Sunday, 8 September 2013

Day 1 - Farewell's, Planes, and Running Through Airports

Our day started very early in the morning. Excitement kept most of us up through the night, and it seemed like the only thing anyone managed to say that morning was "I can't believe it's finally here." After some tough goodbyes we went through security, boarded our plane, and were off to Minneapolis. We enjoyed (some might say endured...) a pretty long layover in Minneapolis, which was made even longer when the plane that was supposed to take us to Atlanta was delayed. When we made it onto the plane to Atlanta we began to prep to catch our next flight. Before the delay we were supposed to have about an hour once we landed to go through the airport and get on our next flight to Quito. Now, because of the delay, we had about 10 minutes. One of our group leaders was sent ahead of everyone to try and get someone to hold the plane. Luckily they got their soon enough and we were able to board the plane. We were finally on our way to Ecuador.

Since the plane ride took place very late in the evening it was very dark and uneventful. Outside was nothing but black. Then, one small orange light. Then another. And another. Before I knew it, beneath us was a sea of orange lights. Not bright and clear like most North American city's at night, but fuzzy, blurry - as if covered by clouds. We touched down in Quito around 11:00pm and made our way through customs. We did our best to be alert, but we all showed signs of a long day of travel: sleepy eyes and frizzy, messed up hair. On the other side of customs we were greeted by a lovely little sign that said "Me to We - Girl Guides! :)". Holding the sign were two young women - Lily and Lydia. Lily and Lydia were going to be our facilitators for our entire trip. What's a facilitator you ask? A facilitator is the person who works for Me to We and travels with you wherever you go. They organize evening activities and also work as translators. We followed them outside, found our little tour bus, loaded up our bags, and off we went.

I didn't really know what to think about the first time I drove around Quito. It was night time and obviously dark. I was also really tired from a long day of travel. Still, Quito had a different feel that I wasn't quite expecting. The clouds had moved in and settled in the streets. Mix that with the yellow-orange glow of the streetlights - it made for an eerie scene. We were given some super yummy pizza for a late dinner. It was a little cold, but had no sauce. Being a person who has a great dislike for anything saucy or tomato-ey, it made me (and my stomach) very happy. While trying to reach our hotel, something happened ahead on the road and traffic had come to a complete stand-still. People would get out of their cars, talk to each other, get back in. Other people would in between the cars, either on their own, or with animals. An ambulance was behind us, sirens wailing, trying to get through. The tiny little ambulance, with its back doors flapping open, made it a little further before deciding to drive over the curb and boulevard into the opposite direction of traffic. That was when I confirmed I definitely did not want to get injured on this trip.

It took a little while, but eventually traffic began to move again. Since our bedtime was going to be delayed as we wouldn't make it back to the hotel for quite a while, Lily and Lydia decided to go over some rules and information on the bus. Rules are never that fun, but getting it over with and being able to sleep in tomorrow was pretty pleasant thought. We discussed Group A/B rules (Me to We's basic trip rules) as well as some safety and health things. One big talk we had was about altitude sickness. Where we live in Canada is about 240m (approx. 787 ft.) above sea level. Quito is at about 2,800m (approx. 9,350 ft.) above sea level. Big difference. Those of you who are familiar with your Gas Laws (specifically Boyle's Law: P1xV1 = P2xV2) would know why...

{{{INSERT RANDOM SCIENCE LESSON - Not necessary, but cool.
Boyle's Law says that as pressure increases, volume decreases, and as pressure decreases, volume increases. The percent of oxygen molecules in the air is about 21%. Imagine you put 21 drops of food colouring into a glass of water. You'd be able to see it, right? Now, as you increase in altitude, the air pressure decreases. As pressure decreases, volume does what?.... That's right! It INCREASES. Now imagine putting another 21 drops of food colouring into a pool - you wouldn't notice a difference in the colour of the water. The oxygen molecules in the air are still present, they just aren't as concentrated as they are near sea level. Pretty neat, huh! Now back to the altitude sickness talk:}}}

We were told different signs to look out for: headaches, nausea... I was lucky enough to be one of the few girls to keep altitude sickness at bay. I heard that if you are more physically fit/play sports that you are less likely to encounter altitude sickness (Woot, woot! Go dancers!), but the one thing that we were constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY) told to do was drink water. We saw our fair share of Ecuadorian bathrooms because of it, but it really did help.

We eventually made it into the heart of Quito, and to our Hotel. The Hotel San Fransisco didn't look like much on the outside, but on the inside it had an adorable lobby that reminded me a lot of the Winnipeg Zoo Conservatory. We divided into groups and went up to our rooms. We unpacked, washed up and hopped into our beds. It took a while before anyone went to sleep, for most of us talked into the early hours of the morning about what on earth we might experience tomorrow...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

I'm Home!

After an amazing two weeks in Ecuador I have returned home! It was a little bittersweet to leave some new found friends behind, though coming home to my family's traditional french meat pie was a nice surprise.

Since my trip was so fantastic and action packed I've decided that one post about the trip wouldn't be enough. I will therefore be starting with Day 1 and recounting all of the amazing things we did with a separate post for each day. It may take a while for me to get all the days out there, but I am extremely excited to share my experience with you!

Click the links below to read about each day:
Day 1 - August 7th 2013

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Ed-Venture Begins

The day has finally come! Today is the day I leave for Ecuador. It is unbelievable that over a year of planning has passed by and we will soon begin our adventure. I posted some of my "thank you's" to my personal Facebook page, but I thought I'd share them here as well:

Thank you Krista and Laura for being brave enough to take twelve teenage girls to Ecuador. Thanks for all the time you have devoted to this trip and for always being fantastic and fun. I'd also like to thank Krista for taking me to We Day, I had a blast! Thank you Glenda, even though you are no longer going on the trip with us it was still great to meet you. A massive thank you to Nancy, without you I would never be going on this trip. I would like to thank Nancy, Bonnie, and Sharon for being incredible Guiders. You have all been extremely supportive of me and I thank you for being such a huge part of my Guiding. Thanks to the eleven other girls going on this trip for being so amazing and friendly. I'm so glad to have met you. Thank you to my Mom, Dad, and the rest of my family for always being so supportive of my Guiding and this trip to Ecuador. Thank you to anyone who has ever made a donation or supported my trip through fundraising. You are all amazing and I (and my parents) thank you very much! Thanks to anyone who has every bought a box of Girl Guide cookies from me... and no, they are not made out of Girl Guides (*cough* Mr. Lucy *cough*). Thank you to anyone who has ever expressed interest in my trip or asked me about it. Your patience while I excitedly rambled on was greatly appreciated. And finally, I would like to thank everyone who told me to have fun on my trip to Africa. I hope you have fun on your next geography test.

I also have to thank each and every one of you who has visited my blog and taken the time to read my posts. I hope you continue to come back and visit. I look forward to sharing all of my experiences with you.

Have a lovely day, I'll see you in two weeks!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Packing Tips

In preparation for going to Ecuador, I have begun to pack... mainly just to check that I can fit everything in my bag. I normally procrastinate and saving packing until the night before (as I do with everything else in life) but I am determined to break this habit as I pack for Ecuador. Here are some of the ways I pack things in my bag in order to make sure everything stays compact and organized. I have to thank many of my leaders to showing me these packing techniques; I've found them very helpful and thought it would be great thing to pass onto others.

Sleeping bags often take up a lot of space. Many of them come with their own bags, some of them pack up your sleeping bag pretty well, others not so much. A compression sac is a great way to reduce the amount of space your sleeping bag takes up. They come in various sizes/volumes, all with the purpose of making whatever you put inside as small and compact as possible.

Left: Bag that came with my sleeping bag, Right: Sleeping bag in compression sac

Two words: PLASTIC BAGS. Yes, those plastic zip-up bags. Ever seen those infomercials where the woman puts the clothes in the massive clear bag, attaches her vacuum, and then the bag shrinks down to become flat and compact? This is a similar idea on a less grand scale. Better organize your clothing by separating it into tops, bottoms, undergarments, rolling and placing them in separate freezer-size plastic zip-up bags. Suck out the air with a straw and "ta-da"! Now all of your clothing is contained and less likely to be mixed up and thrown about while searching for that fresh pair of socks. Your clothing will also remain dry in the case that your tent floods or bag comes into contact with water.

Fold and roll the clothing tightly so that it is slightly smaller than the width of the bag

5 T-shirts easily fit into one freezer bag!

Extra large plastic zip-up bags can also be used to store your sleeping bag and pillows when out and about. At GM2010 in Guelph, Ontario our leaders provided us with these bags and instructed us to pack up our bedding every morning. This saved our bedding from becoming damp on more than one occasion!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ecuador Ed-Venture Clothing and Logo

Exciting news... I just received my Ecuador Ed-Venture clothing and crests! Each participant had the choice of either a T-shirt or 3/4 length shirt and a pull over or zip-up hoodie. Both the shirt and sweater have our Ecuador Ed-Venture logo on the front, as well as Girl Guides of Canada and the trefoil on the left shoulder.

 I am thrilled with how the logo/crest design turned out. A girl in our group came up with the main idea for the crest, and with input from the rest of the girls and leaders this is the final design:

The world and people are a reference to the Free the Children logo, the organization that we are supporting by going on this trip. The maple leaf on one person represents Canada, and the rose represents Ecuador. The crest design also has the GGC trefoil (of course!) and the Me to We logo. Me to We supports Free the Children in many ways, mainly by organizing volunteer trips to countries such as Kenya, India, Ghana and Ecuador. We Day is great way to learn about their organization and how to get involved in a variety of projects, both large ones overseas and small things you can do at home. If you have the opportunity to go to We Day I highly encourage you go!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

17 Sleeps!

The final prep before going to Ecuador has begun! The nice little pile in my living room is slowly beginning to grow... first simply a backpack and gloves, it now includes a sleeping bag, various T-shirts, uniforms and socks. Due to the culture of Ecuador our group has to be careful as to what clothing items we wear. Spaghetti strap tank tops, V-necks, and shorts above the knees are all clothing items we have to avoid. Being a teenager means that my closest consists mainly of those items, and I therefore have a fair amount of shopping to do. I recently made a trip to MEC, where I picked out a new sleeping bag and a compression sac. When choosing what compression sac would work best, the employee helping me showed me two sacs, one smaller and the other larger. He recommended I go with the larger one because I might have trouble packing up the sleeping bag into a smaller sac. That was when I looked at him and said, "Give me the small one, it'll be fine. I'm a Girl Guide." He chuckled and proceeded to help me with other items. (I'll add that when I got home I had no trouble at all packing my new sleeping bag up; my Mom was quite impressed.... )

I have to thank my family, friends, and anyone and everyone I have come into contact with recently... I can barely contain my excitement and hope you don't mind my constant chatter about this upcoming trip. Ecuador is the furthest away from home I have ever been, and the idea of going to another country to making a difference in the lives of others is something I am very excited to do. I have been anxiously awaiting this journey for just over a year now. The fact that is it so close is incredible.

Thanks for checking out my blog. I look forward to sharing my stories of Ecuador with all of you and hope you continue come back to read my future posts. Thanks again, and have a lovely day!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Journey to Churchill

In July 2012, my unit took the unbelievably long train ride up to Churchill, Manitoba. Since I am going back there for a couple days this summer (by plane, thankfully) I thought I'd share a bit of our trip last year:

After a two-day train ride, looking out your window and seeing nothing but prairie, we arrived in Churchill. We got on a little bus and rode to the Northern Studies Centre. It's a great new building that is big and bright. It has an awesome "Aurora Dome", a spiral staircase leading to a large bubble in the roof. It made for a great place to read and relax. After a quick tour around the Centre and a quick explanation of how to avoid being eaten by a polar bear we built model rockets and went outside to launch them. Anytime we walked outside, a fair distance from any building or safe structure, we were accompanied by a person with a rifle: our polar bear protection. It was a little odd at first, but it was nice knowing there was someone looking out for you. We all wanted to see a polar bear, maybe not while we were launching model rockets, but at some point during our trip. You see, there was a "Polar Bear Sightings" whiteboard inside the centre and we were determined to write on that board... even though everyone told us our chances of seeing a polar bear were slim. Well, we didn't see one polar bear on our trip, we saw three!

Looking down into the main entrance of the Studies Centre

The steps up to the Aurora Dome

The Aurora Dome had a beautiful view of the sky!

These signs were all over the place. I was very happy when we went shopping and found a crest that resembles these signs

Our first polar bear sighting was while we were Beluga Whale watching. After watching the playful white whales and their adorable grey baby's, our tour guide took us for a tour of Prince of Wales Fort. We were accompanied by two men, one who I nicknamed "Ranger Gord" (a Canada Parks officer) and the other riding a quad. They both told us to keep an eye out for polar bears since they seemed to frequent this particular area. As luck would have it, we did! It was a fair distance away, on Eskimo Point, so we quickly and quietly jogged back to our boat, hopped in, and went to get a closer look at our first polar bear. Although we got a little closer in our boat the polar bear was still extremely far away and tiny looking; only a camera with an incredible zoom could get a half decent picture. Still, we had accomplished our goal: we saw a polar bear.


Prince of Wales Fort

Inside the Fort

I Spy with my little eye a polar bear... Can you spot it?

Our next polar bear sighting had to be the most exciting. That day we got on an enormous Tundra Buggy and journeyed out into the Tundra. Our tour guide took us to the spot where the ashes of Debbie (the world's oldest polar bear) were spread, and began a presentation on polar bears. A short while later a polar bear was spotted in the water swimming towards the shore. We all immediately pulled out our cameras and binoculars, and began to silently wait. The polar bear made its way all the way up to our Tundra Buggy before continuing down the path. It was an incredible, being less that 10 feet away from a polar bear, and being to get such amazing photos.

The Tundra Buggy is like a monster truck-school bus that has a large deck on the back

It's coming towards us!

I think she's looking for Girl Guide Cookies...

This demonstrates just how close she got to us in the Buggy

We added our sightings to the Polar Bear Sightings board

Our final polar bear sighting was on our last day in Churchill, and completely unexpected. Behind the huge building that houses the school, hospital and much much more, there is a wooden boat play structure type thing that looks out onto Hudson's Bay. Apparently all of us girls were a little too crazy so our leaders had us go play on the boat to let off some steam. Just as we were loading back up on the bus a polar bear appeared on the shore. We all quickly took our seats and watched it. In the blink of an eye two large trucks appeared and proceeded to direct the bear away from town.

This boat was a great place to have lunch!

Our final polar bear sighting

During our touring of Churchill we also visited the Camp Nanuq and Caribou Hall. Camp Nanuq is a Girl Guide and Boy Scout camp just outside of Churchill that we would have stayed in, had we not be able to stay at the Northern Studies Centre. As much as staying at Camp Nanuq would have been cool, having to go outside to the outhouse was a bit of a turnoff, especially with the potential threat of polar bears. In town we drove by Caribou Hall, a cool looking building where the Girl Guides have their meetings. It was nice to see how Girl Guides have left their mark on Churchill... especially since the entire population of Churchill is about 2/3 of that of my High School!

Camp Nanuq sign
The lovely facilities at Camp Nanuq

     Caribou Hall

We had many other great experiences in Churchill such as going for a tour of the tundra, kayaking with beluga whales, dog carting, caribou hair sculpting, seeing Miss Piggy (crashed C46 plane, not the Muppet), the Ithica, Eskimo Museum, the polar bear "jail" and of course, shopping down the one main street. One of the best parts of the trip had to be bonding with the other girls. This trip strengthened our friendships tremendously, and I am extremely thankful for that... even if it means never looking at "bug wipes" the same way again. Overall it was an incredible experience, a trip that I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

The belugas loved following the kayaks

Polar bear "jail" sign

Miss Piggy

Beluga swimming under our boat

Friday, 12 July 2013

Craft Idea

Today's Craft Idea: Boo Boo Bunnies
A cute little friend to cuddle with or make your boo-boos better!
What you will need:
- face cloth
- elastic band
- yarn or ribbon
- small and large pom-poms
- buttons or googly eyes
- fun foam
- hot glue gun or white glue

Lay out your wash cloth and begin tightly rolling one corner to the middle.

Tightly roll the opposite corner to the middle so the two rolls meet.

Fold the rolled cloth in half so what used to be the bottom is now facing the outside. Secure with an elastic about 1/3 down the cloth from the fold. This creates the body.

Fold the two ends of the cloth back up towards the elastic. Tie a piece of yarn or ribbon around it. This creates the head and ears.

Glue a large pom-pom on the back for the bunny's fluffy tail.

Use buttons or googly eyes, a small pom-pom and thin pieces of fun foam for the bunny's eyes, nose and whiskers.

Your boo-boo bunny is now complete! An ice cube fits nicely into the body of the bunny to help sooth your boo-boos. I hope you enjoyed today's craft. If you have any comments, questions or concerns feel free to leave a comment below. Have a lovely day!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Fun Finds

If you set a metre high stack of card-stock in front of me and told me to put it in "rainbow order" I would happily sit there for hours sorting the colours till I was satisfied. Now, put me in my room and tell me to clean out my closets and it's barely five minutes before I decide I've had enough. You can image I wasn't very happy when my Mom asked me to help her sort through some boxes and clean out the hall closet... Though now, I can honestly say I'm glad she did. While cleaning out the boxes, making decisions on what was a cute keep-sake and what was just taking up space, we came across a mysterious old Q-Tip box. We opened it up to reveal long lost treasure: some of my Mom's old Brownie and Girl Guide badges. I eagerly ran downstairs to grab my own box of Brownie badges and Guide sash and we began comparing what her badges were like mine. The biggest change had to be in the Brownie badges, from the old brown and gold triangles to the present day orange-trimmed octagons. I was in Brownies during the transition from the brown rectangular badges with the green, yellow and red trim to the most recent badge design. When I was younger I was a little upset that my badges looked different. Now I think it's really cool to see how they have changed.

Although the shape has changed, I absolutely adore the Circle Emblems. I love how the Brownie characters and style have remained the same, even after all these years.

Mom's Elf and Sprite on the left, my Nymph and Fairy circle emblems on the right

Moving onto the Guide badges you can see that not much has changed since my Mom was a Girl Guide. The embroidery on today's badges is of course a lot more elaborate, but the shape and style remain the same. I love how both my Mom and I earned some of the same badges, I think it's really cool that I can say that. Here are some of my Mom's badges next to my Guide sash:

You know I think I might just like cleaning a little more now, knowing it may lead me to treasures like this...

Monday, 8 July 2013

Delicious Camp Hat Craft Ideas

My favourite camp hat crafts are often the ones that resemble food. I don't really know why, I guess I just like tiny food that I can't eat. Anyways, I thought I'd share some camp hat craft ideas with you! I have either made these crafts or received them through a trade. I hope you enjoy these yummy and adorable camp hat crafts!

Fortune Cookie



Cotton Candy
Thanks to J & D from Nova Scotia for this awesome cotton candy!


Thanks to the Rangers from New Brunswick for this adorable pan of cookies!

Bacon and Eggs in Frying Pan

Girl Guide Cookies
Thanks to S from Alberta for making these cute sandwich cookies!

Peas in a Pod

If you have any comments or questions about these camp hat crafts go ahead and leave a comment below! :)