El video link & words from our presentation…

For those of you who missed our presentation here are new reflections/journal entries from our lovely bailarines that were not already published. Also, check out this beautiful 11 minute (ish) video that Eva Kendra made here: Ecuador video link in Tútube


Our experiences in Ecuador are impossible to fully explain to anyone who wasn’t there, but I still feel that it’s important to share them with each other in hopes that we can take knowledge that we’ve gained, and give others the opportunity to gain some of it as well.

When you return from one of these trips you get the age old “what was your favorite part”. In my past trips i have always been able to put my finger right on it, and give reasons why, but this time I feel as if its impossible. That feeling of being accepted into someone’s home. Of all the little things they do for you like waking you up every morning or washing your clothes and shoes without asking, has its own magical feeling, and it’s not a place you went or a person you met. It’s the things that people did for you that make my favorite part of the trip. Just like all of the things that my host family did for me. My wonderful leaders and peers made it an amazing experience, and even though you’re 40 hours travel from your physical home, you’ve already made a new home somewhere else in the world. With new people, and with people you barely knew, you become family with absolute strangers, and become at home even when it’s the farthest you’ve ever been from it.


There once were 3 guinea pigs. Lucia, my host mom, was roasting them over the open fire after she slaughtered those poor rodents while I was gone for the day. She was giggling as she knew I was dreading this special Andean meal. “It tastes like chicken,” she said on repeat. Mateo, the best dressed dog in Bulan, was wandering between the kitchen, my feet, and the roasting guinea pig (cuy, in Spanish) anticipating something — perhaps a whole cuy to himself or a reaction from me. Gavin was locked out of his home by accident and so we invited him over to our house for dinner. Let’s just say he was the talk of our family for the remainder of our time together because of his mad guinea pig eating skills. He devoured that cuy. The brains. The ears. The feet. He might have even eaten some of the bones. To make my experience even more exciting, he used the head of that cuy as a finger puppet, opening and closing the jaw attempting to talk to me through that dead creature. Between licking the meat off it’s tiny bones, Elena casually shared that she used to have a guinea pig as a pet. It was then that I started to feel the recently eaten food rise up into my mouth as I turned to the side gagging to find Mateo loyally beside me. The image of Gavin smiling as big as possible while he narrated the entire experience at nauseum in excruciating detail of that dead, mouth-opened cuy will forever be ingrained in my mind.


While traveling I didn’t really have time to reflect. Most of my journal entries aren’t reflections at all, just in depth observations of the immediate surroundings. My notebook is also chock full of sketches, spanish words to be later translated, and then there is that one page filled with tally marks, my record of the passage of time. There are also pages filled with puns that I want to remember, some good, some bad, and some bad enough to be good.

Most of the substantial writing in my journal was written on the very last night, sitting together with the group on the edge of the Amazon. I guess that’s what I miss most, those group moments and discussions. For me, that group experience, that air of welcoming that seemed to envelop our whole trip is the most important part. I’ll remember each and every individual who left their own personal impression on our group and the collaborative process of creating an unforgettable trip.


The most magical part of this trip was living with people who were complete strangers the first day and crying as you drove away in the bus the last day. Ezme and I had a sister in our family that in the course of an hour became a great friend, and I want to  thank her. Thank you for talking with us the first day about everything our Spanish allowed and for making us part of the family. Thank you for playing cards with us almost every night and teaching us new games with them. Thank you for translating our descriptions when we didn’t know the words or playing sort of charades for the words we couldn’t describe. Thank you for laughing with us when we said the wrong words, like when we said we eat peacock for Thanksgiving not turkey. Thank you for being our sister and friend.


Daily life is habit, and that allows people to get distracted. On trips, you can’t do that. (well you can but it will bite you in the but). Everyone in this room has sacrificed their daily lives for adventure, and there are many things people often hope to get in return for that sacrifice. Enjoyment, insight, knowledge, memories. But the most important thing I got from this trip, is simply the experience of being in a place where everything is new. The inability to rely on habit, or experience. Because when you find yourself in a situation like that, what happens next is genuine, the time of thing that leads to enjoyment, insight, knowledge and memories, and hope I will be able to take just a bit of that into my own daily life.


Staring up at the water beating down around us. The feeling of pure bliss as all of us walked through the waterfall. The big smiling faces and laughter of our group was contagious. We all we trapped in a indescribable thrill. We spent 2 hours splashing and swimming around in awe. The feeling of cool water left us refreshed. We felt lucky, truly alive and happy to be so as we stared at the water moving fast over the rocks. The constant hum around us just added to the beautiful chaos we all got to witness as we stared up at the waterfall.


525,600 minutes: Seasons of love

According to Nacho, we have been traveling to come back home already for 24 hours 37 minutes and 51 seconds. As I sit here and write this in Houston, Elena is singing the song “Seasons of Love” from Rent while we wait to board. We hope to all be back on island this evening around 7:00PM.

To our friends and family, the transition back home might take us some time. We ask that you approach us with patience as we attempt to re-culture ourselves. Many of us will feel happy to be in the arms of our loved ones and to experience comforts of clean water or hot water or to eat spinach (okay, maybe that’s just me) then it will hit us. Maybe in 3 days. Maybe in 3 weeks or in 3 years. We will feel nostalgia, sadness, confusion, and/or a mix of emotions as moments and reminders of our time together and the people we met along the way trickle back in and touch our hearts. This experience will forever be hard to describe to anyone who did not experience it alongside us.  Some of us will be able to describe everything in good detail and others might never have words. Both are all okay and know that we each will process and share in our own time.

A special “shout out” to Marc for his help posting to this blog and for helping ease communication on the other end.

This group was special. They cared for each other in a way that was gentle and encouraging, allowing each other to learn and grow at their own pace. They checked in, they spoke a buttload of Spanish and shared themselves so generously with their students and their families. I feel like a proud abuelita watching our kids work with their students.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. Your love and support means so much to each of us. Thank you.

Mamá Ama (edited for English errors by Elena)

P.S. We are very sleep deprived. Just FYI ing you. 😉


It’s a long road home…

Travel day… macas to Cuenca (6-hrs driving), Cuenca to Quito (3-hrs at Cuenca airport) Quito to Houston (5-hrs at Quito airport) 😉

View from our drive today: macas to paute, paute to Cuenca airport


And of course there is general silliness to be had…  we’re traveling, after all.


Amazon part 2 and goodbye…

We trekked through Sanguay National Park yesterday.

The rare sighting of the Sanguay volcano 🌋 came out this morning to say goodbye!


Today’s Prompt Was…

“Today’s prompt was ‘what are you going to take with you and what are you going to leave behind?’ What comes to mind is the saying that my Dad always says to me, ‘leave only footprints, and take only pictures.’ I am definitely going to leave and take more than that though. Yes we are leaving behind footprints but it is much more than that, it is our memory.  There are big things and there of little things that we’re leaving behind.  The big thing that comes to my mind is the impression and metaphorical footprint we are leaving behind with the kids we taught. I’m not sure how much the kids will remember but I think that for some it might have been a life-changing experience or just a new experience in general.  But I’m taking is the memory of this beautiful place, of my family, and the insightful experience I had.  Yes I’m taking trinkets and things to help me remember, but the most important things are lessons I learned.  People say learn from your mistakes and indeed I have. I have learned from the mistakes I made in Spanish, the mistakes I made teaching, and the misconceptions or assumptions I might have had about traveling in a group of friends for three weeks. I am leaving a family behind in Bulan but I’m also taking with me a new one, our group. I am taking away a lot from this trip and my only hope is I’m going to leave just as much.” Ezme / Ela


Amazon Día 1

“Today we hiked to a sacred waterfall. It was a pretty easy 20 minute hike each way with a lot of mud. Fuyu said it used to be a 2 hour long hike but they added a road (I’m glad). We were greeted by the keeper of the waterfall and his daughter. He talked about the waterfall and it’s traditions. Before we went in we had to get our faces painted as part of the ceremony. They paint lines to represent rays of sun and dots to represent stars. The waterfall is part of a cleansing ceremony that usually is done naked, but we all went in in our bathing suits. We were also told that if you fall when walking around the waterfall it’s bad luck. The water was freezing cold but everyone had fun anyways and couldn’t be happier afterword. Apparently there are negative ions in the waterfall that make you feel pleasure and feel happy. We then returned and ate chicken cooked in banana leaves with yuca and rice. We drank a sweet very caffeinated tea called guayusa with it so hopefully we all sleep tonight. We then watched a goodbye ceremony and all hiked the twenty minutes back to the car. We saw a giant tarantula on the walk. We might not have hiked very much but something we did was exhausting as everyone fell asleep in the car ride back to the hotel.”

Sílvia Linnea

Noticias de BellaFlora

What will you leave behind in Bulán and what will you take with you?

“I will leave behind the idea that without my comforts I am not comfortable. I will leave behind the instinct to grasp on to the things I know instead of explore new things. I will leave behind a closed mind.

         I will bring with me the experiences I have endured. I will bring a fresh way of looking at people, languages, and life. I will bring a newfound love for travel and the world. I will take with me different energy and greater knowledge that I hope to share. I will bring the memories of the people I have encountered in Bulán and there impact that each one has had on me. Above all, I will take with me the fact of how lucky I am in this world and an eagerness to help others who are not as lucky.”

BellaFlora Annika



“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne

Goodbyes. No matter what they’re hard. 

We’ve made it to the Amazon and as exciting as it is, our hearts are both full and heavy as we said goodbye this morning to our Bulán families. It always amazes me how quickly you can fall in love if you let yourself open up to the beauty of others. 


Buenas noches from the jungle! 💤🌙 ⭐️ 🐸 🕷 🐞

NEW photos and Videos!


In loving memory of Roger the Roach…


Tortillas con Lucía!

“I never thought that tortillas de choclo (corn) would taste so good. The cheese in the middle of the tortilla is my favorite part of the dish. It’s really interesting how this recipe has been past down through  Lucia’s family, and all of the ingredients for the recipe come right from their farm. Something I learned is that many people in Ecuador’s full time job is husking corn and taking the kernels off the husk. So, for the small time that we worked, husking the corn, it was interesting to think about how some parents had to do this hard work, every day in order to support their families.”

Agosto August


I would walk 500 miles…

“Today five of us (Ama, Elena, Felipe, Nacho and myself) returned to the four improverished houses to give presents to the families. We gave each family a box with things like cooking oil, sugar, and toilet paper accompanied by a large bag of white rice. When we arrived at the first house, they were slaughtering cuyes (guinea pigs), and the mother had to wash blood off her hands before accepting the gift box. She was incredibly kind and made us promise to return so she could say a proper thank you to us. The second family lived a 5 minute’s drive from the school, followed by a 20 minute walk, a trip the kids do twice a day to go to and from school. Only the mother and grandmother were there when we arrived with the gifts. The mother kept saying “may god thank us later for the gifts.” The grandmother, who spoke broken Spanish—her native language is Quichua, an indigenous language of Ecuador—couldn’t stop hugging Amanda while we were there. At one point, the grandmother asked if I was Amanda’s owner and, later, if I was her husband. I’m not sure which is farther from the truth.

The third house was a little walk from the road through some maize, but not nearly as far off the beaten path as the second house. Again the mother and grandmother were home. The mother started to cry and gave us Coca-Cola and oranges to say thank you. The grandmother, who referred to herself as “mamá waque,” wanted to take pictures with us, but she would inspect the photos to make sure she looked bonita. She was close to 100 years old and couldn’t have been any nicer. From my two interactions with her, she seemed like one of those people who naturally brings out the best others. I want to be that cool when I’m her age.

The last family was austruck by our gifts. They didn’t have words to express their gratitude.

All these families are severely improverished. When we asked the director of the school how to best support the school and community, he said give these families food. Coming from a comfortable, American family, I expected to have a reflection of “this is what they have, and this is what I have,” making me appreciate what I have. I did have that reaction. What surprised me, however, is I didn’t feel bad for them. All the houses had a view of the Ecuadorian valley, which seems straight out of The Sound of Music. More importantly, three generations of the family live under the same roof. Although their missing many luxuries, they had each other and were grateful for it. At least to me, that’s more important than Netflix.” Uly Felipe Gavin

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