Culture Shock

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A person could argue that I have been in a constant state of Culture Shock for the majority of the time I have been alive. I grew up in two different worlds (Minneapolis and White Earth Reservation), and maybe by happenstance or the cosmos -or whatever, I have been lucky to experience a variety of cultures due to friendships made over the years. As far as getting to other countries, I have been to Canada once for a few hours, and Mexico a few times, but nothing like spending three weeks on a whole other continent.

When I told people about this trip I was going on, they would ask me how I was feeling, excited? Nervous? Happy?...and so on, the answer was always nervous. Having minimal Spanish speaking abilities and missing the first week of my last semester were the top two things I was sweating over. Which was stupid, since I had the time of my life, three weeks of trucking around this little beautiful country.

Having a little time to process, I have found out that the biggest culture shock has not been in the country itself with all new geology and fauna, or the people of Quito and outlying communities, but with the group I was with, a pleasant mix of twenty-something University of Minnesota students, ranging majors, and ranging birthplaces of the Midwest. I picked up on things here and there, little comments that made my brain stop in whatever thought process it was on, to process these little strangenesses. It was most prominent in the talking circles held every few days, where we opened up about things that we experienced that day.

I found myself surprised. Why didn't I factor in how my fellow adventures' worldviews would impact my trip? Why didn't I factor that into my nervousness? Being around a group of U of M students, away from my Tribal College classmates, and away from my little niche in Minneapolis was the biggest culture shock I experienced. Ideas and mannerisms that I grew up with and have taken for granted, were brand new to my brand new classmates. Philosophies and religious outlooks that I have debated over with friends and family members now held no credibility. Don't get the wrong impression here, my group was wonderful, bright, and ambitious. I have been taught that every person I meet in my life will know something I do not, and that every person is on his or her own journey. No matter where intersections happen, or how and when I meet new people, I should not judge them on how little or how much they know at that particular time. If it is only this one thing that I take away from my three-week course, I'm glad it is the knowledge that I can hold my tongue, and give people to time to grow on their own.

Water at 0*

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While gone, something that has been named the Arctic Vortex ripped through Minnesota and deepened the extent to which our fair state was immerged in the jaws of a cold winter, keeping the water at a solid 0*.

Our experience of this number was a different one, not the bridge between water and ice but instead a line marking the exact middle of our planet. The water, however, remained interesting under these conditions.

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Everywhere we went, the people living most closely to the land enjoyed an incredible relationship with water. One of the spiritual guides, named Shari, shared with us the importance of expressing gratitude, respect and compassion towards any water we may encounter. He further explained that water can bear and feel our feelings and can express and transmit these energies to anywhere it may encounter. It makes sense, then, that many sites like waterfalls are considered sacred. It only takes one a moment in the presence of a great cascade to understand the power water is capable of moving.


Scientifically, water has earned itself an incredible appreciation as well. It is so highly valued that our understanding of temperature is an index based on the freezing point of either water (Celsius) or salt-saturated water (Fahrenheit). Water offers protons to facilitate photosynthesis. The most advanced agricultural fields have carefully managed water systems, as does any city erected in our country. In these ways, the value that we find in water has been quantified into indices and prices, but leaves out a great deal that is indeed real and true about the experience of, and relationship with, water.


Through ritual and feast, through intention and appreciation, the members of indigenous communities in Ecuador that we met with showed us a manifestation of a very intimate and personal relationship with water. By acknowledging and acting on the need for this approach to water, many communities have found ways to sustainably manage their water supply and runoff in ways that maintains the health of both their community and the ecosystem it is woven in to.


Just as water is capable of carving great ruts and valleys into our landscape, it too wields the power to lift and drop entire civilizations and even ecosystems. A careful and shrewd analysis of the numerical value of water has brought us a very widespread and advanced command of water. What we lost in the process, the appreciation for water as a living thing, is reflected in the issues we currently face like groundwater contamination and the hypoxic dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. There is a great deal that can be learned in a conversation between indoctrinates of these two ideologies, as such we would be wise to learn from experiences with each other and further hone our attitude towards water to one that will globally ensure a supportive and thrivent water system.

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Life In The Highlands Of Ecuador

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This past few weeks in Ecuador have been incredible. We have traveled to many different places and learned a lot from the ecuadorian culture. I enjoyed getting to know the traditions, the spiritual practices, and the indigenous culture of Ecuador.

My most memorable experience in Ecuador has been living with a host family and spending the day in San Clemente. It was very terrifying at first to think of living with a different family other than my own.I was not sure of the things they were going to expect from me. As soon as I got to San Clemente I was dropped of at the house of the host family. I was greeted by Rosita, who was the mother of the family household. She told me and Hannah to make our way inside. As we walked in there was a small table on the left side of the entrance. On the right was the kitchen and in the middle of the room was a small fireplace. We asked to help with lunch, but Rosita and her sister only told us to go out for a walk while they prepared lunch. As I walked outside I was able to see the families small farm and their animals. San Clemente is a small village were all the people living there have come together to form a community. Rosita told me that they work together as a community to help one another with their needs. When someone has something that the other doesn't have as a community they have to work together to be able to share with one another. For me this was very fascinating because I think its amazing how they have built a tradition behind this community. They support one another and make sure that everyone is equal in there own way. Nobody has more or less than the other because they all share what they can.

When we got done walking around Hannah and I set up the table. We had a salad with toasted corn, which they call Tostado. We then got potato soup with a small piece of avocado. For a drink we had a homemade blackberry juice. Once we got done eating we washed the dishes and went out to help Rosita feed the pigs. We walked around until we had to go meet at Manuel's house for a community ceremony. In order to go Rosita helped us prepare by dressing us in their traditional clothing. Once we were all dressed up we had to walk out on to the street from there we walked through a houses small walkway onto the back. There were a lot of plants, trees, and shrubs. We walked down this small pathway through all these plants until we got to the bottom. Then we went around from the bottom and walked up through the other side. Once we made it to the top we walked for a bit until we got to Manuel's home.

In Manuel's home we learned more about the their community and the embroidery organization that the woman in San Clemente started. They help support their families and the community through their embroidery works. Before they had a community it was difficult for every family. Some families did not own a home, but through the base of community this family now has a home. Those families that now have a home are looking to expand their homes so that they can provide a home stay for those that want to visit the community.

After this talk from Manuel we had dinner with some of the community. Each member of the host family brought something for everybody to enjoy at dinner. There was so many food and everybody was very connected as a family more than a community. After we ate we had a small celebration. A traditional music group came into manuel's home and played music with their instruments as some of the woman sang. We danced and celebrated with some of the community members present.

Being able to learn from my host family and the community they formed was a great experience for me. I was able to see the true value in life. The people that live in San Clemente don't have a lot, but they are very happy with the community basis that they built. They have food that they grow themselves and they have one another in the community for support. From spending the day with Rosita I learned how value life is for her and her family. They are very connected with their community, but also with the environment. They are always connecting with the environment through ceremonies and spiritual practices. Seeing how connected the family in this village was made me very happy. It taught me to value the things that I have, but also to understand the true values of connectedness in a community.

Homestay in San Clemente

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We spent the past four days at the highland villages north of the city of Quito. We visited some sacred sites, experienced authentic Quichua culture and learned a lot about their culture and agriculture. However, I will be blogging about my experience with my host family and their community.

We met with our respective host families on Thursday and stayed with them until the next day. Rachael and I had the same host family. When we reached the family's house, they had us settle down and brought us around the house so that we could familiarize ourselves within the house and its surroundings. Soon after, we helped prepare lunch and had lunch together. We had authentic Ecuadorian food and it was really tasty! We then changed into our traditional outfits and headed to the center of the village, where all sorts of activities take place. The man of the family told us that every family in the village is Catholic except two families and they all go to church on Sundays. Church is where they celebrate mass, baptism, weddings and funerals. They would get together for coffee and food, and play voleyball on Sundays. I thought that was a good way to maintain their relationship with one another. Then, we headed to Emmanuel's house. He did a little introduction on the Quichua culture and explained to us about the community and organization they had at the village. I've to admit that everything was so organized and I guess that's how they kept their lives going! After that, the lady from the embroidery organization talked about the history of their work and showed us some of their hand-made pieces. One of the ladies said that people used to pay 60 cents for a piece of shirt with some embroideries on it, which was shocking to me as they were really underpaid for such beautiful pieces made with good efforts! I'm glad that they managed to get their pieces priced up to the amount they deserved!

On that very night, we had a huge traditional celebration with the people of the village. They genuinely cooked a lot of good food for us. After dinner, some of them played music using their traditional instruments and we had to dance! It was incredible and definitely a memorable experience because I've never had a celebration as such before! It was interesting to see how everyone got together and celebrated as one without any discrimination.

On the second day, we woke up early to have breakfast with out family. We then spent time with the children of the family. It was hard for me because I didn't/don't know how to speak Spanish, but definitely learned along the way! After that, we packed and went over to Emmanuel's place, where he taught us how to grind corn into flour. Each of us tried grinding and it was pretty fun although it was so much harder than expected (the lady who did it made it seem easy!). I guess one becomes an expect at his or her job when he or she works on it diligently, daily. After grinding the corns, Emmanuel gave some insights about the agricultural calendar and we watched some people plow the land with two bulls.

Overall, I had a great time at the highlands! The trip there was fruitful and I hope to be able to learn more when we go to the tropical jungles of the amazon basin!

First Day in Otavalo

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Yesterday was the first day that we traveled to the highlands, Otavalo. On the way we stopped at the Cochasquí archeology site. This site has the ruins of the Cochasquí pyramids that are not in the shape that I thought of for pyramids. They are like a pointed pyramid but cut half way up, so they have a flat top. Nine of the fifteen also have ramps making these appear T-shaped. This, to the culture is in the shape of a woman, as the leaders for this group were women. For this culture, it was interesting to find out that the first of the year starts on March 21, the longest day of the year. Fire is important to the culture so on this day they would start a fire in a certain area and maintain it for the entire year. Finding out all of the information was a great way to have a look into a different culture and understand a small portion of their customs. To hear about this gave a new way to look at indigenous traditions and culture importances. When we were done at the ruins we drove to Otavalo. The image below is a view from our hotel in the highlands. Thumbnail image for DSCN0699.JPG For the late afternoon we were invited to an ancestral ceremony at Guillermo's house and it was a beautiful ceremony. For me one of the really unique aspects was the cleansing that he performed for each person. This was a new experience for me so to be apart of this was eye-opening and I felt really good inside after this cleansing. Another really beautiful thing that happened was when he was finishing his musical section and it was starting to become quieter, the rain picked up and this remained me of how we are all connected to nature.

Happy New Year

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New's Year Eve.wlmp

We've been in Ecuador for three days now learning about the city of Quito, ecology of Ecuador, and intercultural development. New Year's is a very special celebration for the people of Ecuador, especially the people of Quito. Burning Año Viejo dummies in the street, dressing up in costumes, and fireworks galore. The above clip is a 30 second example of what lasted for more than an hour.

Rachael Dittberner Adelmann-- Introduction

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Hello! My name is Rachael and I am a sophomore this year. I am slightly undecided in my quest for a major but for now I am planning on majoring in Speech-Language-Hearing-Sciences with minors in Linguistics and some branch of Psychology. I commute to school every day from Farmington, so it is about an hour of a commute, very early in the morning. I have been a vegetarian for over 8 years, and still going strong. I have 6 brothers and sister, 4 nephews and 1 niece, and grew up on a farm.

My social identities include being a vegetarian, growing up on a farm, and always being excited to try something new. Being a vegetarian means that I won't be able to experience all of the local food from Ecuador and might cause some difficulties if people in Ecuador aren't used to vegetarians. Since I grew up on a farm I was outside all the time when I was younger so I feel more comfortable outside with lots of space around me and wonderful wildlife and scenery. I also like going to school in the cities but I am glad I still live in the country. So, hopefully I will be very comfortable in the city and out of it, or at least not too overwhelmed by how many people there are. And, I love to do things just to say I have, so I can't wait to try everything we can in Ecuador. I love to meet new people and try new things and this trip is full of both of those!

Jay Hatch Introduction

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All y'all. My name is Jay Hatch, and I will be helping Mark Bellcourt facilitate the Minnesota to Ecuador course. I have been teaching at University of Minnesota and at various places on 5 continents for the past 31 years.JHatch_Guat.jpg

I was born Jay Deaton in Cincinnati, Ohio, to a family that originally came from Virginia. Both sides of my family came to Virginia in the 17th Century, and stayed there until after the Civil War. In the 1870s, they moved to Kentucky. I was the first in the family to be "born a Yankee," as many of my relatives reminded me when I was a kid. So, my social identity is that of a Southern white male, right? Not exactly. At age 4, I was adopted by a man who was born and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. I spent my summers in Marblehead, climbing rocks by the ocean, sailing, and eating fried clams. So, I'm a New England, Midwestern, Southern white guy. I suppose so, and that means I have either lots of conflicting social values or many hybrid values or some of both.

Regardless, or maybe because of my family background, I have always loved diversity-diversity of place, diversity of food, diversity of culture, diversity in ways of knowing, and especially diversity of biological life. That love of diversity led me to become an ecologist, a university professor, and a teacher in programs that emphasize and utilize the value of cultural and socio-economic diversity to help us understand humanity and Mother Earth and to contribute positively to their well-being. Oh, did I mention that my children are both K'iche' (Quiche) Maya from Guatemala? So, yeah, my social identity is middle-class white American male, but life is and should be so much more than that.

I anticipate that my identities and experiences will keep my mind wide-open to everything and everyone we encounter in Ecuador. That, along with my background as an ecologist and natural historian, will be useful in helping each of us explore the cultural and ecological diversity of Ecuador and enfold indigenous knowledge into our frameworks of thinking. So, let's go explore!!

Bimose Inini (Mark Bellcourt)

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Boozhoo: mark.JPG
Many Indigenous people have certain protocols for introductions. In keeping with the protocols of my Ojibwe ancestors, please allow me to introduce myself first Ojibwemong:

Boozhoo, Mark Bellcourt niin indizhinikaaz zhaanaashiimong. Bimose Inini idash nindigo Ojibwemong. Gaawiin ningikenimaasii indoodem. Gaa-Waabaabiganikaag niin indoojibaa. Ashkibugziibing nindayendaa noongom.

Greetings, my English name is Mark Bellcourt. However, I am called Walking Man in Ojibwe. I do not know my clan. I come from White Earth, but now I live in St. Paul.

Within my lifetime, I've had the opportunity to assume many different social identities. I grew up in a low income single parent family in a small, very white, town in Iowa. During that time, I maintained the identity of a white conservative male. However, as time went by, I begin to learn more about my dad's side of the family - Anishanaabe from White Earth. I also was the first person in my family to graduate high school. My siblings, three brothers, often made fun of me as the "smart" one in the family - discouraging me from further education. My educational accomplishments were not celebrated by my family or friends. I found myself living in many different worlds at the same time. Sometimes I continued assuming the role of a conservative educated white male. Other times, I assummed the role of a proud liberal Native American. I've managed to change my social identity depending upon the situation abd audience. At this point in my life, I have assummed the identity of the proud liberal Native American for the most part, but can assume other roles if necessary.

I would anticipate that my background and social identities will contribute greatly to our trip to ecuador. My Indigenous knowledge and identity can help me make connections to the Indigenous communities of Ecudaor while my white well educated male identitiy will enable me to maintain the respect of the academic world.