Monday, 16 September 2013

Zip Lining!

One last update before I head back to Merazonia for the week. Today was my day off so Daniel, another guy volunteering with me, and I came to a nearby town named BaƱos, which has tons of businesses offering ´extreme activities´ like paragliding, bungee jumping, white water rafting, canyoning (rappelling down a waterfall) and zip lining. One of the businesses offered a 4 activity package but unfortunately we didn´t have time because our bus leaves at 630 so we decided to go for zip lining since it only took 2 hours. We´ll be able to do the other stuff on other off days.

Needless to say it was the coolest thing Ive ever done, hands down. It only cost $25 and we were driven up higher into the mountains, where we were geared up and given instructions. There were 2 workers that were with us at all times so we always felt safe, never felt sketchy or dangerous. There were 6 lines, some were short (200m) and a couple were longer (more like 600m). Crazily enough I hung upside down for one haha, and most of them I went with my arms out in the ´superman position´ like you´re flying. It felt so surreal to be going over rivers, through the mountains, over trees. I'm so thankful I came to this country, and specifically this part of it, because it´s incredibly beautiful. I will be hard pressed to find scenery that tops this. Daniel took some pictures so unfortunately like everything else I won´t be able to show you what it looked like until I get home!

One Week In...

And everything so far is incredible. After a 4 hour bus trip from Quito to Puyo (which provided amazing scenery, I took many pictures haha), I had to backtrack about half an hour to get to Mera where Merazonia is. Unfortunately, the Puyo taxi drivers had no idea what or where Merazonia was, so the taxi driver I had ended up asking a few locals to find it, and after going down a few wrong roads we managed to find it. By the way, cars here don't really believe in seat belts or using turning signals.

The first night I just met everyone, ate dinner, and slept at about 10pm. The next day was my first full day of work, and it was pretty overwhelming needless to say. I finally had the chance to soak in the nature around me, as well as see all of the animals that are on the reserve. In total we have wooly monkeys, tamarin monkeys, capuchin monkeys, kinkojous (you definitely need to look up an image of those, weird looking things and not too happy when you wake them up during the day), various birds including big macaws, a puma, and an oncilla. We also have a baby monkey that we all take turns taking care of, and that was an incredible experience in itself. Having it cling to my arm and nestle in was something I didn't expect, but it's very loving.

There are big hills with mist that floats through the tops of trees, a river that runs right near our volunteer house (which makes falling asleep super easy), and depending on how the weather is you see different wildlife come out. For example when it rains, you can spot giant worms that are about an inch thick and over a meter long. When it's sunny, all of the butterflies and insects come out, and there are plenty of colourful ones. I'm trying my best to get a picture of every different butterfly I see.

A typical day starts at around 7:30am, when we all get up and head to the bodega to prepare the food for the animals. Then we do the feeding rounds until about 10, have breakfast and then start chores at 11. Usually that doesn't take long because it's just cleaning the volunteer house, the kitchen, bodega, and the bathroom (which is more like a giant outhouse). After chores we work on projects which is mainly new enclosures for animals we have already or will be receiving soon. One of the big projects we are working on is for the oncilla, building a much bigger enclosure for it to live in. It always involves a lot of hard labour because we have to bring up rocks and cut down small trees for it to climb on (which we cut with machetes) and carry them in and prop them up. I've been told that we expect to finish it within the next month or so, so it will be amazing to see it finished before I leave. After projects it's the second round of feeding, and we're done by 5 usually. Then we eat dinner which is usually a communal thing, with a few people cooking a giant meal. Because the day is so full and tiring we all usually pass out by 10/1030. There are so many stars at night that I sometimes just stand outside and stare up for a while just to soak it all in.

Some things that have taken getting used to is only having 5 minute showers because the hot water is limited, not having electricity, and having to be wet for most of the working day. However, I've gotten used to using my head lamp at night and using candles everywhere. I learned pretty quickly how to layer my clothes, so even during a downpour it's not that bad.

With half of the money I raised for Merazonia I was able to purchase some medical equipment that Frank and Louisa (the head co-ordinators) said they really needed. I met Louisa early in the week and she was ecstatic when I gave her the instruments. It was actually hard for me to not get emotional because of how happy she was and I knew how much it would be helping her out as well as the animals. I asked her to take a picture of her using the instruments so I can post it up here, so everyone that donated can see that their donations went to something constructive and useful.

We went out to a bar on Saturday which was fun, everyone was able to let loose and party a bit. Beer is usually about $1 or $1.50 each and the bottles are the size of 2 bottles back home. The food is actually really good because we get groceries a couple days a week, but since there's no refrigeration we get a bit of meat and cheese those days that goes into our dinners. I can live with that though, because as long as I have a full stomach I'm good to go.

That's about it for now! It's cool that everyone here is so similar and everyone thinks along the same lines and have the same outlook on life. We are always learning from one another. It's almost like a mini-UN because we have people from Canada, U.S., Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Italy, Ireland, and England. Because I don't have any internet where I live, I only get it when I come into town or my days off so my updates will be sporadic for now. Until next time!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Safe and Sound

Hello! After a long day yesterday I finally have an opportunity to post something up on here, unfortunately though no pictures for the moment. After my flight from Toronto which lasted from 11:00am - 4:00pm I had a 4 hour lay-over in El Salvador. Seeing the scenery and the green mountains when we were descending was an unreal experience, and really set in that I wasn´t home anymore. About an hour and a half before my flight to Quito, I met a girl named Hannah from San Francisco, who was also coming to Ecuador to volunteer. Having someone to talk to that spoke English and could relate was a huge relief. It ended up that she´s staying in the town right beside mine, so we exchanged info and hopefully we´ll get to meet up at some point while we´re both here!

As if that lucky run-in wasn´t enough, I met a really nice older man while waving down a taxi outside of Quito Airport. His name was Tim and he was from Germany, who had moved to Ecuador in 2003 to teach English and German and after a few years decided to become a tour guide. We shared a cab because we were going in the same direction, and I got a 30 minute run down of the better places to visit, information about the culture, and just general interesting stuff that was a huge bonus. The 40 minute taxi ride was only $40 (unreal right?) and I got to my hostel at about 1am. I didn´t sleep until 2:30 because I had to watch some tv to calm me down haha, but got a decent enough sleep and now I´m ready for my bus trip to my destination! Even looking out of my window here at the hostel the scenery is incredible and I can´t wait to upload pictures for you guys. I´m sure I´ll be taking plenty while on the bus and once I arrive at Merazonia!

Hopefully it isn´t too long until I post again, but this post served mainly to let everyone know all is well and I´m still in one piece. Much love!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Final Fundraising Total :D

It is with incredible happiness that I announce that the fundraising  campaign was a huge success. In total, $2135 was raised by the fundraiser, which exceeded my goal of $2000. The most sincere thank yous go out to everyone who contributed, regardless of whether it was a donation, lending a helping hand, taking part in the fundraising event, or spreading the word. Every cent is going towards improving the lives of injured animals and disadvantaged children and you are helping to create positive changes. The concert fundraiser held at This Ain’t Hollywood on August 21st went even better than I could have imagined, with over $1500 being raised in one night of amazing live music and great times with the best friends and family in the world. A special thank you goes out to the following businesses that donated items to be raffled with all ticket proceeds going towards the cause:

The Augusta House
Booster Juice (Upper James)
Bread Bar
Chicago Style Pizza Shack
Cineplex Cinemas
The Cupcakers
Lemongrass Restaurant
Mucho Burrito (Upper James)
Petsmart (Ancaster)
Swiss Chalet (Upper James)
Try This On for Size

Of the $1070 donated to the Merazonia animal rescue and rehabilitation centre, $550 has gone towards a new otoscope/throat illuminator (for looking in ears/throat), $50 towards much needed batteries, and the remainder will be given in the form of a cheque to be spent at their discretion. Of the $1070 donated to Aldea Yanapay children’s school, $200 has been spent on school supplies with the remainder being given in the form of a cheque to be spent at their discretion. If you would like to be added to my e-mail list and receive regular updates on my trip or just have some questions, just keep checking this space every few days, or feel free to send me a message at

A Little Introduction

If you're visiting this blog, you likely know that I am travelling to Ecuador and Peru from September -December of this year to do volunteer work. I will be spending time at an animal rescue/rehabilitation centre just outside of the Amazon rain forest, as well as helping at a school for disadvantaged children in Peru. I created this blog so that everyone interested will be able to receive updates on my adventures, as I'll be able to make posts on the go with my phone while I'm gone (and whenever I happen to find wifi). I figured while I have a little time before l leave, I should provide some details!

Where am I going?: On September 7th I will be flying out of Toronto just before lunch time, stopping in El Salvador, and arriving in Quito, Ecuador around 11pm/midnight the same day. I'll be volunteering at the Merazonia animal centre in the village of Mera, about 150km south of Quito. After spending about 5 weeks here I'll be making my way down to Cuzco, Peru which is in the south-east corner of the country. My volunteer placement there lasts from October 22nd until November 29th, but I haven't bought my return flight ticket yet since I'm sure I'll want to do more!

What made you want to do this/go to these places?: Initially, I had plans to leave in July/August to teach English in South Korea. However, because I'm terrible with procrastination and trying to wing everything, I didn't anticipate how drawn out and complicated the application process was, and also left it pretty late. Not wanting to take the chance that I end up with a brutal placement, I figured I'd give it a go next semester, but I also didn't want to wait around that long. With that in mind I came to the decision that I wanted to do volunteer work for a few months somewhere foreign and new.

South America came to mind not only because I've never been there, but because I've heard many great stories from friends and family that have traveled there. From what I'd heard and read, every country seemed to be so rich with culture, tradition, and history, that I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Mix that with my love of animals, my wanting to work with/help children in need, my love of travelling and my interest in different cultures, and it's easy to see why the decision wasn't exactly a hard one to make.

I spent about a week looking up as many different volunteer opportunities as I could find, and over a few days gradually whittled away all of the options that didn't sound like they were truly non-profit organizations, or if they simply didn't seem to be very passionate about what they did. After picking these two destinations, everything else just snowballed and came together gradually, and here I am in disbelief that I leave in 5 days.

Although this is a pretty daunting and intimidating experience, I know deep down that it will be incredibly rewarding and will be one of, if not the, most incredible times of my life. All I can do is go into this with an open mind and open heart, try as many new things as I can, and soak it all in! That being said, I'm honoured that you've taken the time to read this, and I hope that the stories and pictures I post up here are entertaining!