Walking around the tourist areas of Ecuador, it’s not hard to find bracelets, keychains and other merchandise adorned with the phrase “Ecuador: Ama La Vida”, next to a spiral prism of colors that has become their logo. Ama La Vida means Love Life, and traveling around Ecuador, it’s hard not to. From the busy sloping hills of Quito to the still-indigineous corners of the rainforest, Ecuadorian life provides as many unique atmospheres and experiences as are represented in it’s trademark prism. This past weekend, Anna and I checked a couple tourist attractions off our last-minute Quito to-do list, and now the group has been reunited in the colorful beach town of Montanita.
From any point in Quito, you can look up and see a statue of the Virgin, called the Panacia, on a hill in the middle of the metropolis. The statue can be quite a controversy in Quito, it’s back is turned to South Quito, a notoriously impoverished region, and is the basis for a famous Ecuadorian movie named A Tus Espaldas, “To Your Backs”, which depicts life in South Quito, where even the famous Virgin’s back is turned to them.
Anna and I went to visit the Panacia this weekend, and got a close-up view of the statue. It has demon-like creatures and claws coming out from the bottom which we are sure are meant to symbolize something, but have not yet taken the time to riddle out. To complete our To-Do List, we braved some very steep ladders at very high altitudes to climb to the top of the Basilica in Old Quito, where we saw some tremendous views of the city from the windy towers of the old church.
After a 9 hour bus journey on Monday and a 3 hour bus today, this morning the group finally arrived in the much-anticipated Montanita! Here we have an opportunity to do a little relaxing, lounging, surfing, shopping, good eating and enjoying of the great nightlife. 5 days will be just enough time to stock up on souvenirs, get tan enough to make everyone at home jealous, and wind down from an intense 2 months of volunteering before heading back or, as with some volunteers, carrying on to the next leg of our journeys.
Whatever the plans each of us has for the rest of the year, we will all be feeling quite sad to see the group break up in less than a week from now. One thing’s for sure, we all never forget the wonderful experiences we had and the amazing friends we made in Ecuador, and how we learned to Ama La Vida.
Rachel (Leap Business Intern, Ecuador Jan 2013)