SUGAR high!!!

“We went to Cuenca to see the festivities for the first night of Corpus Christi. There were lots of people dancing on the streets and tons of stalls selling all kinds of sweets. As we walked, we stopped and bought many different kinds to share amongst ourselves and tried a variety of new things. When the fireworks started, we all crowded around the Cathedral to see the show. Most of the fireworks were rigged to the building itself; it was amazing that the over 100-year-old building had survived so many shows! Afterwords, everyone was buzzing from all the sugar and we went to el Parque de la Madre to go on the zip line and swings. We got home a little before midnight, but it was definitely worth the long night.”

Eva Kendra 

Uhhh Miss BellaFlora bought $20.50 worth of candy. 🍭 🍬


Look at that full moon!

Waiting for the fireworks…


We’re On the News!

Realizar excursiones y conocer otros Países.

Realizar excursiones y conocer otros Países, es el principal objetivo que cumplen estudiantes de Spring Street International School de Estados Unidos. En esta ocasión visitan Paute, denominándolo un lugar tranquilo, siendo la parroquia Bulán la anfitriona para acoger a los alumnos, que están involucrados en el programa Aprender Español.

Posted by Multi Canal on Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Casas del campo

“Getting to visit the houses of, and meet, some of the poorest students in Bulan was an amazing opportunity to reflect on all of our lives.

First off as we were driving up the winding dirt road all that was going through my head was man you must really love school to walk this everyday. We only have to get in our cars or maybe take a boat if you’re considered unlucky, but these kids have to walk forty five minutes to an hour just one way, and that’s down hill. This small reflection made me realize how great full I am for our amazing school and the ease of its availability to us.

As we did get to the houses, some of them a twenty minute walk just from the road, it was amazing to see how little these people had, but still how proud and happy they were with their homes. One family offered us oranges, and it pained me to eat them because even though they’re just oranges everything has so much more value when you have less. The people were amazingly hospitable and it was a great experience to get to meet them. When you see people who share two beds in a two room with a family of four still offer you gifts just for coming to their home; you start to appreciate things that you never even thought of before.”

Felipe Felix


*Breaking News*

We were interviewed today by the news station in Paute since we are the first group to ever do an exchange in the village. They were curious about why we chose this place and how we liked it. It aired this evening and once we receive the newscast and it’s posted online, we will share it with you all. I was so proud to hear four of our students speak so eloquently about their host families, their time here, and why it’s so important to experience other cultures and learn about other people. Elena and I were moved to tears listening to Adolfo speak about our group. His heartfelt ending message to the community is that we are all brothers and sisters and we connect as humans regardless of where we come from. Couldn’t have said it better!

El músico ecuatoriano y la salsa 💃

**Now updated with the video, below!


“We had our Spanish lessons from 3-6 on Tuesday instead of 2-5 and no one knew why, it was a “supresa” (surprise). The “supresa” was a famous musician from Cuenca and a Cuban salsa teacher. We first listened and learned about three different traditional kinds of Ecuadorian music and their history. Then we all went downstairs to the same place we had the dance to celebrate Gwen’s birthday (our dancing room if you will) to salsa. The salsa is a relatively easy dance to learn because you always do things in counts of three (1 2 3…4 5 6). I think we really impressed the teacher as he says he has classes he teaches that haven’t learned all we did in an hour and a half. That is all of us except Amanda who had a little trouble keeping her left and right feet straight but she did great and with a little practice and she will dancing with the rest of us. (Sí se puede!) The salsa is a fun dance you can’t dance it without smiling (at least we couldn’t) so everyone left laughing and happy. Everyone wants to practice it more (and we might Friday!) so who knows you might see it in our presentation ; ). We all had so much fun just letting go and listening to the music that I think we will remember at least parts of the salsa for awhile.” Silvia Linnea


She’s not lying. I am really bad at dancing. Good thing my bailarines can keep teaching me! ☺️🙄 Ama

*New Video!


El Mercado – Mas Pastel (Cake!) – Birthdays

On Sunday, everyone slept in and spent time relaxing and rejuvenating after a long hike in Cajas on Saturday. Several students went to the weekly Sunday market in Paute with their families. The majority of the Bulan community, including all of the host-families, work within the agriculture sector. The Sunday market in Paute is a very important part of their weekly work/income. People from all over the valley come to shop at this market. The color and diversity of food that is grown here is stunning.

After the market and a calm afternoon, Fuyu and Ron invited our whole group to their house for yet another birthday celebration for both Estrella/Gwen AND Fuyu! We ate fresh watermelon and delicious cake. We also played taboo in Spanish 🙂

That night, Felipe-Uly/Gavin joined Amanda and me for dinner at our host-family’s house. It was a special occasion, because they were roasting several cuyes on their outdoor spit/firepit, when we arrived…! Uly/Gavin was an adventurous eater and followed in stride with our host-family, eating practically every part of the cuy (I meant EVERY part) until there was just a small mountain of tiny bones on his plate. I ate more cautiously, no cuy head for me, but enjoyed the taste and experience nonetheless! Cuyes are a big part of this culture, they are not only proud owners of their cuyes, but they take great care of them, and believe they are the most sano “healthy” and sostenible “sustainable” of all meats, since all they eat is hierba “grasss/herbs” and they are native to this land/the Andes.


Carlos, selling fruit at the Paute market (Amanda and Elena’s host-dad)
Carmen selling clothes at the Paute market (Zacharias/Elijah & Felipe/Felix’s host-mom)

Calbalgata con Edgar!

“Today we went to Edger’s farm and rode horses. Edger, Fabiola, and Berza are Sílvia and I’s host family. Edger has devoted his time to raising his horses. His farm is about a 45 minute walk from all of our houses. He also has a farm in Paute. The farm in Paute has 6 horses, the one we went to has 10. Before we mounted the horses he told us the history and importance of horses in Ecuador. Horses are culturally significant because it is believed that when you ride a horse it is like you are one with it, like a centaur. Horses are also used for psychological healing and calming stress. Ever town in Ecuador has a saint that they warship. To give thanks to the saint the town gathers in the plaza with horses. After we learned a little about the history of horses we rode Edger’s horses. We rode for about 5-10 minutes at a time. One person was mounted on the horse the other was leading it along with a rope. After a while some people were comfortable riding alone up and down the hilly road. On the way down we rode in the back of Fuyu’s car crammed in like sardines. In total we spend about 2 and a half hours at the farm. Overall it was a fun and enriching experience.”

Ezme Ela

El baile! The post you’ve been waiting for ;)…

“Yesterday the group surprised me by throwing me a surprise dance party. Everyone had a really good time, and everybody danced. There was our whole school group and most of our family’s that showed up and some friends from around our town. Amanda and Elena gave me gorgeous flowers, earrings, and chocolate. Zacarías busted out some amazing dance moves. And Annika and Felix made all of us double over laughing when the created crazy dance routines. The whole night was great and I enjoyed spending my birthday with all these great,and hilarious amigos.” -Estrella/Gwen


“Dress formal and get there by 6. It’s a surprise”

   That is all we knew. By the time we were at the meeting place, people were freaking out. Not knowing is almost worse than knowing that you are about to have to strip naked in front of the town, everything is left up to your imagination. 

   “Everyone come except Estrella (Gwen)”

   “They usually take cows to the slaughter one at a time”

   Down a small flight of stairs into a medium sized, partly lit, white room. We look back and there’s a piece of cardboard with the words “Feliz cumpleaños Estrella” Written on it. A surprise party. 

   “When Estrella comes in dance”.

   At any public dance event with teens, there is this hump that people need to get over before they let themselves dance. So this was completely unnatural. Some electronic song came on, Gwen came in and we didn’t don’t have a choice. It’s her birthday, one of those times you have to act happy no matter how miserable you are. 

   At request from Amanda the music took a more traditional twist. Just like the dress requirements for this trip, and like the dress requirements, the music wasn’t very reflective of the current local tastes. People still danced, people still had fun and some people ended up in their first partner dance to a fast paced song. Eventually though, in an attempt from the D.J. to get more people dancing, the music modernized.

   More people did dance, or at least I think they did. I had stopped paying too much attention. Dancing to the more traditional music was fun and all, but I just don’t consider fast paced music with little variation worth the energy. I had fun just dancing, after the shift it was pretty much all I did. A particularly energetic song came on and I rose to match. It took me about fifteen seconds to realize I was the only one dancing. 

   Apparently I did pretty well, I still haven’t watched the video. The rest of the dance for me was just that, dancing, and when the music ended, I was excused. It was time to clean up and the D.J. put on All Star and pretty much everyone knew the lyrics, even those who didn’t speak much English.

   “That party was poppin’… Well at least how poppin’ Bulan gets.” Zacarías

El Cajas National Park – 5/26 – 13,000 ft.

On Saturday we woke up at 6am to get in our “buseta” and drive approx. two hours to El Cajas National Park. We almost re-scheduled because it was cloudy, poor visibility, and rainy – but we persisted on, knowing we not only had a great guide but also an adventurous, determined, active, and experienced group of students! Poor Silvia/Linnea was stomach sick and had to stay behind… thankfully she was feeling better that night and got to bogie down at Estrella/Gwen’s surprise bday party!

El Cajas is a high altitude area called a páramo (high tropical, montane vegetation above the continuous timberline). It ranges between 13,000-14,000 feet in elevation, but since we’re on the ecuator there is no snow/glaciers/or freezing that happens. El Cajas is know for it’s many trails spanning across the “cloud forests” and park, with hundreds of deep lakes scattered along the way. There is immense biodiversity here – there are condors, hummingbirds (24 hummingbird species alone!), 157 different bird specifies, 600 plant species, 43 mammals (including a rat species that only exists here that has large teeth & eats small trout from the numerous lake), 17 amphibians, and 4 reptiles. In addition to the biodiversity, El Cajas is an ancient and sacred site. The “Incan Trail”crosses through the park. We followed the Incan Trail into the endemic “paper-tree” forest. Our guide asked us to take a moment of silence to honor all of the Incans and past ancestors that have trekked through this rugged land.

It rained intermittently, and blew wind throughout our entire 3-hr hike. Sometimes is dumped, often it just drizzled. Everyone was drenched, muddy from numerous slips and falls crossing rocks and small creeks, and cold by the time we arrived back to the visitor center. The altitude made it difficult to take more than a few steps without your heart pounding in your chest and needing a moment to stop and breath. Everyone was tremendous. Upbeat and positive, even amidst the rain and cold weather. We passed around sugar cane caramelos (candy) that our host-family gave us – which was supposed to help with the altiude. We also snacked on some humitas (sweet tamales) that our host-mom, Lucia, packed for us. Our host-sister Jessica came along, as she is studying Environmental Science at the University in Cuenca and loves the páramo. Our rainbow of rain jackets was a cool contrast to the stark, barren, and brown landscape. The landscape reminded me of parts of Scotland and New Zealand (minus the altitude). People passed us with fishing poles along the trail, on their way to catch some trout. Wild flowers scattered the trail, including an Indian Paintbrush, Forget Me Nots, and tiny Andean Tulips (photos below).

Everyone was happy for some warm beverages and a large lunch (lots of fried eggs, French fries, rice and meat) at the visitor center after the walk. Most students in the group have expressed they are being over fed in their houses and they miss the sensation of feeling hungry 😉 (this is pretty typical, since food is such a big part of this culture and it is often how family’s show their welcoming, nurturing and loving sides)…however, this was a day when everyone was hungry! Most everyone slept on the way back to Bulan….and then we had a quick turnaround to jump out of our muddy clothes and get ready for a surprise dance party for Estrella/Gwen’s bday (photos/update of this to come)!!


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