Such an epic disappointment. This refers to the Saturday after the first full week of classes, when the Office of International Programs organized a trip for the international kids to a hacienda (in this sense of the word, essentially a blend of an estate and a farm) two hours outside the city. The trip cost $25 bus, food, and drink included, with proceeds going to a local charity. Despite the 7:30am meeting time, it should have been a beautiful day.
After disembarking in the historic town of Nono, we walked (read: hiked) up a hill, through pastures and farmland, to reach the house. We must have been significantly higher than Quito, because we all were dying from the altitude.
Hello, South American pastoral
After reaching the patio attached to the house, we sat expectantly for a bit waiting to see what would happen next. It was about 10am. I expected, I don´t know, maybe food, music, bonding, something of that sort. What I did not expect, what this:
And so the tone was set for the rest of the day. One of the program leaders, otherwise a very reasonable guy, led us in a series of the most ridiculous drinking games until they finally fed us at 1:30. And when I say "games", think, birthday party games for twelve-year-olds with the addition of shots.
Game: Climb a greased pole. If you fail (which you will), take a shot.
I was utterly baffled by this. Mostly, everyone was a pretty good sport about it, but after an hour or two I had really given up. I could not easily participate in any of the games, since apparently choosing not to take shots at 11 in the morning wasn´t good team spirit. A lot of the kids, myself included, were really hungry after waking up at 6:30 to make it to this shindig. I wasn´t expecting a whole lot, but a bowl of chips would have been nice.
Wheelbarrow race: Race to the infamous greased pole, both parties take a shot, and return. Tom, ever the gentleman, took a shot for both of us.
After getting to known the international programs staff over the past week, I knew them to be nice and well-intentioned people. But geez - was this what they thought we wanted? It was like catering to the worst of American exchange student stereotypes: "for food and care, just add beer". Sitting in the hacienda watching the bacchanalian celebrations occur below, I spoke to some students from Germany who felt the same way - out of place, and vaguely insulted. Even some of the students who participated in the games felt disappointed with how the outing went.
Later, the OIP sent us a surveymonkey questionnaire about the party, and (anonymously of course) I was quite honest about how I felt: The hacienda was beautiful. The food, once provided, was very good. Spending a day meeting our fellow students was actually quite nice. However, there´s a difference between providing us with alcohol, should we choose to imbibe, and constructing an entire day of activities around binge drinking. Overall, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. But, this was just one day out of many, and was one of the very few "bad" days here in Ecuador so far.