Review of Galapagos from Program-mates Part 2: Culture, Lifestyle, IES Abroad Program, & Adjusting

Eudora Erickson
December 11, 2015

And now for part two…. 

CULTURE & LIFESTYLE: Overall Rating 3.8 out of 5 stars
Attitude towards Women: 2.3
Attitude towards Cultural Diversity: 2.5
“Island Lifestyle”: 4
Safety: 4.7
Night Life: 2.9

One of the negative downsides that was frequently brought up was the different attitude towards women and diversity, as these quotes illustrate:
“I’ve got to the point where I naturally tune out guys whistling to me” – Cassandra
“The men are pretty nasty towards women” – Nico
“My host mom and dad have the same job but my mom has to wake up early, clean, and play with the kids”
“A nine year old hit on me once….” – Laurel

The machismo culture is very different than our home countries – it is a different attitude than many of us have experienced. However, despite this, most of us still feel safe on the islands. In terms of the "Island Culture", most of us view the relaxed and tight knit environment quite positively. 

Some viewpoints:
“I love Ecuadorian music more than anything else” – Margee
“The whole ‘I’m not doing anything’ thing… It’s interesting” – Cassandra
“It was fun how we made our own nightlife” – Krisha & Erica
“I never feel unsafe here… I live really far away too” – Erica
“I like being able to walk down the streets and say ‘hi’ to locals that now recognize me” – Leslie

The one downside that I heard was: “You have to expect things to be closed because siesta time lasts 3 hours every day” – Delaney and Julia

Students were able to find volunteer opportunities here as well, as Tyler volunteered every week the local church and “taught them exercises and conducted routine medical programs”.

IES Abroad PROGRAM: Overall Rating 4.3 out of 5 stars
Organization: 3.4
Support for Students: 4.6
Program Size: 4.6
Field Excursions: 4.9

In our program, 23 of us are IES Abroad students and the rest are direct enrollment or through another program. However, all of us have the same program and coordinators. While there are some qualms about organization and in regards to pre-departure, most of us viewed the overall program positively. We had a good amount of people in the program, a lot of support when we needed it, and with many field excursions including an expenses paid spring break trip!

For IES Abroad, it can be summed up as: “Indira (our program coordinator) is the best” – Rob

The program helped us throw together a HUGE Thanksgiving potluck dinner. My class even went up to the highlands to pick vegetables for the salad. 

ADJUSTING TO GALAPAGOS: Overall Rating 4.1 out of 5 stars
Health Problems: 2.6
Cleanliness: 2.8
Staying Fit: 3.3
Bugs: 3.6
Climate: 4.4

Most people found that it was easy to adjust to the Galapagos. Gabby comments that it was harder to adjust to Quito, but the Galapagos was easy. Julia mentions: “All we literally had to do was put on shorts… and sweat everyday”

I could have written an entire blog about health problems and poop. We were told that poop would become a daily topic of conversation, and indeed, that is true. Adjusting to this new lifestyle also involves adjusting to new bacteria.. and for us, that sometimes required frequent hospital visits. These quotes should sum it up:

“I had to vomit a lot…” – Nico
“My birthday wish was definitely not to have the birthday poops” – Cassandra
“I felt like my first two months here were a health problem” – Arielle
“Never trust discount bologna” – Sam
“I didn’t know if I had to vomit or poop myself while on the boat” – Hanna

Cleanliness is rated pretty average, but sometimes it is difficult to see the dirty streets, as Delaney comments: “I always see trash everywhere… and sea lion poop”
Zach comments: “It is a lot dirtier where people live, but the national parks are very clean”

Staying fit was a common topic of discussion as the food was not necessarily “healthy”. We do walk a lot and do a lot of exercise, but sometimes this offsets itself with the food we eat. As Maddie says: “My host family started to call me little Gordita” i.e. “little fat one”

There was some debate about the bugs here. While some were a heavy “Five stars” aka a lot of bugs, others did not even notice the bugs. I guess it depends on how prone you are to stings, bites, and seeing ants in your food. For me, it was definitely my least favorite part of the Galapagos considering I have been stung over 230 times (seriously), and am currently dealing with fire ant bites:

“The three of us had matching bug bites on our right eyes…” – Leslie
“There are so many flies in my frickin’ juice right now…” – Carly
“I’ve gotten used to the ants in my breakfast” – Vinesh
“Yeah… There were 300 ants in my peanut butter yesterday” – Jo

The climate was seen positively for most, but the strength of the sun and the humidity intensified towards the end of our program. We were hitting over 85 degrees F towards the end, and for me, I felt that I never stopped sweating.  uoting Hanna: “For gingers, I can really account to the fact that the sun is muy fuerte. I got sunburnt every day”. Amanda (and others) also comment: “I’m sweaty all the time here”

Despite our poop problems, abundance of bugs, and differences in attitude towards diversity, all of the people I surveyed had a positive experience on this program. No one rated the program below 3 Stars. 

Speaking personally, this has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I am so glad to have chosen this particular program! We are off back home in a few days, and while I am flooded with sadness from having to leave, I am so unbelievably grateful of the opportunities we have had here. Thank you, Galapagos!

(Note: While this is my last blog post here in the Galapagos, I will soon post a blog with my videos, advice, and last comments when I am back in the states)

Eudora Erickson

<p><span style="color: rgb(85, 85, 85); font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Sans', Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 18px;">Senior at the University of Rochester studying economics, sustainability, and art. Pursuing a career in the corporate world but not-so-secretly a nature obsessed forest kid from Oregon and New Mexico.</span></p>

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