I have always wanted to volunteer and help out after a disaster so when I heard from my friend Michael that there was a project in Ecuador I thought it was meant to be and decided it was a must to add on to my trip. The girls didn’t really want to volunteer so I said I wanted to go on my own and thought it would be good to split up and have some time apart but they didn’t like the idea so came with me. I said no moaning or arguing and they were both great to be fair and I was glad they came in the end.
We got the night bus from Quito to Canoa which was the bumpiest and worst ride yet and took 2 hours less than expected a so we got dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere at 5.30am. Luckily there was a French girl that was going to meet her friend so she showed us the way to the hostel (she actually took us to Coco Loco and not the Coconut hostel but it was good enough for us. We waited it out like hobos in the garden until it got light and then hitched a lift to the right place up the road.
The first day we were just at base clearing an overgrown area to make a garden for the staff and tidying and cleaning up base. Afterwards we went in the sea and fell asleep on the beach as we were exhausted. All the staff came back from the day at work and we had to do the whole cringy stand up say your name, where you’re from, why you came etc etc. Everyone at All Hands seemed so nice and welcoming, there’s the odd one on a power trip but I guess you get that everywhere you work.
The second day we had to get up at 6am to have breakfast and leave by 7am. It was good that us 3 girls were split up into different teams so that we could meet new people. First task I was handed a machete and told to shave the excess off the bamboo to make it flat…I mean yes course I can do that no problem… I was then asked how good I am with a saw… I was like erm well since the few times I used a saw in wood work classes about 12 years ago I would say my saw skills are average. Actually though I wasn’t half bad at it, better than I was at using the machete! I was helping out a girl to finish the walls, drilling and cutting and climbing the scaffolding. It amazed me at what they allowed us to do but the house looked great and was extremely well built. Apparently they last 25 years, they have an upstairs and a separate toilet building out the back, they’re actually really nice and the bamboo structure looks cool. I made a school boy error and went to use the temporary toilet which is a hole in the floor but it absolutely stunk and had all maggots and flies in it, it was disgusting. I was like ewwwww how do they even use that, the volunteers were like yeah it’s rank just go in the bushes! The people who’s house we were building were staying in a temporary shelter next to the new house and cooked us dinner which was really nice.
On the Saturday we took part in the Olympics games which obviously was held in honour of the recent Olympics in Brazil. It was fun we did loads of different things like javelin and shot put. I think I pulled a ligament being as competitive as I am! (Being competitive and being good are 2 different things can I just add!) After this we all went out in Canoa and stayed in a hostel because the volunteering place has an 11pm curfew. I got royally fucked up and my Hong Kongnese friend had to drag me back to the hostel which I am very thankful for and apparently neither of us could get the key in the lock. I then spent the next few hours of the morning with my head down the toilet and woke up with no pillow or blanket and Kelly in my bed… Dis-grace never learns! Sunday was our day off so a very hungover bunch of us went for breakfast and then chilled out all day.
We decided to head to Manta until Friday where there was another smaller project building a community centre. It was the best decision we had made, we stayed in a tent but it was comfier than being 3 of us on an air bed so when one moved we all moved. The work wasn’t with bamboo but with wood. So straight away we were using power tools, varnishing and hammering wood. We got a lot done and it was hard graft but the team was great and much better being smaller so you could get to know everyone. The base is in the grounds of a church and the vicar guy was clearly gay and so camp but he was so lovely and welcoming. We all played bingo with the church goers, luckily I understand Spanish numbers and I won the base some mugs and saucers woop woop.
At Manta the staff cook the meals so you take it in turns to be on house keeping. Me and Kelly got put on together which I wasn’t happy about because neither of us can cook. In the morning we cleaned the base and as I was cleaning the toilet and emptying toilet paper bins I thought Jesus I hope you’re watching you better bloody love me for this I could be on a beach somewhere! Neither of us are great at cooking and the most I have ever cooked for is about 5 so cooking for 15 was going to be a challenge. We decided to cook fajitas as that and lasagne is the only thing I am good at. We had a budget of $43 so we went to the market and someone had said go to the back for the chicken… For a second I was faced with the below image and thought omg I am going to have to kill a chicken! Then we looked round and saw luckily this was not the case, but I still had to stick my hand up the chickens backside and pull out the giblets while it had a head and feet still intact, I was gipping and everything it wasn’t a nice experience! I was doing all the bartering because negotiating is part of my job as a buyer and my Spanish is better than Kelly’s. I said to her ok you look for an avocado…she pointed at a water melon and went hey I’ve found an avocado… Needless to say I took charge of the task haha. With a shaky start I think I did well and everyone liked the food. So we are no Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson but I think we made a good team in the end.
I wasn’t well the next day and literally it took everything I had to varnish as I had no energy, I just crawled into my tent after work and slept for hours. I felt bad not being sociable seen as though CHarlotte and Kelly were and they hadn’t even wanted to do the volunteering but were thoroughly enjoying it by the end. If you know me well you know that I am a strange one and go through phases where I need to be alone and can’t be social especially if I am really tired. I envy them in a way that they can always be around people but I just like to be on my own reading sometimes. I enjoy my own company what can I say! The next night we went to watch the Ecuador Brazil football game after work which was so much fun! THe girls get so dressed up and there are so many people out watching it, good team and community spirit I wish England was more like this!
We were meant to be leaving on the Friday morning so we said bye on Thursday night…. The girls wanted to stay for tea Friday as some friends from Canoa were coming and cooking… I thought it was too late but I couldn’t be bothered to disagree so we stayed… We then said our goodbyes again and headed off for the bus to Montanita… It was gone 7pm and the buses had stopped so with out tails between our legs we headed back to base to stay the night. We ended up smashed on Rum so I was happy I had had a send off that night and made up for being in bed the day before! I also felt so much better, I’d had a rash on my chest and neck so was worried it may be something more serious but luckily I was ok after sleep and rest. Char was on hair dressing duties so she cut 2 guys hair and corn rowed mine, I love it! So third time lucky we said our goodbyes and headed for Montanita. Time to chill and party now yayyyy it’s well deserved!
Much love OTA xx