With so many moments of newness and “this will make more sense” conversations happening while the group settles into their new normal, it feels impossible for the first week not go whiz by in a blur. While I could write about all the classes and framing for the semester, it felt a little more real (and fun) to check in with the crew and hear a bit about their first impressions, memorable moments, and times that made them smile during the past five days. I managed to catch each person for a quick blog nugget, and here’s what they shared (any of my follow-up prompts are in noted in parenthesis)…


Kate D – I was very surprised by the beauty, it’s incredibly green. I loved seeing the houses popping up along the hillsides as we drove over the Andes mountains and into Mindo. Even at night or in the rain, the green keeps things feeling alive. The temperature is so steady too, it isn’t like New York, there’s no shock of cold in the morning or night, it’s quite enjoyable. I didn’t know what to imagine about hostels, I guess I hadn’t put much thought into what they might be like as I haven’t stayed in one. But our spot surprised me! It is so nice and comfortable, everyone is cheerful and welcoming as they go about their day. Plus we have sweet dogs here to help this spot feel like home. I loved going out into the town and practicing my Spanish. And, the food is really good!

Ryan, Kate D, Tula

Maeve – There is so much color here, even with the houses, they really POP. The landscape is big, and it’s incredible how the houses have been built into the land. It feels so different, the houses seem like they have been added to the land, rather than taking away from it like so many places in the US. As a tourist, I feel welcomed into this community of Mindo, everyone has been kind and welcoming. It’s interesting to be so close to the equator, my circadian rhythm feels different with the sun setting at 6pm and rising at 6am. This is definitely new for me and I’m excited to see where else we go. 

Maeve & Chloe

Adelaide – I love seeing the new environment and landscape, it is so different from where I live and from what I’ve seen. I have an incredible view from my spot at the hostel – my sleeping perch at the top of the treehouse has been a dream to start this adventure. (Share a bit more about the hostel) All the students are in this cool treehouse style spot at our hostel with small rooms tucked off of each staircase. The house is made of a local wood making it feel like we are part of the landscape. (What are you looking forward to?) I’m looking forward to environmental science class because it feels like it can be so hands on. While it is daunting to speak Spanish, I’ve tried a little bit and the people are inviting. They smile and listen as we each try. I feel like I’ll be trying more conversations soon. 

Camden & Adelaide

Olive – Flying into Quito felt surreal, it was dark and late and the lights around the city looked mystical. It was as if they were making constellations and I couldn’t figure out why they would have these patterns. Waking up the next morning, and driving out of the city, I realized how steep the mountains were and how the light patterns happened as the roads wound through the dense trees up and down the mountains. Now in Mindo, this town is so cool. I love the dogs (Which hostel dog is winning your heart? Tessa or Rocky?) Rocky, he’s so chill and faithful to our group. He comes onto our porch to hang out and sleeps at the gate as if protecting us. He also went on our PE run. (What made you smile?) Dinners with everyone. I love listening to the conversations and learning about people. Oh, I also loved being out in nature during our ziplining. It pushed me out of my comfort zone. 


Katherine – The first night will stick with me for a while, the city lights were incredible and a bit mystifying. It felt like a unique spot to fly into, especially when I couldn’t see the landscape and understand why the lights were in those designs. Then waking up at the first hostel and seeing the surroundings. I had a great view of the mountains, they’re beautiful(!) out my window and it was a special way to wake up for my first full day in Ecuador. Oh, and hearing the frogs and the night noises at the first hostel, then having teachers come up and deliver pizza to our rooms in the middle of the night. It was a big first day and I’m excited to see what other adventures we have.  



Claire – Let me bring you into our laundry lesson – while we were learning how to wash our own clothes by hand, I spotted some sugar cane plants. I love sugar cane and had hoped we would see some. Jenna helped me gather some courage and I asked one of the gardeners who was pruning nearby about the plants. I managed to communicate what the plant was, confirm it was sugar cane and if I could try some. It was a really special moment when I tried and succeeded in my communication. He paused his work, chopped a few stalks of sugarcane down, and then cut it into small chunks for us to try. I saw the generosity of these people firsthand and their willingness to chat and share this space with me. Plus, I then got to share this awesome food with the rest of the group. 


Camden – Ziplining was the best thing ever! I wish we could have gone longer and faster. We zipped on 10 different lines, some were labeled as fast and others slow or long. On some of the slower ones we could go with one of the guides and then fly upside down or in the superwoman position. I went upside down and it was super cool, I’ve never experienced anything quite like that in my life! When I was zipping alone on the slow/long ones, I kept my hands free and let myself spin, on the fast lines we had to have one hand on the cable behind us to help guide us and brake if needed. 

Camden, Chloe, Claire, Ryan, and Tula

Cambyr – Yes, ziplining was really fun! We were in the canopy, going back and forth to different sides of a canyon. I liked going upside down, my favorite part closing my eyes, feeling the sprinkle of rain, feeling free as the air rushed by. Then the moment when that all changed, and I went from a calming flying state to an abrupt stop as I hit the stopping device near the end of the line. It’s amazing how quickly those moments come and go in life. 

Another moment from this week that made me laugh really hard was the mentor sorting hat ceremony. It was really special to find out my mentor and know they want to hold space for each of us as humans. (Share a bit more) Ok, so the teachers set us up by talking about what mentorship is, the unique space it can hold for each of us, and the way this relationship and our mentor pods will be a formative part of this experience. Then, they stepped out and came back dressed up and acting out the scene from the Harry Potter sorting hat. They’re not afraid to be goofy with us. After all of this, I got to step away for my first mentor meeting with a walk around town. The meeting helped me feel centered and gave me another opportunity to see the town and glimpse into what’s to come. 


Chloe – During one afternoon free time, I was sitting on the swing, reading, listening to the river, and also watching the hummingbirds swoop around the feeders. These two young kids (I think the owner’s children) came over and asked to play with me in Spanish. Of course I said yes, and for the next hour or so we laughed through a mixture of language bloopers while racing, jumping around, doing cartwheels and more. I learned all about them and soon Claire, Cambyr, Katherine joined for a “marco polo” type of hide and seek game. It was such a great way to practice Spanish, engage with people, and laugh to refill my cup after some busy days.  


Ryan – I’m loving the free time highlights and group bonding. We’ve been playing cards, swinging in the hammocks, and spending time talking on the porch area. The hammocks are on the cool patio spot by the river, we’ve been doing lots of classes over there. It’s pretty awesome to have class with the river noise and looking up at the mountains while swinging on a colorful hammock. (What are you looking forward to?) I’m looking forward to seeing how this all unfolds and learning more about some of my first experiences. During our first town time, I had cheese on the ice cream and I wasn’t expecting that! Then, it happened again during our mentor pod dinners, there was cheese on my french fries tonight. I want to understand a bit more about these differences that feel a little strange right now. 

Tula – After arriving at the hostel a little later than expected, I was overjoyed to see everyone and re-enter the community with all these amazing and lovely people. I couldn’t help but feel that my mouth was always agape looking at the natural surroundings – my heart is full of joy, happiness and excitement about what’s to come.

Tula and Kate 

While each person captured a different moment and shared their unique perspective – one thing rang true – the toilet routine still feels weird!

On Saturday we transitioned to the Mashpi community to learn about sustainability and permaculture. The setting was instantaneously mesmerizing, and the hosts couldn’t be more welcoming. Students settled into their lofted rooms above the cooking and gathering area before heading out to learn a bit about the land, the water and the crops. During our first walk, Oliver (our host) said, “rivers are the memory of the land,” which resonated with how they talk about living with and passing through this landscape and ecosystem as a way of life. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this week unfolds – this is a curious bunch of humans who are asking great questions and helping us all think about basically everything! I’m in awe of their questions, their note taking and their intent listening as we share moments with these hosts and with one another.

– Aunge Thomas, Head of School