I'm back in the United States, back in New York, in my house (and to be even more exact, my bedroom). A lot has happened since I left here four weeks ago. I have traveled to Ecuador, met with UN agencies, explored Yasuni National Park in the Amazon and swam in the Pacific Ocean. With all this being said, I am a bit overwhelmed by the recapping process but I will try to make some sense of it for you all.
I arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador one month ago today. It looks alarmingly like Cusco, an Andean city in Peru that I studied abroad in, so I felt immediately at ease. Our first meetings was with the HIV/AIDS division of UNESCO, which corresponds with Goal 6 of the MDGs. I learned that HIV, although extremely rare with a prevalence rate of 0.08, is highly stigmatized and most common in the mobile workers in the coastal zone. The women that Drisk, Jerry and I met with were extremely intelligent and dedicated to educating Ecuador's youth about HIV transmission and how to prevent the virus.
After 3 days in Quito we moved on to Tena, a charming jungle city. We ate grilled corn and plantains every night of our stay and purchased a knife to enjoy the fresh pineapple that was everywhere. Here is the merging of two rivers in Tena:
There wasn't a whole lot of research to do in Tena (the rafting, caving and kayaking that tempted us is another story) so we moved on to Coca. Coca is known for its petroleros, oil workers that move in and out of the city. From here we met with Irma, my absolute favorite person at the Información Turistica, who led us to Juan Carlos and into the Amazon.
A few phone calls and a 10 hour motorized canoe ride later, we arrived in Nuevo Rocafuerte, which rests on the border of Ecuador and Peru. Nuevo Rocafuerte has ZERO cars and only two motorcycles. Men sitting with monkeys are a common sight and there were more stars there than I have ever seen before. Upon our arrival, our trusty jungle guide, Juan Carlos, wanted us to climb this tower:
To see this sunset:
And here is team Ecuador, happy to be off a canoe and watching the sky:
That is all for now, part 2 through a million to come!