One of the most amazing parts of the Manna Project Program Director experience is the incredible ability to travel. Having Nicaragua or Ecuador as a home base makes traveling around the country, or around Latin America, ten times easier (and less expensive!). The Program Directors are constantly improving their Spanish skills, which makes communicating while traveling even easier.
Here are some of the most incredible trips taken by members of my team in Ecuador:
Machu Picchu: one of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu is so much more than any photo can capture. Clinging to the mountainside, breathlessly high in the Andes, visitors can walk among ancient ruins and learn about the Incan civilization. While it might be a common tourist destination, there is a reason Machu Picchu draws a crowd: it is truly an unforgettable site. Every year a group of Program Directors heads to Machu Picchu. Some choose to do the four-day hike to the site on the Inca Trail...others enjoy arriving by bus!
The Amazon: if you descend the Andes mountains from our site in the Los Chillos Valley, you'll soon arrive at the Amazon jungle, an ecological and anthropological gem. Almost every Program Director in Ecuador has the chance to visit the Amazon. This year, we even had the opportunity to take our second quarter retreat in Tena, on the edge of the rainforest. Visiting the Amazon is a chance to see unique wildlife, practice extreme sports like rafting (or something a little bit more calming, like tubing) and also interact with the local community living in the jungle.
Colombia: another popular destination for Program Directors, Colombia is only a few hours north of Ecuador by bus. It is is even more accessible by a short flight. Though we share a border, Colombia is vastly different from Ecuador, and the comparison is a striking demonstration of the diversity within Latin America. Program Directors have visited the cosmopolitan cities of Bogotá and Medellín, the beautiful coast, and the coffee plantations in the mountains.
The Ecuadorian coast
The Coast of Ecuador: Manna Project's site in Ecuador is located in the mountains, which have a striking difference in both landscape and culture from the coast. An overnight bus or a quick flight takes Program Directors anywhere they could want to go on the coast, including the popular destinations of Puerto Lopez, Canoa and Montañita. The mountains where we live can get chilly, so having the coast nearby for a quick getaway is amazing. It is even warm there in January!
Don't get me wrong, we work hard on site at Manna Project! We aren't traveling ALL the time. More than anything, Program Directors find our time in the communities we serve to be the most fulfilling part of our work with Manna Project. Building relationships with homestay families, students, and other members of the community is made even more amazing when the setting is such an incredible home base for traveling Latin America.
Traveling is definitely another major benefit of working with Manna Project, and one that allows Program Directors to see the diversity of cultures, environments, and peoples within Ecuador and across Latin America. Program Director applications are due February 1st - join us and find out what it is like to have these amazing destinations near by!
- Carley Clement