Janne’s adventure trip through Latin America

Program Combination

Spanish Course-Volunteer Work-Working Holiday / Ecuador-Bolivien-Chile

July 2019

(cortesy translation from German)

I have planned my trip over a year before I finally started. Since I had already lived with a host family in Costa Rica for half a year and had liked it very much, I wanted to go back to the Latinos shortly afterwards and came up with the idea of making this trip. I really wanted to see more of Latin America, improve my Spanish, become more independent and get an insight into the different cultures.

I usually settled in very quickly at the different locations and rarely had problems with the language, which was partly due to the very friendly people I met on site.

Spanish course Montañita

My trip to Ecuador started with a two-week language course in Montañita. Shortly after my arrival, I felt comfortable in the small town by the sea, both the locals and the other students were very nice and open.

On Mondays it was already half past eight for the placement test in the language school. My group consisted of only two people, which made the lessons more intensive than expected. The teachers were understanding and helpful with us, we laughed a lot and the atmosphere was very friendly. In the mornings we had two hours of classes. We started a new topic every day and sometimes deepened that from the previous day. In the afternoon we then did both written and oral exercises on the respective topic.

The language school also offered a surf course, a dance course and yoga. I especially liked the yoga class and this was a pleasant change.

My accommodation consisted of a shared room with other participants in a guest house. The community was very nice. We often organized things together after class, e.g. went out in the evening, cooked together and once organized a day trip with the whole group.

Overall, I had a very good time there, I not only learned Spanish, but also met very nice people from all over the world.

Volunteer Work Ecuador

After two weeks in the south of the country, four weeks followed in the cloud forest in the north of the country. After a two-hour bus ride from Quito, I was warmly greeted with lunch in the small mountain town.

The next day we started at 6 a.m. After a 40-minute drive, we were finally at the lodge. From there we had to walk 2.5 km uphill. Together with the cook and another employee, we started the ascent. After a little less than an hour we had finally reached the top and were rewarded with a wonderful view.

There was relatively little going on in the first week, so my main job was to help out on the sugar cane plantation or in the organic garden. It was interesting to see how brown sugar, honey and alcohol were made from the plants. However, the work there was also very exhausting and so I was glad when I could go back to the village for a day towards the end of the week to rest a bit.

In the remaining three weeks there were more and more tourists and therefore more employees. During this time I mainly helped in the kitchen, with room service and doing laundry (by hand).

My accommodation consisted of a single room in the lodge itself and I always took meals with the other staff. Since there was no electricity up there, apart from a generator, we often only sat together by candlelight in the evening while we had exciting conversations, played careds and played music together.

The atmosphere was always very friendly and familiar both at work and in our free time. I soon felt like one of them.

I can definitely recommend a stay as a volunteer in Ecuador. I liked it so much that I even returned after a few months. It is truly an incredibly beautiful place with its breathtaking views, the silence and the clean air up there and its unique people. Overall, I spent the best time of my life there and made very good friends.

Volunteer Work Bolivia

Then my journey took me to Bolivia, in a jungle community with about 200-300 inhabitants. After half an hour on a mini plane and a 40 minute boat ride on the Rio Beni, I reached my new home.

Shortly after my arrival I was fascinated by the simple life of the people and tried to settle in quickly. Unfortunately it took longer than expected, I had the classic culture shock. After two weeks I even wanted to stop; but in the end I am glad that I decided to stay.

Working in the jungle community was mostly easy and consisted of helping where my help was needed. So I helped make breakfast almost every day and took care of the six children. I also learned how to plant tomatoes, how to accompany a tourist group and how to cook. The working atmosphere was always friendly, but a bit distant at the beginning.

Life as a whole was really very simple: it was washed by hand, cooked over an open fire and every time you showered you had to hope that the water would not suddenly stop. My "room" consisted of a wooden frame with a plastic tarpaulin right next to the wooden house of my host family. Even if life there was different than you know it from Germany, I managed to get used to it and learned what it is like to life with so little and appreciate things like water and electricity more. Meals were also very different and mostly consisted of rice, vegetables and meat or filled dumplings.

In the evening, you always sit with the whole family, often other relatives and friends also came and listened to music and talked together. I was also lucky enough to be living in the community at the time when they were having an anniversary that was celebrated for three days with soccer games and long dance evenings.

Overall, I can recommend a stay in this jungle community, although you should be aware that you will live a really very simple life with little privacy and that you will have to expect a culture shock. Although I ended up being happy in the jungle community, the four weeks were definitely enough. Nevertheless, I will never forget the clear starry sky, all the lovely children there who already seemed so grown up, and the community.

Working Holiday Chile

My last destination was Maitencillo, a small town on the coast of Chile near Santiago, where I did a working holiday program. There I worked and lived in a surf school right by the sea. Immediately after my arrival I felt welcome.

The next day everything was explained to me. My job was to open the shop around half past nine every morning, i.e. to put the surfboards, wetsuits and seat cushions out on the terrace and to clear everything away in the evening. During the day I occasionally had to help clean or move the shop and look after the customers. The working atmosphere was always friendly and I felt comfortable. It was also very interesting to learn how such a business works and how to deal with customers.

My accommodation consisted of a small shared room in the surf school itself, which I shared with the other volunteers.

In the evening we often cooked together, watched a film or chatted and sometimes we went out together. Often the owner's friends came over and we had a barbecue.

Overall, however, the work was relatively relaxed and sometimes a bit boring, which may also be due to the fact that I'm not as interested in surfing as I thought I would. The atmosphere, however, was fantastic and the people were always very nice and helpful.

Overall, I learned a lot for life in these months, overcame some difficult situations, became more confident and made good friends with whom I still have contact. Each place was special in its own way. I will never forget my time there and will definitely go back to Latin America and especially to Ecuador.

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