January 3 - May 1, 2012
The Ecuador program offers rich paths to discovery in the realms of nature and culture.
Students live with families in Cuenca, where they learn about everyday life, patterns of
ritual and celebration, gender norms, and many aspects of culture invisible to outsiders.
Mornings find students studying Spanish at Fundación Amauta, the school with whom
Lewis and Clark has a long-standing relationship. Classes at Amauta include grammar,
conversation, and interactive learning experiences in Spanish. These include a painting
murals with local children, exchanges with students from the University of Azuay, and
a visit to the 10 de Agosto market. Here, they choose from one of the many varieties of
potatoes and local produce, and learn to make typical Ecuadorian foods to contribute to a
fabulous collective lunch.
Afternoons, students explore Andean cultural identity and cross-cultural communication
with Tamara Trownsell, a long-time Cuenca resident. They become participant-observers
of life in Cuenca through fieldwork in the city, visits with a curandera – a traditional
healer – at the market, and other cultural activities. On alternate afternoons, our group
studies Ecuador’s five main ecosystems with Ernesto Arbeláez, biology instructor and
director of the Zoológico Bioparque de Cuenca Amaru. They photograph Andean bears
and porcupines while listening to lectures about Ecuador’s staggering biodiversity.
Research projects focus on the ecosystems’ components, location, range, the interaction
between human cultures and natural systems, and the main threats to the survival of both.
Though based in Cuenca for most of the semester, the program also includes academic
travel to the southern Amazon Basin (the Oriente), an exploration of the capital Quito and
surrounding areas, and a visit to the famous Ingapirca ruins and a Cañari community in
the highlands two hours from Cuenca.
Students in this year’s program include majors in psychology, art, English, biochemistry
and biology. In their writing during orientation, each expressed hopes and some fears
about studying in another country. Living overseas, as many Lewis and Clark students
know, can be a life-changing experience. Amauta Director Mayra Cordoso reinforces
this possibility. She says, “My main hope is that students, after living in Ecuador, see the
world from another point of view, that this experience offers them new perspectives for
making big decisions in their lives.”
Our photos here chronicle some of our group’s remarkable discoveries.