Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Thanks to all of you for following me on this amazing journey. I got home in Texas on Monday night, filled with a mixture of sadness to be leaving Ecuador, excitement about returning home, and exhaustion after traveling for the whole day.

My last few days in Ecuador were perhaps some of the best. It's a sad fact about the exchange program that (at least in my case) the best part of the trip comes at the end. Still, I know that I left at the right time. Not only did I have no memory left on my iPad, I'd almost completely used up my cash reserves. I sincerely promised everyone in Ecuador that I would one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) return to the country I called home.

Some of the highlights from my final days were going hiking on Ilaló (an extinct volcano just outside of Sangolquí) with my class and playing with my school's soccer team for the first two games of their season. Here are some of the best photos from those final days. Enjoy!

 Hiking on the way up Ilaló with my friends from Iceland: Jana (L) and Arnar (R)
 Jana and I each slipped on the way down the muddy slope
 Mud seems to be a bit of a theme in these photos. Everyone from the soccer team was completely dirty after our 2-2 tie last Monday.
 Though we were still muddy, this half time picture shows us on our way to an 11-0 win over another school on Wednesday.
 Packing my bag on the day before leaving.
 My friends at school threw me a party on Friday, my last day of school. Jana took these photos, for I wasn't allowed into the classroom while they were setting up the "surprise" party.
Me with all of my classmates at the going away party.
My host family and me at our own going away party. They gave me an Ecuadorian backpack to take home with me.

I appreciate all the comments and interest that everybody has shown in this trip. Writing this blog has been a great way for me to share details about my trip. I hope you've all enjoyed it. Thanks again for reading.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Galápagos Islands

I spent Thursday through Monday (four nights, five days) in the Galápagos Islands. We stayed on La Isla Santa Cruz, making trips by boat to Isabela and Santa Fe. Here are some of my favorite pictures that I took from the trip.

Here's a cool example of some of the wacky plants and animals in the Galapagos. This is a cactus (our guide said prickly pear) with a soft bark.

Sea lions just hop onto docks and boats to sun themselves. We saw these sea lions (lobos marinos in Spanish) while we were waiting to get on a boat to transfer to a different island.

While on Isla Isabela our group went snorkeling. I'm ashamed to admit how bad my underwater photos turned out, but this one, showing the sea turtle, turned out pretty nicely. My favorite part of that snorkeling trip was just chasing that turtle.

The next day our group went to a wildlife reserve for turtles. There were turtles all around, though they weren't super happy about all the tourists with their cameras. Our guide estimated that this turtle here is a little less than one hundred years old. Apparently, there were once fifteen different turtle species in the Galapagos. Now there are eleven species remaining. However, that's counting the famous "Lonesome George" as a species to himself. George was found in the 1970s, and as far as we know he's the last one of his species. He's around 120 years old, so scientists have about thirty years left to find a suitable mate for George. The only problem? He's just a little bit timid after all these years by himself.

A highlight was scuba diving on Sunday morning. This was one of about four sea turtles we ran into on that trip. We also swam with rays, sea lions, and a whole bunch of fish.

The trip was spectacular for several reasons. First of all, the Galapagos are gorgeous, with warm days, cooler nights, expansive beaches, and unlimited wildlife watching opportunities. The cooler part for me, however, was the independence to explore that the trip afforded us. Our tour guide helped us see different parts of the Galapagos and learn some of the history, but from there we were basically on our own. I was really proud of how our group is now proficient enough in Spanish to make our way around without any issues. Finally, the trip to the Galapagos represented a bit of a treat after four months of sometimes grueling work. I'm looking forward to coming home at the end of this month, but seeing the Galapagos made me just a little sad to be leaving this amazing part of the world.