Otavalo is two hours north of Quito, high in the Andes mountains. It is located just off the pan American highway that goes straight to Columbia, which is three hours east of Otavalo. The Otavalo people are one of the largest indigenous groups living in Ecuador. They are known for their handicrafts, textiles and fabrics, leather goods, coffee, chocolate and roses. There are rose gardens and greenhouses that line the road and flowers are for sale everywhere! Roses are so abundant in Otavalo that the locals can buy a dozen roses for one dollar. The flowers are big business and are shipped daily to the United States, Europe and China. In fact, roses are so important to the Ecuadorians that there is a special room at the airport just to store the roses before they are shipped out!
We arrived at elementary school ISPED Manuela Canizares in Quito in the morning (March 10). Students were enthusiastically singing their national anthem and reciting the Ecuadorean pledge of allegiance our group. After the warm welcome, we split into groups of 20 four-year-old children in each group. Our individual groups greeted each of us with an abundance of energy, excitement and hugs. They were eager to use the art materials and we were excited to share our creative knowledge. Along with creating beautiful artwork , we interacted with the children through song, play and a variety of other activities.
Today (March 9) was our first full day in Ecuador. We began with a healthy breakfast of fruitas and granola. Then, we traveled to Old Town Quito and stopped first at La Basilica del Voto Nacional. We climbed what felt like hundreds of steep and treacherous stairs in La Basilica to reach the top of the bell tower. Our next stop was a Franciscan church called La Compania. The church was built by the Jesuits between the years of 1605 – 1765. Why did it take so long? From nave to alter, floor to ceiling, the church is painstakingly covered in a dazzling gold leaf.
We are on our way to Quito, Ecuador! We are currently stopped in Miami wondering what the upcoming week has in store for us from adjusting to the altitude to the impact we will make over the following week. Knowing that Quito is 9,400 feet above sea level what will the altitude difference be like compared to the 653 feet above sea level that Cleveland sits upon?
The count down is on. Nineteen Art Therapy and Counseling graduate students, one alumni and one professor, Katherine Jackson, will travel to Quito, Ecuador, Saturday, Marh 8, 2014. The group is going to Quito to work with impoverished children, some of whom are homeless. We will provide expressive arts therapy activities, loving care and possibly paint a mural to brighten up a wall at the Isped Manuela Canizares elementary school in urban Quito. There are approximately 500 children, ranging in age from four to 16-years who attend the school.