(Seth Harlan is today's guest blog author; apologies that it's been a while since someone else has weighed in on the blog! Enjoy!)
"Three weeks after opening our Teen Center, it was time to finally make good on our promises and offer something more constructive than video games and movie nights. (Pardon the interjection here, but for those who don’t yet know, the perks of my job now include playing soccer, video games, watching movies on the big screen, and taking kids on hiking trips. It’s a rough life we lead in Ecuador sometimes).
The teens were enjoying a week long vacation from school for Semana Santa (Easter) and we decided to go on our first excursion. Seven kids showed up at the teen center at 7:30 in the morning, ready to start our journey towards the 50 meter waterfall that lay at the end of the Río Pita. I was soon regretting my decision and missing my bed as I was badgered with questions and comments, “Profe why are we leaving so early? Profe why are we taking this bus? Profe why are we leaving so late? Profe, I’m cold. Profe why do we have to go to the waterfall?" (this from the girl who suggested the waterfall as our first excursion)...great.
It was with great patience (or the fact that I was still half asleep), that I endured the comments and decided to appoint the 15 year old vice-president Darling -nickname Chucky- as the official guide for the day. “All questions will be answered by Chucky, today’s group leader.”
Things settled down as we hopped on the bus and conversation changed to music, movies, costal Ecuadorian food versus food in the Sierra- the usual. Two hours later we made it to the trailhead. The trail started in the middle of a beautiful park, following the Río Pita and full of different spots for swimming, drinking the natural water, and mini waterfalls.
As we started Jimmy, one of the 13 year old boys, turned to me and said, “Profe be careful of the Pumas. Last time I was here we saw three.” From there we started the joke of the day “Oye! Hey, Watch out for that Puma!!” At ever twist and turn someone would yell out, “Duck, there’s a Puma!” With one silly joke, all the tension and self-awareness and awkwardness of teenage years had gone, allowing us to spend the rest of the day laughing and enjoying the hike. We finally made it to the waterfall, taking our time and plenty of pictures, and those who brought their lunch shared with everyone.
On a normal day, I would estimate this hike to take 5-6 hours round-trip, but we didn’t arrive back to the Teen Center until 4:30, 9 hours after we started. It wasn’t because we were slow hikers, but because we all fully enjoyed the day and were in no rush to get back home. It was the perfect mix of team building, group bonding, and fun. All and all I couldn’t have asked for anything more from our first excursion.