For a country as small as Ecuador, roughly the size of the state of Colorado, it is extremely diverse. You may have heard there are the 4 main geographic areas- the Coast, the Sierra (highlands), the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. Within these 4 main regions, however, there are up to 14 different micro-climates, according to some. This results in a nation that is rich in natural resources, flora and fauna, and overall beauty. Beyond the great variety in nature, there is much cultural diversity within the different areas of the country. We were reminded of this on the recent trip that we took to the coastal region. Although it was not our first time to visit some of the places we went, most of our experience is in the Sierra, and so we were struck with how different life is in each place.
We were invited to go and see a big agricultural project that FACE is working on in collaboration with the Covenant church of Sweden in the city of Jipijapa (pronouned Hee-pee-haa-paa) in the coastal province of Manabi. They have recently planted close to 9,000 young coffee seedlings and plan to cultivate them in an organic manner to eventually process and export the beans. This is a community driven and managed project and we were able to meet the two young men tasked with caring for the plants and their environment. The plantation is on the side of a tall slope in a hilly, jungle area and is shaded by medium sized trees and countless banana plants. We are still learning about all of the details that will go into making this a successful community development project, but we enjoyed our time getting to know the people who are working with it and to go on a very strenuous hike all around the hillside seeing where the growth was happening. Although we are not specific experts on coffee, we discussed ideas for making sure the sunlight and shade were well regulated and how to maintain an organic environment while still discouraging pests and diseases.
From there we saw a few more ministries that IPEE (Ecuadorian Covenant Church) is involved with, including the Hechos 29/Acts 29 discipleship program that is currently taking place in the nearby city of Montecristi. We were also able to meet key people in the area who work with the various ministries which hopefully will be valuable in our future interactions.
Because we were “in the area” (even for how small the country is, the roads and topography and such make it so that travelling can be quite a lengthy endeavor) we decided to take advantage and visit our missionary colleague where she lives in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. However, we had a couple of days over the weekend in between so we chose to take our time driving down the coast and enjoy some time at the beach. We found a new town for us, called Ayampe where we enjoyed a quiet hostel right on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. On Saturday we took a day trip to Isla de la Plata, nicknamed “The Poor Man’s Galapagos” for its affordability, yet striking similarity to the nature found on the islands made famous by Charles Darwin. Sure enough, we were not disappointed. We were able to see humpback whales jumping, sea turtles greeting our boat as we came to shore, thousands of frigate birds and blue footed boobies (yes, we have heard all of the jokes by now), and even had a chance to snorkel and see very impressive coral and colorful fish. It was an awesome day to relax enjoy the striking beauty of this country. I can’t forget to mention all of the incredible seafood we ate!
When we finally made it to Guayaquil, we enjoyed spending time learning about the impressive city. Our colleague, Cheryll (or Charito, as she is called here in Ecuador) brought us to a nature and history park where we learned more about the geography and culture of the region and saw several famous monuments. She also showed us a few of the churches in the area and explained to us some of the dynamics of the ministries there. We enjoyed getting out to the countryside as well and seeing where much of the agricultural industry of the country centers- cacao forests, rice fields and sugar plantations as well as processing plants for all of these crucial staples.
Upon returning home, we had a carload full of treasures we picked up along our trip: seashells, seeds, tropical fruits, tree saplings, and SO MANY bananas/plantains.
Our financial budget and timeline allowed for us to participate in this brief country orientation, and for that we are very grateful. It was a great experience to discover anew the wonderful variety of this amazing country that we live in. Now we are itching to get more into the Amazon region, or “El Oriente” and learn what bounty of experiences we might encounter there!