in his towel while showering, and luckily found out before using it. We later drank the crushed scorpion a few days later as a farewell shot, which was still as disgusting (with the leaves and all the other stuff in it).

It’s not every day you can say you drank the remains of one of the most poisonous scorpions in Ecuador…