Adios Amigos!

My time in the Enchanted Isles has come to a close.  The students are
still there until later this month.   My job was to assist in getting them down
there and to help this brand new program get launched.  When I left they
were well on their way to a successful program complete with all the
trimmings of a study abroad program including but not limited to; heat, lots of
walking, lots of studying, new friends both American and Ecuadorian,
hardships, hilarity, and soon the heart break of leaving.

Being away from home helps you see the good and the bad of your own life
and habits,  I have a new appreciation for clean drinking water and hot
showers.  Being away I appreciated no franchise restaurants or stores, no
homeless and no pan-handlers.  At home I realized how quiet my
neighborhood is.  Being away I saw the whole community join together each
evening in camaraderie.

Taking in the best of two cultures and bringing that into one’s life is
perhaps study abroad in the truest form.
Parents of TnCIS Galapagos 2012 be proud of your children.  I ‘m in awe of
each and every one of them.

with kindest regards,

Karen Anderson
TnCIS Secretary

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An Enchanted Evening

I’ve been intrigued by the street vendors here since the first night we strolled by them on our way to ice cream.  I was mesmerized by the the sights and smells of the charcoal cooked foods.  This street during the day is all closed up but after sunset it comes alive.   I’m sure it’s related to the ferocious sun going down.  Check out the daytime vs evening photographs of the same street!

 

Tonight, a few of us go (literally) out to eat (parents and my boss don’t worry- our guide was with us and even ordered for us.)  Pulling together  tables we laughed and talked and dined (delicious!)  We joined the locals and dined under the stars (star- it gets overcast here at night.)  Another amazing experience in the Enchanted Isles.

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Study Abroad

My time in the Enchanted Isles is running short. There are tears in my eyes as I type this post. I know from experience that being with a group of people for an extended period of time creates a special bond. Add to that a environment so different, fun times and hard times we are there for each other.

As the office secretary I am privileged to work directly with the TnCIS students. June and July are especially fun as that’s when most programs have returned. Students come into the office explaining how they now have friends overseas. I get to hear hilarious stories, exciting adventures, I get to see their amazing photographs. They tell me with whole heart how they just can not verbalize their experience. This June and July I will nod my head in complete understanding. Study Abroad will change your life.

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Bay Tour

I went out with the Genetics students last week on a 4 hour bay tour. We were to go to 7 different sites around the area and snorkel at two locations. The water was pretty choppy and all of us choose not to snorkel in our first location, I choose not to because I saw a marine iguana swimming in the water, others choose not to for some other reason which I do not know because I was busy imagining how terrifying it would be to swimming with an iguana.

But the site was a beautiful rocky shore and several sea lions were both on the rocks and in the water. This was the first time we got to see them in a mo natural environment instead of begging for scraps at the fish market.

At our next site we do gear up for a snorkel session. I did have an underwater camera but I’m not expecting anything other than solid green pictures. Apparently I have a small fear of snorkeling. No matter, I was able to enjoy watching the students from the boat. The snorkeling was great and they students were seeing lots of colorful fish. Scanning the water from the boat, I notice a sea li on in the water headed our way..no wait head Garrett’sway. Garrett was busy looking down and under the water he didn’t hear us yelling. In hilarious sequence of events we watch the sea lion swim within 2 feet in front of Garrett. I don’t know how he did it but Garrett actually jumps out of the water!

It doesn’t take long before everyone is back on the boat and we are headed to our next destination. This is a hike across lava rack, along the way our guide is explaining the plants, showing us a fly catching plant. He is a very knowledgable guide. He leads us to an marine iguana breeding site. We are. At the end of the breeding season but we did see the holes they dig to lay their eggs. The beach at this shore is gorgeous back rocks. Before you climb out, wait a minute look around to see if the rock you are about to step on is moving. The jet black rocks are the same color as the iguanas.

From here we travel by boat back to Germany Beach to go discover Las Grietas. This is the famous gorge where people other than TnCIS students cliff dive. Due to the impending 6 PM sunset we only had a mere 20 minutes to enjoy swimming in this gorge of cool water with 30 foot cliffs on either side of us.

A final hike over the lava rock trail and we arrive back on the docks in the evening dusk.

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The amazing blue footed boobies

I cannot stop watching (llet’s be honest…I can’t stop photographing)these
avian torpedoes. I beg your pardon for the blurry photos..the dive is an amazing speed.

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Latitude 0′ 0′ 0′

Puerto Ayora is our happy home. I must admit when we first arrived I was a little apprehensive. Now after a mere 10 days we have our routine down and I can honestly say I feel safer walking around here than I do I many places in Knoxville. Please let me show you the town. First is the Crossman hotel. Here Cain Carlos has become our dear friend. I would say he is the onsite manager of the hotel. It’s him we run to when we need anything. Also at the Crossman are the most wonderful cooks…we have been fed well. This is home style cooking -it’s like being at your grandma’s house for breakfast,lunch and dinner. Plus, they even make delicious special meals for the three vegetarians, they make them their own dish…not just pull the meat off like they often do in the States.

Let’s walk down the street. Did I mention that Puerto Ayora comes alive at night? I’m sure it’s related to the heat. But check out the street kiosks in day and same street at night.

Since I’m limited in skill and technology, the photos may be out of order compared to the post,but bear with me – you’ll be able to figure it out. Next is Baltra Street, this leads directly to the docks. We all spend a lot of time on the docks…it’s a great place to get WiFi. And at night the baby sharks come out. During the day you can almost always spot a sea lion and sometimes a sea turtle. Don’t forget to look at the moon over the water too.

At least once a day some one is walking up to the lavanderia (laundry). This sweet woman speaks no English but she knows us. She charges $1/pound. On my second day of dropping off she even knew my name.

The beautiful building with the wood decks we call the “treehouse” this is another WiFi but the bonus is ice cream!! This is where we stroll almost nightly for a treat.

The main street is Charles Darwin Ave. This is where all the shops are…it’s the most colorful street I’ve ever seen. The funky white building with the silver fence is a high end jewelry store that rumor has it is only open once a year.

The mermaid mural is in the handicraft bizarre. Another set of kiosks with crafts.

And here is our grocery store. Snacks, super cold Coke (the delicious Coke made with sugar) as well as many other strange things not normally available in a grocery.

And this is our lovely home.

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Animal photos

Here is what we are seeing…

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More just photos

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The Land Before Time

Today half of our group ventured to another island of the archipelago to Seymour Norte. This island is special in that is is the nesting grounds for the frigate birds and the blue footed boobies. It is a wildlife sanctuary so the only thing on it are the animals.

Enroute to the island, we stop at a beach for an hour and a half snorkel session or for the less brave some just plain beach time. But before we get in the water we have to go check out the flamingos feeding in the lagoon. There are two elegant beauties in the pond. They look so perfect I thought they were plastic decoys.

Okay it’s hot, time to get in the water. The brave snorkelers don their gear and back themselves out into the water (one cannot walk forward in flippers! ) but not before Kyle demonstrates the blue footed boobie dance with his blue flippers.

The snorkelers return ecstatic – they were swimming with a sea turtle. Alex filmed it-amazing footage. We wrap up and pack up and board the boat. Waiting for us on board – lunch! Fresh (I mean fresh!) fish, watermelon, grapes, tossed salad and green beans. Continuing on to the main destination, we see a shark fin. The famous hammerhead shark! Let’s not fall out of the boat now!

Once we reach the shore…well actually the pile of rocks that we will call the shore, we see a nesting pair of swallow tail gulls. Oh wait, almost forgot about the swimming iguana and the sea lion in the water. Within 10 feet of getting off the boat are nesting frigate birds. All over the place. And guess what? A new iguana! Surprise! The land Iguana which is much larger than the marine iguana. This thing looks like a dinosaur. Walking on the lava rock path, scrawny trees holding the giant frigate birds it really is an unreal experience. A few minutes later the students are shouting for me to come and there he is- a blue footed boobie just standing in a rock preening,

One hundred and fifty photographs later we move down the path. Another boobie this one is sitting on the eggs. Repeat the previous two sentences (remove the egg part) about 50 more times and you will have a pretty good idea of our afternoon. Oh anddon’t forget to throw in a bunch of sea lion pups,four more land iguanas and a snake.

Truly unique, utterly fascinating, Seymore Norte.

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Only in the Galapagos…

Everyone needs to chill now and then.

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