Think of a time when someone was talking to you about a Third World country. What thoughts did this term bring to mind, thoughts of a place that was probably very filthy and unpleasant right. I used to think that as well before I visited Ecuador. After I visited Ecuador I have come to the realization that Third World countries (more correctly referred to as “developing countries”), or at least those in South America, are very beautiful due to their wonderful wildlife, amazing activities, and interesting cultures.
I knew when I was going to Ecuador that I was going to be visiting the Amazon Rainforest and that the Amazon Rainforest had many species of living organisms. I did not truly understand the extent of the diversity in the Amazon, though, until I went on the Sustainable Summer trip. The Amazon has billions of species of plants and animals from the most venomous spider in the world to a plant that helps rid a person of pain and increase their blood flow. The forest is filled with many of these organisms that add to its great beauty. I loved going on hikes through the Amazon each day and seeing its multiple wonders. I got to see big waterfalls and swim in a natural pool. I got to explore a cave filled with all sorts of life including bats that would fly right past my head with ease. I received a mud facial that is often used by the natives of Ecuador to combat aging. I got to see the remnants of ancient forests and the ancestors of ancient species of animals. One example was when the group and I took a hike and saw a tree that was part of the primary forest, the oldest forest, with part of one of the roots removed. This was used by natives of the amazon to make a sort of mashing board. Around every corner of the Amazon Rainforest I found something amazing.
These beautiful aspects of the Amazon allowed the group and me to take part in many different activities. I have already mention how I went on many hikes with the group. I have hiked before in my life but hiking in Ecuador was very different. First, I have never hiked in an area so beautiful. Second, I have never been on a hike that was as physically demanding. I had fun, yes, but the forest was filled with so many steep hills and narrow walkways that at times I was out of breath. Plus with the rain some trails became very muddy which added to the difficulty of hiking the trail. There are also some places where you need to climb ladders/stairs which reminds me of a situation on a hike that I thought was funny, scary, exhilarating, and awesome. I was climbing one of the ladders and as I was climbing I stepped on a rung and it broke. I had a good enough grip that I did not fall but it made me feel like I was in an action movie. Another activity that I loved was going White Water Rafting. On July first, my 18th birthday, the group and I went White Water Rafting. I had so much fun, and I think I can speak for the rest of the group when I say they did too, and I got to see the natural area in a different way. I had so much fun talking with the rafting guides and at one point the whole group took a break for lunch. At that time we played a couple of games including “Waa,” which was really fun. The guides even took some time to take some clay and paint our faces. I had so much fun on that trip and it allowed us as a group to experience other parts of the experience of Ecuador.
One very important part of the experience of Ecuador was immersing myself in a different culture. Every day was a new experience with trying different foods, and meeting different people. One of the best times for me on the trip was going to a small village that had a group of the Kichwa people living in it. First, when meeting them for the first time I had brought some toys and clothes from home to give to the children. They were so appreciative of something that I had access to every single day. It just amazed me how something so little could make them so happy. Not only that but the group and I were able to see how the tribe had taken Christianity and mixed it with their own beliefs and culture. We participated in a Guayusa ceremony where they interpreted some dreams and drank Guayusa, a super leaf tea. Afterwards they recited prayers that I have been reciting since I was in Kindergarten in multiple languages. It was just so beautiful, I thought, how the interaction of people has caused so much merging in cultures that something totally new and beautiful is produced. Another memory, one that I thought was funny, was near the end of our trip when we went into town. The group and I went to one of the markets and Miguel, our tour guide for most of the trip, challenged us to do something. He pointed out one of the delicacies of Ecuador which was a palm grub. They were living so the way you had to eat them was by biting off the head. He ate one and then asked if one of us wanted to try it. For what seemed to be a long time no one answered. Finally I decided I did want to try one and, to be honest, it was not that bad.
Therefore the wildlife, activities, and cultures of Third World countries in South America break the stereotype that all Third World countries are awful places to be. Of course I could not put all my experiences into words and therefore every person should try to experience these places themselves as well. And though Ecuador, and other countries like it, may not have the soundest government, or the best plumbing, it should not be judged based on the term Third World country.