2005/2006 DESTINATIONS:
   
Volunteer Vacations:
Africa **
Chile
Ecuador
Guatemala
Mexico
Panama
Peru **
Thailand
   
Educational Adventures:
Africa: Safari Serengeti **
Baja: Explore the Sea of Cortez **
Best of Costa Rica **
Colorado: Garden of the Gods Geoology, History and Ecology **
Colorado: Mesa Verde Native American Culture **
Galapagos Enchanted Isles **
Hawaii: Experience Paradise **
Ultimate Thailand Explorer
   
Other Programs:
Women's Expedition to Aconcaugua
Musician's Cultural Workshop in Ecuador
   
** These programs are available for credit through the Colorado School of Mines Teacher Enhancement Program.
   

Volunteer Vacations Ecuador
Tsachila Cultural Immersion and Service Experience

Introduction:
Ecuador is a land of contrasts. For a country smaller than the entire state of Colorado, it encompasses the full geographic diversity of South America: high Andean terrain, Amazonian jungle, and tropical coast. Straddling the equator, the country offers a wide variety of climates, cultures, and memorable experiences for adventurous eco-tourists. The visitor is immediately awe-struck by the natural beauty or Ecuador. But beyond the surface is a nation struggling with issues common to the vast majority of human beings: poverty, lack of educational opportunities, environmental destruction and ethnic conflict. The country has indeed gone through turbulent times. It is an extremely safe and hospitable place to travel, but has recently suffered economic and political instability due to an unfortunate pattern of governmental mismanagement and corruption. The country's inhabitants, however, are full of hope. Many live is humble surroundings, but all are incredibly proud of being Ecuadorians. They possess the will and desire to help themselves, and they invite you to join them in building their vibrant communities…Won't you heed their call to service while exploring this colorful land of endless fascination?? There cannot be a more incredible and worthwhile place on Earth to connect with your Kindred Spirits!

Sample Itinerary:

DAY ONE Arrive Quito!
After a brief orientation, explore the colonial part of town, including the San Francisco Monastery and Guayasamin Museum. Typical dinner of "ceviche" (marinated seafood) or "llapingauchos" (mashed potato and cheese pancakes) at La Choza restaurant. Spend the night at the comfortable "La Cartuja" Hostel.

DAY TWO - FIVE Cultural Immersion and Service Experience in Chiguilpe
We will travel by bus to Santo Domingo de los Colorados, Ecuador's major city in the Western Lowlands. Three hours away from the capital, we will pass through the "Avenue of the Volcanoes," with exquisite views of Cotopaxi. As the climate dramatically changes, we suddenly descend into the Cloud Forest - a bird-watcher's paradise amidst fertile banana and palm plantations. A bit further down a dirt road, we will be transported to a reality far removed from the "modern" world. Our host community is home to the Tsachila Indians, one of Ecuador's original indigenous groups. They are instantly recognized by the black stripes painted on their bodies and their bowl-shaped haircuts dyed a brilliant red using fruit from the achiote plant. You will be among the first groups of outsiders invited to stay with these proud people.

Our time in Chiguilpe will be spent acquainting ourselves with the Tsachila customs and lifestyle - through music, dance, ritual ceremonies, and meaningful cross-cultural exchange. We will learn about tropical herbal medicines from a local shaman, and we will join the "minga" (a community-wide effort to preserve native beliefs) by assisting in the construction of an ethnographic museum. In our free time, we will hike to and bathe in pristine waterfalls, play volleyball, and prepare meals of fried fish and plantains alongside our hosts.

Our thatched-roof cabanas will be simple: equipped with mattresses, mosquito nets and sun showers! After a few days of living without familiar conveniences, you will have no choice but to focus your energies on more universal themes: personal interaction and growth. By departure day, you will hopefully have re-gained a sense of peace and tranquility. A typical goodbye ceremony will celebrate and reinforce our newfound friendships.

DAY SIX - DAY EIGHT Homestays near Otavalo
The Pan-American Highway will transport us to yet another reality - this time in the Sierra (Andean highlands). As the mountain scenery and cooler temperatures welcome us, we will make our way across the equator to Otavalo. Views of the spectacular Cayambe volcano await you, as well as one of the most well known indigenous communities in all of South America. Although this region is often visited by tourists, we will get off the beaten track by living with a small group of Otavalen~os on the shores of Laguna San Pablo. While there, we will learn first-hand about their tribal identity and renowned weaving industry. The back-strap loom will be our instrument for international understanding and exchange.You will have the option of staying in a hostel or with local families. Either way, you will be exposed to a way of life that prides itself on simplicity and natural beauty. Our stay will culminate in a visit to the Saturday market, where you can purchase as many colorful crafts as your heart desires!

DAY NINE Depart for Home (or optional side trip **)

** Ecuador, and the surrounding Andean countries, have so much to offer international travelers. Regrettably, there is not enough time during the program to do it all! Therefore, we strongly encourage you to arrive early or add on a few days at the end of your stay to visit one (if not all!) of the magnificent sites below. Kindred Spirits will happily assist you in making plans, finding accommodations, and/or connecting with other tour groups. Possibilities include:
- The Galapagos Islands, Cuenca, Guayaquil, Esmeraldas (Ecuador)
- Lima, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Nazca Lines (Peru)
- Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz (Bolivia)

Dates and Details:
*** Extended programs will follow the same itinerary, but with a more extensive service experience and longer homestay. For those with the time and energy to spare, it is the best way to immerse yourself in the local culture and have a lasting impact on your host community. We highly recommend it!

Program Fees:
$1595 per person (includes domestic travel, food & lodging)****
$1995 per person for extended programs

**** Price does NOT include international airfare, departure taxes or personal expenses (i.e. souvenirs, vaccinations, passport application, tips, optional side trips, etc.)
*5% of all program fees goes to Kindred Spirits Foundation to support our community projects and provide scholarships.
*We can customize the dates and itinerary for any group of 10 or more.
*With 13 participants, the group leader’s program is free

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Heather Lopez,
Owner/Director
PO Box 474,
Empire, CO 80438
303-912-7114
877-589-8860 Toll Free
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