Last weekend, the Manna Project Ecuador team went on its first quarterly retreat. We definitely set a high bar for the rest of our retreats! MPI Ecuador's Country Director Nancy invited us to the farm operated by her husband's parents, Alfonso and Carmen. The farm is located near her former Peace Corps site in La Orense, nestled in the lush green cloud forest. Being in the cloud forest was a welcome change from the dry season that we are currently experiencing in Sangolqui. Heading down the mountains from Quito into the cloud forest, we could feel the air growing cleaner and more tropical, and the scenery quickly changed to lush and tropical trees and grasses.
Over three days we had the opportunity to experience a new part of Ecuador that many of us had never seen before, and experience a new way of life. We learned how to milk cows and got to participate in daily farm chores. The family taught us how to make some of the most delicious empanadas I've ever tasted, filled with cheese from the same cows that we got to milk! After eating one too many empanadas for breakfast, we hiked around the farm and herded cattle back to their pasture before hiking down to the river. That afternoon, we swam and bathed in another part of the Mulaute River... definitely a highlight of the trip!
The retreat was amazing, and we were sad to have to head back to Sangolqui after such an exciting yet relaxing few days. Beyond just being a wonderful trip into the cloud forest, the retreat was a breath of fresh air after working hard through the transition of leadership and the start of programs with new Program Directors. What was an amazing and eye-opening cultural experience to get to spend time in on Ecuadorian farm and see an entirely different side of the Ecuadorian experience.
Mil gracias to Nancy, her husband Enrique, their kids Sofie and Ronnie, and their entire family for the wonderful hospitality!!