*Sorry I keep uploading in bulk but I don´t have a lot internet time here often so I´ve been updating the blog that my parents use to keep tabs on me first and coming here when time permits
To start off, personal experience has taught me that vacations are situations where expectations and reality often fail to match up. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be a great test of patience. A great example of this was how we expected to broad a bus at 10ish on Friday night and travel a maximum of 10 hours to arrive on the southern coast of Ecuador by 7am on Saturday. The first part of this plan went very well, but it became clear to me that our reality was going to be very different when I woke at around 7 the next morning to watch a twin mattress being shoved down the aisle of the bus as the bus driver promised we would be to the coast by noon. Other fun adventures of what turned into a 20 hour ride included a quick stop to pick up the owner of our rented house (yes, of course she was coming to vacation with us, it's actually perfectly normal here), the time our driver leaned out the window to ask a passerby where the coast was, and a terrifying double U turn that Had to take place when it was revealed that our bus didn't have the proper papers to be traveling through a port city. This last bit of excitement was also very confusing as nothing was explained to us until after the fact, so it was perfectly logical for those of us in the back of the bus to assume that our driver was in fact smuggling drugs in the mattress and that was why we were avoiding the police. The solution to the paperwork problem was for us to wait out the police on the side of the road... we'd already come 17 hours at this point so there was no turning back. When we rebounded the bus we were told if stopped again that our cover story was that we were bound for a religious conference on the coast because somehow that'd make the paperwork less important. Around this point most of us had hit the point of hysteria where everything is so ridiculous that laughter is the only solution to any of it, and no one will deny that those 20 hours in the bus were excellent bonding time.
Eventually we did arrive at our house at 5pm on Saturday afternoon and we discovered how fortunate we were to have the twin mattress because 15 person house it was definitely not. Factor in that La Duena, the owner, got her own room with a queen size bed and that we had to put up the bus drivers as well, and the number of beds vanished quickly. Of course considering the amount of time we spent in the house and the mattresses we were able to find, this wasn't a huge issue. We got to the beach that evening for a few hours and later got to go out and experience Carnaval, which, I probably should have mentioned earlier, is the Latin American version of Mardi Grasi. This is to say, it is a celebration of great equality that everyone is meant to enjoy and all the basic rules of society go out the window. It's really common for things such as eggs, flour and water to be thrown at people, but in our region the weapon on choice was karaoka. This charming foamy soap mixture is generally shot out of pressurized cans directly into your nearest gringo's eyes, or at least that was my experience. Fortunately the stuff doesn't stain and for the most part it's all in good fun, but after awhile one tires of the smell and the feeling of being covered in foam. We also had someone get thrown into the ocean by a group of locals and in general there was a lot of music on the beach and a general free for all in the streets. And this craziness goes on for 4 DAYS, but thankfully the beaches, where we spent most our time were generally pretty relaxing places, where only small children wielded cans of foam.
The rest of the trip involved lots of juggling the expectations of 20 some people, a third of whom were members of students' host family's with completely different and at times it seemed secret, plans for the trip. There was plenty of time on the beach, much seafood was consumed and many gringos were burned to the point that walking and sitting are still pretty painful operations. Our bus drivers, who were contracted to drive (and vacation) with us for the whole trip also kept things interesting. In the words of one of my classmates, "They're both nice guys and I'd drink a beer with them, but given the choice between hiring them or an unlicensed 12 year old who was a blind in one eye and prone to epileptic fits I'd have a hard time picking." While keeping in mind that this was moments after we were all thrown at least 3 feet off our seats after speeding over a speed bump the size of a small cow, this statement explains those two perfectly. The ride home, which HAD to begin 4:30am (thankfully we were on proper Ecuador time so actually left around 6am) on Tuesday, was pleasantly only 14 hours long. By then we were all sick of the heat so the water that got shot at our windows in most towns was welcome and the drivers only had to ask for directions once or twice and everyone remained calm when the bus was searched for a fugitive. SO to sum up (sorry this entry was kind of long) my vacation was a rather entertaining adventure and I hope I was able to convey that here.