Today we woke up at an early 6:20 in the morning. It was still dim outside and we were all feeling really sleepy. We met down in the lobby at 6:50 and we were on the bus by 7:00 with our breakfasts. Today we went to the wonderful town of Salinas. While it was an hour long drive, we filled the time with putting breakfast in our bellies and with Emily reading riddles to some of us. We arrived at the cheese factory and played an energizer called pterodactyl. We had to say the word “pterodactyl” with our mouths closed and us trying to get other people to laugh. While Skyler and Marco are the reining champs, Laurel successfully got the most people out. After playing the game for a while, we made our way into the cheese factory to start our tour. Our tour guide, Don Victor, explained to us the cheese factory’s process of making the cheese. They first pasteurize the milk and then put the milk into molds… I was trying to write down the whole process but the translations went by so fast.  But once the process was described, we went upstairs to where they sold most of their cheeses, which Josue called, “His Heaven.” Don Victor explained that Salinas has 10,000 inhabitants and has areas ranging from 800 to 4,000 meters above sea level. The center of Salinas is at 3,500 meters – I found it really interesting to know that we were so high up. They sold all ranges of cheese, from fresh cheese to aged parmesan and we were able to try mozzarella with oregano, Tilsit, and gouda. They were all delicious. Once we tried and bought some cheeses, we went back on the bus to go to the Chocolate Factory.

The Chocolate Factory was one of the most delicious visits of the day. Inside we were introduced to so much variety of chocolate. It is safe to say that many of us spent half of our money at the chocolate factory, with people buying bucket loads of chocolate. Half of us went to see the process of the chocolate making and half of us went to visit the salt mine. We then switched so we got a full tour of both.  For the chocolate tour, we went inside this tiny lab room where we put on our hair nets, looking so stylish of course. Jorge, the chocolate master and creator himself, cooked up two batches of chocolate for us: dark and milk chocolate. They were beyond delicious. Jorge explained the chocolate making process. To begin, the cacao is cut in half with a knife and the chocolate makers check the color to make sure it is good enough for chocolate. The color variation includes two; which are dark brown and a slight hue of purple. Obviously, the dark brown cacao is the most preferred and allows for the chocolate to be much more fine in taste and aroma. After checking for the best cacao, they manually remove any strange substances in the cacao such as rocks, dirt, and any other substance. After cleaning up the cacao they put it into a small container that fits into a small oven. The oven bakes the cacao to the temperature and time that the cooks need the cacao to be at. Once it has been toasted in the small oven, Jorge takes the cacao and put it into a special vacuum machine that separates the cacao and the shell from each other. Once separated, Jorge makes sure that there aren’t any extra shells in the cacao. The second to final part of the process is taking the extracted cacao and grinding it up into a cacao paste. With the cacao paste, Jorge added the final ingredients to make the chocolate: milk, sugar, butter (or lard), and the signature ingredient for the type of chocolate that Jorge was making. In this case, it was simply milk chocolate. We tried four different types of chocolates: milk chocolate, chocolate fondant, chocolate infused with coffee, and chocolate covered banana pieces. Jorge also explained to us that about fifteen percent of the income that the companies make in Salinas goes directly to neighboring communities. A lot of the people that the companies help are elderly and young people – they typically assist with education, eating, and housing. A lot of these young people go on and create their own small businesses. Jorge said a really profound quote that represents the role that Salinas plays with the neighboring communities. “Salinas produces not only products, but people as well.”

Meanwhile, half of us learned about the salt mining process, where they separated the salt and water from the other minerals in the salt mine. As seen from the photos, Tyler, Skyler’s child (inflatable penguin), is seen floating around on top of the salty water. We had prepared a whole photo shoot for Tyler. The salt mine was extremely cool to look at, although it was hard to take in most of the scenery, with the strong gusts of wind throwing off our balance. The wind was so strong that it blew my leader of the day hat near the stream, but Marco was able to fetch it for me. I thanked him immensely. The hike back up from the salt mines were rough, but we all made it with the help from Kate and other glimpsers cheering us on.

From the salt mine, we went to the Textile Factory, where we saw how they turned alpaca and sheep wool into yarn. But on the way to the Textile Factory, we made a fury friend. While we couldn’t pet him, we did name him “Mad Dog” or “Galleta”. He followed us around everywhere in Salinas, even waiting for us outside of the pizzeria once we were done eating. After the textile factory, we made our way to “Andean Artisans” store, where they sold a variety of goods made out of the sheep and llama wool. Many of us bought scarves, ponchos, jackets, beanies, and llama keychains. During our time there, we were approached by one of the employees who asked us if we wanted to model some of their new wool products. Asha, Ellery, Arianna, and Crystal were the models for the wool products. They seemed like naturals as the employees took pictures of them for the store’s advertising. There also was a llama and sheep portrait where one could put their head through for a photo. Emily, one of our GGLs, took a picture of Joshua and Asha. It was hilarious. Joshua was the llama and Asha was the sheep.

After everyone bought their souvenirs and clothes, we made our way to the pizzeria called, La Vak. We had over six pizzas; which included Hawaiian, vegetarian, and anther covered in different meats. Many of us had over four slices of pizza, such as Ellery and Skyler – while Josue only ate two. After eating our fill of pizza and soda, we made our way back to the bus. It was about an hour from Salinas to Guaranda. Once we arrived back at our hotel, we changed into our “business casual” clothes and prepared for our first English tutoring classes. While we were nervous for our first day teaching, we arrived at Verbo Divino, walking past all of the kids we were about to teach. We were given our student attendance list and we walked to the rooms we were about to teach in.

Ellery taught the Intermediate B group with Lucinda D. while Josue taught the Beginning C group with Simone. Ellery’s class was eager to learn, as were many!  Once we were done tutoring English we headed back to the hotel, where we got ready for dinner. For dinner, we had fried chicken and french fries with a salad on the side. Many of us were excited to eat this. After eating the main course, we were served a type of crepe, or pancake, with whipped cream and some fruits. Everyone ate it with forks and knives, but Marco and Josue didn’t have the necessary utensils. In the end, we decided to eat the crepes as a sort of taco. After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to have our nightly meeting and call it a night.

Thanks for reading – we’re signing off and handing the torch over to Simone to lead us in our second free day tomorrow!

– Ellery & Josue