At 5:30am my alarm rang and I woke up to a cold and dark morning…so I decided to sleep for 15 more minutes. But I eventually got up with my roommate, Deyanira, to get ready for the day and wake up the rest of the group for their 6am wake up call. Thirty minutes later, we ate breakfast at the usual hotel restaurant, where they served us a plate of yogurt and fruit and a second plate of a seasoned savory crepe.

Already in our business casual clothes, we hopped in Don Fernando’s bus and headed to the local high school where we have done English tutoring for the past 2 days. Once we arrived, we waited around 20 minutes for the next class period to start before rushing to our classrooms and beginning our lessons. My partner, Anna, and I, had a simple schedule of warm ups and practice phrases to go through with our Advanced English class. Although our students do like to mess around at times like typical children, they did diligently copy notes and participate in the lessons.

Then at 9am sharp, class ended and we rode the bus back to our hotel to quickly change into our day clothes. Everyone seemed excited to see the quinoa fields and factories, but not really the 45 minute drive to get there. However, even once we got there, our journey wasn’t over. We trekked uphill for 10 minutes to get to the quinoa fields, but when we saw the view from the top of the hill, it was worth it. The quinoa fields stretched across the hills in hues of purple, green, and pink, while the snowy volcano, Chimborazo, loomed in the distance. In the fields, Jose, a local farmer for the quinoa company COPROBICH, taught us about the process of farming quinoa plants to be transported to the factories. He explained that the quinoa takes nutrients from the soil and that it was essential to move the quinoa fields every once in a while in order to allow the soil to revitalize itself. After we asked Jose questions about the quinoa fields, we had a bunch of mini photoshoots in the colorful fields. Everyone’s cameras were out and clicking, and we had a lot of fun vlogging too.

Next, we took the bus to the quinoa factory, where we were first given a presentation on the company COPROBICH and how it is a global business that also helps the local communities and indigenous population. We learned about the health benefits that employees recieve, as well as the women’s leadership programs that they provide. Then we split up into two groups to go into the actual quinoa factory and see all the machines they use. While the first group explored the factory, my group stayed back. When it was my group’s turn to explore the factory, we all donned bright blue hair nets and face masks. The inside of the factory looked like a huge open space, with gray walls and a tall roof. Unfortunately, the factory wasn’t running at the time, but we were still able to learn about the process of cleaning, sorting, and packaging quinoa. Our guide explained all the machines to us (while Paco translated of course) and walked us through the facility.

Once we had all finished our tours of the factory, I presented a gift to our host from COPROBICH. I was nervous at first, since I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, but I am proud that I gave the “thank you” speech in Spanish. After that, it was almost 2pm and we were all starving for lunch, so we sat outside the factory and ate our sandwiches and snacks. Today’s fruit was passionfruit, which was a little difficult to eat at first, since we didn’t have any spoons to scoop the seeds out, but it was very delicious.

Then after lunch came the moment we’ve all been waiting for: time to buy quinoa! We went inside the building – 5 students at a time – to purchase as much quinoa as we desired. It was especially cheap here, and some people definitely took advantage of that. After everyone had bought quinoa, we rode the bus back to the hotel and enjoyed some well-deserved free time. Some people just talked, played games, or played soccer (like me). Others, the “accountants” for the CAP project tomorrow, went into the city to buy the supplies that we would need for the project. Then we all met up with our English tutoring partners and created the lesson plans for our last day of class.

After that, it was finally dinner and we enjoyed a plate of chicken and rice and a mixture of native potatoes and purple cabbage. Luckily, Fernando revealed his Tapatio sauce tonight and we were all grateful. So grateful, that our word for the unity clap tonight was simply “Fernando!”

At our nightly meeting, I passed the torch to tomorrow’s LDDs and wished them luck as they help us navigate our first day of the CAP project tomorrow!