Today was our first full day in Riobamba and we have settled in nicely.  During this morning’s group discussion, we untangled the difference between being a “tourist” and being a “traveler”. One main difference we agreed upon was that a tourist will observe a culture and people from afar, while a traveler will engage in his/her surroundings, seek to learn, and even open up to being transformed by new experiences.

Today, we were pushed to be travelers.

This morning’s scavenger hunt of downtown Riobamba did not allow us to just sit back and sight-see; we had to quickly learn how to actively engage with the people around us. We were humbled by their willingness to share their daily lives, interests and rich histories with us, and by their interest in us too.

In the afternoon, we made empanadas from scratch, guided by our wonderful chefs Cesar and Marcelo. Studentsreally got into the process and at dinner, were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Speaking of fruits, we were also treated to a tasting of native Ecuadorian fruits and fresh sugar cane. Students began their own chant of “TRY IT, TRY IT” to reluctant students, and it was effective in encouraging everyone to try new foods; many of the students found that they really liked things they had never even heard of before today. At dinner tonight, in addition to our empanadas, we also had Ecuadorian ceviche–which was cold–much to the students’ surprise.

Students are continuing to have experiences in Riobamba that push them out of their comfort zones, and challenge them to grow and bond with new students in positive and reflective ways.

The nightly meeting was especially powerful tonight. We discussed histories, cultures, and colonialisms that we have all inherited and that we must confront and contend with in order to grow as a community and as human beings.