I have to apologize for the delay in posting. After airport delays and lack of a good internet connection, I was not able to get this posted over the weekend. Better late than never and I didn’t want to leave you hanging!
Our final work day in Ecuador took us about 8,000 feet high to the vivero (tree nursery) that is located in Achupallas. We finished up the weeding and then had a great time with the kids from the nearby school. Some of our volunteers walked to the school and escorted the children to the nursery. The other volunteers had set up three stations for different plant related activities. The kids had a blast making hanging baskets out of plastic soda bottles, learning about the parts of the seed, and stamping paper with paint and vegetables and flowers. I think our EMGs had more fun however! These kids are so cute and so eager to learn.
In the afternoon, we headed to Panecillo for an authentic cooking class. I wore my authentic blouse (made by Christina last year, embroidery by hand!) and skirt. We learned how to prepare an authentic Keechwa meal completely from scratch. We divided into teams and some did the prep and others did the cooking. The chicken was cooked over the campfire. After it was ready, we all enjoyed a wonderful meal, complete with an incredible dessert made with lots of butter, sugar, egg whites and more, wrapped in large leaves that resembled a banana leaf, and then steamed. It was really good.
Overall we planted 500 seedlings in Muenala, two hundred pounds of potatoes in Padre Chupa, filled a couple of hundred soil bags for planting, and weeded and cleaned up the vivero. All in all we donated 436 hours of work. This may not seem like a lot but if you compared this to Matias working eight hours a day, we completed about 55 days of work for him, getting him that much further ahead.
Friday was our travel day back to Quito to the airport but before we left Otavalo, we had a few more minutes to spend money at the market. After this, we loaded up the bus and headed to the Quito Botanical Gardens for a guided tour. It was really nice hearing about the different eco-systems in Ecuador and the plants associated. Following the gardens, we were treated to an incredible experience at the home of world-renowned orchid growers Harry and Rosemarie Zelenko. He and his wife combined their collection of orchids years ago when they moved to Ecuador. Harry brought more than 3,000 and Rosemarie brought more than a 1,000. He couldn’t even tell us how many he had at this time. His greenhouse was amazing as was his garden. We are very grateful to the Zelenko’s for opening their home to a bunch of plant nuts!
Now for the five reasons Extension Master Gardeners should consider the trip to Ecuador!
1. The opportunity to give back to a community in need is very gratifying.
2. The opportunity to learn about another culture from a perspective that most tourists never have is awesome.
3. The experience of traveling with other EMGs allows you to meet a whole new group of like-minded people.
4. The cost of the trip is fairly reasonable.
5. You are well-fed during the trip but you are guaranteed to walk it and work it off! We walked 126,396 steps in eight days, an average of 15,800 steps a day!
I could give you lots more reasons to go on this trip. I encourage you to check out the website at www.tandanafoundation.org and learn more about the organization and the volunteer opportunities. The next gardening vacation is open to anyone and will be on October 10-17, 2014. If you have any questions or are interested in going, please contact me at 937-521-3860 or email@example.com
I am already excited about going back next year!
Pam Bennett, EMG State Coordinator, Ohio State University Extension