Day 6: Sierra Negra

Today’s agenda consisted of visiting the world’s second most active volcano, Sierra Negra (last eruption was in 2005). I was super excited about this activity…until the bus pulled up to the base of the massive volcano, in the pouring rain, and we were left to climb up it. Not exactly what I signed up for.

Oh, did I mention I was wearing flip flops?

Needless to say, the 6 and a half hour, 10 mile hike is one I will never, ever forget. I actually managed to climb up the mountain (2 hours of sloppy mud, might I add) without falling but, being a clutz with rather unfortunate luck, slipped into the messiest puddle of mud you can ever imagine the last 20 minutes of the descent. But hey, how many people can say they have peered into an active volcano? Everything about the journey was totally worth it. The view was breath taking.

This was the perfect way to begin our 5 day trip appreciating the pure beauty of raw nature.

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Day 4: Teeth and Monkeys

Today was probably my favorite day. After applying sealant in the morning, we went to a beach inhabited by wild monkeys! They were everywhere and not scared of humans at all. This was for sure a once in a lifetime experience.

FYI: these pictures were my grandma’s favorites from my entire trip! She thought the monkeys were pretty cool, too.

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Day 2: Middle of the World

We began day two with a yummy breakfast of fruits and bread. If you have never had fresh Ecuadorian pineapple, you have no idea what you are missing! It is delicious. They also have the best (very potent) coffee I have ever tasted. We then travelled to the Middle of the World exhibit. This was a repeat for me from the last trip but nonetheless, walking on the equator is just plain cool.photo[1]

Day 1: Travel and Arrival

The first day of my Ecuadorian excursion began with a bang (literally) as my roommate, Hannah, pounded on my locked bedroom door. Exhausted (from staying up till 4 am packing/watching Gossip Girl on Netflix) I looked at my phone. It was 7 am! Our flight from Nashville, which is about an hour from Bowling Green, left at 9:45! What a horribly inconvient time for my iPhone alarm clock to decide to be dysfunctional. I jumped out of bed, threw on my outfit that I had laid out the night before, and opened my door to face not only my furious roommate, but two of the professors who were leading the trip that decided to carpool with Hannah. What an awesome first impression. To my relief, everyone found my oversleeping incident humerous and we made our way to Nashville. I am NOT, I repeat NOT, a morning person so starting the day off in such a frantic frenzy left me a very unhappy camper in the backseat.
 
Once we arrived at the airport, we parked, caught a trolley, checked in, and by some act of God boarded our plane just in the nick of time. Once on the plane, I finally took a deep breath and my mood lifted. We were on the way to Ecuador!

Now would be a good time to give a little background about myself. I am a junior Biology major/Chemistry minor with a pre-dental concentration at Western Kentucky University. I apply for dental school June of this year. This is actually my second time abroad in Ecuador with the same group led by Dr. David Coffey and Dr. Kristie Guffey, both professors at WKU. The class we recieved credit for was an upper level honors agriculture class (AGRI 375).

 
I initially stumbled upon this opportunity to study abroad one day while walking to class with Hannah. She was blabbering about some trip that Dr. Guffey told her about in class. To be honest, I heard the words “agriculture” and may or may not have tuned her out. Agriculture was out of my rhelm of understanding and interest, at the time. The big man upstairs had a different plan for me, though, and used Hannah as his messenger. Realizing my lack of interest, she produced the trip itenerary from her back pocket. Slightly irritated, I looked over it just to appease her. As I flipped through the pages, my eyes caught a glimpse of the sentance that will forever change my life:
 
“While in Ecuador, the service component of our trip will be applying dental varnish in orphanges and public schools. This activity will be led by Dr. Rankin Skinner.”
 
The very next day, and the last possible day to apply to study abroad for winter 2012, I had a plane ticket with my name on it to Quito, Ecuador. You must realize, I come from a very traditional, middle class family. The farthest South we have travelled is Disney World. When I called my mother and awkwardly uttered, “uhm, so I´m going to Ecuador in five weeks”, it did not go over too well. Immediatley, the first question arised:How in the world are we going to afford this? In my defense, I told mom about the numerous scholarships that WKU offers to students studying abroad. I applied for all of them and in the end, over half of my trip was funded. Checked that one off. The next question: How are you going to get a passport? Luckily, my uncle is a postmaster and hooked his niece up with one in about two and a half weeks. Check. Finally question three: Isn´t South America dangerous? This one took a little more effort to defend. Yes, there are parts of South America that are dangerous and that twenty-year-old American females who do not speak a lick of Spanish should not frolick around. After speaking with Dr. Guffey, she informed me that this was her thirteenth trip and Dr. Coffey had been over twenty-five times and every place we were visiting was safe. Needless to say, they know their stuff. With number three checked off, mom reluctantly agreed, I went to work saving money and preparing for the most amazing experience of my life. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined visting South America once, let alone twice.
 
All of the events previously mentioned led me to where I am now, two flights later, sitting in my room at Hotel Embassay in Quito, Ecuador for the second time. I could not pass up an opportunity to return to the place that solidified my life long passion for dentistry; the place where I experienced first hand how it felt to give a child a gift of a healthier smile. That feeling is the one I want have every day of my life when I leave work as a dentist. 
 
I cannot wait to see what this adventure has in store! 🙂