¡Hola familias y amigas! Estamos en Mindo, con colibríes y mariposas a nuestro alrededor mientras escribo.

We are delighted to have arrived at this beautiful hostel, completed orientation sessions, and gradually immersed ourselves in the rhythm of activities, classes, self-care, and group bonding. The last ten days were truly special; I have no doubt that this will be a remarkable trip. We are all so excited to be a full group now – with our final two students arriving in the last week as well! All of these students are exceptional, and I am thrilled to spend the next couple of months with them and our teacher team.

Our initial days in Mindo were filled with Orientation activities, including creating community standards, goal setting, group sharing, games, place activities, understanding how academics will work, and exploration. Each night, we concluded with a circle to share and process the day and some of the big emotions coming up for some. Our first round of High, Low, Hero (where each student shares a high from the day, a low, and someone who helped them or brought a smile to their face) provided a sweet glimpse into the many ways students supported each other, even in the first 48 hours after leaving the US. On other nights, students shared their hopes and fears about the program, recognizing that many of their intentions and nerves were similar.

After addressing Risk Management and our group HOW’s (Habits of Work, Habits of We), students experienced their first Town Time – an opportunity to explore the charming town of Mindo. On the same day, we had our mentor naming ceremony (where Arden played the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter, and I was McGonagall), along with our first Friday fun, including instructor skits and a preview of the upcoming week. 

Since then, we have dined out many times, both in small pods with our Mentor/Mentee groups as well as a couple of big and small group dinners and lunches. We also celebrated the conclusion of orientation with a day of ziplining in the canopy of the cloud forest that characterizes Mindo. Mindo is renowned for its birds, butterflies, and various animals. Students have been documenting their sightings, including numerous hummingbird and small bright bird varieties, a toucan, countless butterflies, multiple iguanas, and more.

We left Mindo to spend our initial non-orientation days at a permaculture farm and forest school called Pambilliño (named after a variety of Palm called Pambill’s abundant in the area). These incredible trees have large above-ground roots that slowly move the tree around to find more sun and water when needed. In Pambilliño, we had days split between activities and academics – afternoons were often spent around a large table in classes, drinking hot chocolate with afternoon downpours around us. Mornings with our hosts Oliver and Mari included long hikes on their land, learning about agroforestry, their regenerative food forest projects, sustainable farming and permaculture, food harvesting and cooking for the group, cacao harvesting, and a tour of a regenerative cacao tour nearby. We swam in a rushing and clear river below their property almost every day, where students also got a glimpse into the local hangout spot of the small town and even encountered some Carnival mischief (think bubbles and paint). On our last day, we helped a group of community members re-path a trail, move soil, and paint a community building. We all had a substantial lunch in town and jumped in the river again to finish the day of sweaty work. A pizza party at Pambilliño concluded our time there. Hanging out at their farm as well as their neighbor farm Chonta Loma was a paradise for all of us, and amid all that, it was the perfect place to introduce classes, have our first Saturday Circle, and begin nightly study halls.

We are delighted to be back in Mindo for a couple of class days and to transition to our next chapter, away from the mosquitoes and heat, into the more arid mountains of the Andes outside of Otavalo. Enjoy this series of photos that I hope bring to life what is now almost two weeks on program with The Traveling School. 

Saludos and we will be back soon with more blogs! 

– Meredith and the teacher team.

P.S. We had a Valentine’s Day party (headed by students, namely Ryan) last night back in Mindo which included giving each other Valentine’s, an amazing poetic performance by Kate and another song performance by Camden, and some Bachata dancing with some curious locals… Some pics of this included as well.