Angus, studying abroad at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Quito, Ecuador.
So I’m sitting in a terrace by a large river, awaiting a boat to take us across. We’ve just come off the national flight, having woken up at 4am to catch the plane. The conversation turns from the indigenous tribes who live here, the Huaorani, for example, and the bartering with arms and sugar required to enable the building of the Tiputini Research Station: this is the reason for our visit. Built by USFQ in 1990, the research station is located in the most biodiverse region in the world. We’re in the boat, racing through the river at top speed, awaiting what’s to come. Rumours of jaguars, anacondas and pink dolphins have been circulating: green trees and blue skies are our environment. It’s surreal.
In the far distance two tall towers can be seen with flames emanating from their tops: oil. “it’s sickening!”, “outrageous”, people cry as they discuss Petroecuador, Texaco, the abuse of the human rights of indigenous peoples, and Ecuador‘s oil dependent economy. The relations between oil companies and local tribes people are tense to say the least, huge corporate power pitted against ancient traditional cultures- it’s a match made in heaven, or hell. Heaven, for someone who loves a good debate, hell for the people actually involved. Deaths, disease and deforestation are counted amongst the atrocity caused by these companies. Backed by huge teams of lawyers, and in hand with the government, extraction has a long history here in the Amazon.
Sleeping, waking, sleeping. For anyone who is thinking of going to Ecuador to study abroad, do it!! The culture is wonderful, the city (Quito) exciting, and the nature incredible. Apparently the first thing Ecuadoreans miss when they leave home is the mountains. Cotopaxi volcano is based here, and has actually been on high alert since I arrived here in August 2016. It was recently raised to orange alert. Scary. But whilst this is going on, the national mood is high, with Ecuador having won their last three games in the World Cup Qualifiers. Their opponents were Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay. Politically, Venezuela is an a very problematic position at the moment. Reports are coming through of supermarkets with no toilet roll. Ecuador on the other hand seems to be flourishing. The widespread presence of governmental ministerios all baring the national slogan “ama la vida”, or “love life”, suggest a country brimming with optimism, hope and prosperity.
Ecuador is a very beautiful country, and it is hard to miss the sense of pride instilled in its citizens. From rainforest, to mountains, to huge glistening lagoons like Quilatoa, Ecuador really does have it all. Being part of the international community and spending time with locals reminds you that, whilst the world is changing, becoming more globalised, interconnected and ‘smaller’, there is still great uniqueness to each country, and a great uniqueness of language, culture, heritage, history, and food, which provides endless supply of enjoyment, stimulation and happiness. Please visit Ecuador, should you get the chance! We are entering the heart of the rainforest now, approaching Yasuni National Park….
We had a great time in Tiputini, hiking, swimming, counting endless monkeys. Various kinds of birds.including toucans and the alligator-like macaws. We walked with Jose, a tour guide par excellence who introduced us to big green camouflaged frogs (his amigos), spiders catching their prey, a plant which contains red paint inside, a tree which kills another tree by wrapping itself around it, and the mysterious smoke-blowing plant. Monkeys were a frequent sighting across the weekend and our last day ended with a visit to the viewing tower to the see the sunrise. Despite the thick clouds, the atmosphere of calm tranquility was unparalleled. I have made many friends during my time so far in Ecuador and particularly enjoyed my time at Tiputini. A group of kids from BU in America were here studying Tropical Ecology which made for a great group of students, and real fun all round. The Amazon rainforest is a unique and incredible place to visit. Just one example of the variety of things a student can do here whilst studying abroad in Ecuador.