Day 18: Farewell and left behind

A sad farewell to Galapagos, but a happy “reunion” with my Ecuadorean family.

I had not anticipated falling love with the Galapagos and feeling so very sad to leave at the end of our stay on Isabella. The “Enchanted Isles” is a very apropos name and their enchantment will no doubt last my lifetime. I sensed that our students and Larissa feel much the same.

Jorge BBQing

My brother-in-law working his magic at the BBQ.

Upon arriving at the Guayaquil airport Larissa dispersed the students to their own devices to entertain themselves during the grueling 10 hour layover. Many would have worked on their journals or perhaps worked on their final paper and presentations. Others, I’m sure, slept. Food was on everyone’s mind since we hadn’t a good opportunity to eat since departing on the boat that morning.

Larissa and I went to one of the cafes in the terminal to finish up our ritual of exchanging pictures for the blog posts and extolling once again, how well the course had gone and just how wonderful our students have been. In our exit debrief with Amanda at IOI she told us how impressed she was with our group, how well organized we were, and how well the students had gotten along in their home stays. Johann, the director of IOI, was similarly impressed and wishes we could establish an annual course. That, unfortunately, would be difficult given the other year to year teaching obligations of the faculty. I must say that IOI did a terrific job in helping organize the logistics for the course and is due much of the credit for our smooth functioning while on the islands.

My Grandniece Fabiana with the amazing BBQ set for dinner.

My Grandniece Fabiana with the amazing BBQ set for dinner.

I have the great fortune of having a large extended family, on my wife’s side, in Guayaquil, and so I arranged to spend an extra 4 days in town with them to get to know all the family who have mostly only been names up until now.

Most important for me was getting to meet and to know my brother-in-law, Jorge, who is husband to my wife’s sister, and whom, due to scheduling conflicts, I had not met person for over 30 years. We had a brief, but very happy, meeting upon our initial arrival en route to the Galapagos, but now we will have some serious quality time together. My stay in Guayaquil began with an Ecuadorean BBQ – mountains of sausages, pork chops, beef ribs, and chicken breasts. My niece’s and nephew’s families also live with their parents – I am told it is their cultural habit to keep the extended family together – and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with my adorable grand nieces. They will help me to learn some Spanish during my few days with them (with lots of giggling and hand gestures, I’m sure). Today, after a bit of sightseeing around Guayaquil, I will get to watch the Ecuadorean national soccer team take on the Holland national team on TV with Jorge and his extended family. Go Ecuador!

By now (Saturday morning 5/17) I imagine the class is nearing boarding time for their last flight from Miami to Boston. In Boston they we will be met by Bates lab staff with three vans to carry them back into the Bates Bubble and the reality of normal campus life. I’m hopeful all will take a day to reflect on the trip and all that we have done and seen, before they launch into their final push to complete the course work. I return to Bates on Thursday, just in time to hear their short presentations. Although we had lots of time to hear students’ thoughts as we went along, I am so interested to hear what was especially meaningful to each person about Galapagos. For me, aside from the obvious fantastic natural history of the islands that we experienced first hand, getting to know our students better,seeing them grow as individuals, and as a wonderfully cohesive and supportive group was the best. We are Galapa-Cats!