Ellen Dow is a junior at Oregon State, studying Biology. Ellen recently returned from Puerto Lopez, Ecuador where she interned for Equilibrio Azul.

During fall term of 2012, I interned with Equilibrio Azul in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. I began my internship with a language immersion program while living with families in Quito and Cuenca.

My host families made me feel so welcome during my first couple weeks in a foreign country as I prepared myself for working with locals and other foreign volunteers. In my classes, I was able to explore the language and then practice with my respective family. I made some remarkable friendships with my hosts in Quito, even so much to call them my Ecuadorian family and stay in contact through sharing stories and pictures using email.

From the Andes, I traveled to Puerto Lopez, Ecuador on the coast, experiencing the lively adventures of the bus and the vendors that hop on at stops to sell food and a few goods for fifty cents or a few dollars. I wound up in a dusty local fishing town that was in the slow season for tourism and began my work straight away.

I volunteered with Equilibrio Azul as an intern. I had the same responsibilities as other volunteers: to go to the fish market to document shark species and work on the larger turtle project as numbers and measurements were gathered.

The activities I did while working with the turtles were my favorite. Every other day we would walk along different beaches to survey turtle activity and we went snorkeling for captures. I would not call being outside and being able to explore beaches and the ocean ‘work’ with how much I enjoyed being out there. I also had the opportunity for night patrols because I was in Puerto Lopez during the hawksbill and green sea turtle nesting seasons. We volunteered with local children from the community through EcoClub, which allowed us to have fun and educate the locals through crafts and interacting with people from all over the world. As an intern, I had my own project: I focused on the nesting demographics on a local secluded beach called Playita where we surveyed during night patrols.

All of my memories are very important to me and have shaped me throughout my experience. The ones that stand out the most as incredible occurrences in nature were seeing turtles nest and hatch. I had amazing luck at watching these things and even helping catch a turtle. I was there at the right time of the year and had the chances to go to different places and be out there nearly every day and night, which I took advantage of.

Interning with Equilibrio Azul taught me about being completely responsible for my own person and self-motivation after being dumped in a foreign place where I did not know the local lingo and was not entirely sure of how anything would work out. I learned perspective, how to go with the flow of life as friends and opportunities come and go, and the importance of the choices I make from what life gives me.

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