By Scott Calzolaio
Staff Reporter

Imagine starting the day with the wafting aromas of innumerable plants and flowers, and the sounds of parrots squawking as the Amazon Rainforest comes alive around you.

A world away from the typical field trip, a group of Miscoe Middle School students spent their February vacation exploring the Amazon in Ecuador on what had been dubbed an unforgettable trip by all involved.

It’s not hard to understand why science teacher and trip organizer, Laurie Holloway, downloaded a white noise app shortly after her return to the states. “It’s an effort to hang on to the experience as long as possible,” she laughed. “One of my favorite memories is waking up to the sounds of the jungle each morning.”

For the second time, Holloway led a group of students into the Amazon for a 10-day adventure.

The trip brought them from the city to the jungle, whitewater rafting, zip lining, and even helping paint a school.

The pandemic forced organizers to postpone the trip for a year, so former Miscoe students, now high school students, were also part of the trip.

Ninth grade Spanish Immersion student, Hannah Le, speaks fluent Spanish, and was thrilled to be able to use her bilingual abilities to help the group navigate with the locals.  “Being able to see the beautiful sites, and use the language that I’ve learned was amazing,” she said. “I have nothing but good things to say about the trip.”

From the cities with massive colorful murals covering the sides of buildings, to the humble villages along the rainforest, Le said the trip was “life changing.”

Le’s experience was unique. Having full conversations in the native language gave her a more immersive experience, she said.

On top of that, she was able to discover her skills for hunting with a blow dart gun, hitting the bullseye twice.

Now, Le said that she plans to become an avid traveler. “It’s so important to get out there and go to places you’d never think of,” she said. “I would have never thought to go to Ecuador, and it was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.”

When asked if she would go back, she was hesitant, but only because there’s so much more to do and see. “I’d love to go back, but there are so many other places in the world to go explore,” she said.

For Hayley Gibson, 14, this was the first time out of the country that she can remember. “I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “But leaving Ecuador, I left with new friends and a new knowledge of the world.”

From shopping to cuisine, Gibson tried to take as much in as she could while she was there.  “I loved to see the way that they live,” she said. “I spent every single penny at the local shops.”

Her favorite souvenir, she said, was the “most comfortable cow print blanket you’ve ever seen.”

The food, she said, was “delicious.” Fresh bread daily, a few bites of guinea pig, and a couple of grubs, both alive and cooked. Though a bit shocking, she found the local cuisine refreshing and quite tasty.

The highlight for Gibson, she said, was whitewater rafting. Though she got “a little scratched up,” it was something she’ll “never, ever forget.”

Holloway shared her sentiment, adding that watching the students learn the ropes of the river was rewarding on its own. “The kids are enthusiastic,” Holloway said. “They’re experiencing things for the first time, so it’s very special. I love seeing through their eyes, and their excitement.”

She hopes that a few things from the trip stick with them. Things like being a better global citizen, and broadening personal horizons are the main lessons of an excursion like this, she said. “Know that there’s a bigger world out there than Mendon and Upton, and Massachusetts,” she said. “The world is beautiful and there’s so much to see and do to experience other cultures.”