We began our day with a 5:30am wakeup call, the earliest wakeup of the trip, in order to simulate the experience of local indigenous workers who begin their days before sunrise in order to get the most out of each day. With curiosity in our minds and sleepy eyes, we rode from the crowded streets of Riobamba to the tranquilindigenous community at El Morino, Gaurote. Once we arrived, we met Cesar Ayol, the elected leader of this community, who served us a breakfast of bread, cheese, hardboiled eggs, and colada morada, a warmed fruity beverage usually served on Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). Over our delicious meal, Cesar discussed the culture, history, and politics of the community. Indigenous people have lived on this same land since colonial times. Historically, Spanish colonists would trap indigenous people in a cycle of debt and labor, which effectively acted as a form of legal slavery. This continued until the 1960s when a series of indigenous uprisings triggered the creation of new laws, ensuring the protection of the rights of indigenous people in Ecuador. The complex history of this indigenous community has led to a blending of colonial and indigenous beliefs and traditions, creating a unique culture and political system. A council comprised of 48 heads of family who appoint community members to political leadership roles leads this community of 280 people. The most important values of the community, which have remained constant throughout the complex indigenous history, are the importance of community and the value of hard work.

After breakfast, we split into smaller groups in order to help the various community projects. The groups were assigned a leader and aided in many chores such as cooking, landscaping, planting vegetables, and putting down fertilizer. At first, the task seemed to be quite simple. After starting, we soon realized this was not the case. Together, about nine of us followed our guide, Gloria, up a steep hill in order to collect the fertilizer. After the long journey of making our way up the hill, we were surprised with the sight of chickens, pigs, dogs, and guinea pigs. We collected several bags of fertilizer for each of the members in our group. The fertilizer was a combination of: chicken, cow, and guinea pig poop, leaves, and unwanted plants. Each person in the group was given a bag to carry down the hill, then down a long path to the fields. After the long exhausting trip to the fields, we found out that we had to pour out the mixture and spread it across a large field. Falsely thinking this was the end, Gloria told us more was needed, so we went back up and did the whole trip again. After laying down the second batch, we were ordered to then dig up dirt and help even out the land all around. As ridiculous as everything sounds, in the end it was worth it. After working, we were hit with the amazing news that we saved Gloria a month of work. But even though we saved her so much time, she still plans to continue where we left off bright and early tomorrow morning.

After the tiring but fulfilling day of living like a local, we were given a lunch of fish, salad, vegetable soup, and a rice and quinoa blend before heading back to Hotel Mashany. As soon as we got back, we prepared for our Community Action Project (CAP) presentation to the leaders of a local school. After four glimpsers gave a presentation in Spanish, we discussed the logistics and needs for the project between our group and the school leaders. We eventually decided on working to renovate an upper field area, work to insulate the inside of the school, and create an upper playground area. Before a well-deserved dinner of pizza, #yum #UnaMásPorFavor, the group continued our work tutoring young students in English at a local school. While the day started early and was filled with lots of hard work, at the end of the day we could all go to bed knowing that our work made an impact. ¡Hasta mañana!

Erika Pruitt, Kenwood Academy High School

Tim Steves, Highland Park High School