Twenty-seven students from North Junior High and Boise High visiting Ecuador over spring break had their travel plans disrupted when the airline had to cancel their flight back to the U.S. after violent thunderstorms in Atlanta.
Students who were supposed to be home on April 5 got in last weekend, after several attempts to purchase tickets that were being snapped up by other stranded travelers.
The delay added a few extra days of touring, the chance to visit a 20,000-foot volcano and time to catch a quick glimpse of a live Justin Bieber concert in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, from the 10th floor of the hotel where the tour company put them up while their leader worked with the company and the U.S. Embassy to get them a flight home.
“The last four day for me were ... a positive experience,” said Nate Lanza,16, a Boise High sophomore who went on the trip. “Even though I was delayed getting home, the stuff that we did and the extra stuff we got to do to outweighed the later time that we got home.”
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Lanza had waited a year to take the trip led by Liz Caughlin, a history and geography teacher he had at North Junior High. The Ecuador visit, a combination of helping impoverished families in the Amazon and touring the country, was put together through an educational travel company and was not sponsored by the Boise School District.
Students went to a remote area of the Amazon several hours east of Quito to dig trenches for pipes to carry fresh water to families. Using pick axes and shovels, the students dug enough trench over three days to help deliver water to three families Caughlin said. “The biggest thing is how muddy it is,” Lanza said. “It is very, very heavy clay soil.”
At night, the students would sleep in cabins. A tarantula was discovered under a bed and it was quickly swept out of the building, Caughlin said, but three girls decided to share a top bunk just in case.
The real adventure, however, started with the canceled flight for the students and four chaperones back to the U.S.
Caughlin and the tour company found ways to keep the students entertained. “We weren’t just sitting at the hotel with nothing to do,” Lanza said.
As Caughlin worked to get tickets home while the kids toured. Then they heard about the Bieber concert. The collective group “revealed itself as a Justin Bieber fan,” Caughlin said.
Students went to the top of the hotel to get a view of venue. They could hear the music and see the lights and the fireworks, but not Bieber.
The students missed some school days, but didn’t exactly miss school.
“We were able to print out (some of ) our homework and do it,” Lanza said. He hasn’t yet calculated all the school work he will have to make up.
After four additional day in Ecuador, Caughlin and the tour company patched together enough tickets from several airlines to send home students accompanied by adults on three different flights over a couple of days.
Some students were back in school on Monday, some on Tuesday.
The students, were troupers, Caughlin said. “I would travel to the end of the world with any one of them, and all of them.”