By Cheryl Kingham
Special To The Press
Fifteen Ecuadorian exchange students and their teacher learned about Humboldt fog as they attempted to land at the Arcata-Eureka Airport in McKinleyville multiple times on Thursday and Friday last week.
Part of an exchange program between McKinleyville High School and the Sagrados Corazones de Rumipamba High School in Quito, Ecuador, the students were scheduled to arrive at midnight on Thursday, Jan. 24 after a long flight from Quito, Ecuador via Houston, Texas and San Francisco.
With only minutes to go, the plane was redirected all the way back to San Francisco where the group had to spend the night on airport chairs before boarding the 6:30 a.m. flight. Once again, only minutes from landing, this second flight was redirected to Redding.
The original touch down time at midnight on Jan. 24 found all the excited host families, including MHS students facing final exams on Friday, ready with signs, flowers, and smiles in the airport arrivals lounge.
Disappointed, they all returned home to await new arrival information. On the ground in Redding, the Ecuadorian teacher told the pilot that she needed to hire a bus from Redding if the plane wasn’t going to land in Humboldt. The pilot asked how many were in their group and when she replied 16, which was over half the passengers, he courteously promised to do his best. Luck was on their side and the plane finally landed at ACV around 9:30 a.m. on Friday with some very tired travelers.
The delay meant a much smaller greeting party at the airport, but everyone was glad to at last begin their adventure and cultural exchange.
Last summer, seven MHS students traveled to Quito to live with the families of many of the students who have just arrived. MHS Spanish teacher Sarina Benavides-Garb was the teacher in charge of that exchange and is currently acting as primarily liaison and host for our first group of Ecuadorian students.
With support from the other Spanish teachers at AHS and Nora Wynne, the Spanish teacher at MMS, they have worked out a full schedule of activities for the students to experience life as a Humboldt student and resident.
After the MHS students were done with finals, they were united with their guests to help them get settled. All of the host students are in advanced Spanish classes at the high school.
Capping off a long two days of traveling, Humboldt’s Ecuadorian guests were treated to a pizza party in the multipurpose room at McKinleyville Middle School as well as all of the host families. This welcome event included introductions and a chance for all the families to get better acquainted as well as the students.
Before coming to America, all of the Ecuadorian students were told about the Winter Formal dance that was being held at Mack High on Saturday, Jan. 26 and all of them expressed an interest in going and so they brought their dressy attire from Ecuador.
Beginning Monday, Jan. 28, the exchange students will shadow their McKinleyville counterpart to classes, meals, and school activities. They will also take part in the Spanish classes at MHS, AHS, and MMS to share their culture and language with local students. A special tour of Humboldt State University, the City of Arcata and a visit to Alder Grove Charter School in Eureka are also planned.
On Saturday, Feb. 2nd, the students will take a northbound tour to include Trinidad, Patrick’s Point Sumeg Village, hiking in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, and a gondola ride at Trees of Mystery.
Host families and students are encouraged join the tour. The following Saturday, the exchange students will go south to Old Town Eureka and beyond visiting the Clarke Museum, Carson Mansion, Samoa Cookhouse for lunch, and Ferndale’s Victorian village. They will also join with Friends of the Dunes on Sunday, Feb. 10th to help with coastal restoration in Manila before taking a bus to San Francsico on Feb. 12 for a few days of sightseeing there before returning to South America.