Liz in Ecuador
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Sitting in the Miami airport, just beginning the 8-hour lay over- straight from the diablo. Time to do some processing...
Things I will certainly miss about Quito:
· The people. Of course, my fellow semester abroaders, but also the Bible-reading gang (Mika, Roberto, Jose Luis, Joe,David, Dan, the twins,... so many!), the host family (Lilli, Ivanhoe, Cris, Gabi, Melba, Mathias), and of course... the fine folks over at Christy's store and my beloved Cuban (of, what else, "the Cuban store".)
· The language. I love Spanish. I love speaking it, and I love hearing it being spoken. Good thing I’m from Chicago.
· The food. Rice with aji, lots of avocado, cilantro and regrettably, mushrooms. Soup with bones! pancitos, cafe con leche... ugh, everything.
· The smells. Walking past Arenas Panderia every morning, the natural medicine cart... this semester was also an adventure for my nose.
· The trolley, the bus. Public transit in general. What a totally nutty part of Ecuador, but it certainly makes it what it is.
Things I can't wait to get home to:
· The people. Mom and Dad and all the friends at home make ‘goodbye’ a little easier on the other side.
· Flushing toilet paper.
· Certain foods. Dr. Pepper, Rold Gold tiny twists, Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, pickles, hummus, regular cucumbers.
· Driving my car, feeling like a grown up.
· Knowing what to expect when I do things. Shopping will be easier, traveling more familiar, and greeting new acquaintances will be a breeze.
Yep. So that’s it. El fin. Vaya bien, y'all. Cuidate, no?
Same old, same old but not in the Same.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends. -Richard Bach
... And the goodbyes have started. The Cornerstone folks and Caleb left this morning. Sharon leaves tonight, and I head out tomorrow. This is weird. But that's something for another day...
We returned from the beach town of Same (pronounced sah-may) on Wednesday. You wouldn't believe how beautiful it was, well maybe you would – but I’m from Chicago. Ecuador's Pacific Coast provided us with great waves, only two occurrences of jelly fish stinging, sunburns/tans, a great sand castle, and lots of memories. We left on Saturday night (spending no more than 24 hours in the apartment after the jungle) and took an overnight (and then some) bus to Same. It was a nine hour bus ride, both ways...
It was a wonderful, relaxing, albeit bittersweet trip. We used the time at the beach to debrief from our three-month crazy bus experience, and just hang out with each other one last time. Did I mention that it was beautiful? It was. It put my sad beach experiences at Lake Michigan to shame. We stayed at cabanas called Islas Del Sol that were right on the beach... it was amazing.
This next part may come as a surprise... but every day we ate shrimp for lunch. Amazing. We walked down the beach to a place called Barnabay's each afternoon... so good. Coconut shrimp, ceviche, fried shrimp, garlic shrimp, and lime. Lots and lots of lime... mmmmm. Even better, it was just a walk down the beach – the whole experience was sans shoes.
The beach was such a great way to end a great semester. For my last full day here in Quito, I am booked up. I am going to La Mariscal with Alyse, Sharon, and Chelsey for some last minute souvenirs, lunch, and then meeting up with Jose Luis for the last time in the Centro Historico. I'm even hoping to check out a Good Friday mass in old Quito at El Convento del San Francisco. I'm not wasting a minute.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wow. Just got home from the jungle. What a wild week. I'm alive, which is also helpful. Fun language fact: the word for ‘jungle’ in Spanish is selva, which also means ‘wild’. What a fitting word.
We did some construction and hosted a VBS in Pununo all week with an organization (http://www.itsaboutkids.org/home.html) based just outside Misahualli (I still don't know how to pronounce it), and on Thursday traveled down the Napo to Pasuno for a one-day VBS. And it was beautiful. Beautiful like you wouldn't believe (well, maybe you would if you have been somewhere tropical), but probably the most exotic, enthralling place I've ever been.
Misahualli looked a lot like other towns we had been to – a few streets with a central park. One fun aspect though – this central park was packed full of monkeys. I'm not kidding. Every morning at about 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., the monkeys come into town from the pier and hung out at the park. They steal food and anything they can get their hands on. It was awesome. We even witnessed a dog vs. monkey fight over a piece of bread. During said fight, a monkey ran right up the side of Alyse. Again – awesome.
Of course, I didn't take enough pictures. Well, I didn't take any pictures – my camera broke the day we made ceviche – a little Google image search actually does some justice. Misahualli is on the Napo River – a winding, brown mass of super seguro bridges, long canoes, and little villages that I have no hope of pronouncing the name of. In short, it was beautiful. Like most of my favorite parts of Ecuador, I have no hope of describing it here. It was a mix of summers at Poskin Lake with some possible anacondas thrown in, and every adventurous, Indiana Jones-type movie you've ever seen. Incredible.
Now onto the clima in the salva. Picture with me, a scorching hot afternoon in mid-August in the second or third floor of a house in Chicago. A/C is out and Sears is out of fans. That sweaty, nasty uncomfortable environment is pretty much what the jungle feels like. Well, all that plus killer bugs. I wish there was photo documentation of Alyse's legs. They swelled to the size of a woman at nine months pregnant and were covered with bites from pinky toe to knee cap. Que linda!
And this is getting long... some highlights
· VBS. Had a great time meeting some great new kids, being in charge of crafts with Alyse and learning new Spanish kids songs (like “Caminamos en la Luz de Dios”, “Alabare”, and “Yo Tengo Gozo”).
· Seeing the widest tree in the jungle. Vines, crazy kids, it was like the Jungle Book. This tree was about as wide as half a football field. You could see it popping out of the jungle from town.
· Getting to work with It's About Kids (http://www.itsaboutkids.org/home.html). Cool ministry, cool kids – generally cool.
· Watching my friends (namely Caleb) jump off bridges in town. I just couldn't muster up the courage for that one.
· We made our own chocolate. It actually wasn't very good. But I also ate cacoa fruit during the day while doing our construction stuff. Weird, right?
...some low lights.
· It was hot. See above.
· Mixing concrete by hand, like its 1899. (Okay, that was actually kind of fun. For, like, a minute.) Good thing we brought Stacy, who's calling is to be a human concrete mixer.
· Bug bites.
**We're leaving for the beach here in t-minus one hour for our overnight bus ride to La Costa. I am hitting the Estados in seven days. That feels weird. I refuse to say that out loud.**
Basillica y liga otra vez!
Satuday, April 9, 2011
The girls and I headed out to old Quito yesterday afternoon to climb up the huge, old basilica in the city. It's weird; it's probably one of the younger churches in old Quito, built in 1809. It took over 100 years to complete, to avoid paying taxes to the Vatican. All that work, and not too much to show for it. It's pretty amazing to look at from ground level, but it’s not so pretty once inside. We climbed up spires and towers and felt like Quasi Moto in the bell tower. It was great to view the city from that high up, not so great to see the years of graffiti layered on top of one another in every corner of the church. I need to do some more Google research to get to the bottom of this Quito mystery.
It was one of the weirdest experiences of all time. The city basically opened up this huge basilica to become a tourist playground. After three sets of stairs, there is a maze of sketchy ladders and rickety bridges to traverse this old, stone monolith. The ladders were probably the best and most frightening part. It was quite the afternoon. Did I mention I felt like Quasi Moto? I may or may not have yelled up the dizzy-ing spiral staircase, "I'm here, Quasi - it's Esmeralda!"
More fun to be had tonight as some of us hit up the Liga game. It was Liga vs. Quito (I have no idea how to explain that one – Liga is also a Quito team...) at El Estadio. The game ended in a tie, with both teams having zero points. Bummer. Two high lights for the night – empanadas de morocho with ahi (yes, despite Cole's warnings of "eat street, die"), and that we sat in the Muerte Blanco section. For more information on Muerte Blanco, please see previous Liga entry. Chelsea Smith bought a CD of liga songs, as well. What a night.
Tomorrow, we're leaving for Mishualli, a jungle town about 7 hours from Quito.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
It's been a week since I've updated, because I'm trying to suck the life out of each moment here. Kind of like I've been sucking the oxygen out of the air all semester here at 10,000 feet.
This weekend was quite the mezcla. Saturday I hung out with the Williams' kids, a YouthWorld missionary family that lives in the jungle. They were in town for the weekend and Bryan volunteered to hang out with their kids for the day. Alyse, Sharon and I went with them to play laser tag at a mall a few blocks from our house. We had so much fun and the kids were great... espera, me cachaste (wait, did you get that?) I played laser tag here in Ecuador, in a mall. Weird things. We took kids that have grown up in the jungle to play laser tag and then we ate McDonalds. [Insert feelings about western influence in Latin America here.]
Sunday, I traveled south with Sharon to visit my friend, Jose Luis's church. He preached at the early service and then invited us back to his house for lunch. We had an amazing time with lots of bicultural and bilingual laughs. I love Latin culture in that way – even though there is a bit of a language barrier in some moments, the people here are so forgiving. Jose laughs off my terrible language faux pas and I correct his English pronunciation. It's perfect. We talked about cultural stuff and laughed some more about that, too. I'm beginning to love these Ecuadorian friendships I'm forming and the cultural interactions I get to have. When Ecua meets USA, inevitably, laughter ensues. Basically, "I'm lovin' it," but not in the way of McDonalds in Quito, even if they label me an aninada (spoiled brat), but that's another story.
Wednesday, I hung out at the dump with the Chelsea(y)s. Chelsea has been interning there and showing off her Spanish cutesy kid all semester, I needed to check it out. Chelsea's job at the dump is helping with the day care run for the children of parents who work at the city dump. Some are scavengers for metals and plastics and others are employed by the city. In my non-biased opinion, all of their kids are cute. We had a great day. We colored, practiced writing big A’s and B’s, and little a’s and b’s. We even sang a song to learn colors in English and Spanish.
Today we made ceviche with Mario, our Spanish professor. For those who haven't experienced this Latin delight, it’s a cold soup made of orange and lime juice with tons of cilantro, chopped onions, and tomatoes. Our ceviche had shrimp, but in South America there are lots of varieties, some with fish, mixes of sea food, or some with clams. I'm glad we played safe with the shrimp. To a North American palet, ceviche certainly sounds gross, but it was great. Enjoy it with all the Ecua fixins', and it'll be reminiscent of the first time you had Chick-fil-A (OK, not that good, but close.) The Ecua fixin's are congil (popcorn), tostadas (big, un-popped popcorn kernels), and homemade chifles (fried plantain chips). You put the popcorn in the soup, and munch on the other two on the side. I know it sounds bizarre, but it really was great.
...oh yeah. I wish I had pictures of our Ecua creation, BUT we dropped my camera half-way into ceviche prep.
The land of no instant pudding
Thursday, March 31, 2011
...and I’ll continue to be whoever I am, in whatever country I live in.
Case in point:
Yesterday I tried to bring a little bit of home to Ecuador - “dirt” and "sand" for dessert. Dirt being that precariously-combined Oreo and pudding concoction that never quite tastes as good as it did when you were six and someone's mom made it at their birthday party. Sand being its counterpart comprised of vanilla pudding, bananas, and graham crackers. Apparently, Ecuadorians aren't as wild about getting in touch with the tierra, as I couldn't find any pudding at the grocery store – instant or otherwise. In my infinite wisdom, and being dead set on providing my pals with said dirt and sand – I decided to make pudding from scratch.
Disastre. Disaster. Hot mess. Big mistake. Whatever you call it, it didn't go well. The vanilla pudding didn't set at all, and Chelsey compared it to baby food all afternoon. On the other hand, the chocolate pudding was pretty good and I referred to myself as a pioneer woman because of my pudding skills. I'm not sure that pudding was a prime chow choice for pioneer dwellers, but we'll call it poetic license.
All that being said, both pudding projects were redeemed by the liberal usage of Ecua gummies on top. Usually, this dirt business is accompanied by gummy worms. Here, they have gummy osos. It is what it is. We fashioned a beach scene on top of the sand, complete with banana surf boards and gummy beach balls.
Today, skipped class, tried to register for classes. Had an amazing Ecua- afternoon. A new friend from Juan Valdez (Latin America's answer to Starbucks) asked me to help him practice his English this afternoon. Claro que si. We talked a lot about culture, language, and how my accent makes him laugh. Also, he told me he can't tell the difference between British English speakers and North American English speakers. Interesting, no? Tonight, there’s been a fair amount of procrastinating and listening to all the great play lists I find on 8tracks.com.
Some things don't change: I love desserts, and I hate homework.
Other news, I went out to CoffeeTree with Alyse and Caleb on Tuesday night. We had a great time catching up, enjoying totally Ecua (read “Nonexistent and totally foreign here”) customer service and getting really decent taxis, both to and fro. On the way, the guy wanted almost double the usual price, which we skillfully argued down. Life is exceedingly wonderful here in Quito and thinking about leaving makes me beyond sad.
Some old stuff and the mountain that severely bruised my ego.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The last week has gone by really quickly. We had a week of intensive Worldview course that kept us pretty busy and gave us tons and tons of homework. I've been busy – busy! Yesterday our Culture class headed to the Centro Historico to check out the president’s house and a few churches. Awesome. The churches are so beautiful and there are so many close together. The president's house or Palacio de Carondelet was lack luster – the "tour" was a shuffle through three rooms used for meetings and public appearances. Highlight of the Palacio was the guard’s outside – excellent get ups and stoic expressions. Obvious tom foolery ensued.
After Palacio de Carondelet we visited a church built by the Augustinians that I can't remember the name of, and the Compania de Jesus church, as well. Lots of pan de oro and old stuff. Breathtaking, but I didn't take any pictures inside. Respect and all, you know. This is a view of the Augustinian church, walking up to the church from the street – dead on, it's just beautiful.
As if all that sightseeing wasn't enough, we had dinner as a class up on the rooftop of a restaurant a few blocks from Compania de Jesus. The views were spectacular and the cafe con leche and empanadas de morocho eran muy rico! Basically, I love being surrounded by mountains, chowing down on Ecua delights with some of the best company Quito has to offer (that's you, semester abroad!).
Sharon and I had been invited out to La Ronda with some friends for dancing and silliness. Well, a huge group of us went – Ecuadorians and Americans – and had a great night. We started out at La Ronda with more empanadas and some mora canelazo, and then we all went to la mariscal. After our 10-minute taxi from La Ronda, we met back up and found a small, dark salsa/regaeton club. The place was packed like the trolle. It was a half-gringo crowd and I’m pretty sure I couldn't have looked any more foolish – but I had a ton of fun. Mika, an Ecua friend, showed us some of her moves and laughed with us when we started to look like idiots. We danced and then headed home, calling it an early night because this morning we climbed PINCHINCHA, the mountain that borders the city to the west.
I should clarify. "We climbed" is misleading. I made it all of 30 minutes at 14,000 ft. before I realized my little piernas and pulmones would not make it another 5,000 feet up. Let me back track. We all took the Teleferico a little more than half-way up the mountain (basically, a ski lift that gives you some spectacular views of the entire city as you go up the mountain). From the end of the Teleferico, it’s about a 4-hour hike to get to the top – I'm not sure why, but apparently people enjoy that type of thing...
Not to worry, though. As an act of solidarity, I did go for a run after I ate lunch. Fifteen minutes at 10,000 feet, I'm feeling the burn.
A lot of things to look at, chronicling the past two weeks.
Monday, March 14, 2011
On Saturday, we said “chao, chao” to our host families with a big barbecue in Tombillo. One of the host families owns a hacienda (farm) there, about an hour south of the city. It’s been in their family for over 100 years and has a beautiful farm house on the property. I acted very much like my mother in the dollar aisle at Target – I stopped to look at everything I could in the house. It's a great, big house filled with so much old stuff it was almost more than I could bear...
We milked cows with our bare hands right into a glass--which we promptly drank. We were at a farm after all.
Some of my pals rode horses around the property, while others of us visited the baby cows and cuy (guinea pigs). We moved from farm adventure to farm food – pinchos (Ecua shish kabobs) and salads provided by each family.
Sorpresa, sorpresa, I shed a tear while saying goodbye to my host family. There were overly-attached hugs exchanged. I am excited to live with each of the other girls again, but I will miss my Ecua family and our daily cultural adventuras. I may or may not have purchased some queso fresco and pancitos at the grocery store yesterday in an attempt to recreate my desayunos with Lil and Ive.
I think I’m leaving little pieces of my heart here in Ecuador, the people, the language, the landscape – it’s all so amazing. I can't believe we're half-way done. (Now, I know what you're thinking, "Liz, we heard this before when you lived in Oklahoma City... don't even say you want to move there.") This is different, while I love it here, I probably won't live here forever. That makes me savor each experience that much more.
And now, here we are in all our glory...
I feel like Ms. Frizzle when I learn so much.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Quito is old. Old, Old. Not like the US, with a measly 200 year old history...
On Friday I visited a monastery built in 1625. En Serio. El Museo De San Diego is a monastery that has opened its art collection, and tours of its church to the public. It's incredibly beautiful – with more art, history, and culture that I could possibly soak up in one afternoon.
Saturday, I returned to Old Quito with my host family to visit a craft store and the City Cultural Center (a smaller, city-run museum). And later on, I returned to La Ronda for some late night, Euca fun.
Learning to love llamas and children that aren’t mine.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Part of my time here in Quito is actually spent hugging orphans. This is another one of those experiences that I know my words won't do justice.
As much as I'd love to paint a lovely picture of me as the pied piper, with adorable children and I dancing in rolling meadows, encircled by llamas in the Ecuadorian countryside that is not what my work at the orphanage looks like at all. It actually looks really different than I thought it would, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm working at For His Children – Ecuador (http://www.forhischildren-ecuador.org/fhcmain.php?pg=01) in the northern part of Quito. I take the crazy bus there and jump off on the high way and traverse a mountain side to get there. This sounds a bit more exaggerated than it really is, as I do all of the above every Monday and Wednesday.
...Fine, "traverse" may have been taking it a bit far....
For His Children (FHC) is an amazing organization that does great work in the lives of the kids who live there. There are four houses for the kids, divided by age – one for babies, toddlers, and then two for school-aged kids. Most, if not all, of the older kids at FHC are special needs in some way, and each present a unique challenge for the staff. Each house is staffed by Tias (Spanish for Aunt) who function as "house moms" of sorts. They spend the most time with the kids and are some really incredible women. I am so impressed by the level of care the kids receive, and how happy each of them are. FHC is an incredibly joyful place that makes me feel alive in a real way.
Completely unrelated, but highly entertaining, is the orphanage's pet llama. It is the mangiest creature I have ever seen, and in miniature. Yep, a mini llama with dreadlocks serves as a "pet" to 40 or so kids.
My job at FHC is to simply help the Tias with whatever they ask in the casa I'm assigned to that day. Sometimes, that means cleaning around the house, washing and folding laundry or taking kids from one house to another. This week, I worked in Casa Harlow. Casa Harlow is home to the oldest kids at FHC, and all of them are high needs. I had a ton of fun! Jumping on trampolines, going for walks, playing on the swing set – it was great! In between all this warm, fuzzy fun, a 12-year-old girl named Adriana bit me. According to one of the Tias, it was because she was excited to see me. Awesome. I mean it.
In other news, I'm in love with my crazy Quito life.
Because walking isn’t an option.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Yet another reason to believe Harry Potter is more truth than fiction: the buses in Ecuador. The buses here remind me so much of the Knight Bus in the third Harry Potter book. The bus I took to school today had fuzzy, blue rearview mirrors and excellent 80s music (think soft rock meets regeatone) and, I’m not sure why, but it seems that you always have to hurry on the bus. Not just put some pep in your step to catch the bus, but, jump-out-of-the-bus-at-your-stop-because-it-will-not-come-to-a-complete-stop. On each bus there is a man who calls out the stops and takes your money, and he also hangs half way out the bus, trying to solicit business from the passersby. It really is like the Knight Bus, with the money/yeller constantly shouting, “Sigue, sigue, sigue no mas. Rapido!” (“Continue, continue, keep going. Hurry up!”) All this hurrying whilst the bus is being operated as though it is in a live action game of pin-ball. I equate it with surfing, which I’ve never actually done – the amount of balance needed to remain standing while the bus is in motion is quite a feat.
Flex-i-dor is the adventure of a life time. God is good, life is good, lovin’ livin’ it up in Quito!
Besos, comida, “chicles y coca”
Sunday, February 13, 2011
First Sunday at Lili and Ivanhoe's-I'm bursting at the seams with cultural experiences. Living in a Spanish-speaking country has been a dream since I was 14. Now, after removing the rose-colored glasses, I'm really experiencing it! (That means I’m going to be myself here, and honestly report on the experience.)
Ah, priemero-besos. I believe I've discussed this cultural phenomenon in the past, but here's a refresher. When you greet someone you give them a fake cheek kiss. Let me tell you, I touched cheeks with about 20 strangers today.
La iglesia- Spanish church, quite possibly the longest thing in the mundo. We got there at 10 a.m. and didn't leave until 1:30 p.m. Interestingly enough, Lili and Ivanhoe go to a Reformed church-and today's sermon was on the Calvinist classic, election/predestination.
La comida- for lunch today Lili and her sister Melba (Sharon's host mama), made Mexican food (?). It was great, but totally different than Mexican food in the states. Guacamole, sour cream (?), lettuce, and tomatoes with what tasted like baked beans and ground beef. Sounds nuts, but tasted great (yes, I even had a little beef!). Fun fact- the Ecuadorians eat tacos/burritos with a knife and fork.
All in all, this has been a great two days. I am so excited to get to know Lili y Ivanhoe and their family more. I'm sure by the time homestays are wrapping up, my espanol will be mucho mejor!!!! As they say in Ecuador- hasta pronto!
...you can be my Quito dream when you make ahí.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered." -Gilbert K. Chesterton
"An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other." - Norma Shearer.
I found both of these quotes over the past few days, and I really love them. The Chesterton quote is so true of Ecuador. I've had to really learn to embrace "flex-a-dor." Case in point, "the baby place" we visited for an almuerzo two weeks ago has started closing every afternoon when we walk by. I asked why, and the woman working told me they close every day at 11:00 a.m. and don't reopen until 12:30 p.m. Firstly, I was impressed with my own Spanish skills for having that conversation, but secondly, I simply couldn't believe the cultural difference there. In the states, a restaurant, or business, would not imagine closing for an hour and half each day, here it's commonplace. Mostly, I laugh it off, but it makes up a huge part of my Ecua-adventure.
Bad news for "the baby place" though, as the girls and I had the best lunch yet at a place a few blocks from our school. Arroz con pollo con tomato y aguacate (chicken and rice w/ tomato and avocado). SO GOOD! The ahí at this place was also unbelievable. We followed the whole meal with cafe con leche (coffee, or rather, nescafé- with warm milk and lots of sugar.) I could get used to this, no problem.
The "adventure badge" I've been wearing most has been my Spanish conversation skills. I love living in what I find to be one of the most beautiful languages I've heard. Every day is a challenge, but also a great learning opportunity. Today I had a conversation while waiting for the Trolle with a man who works for El Ministerio de Educación (ministry of education). He told me all about this job, his son, and his opinion on international politics. I even understood most of it! It was amazing to hear his opinion on the U.S. and how much freedom and wealth he thinks we have. I suppose this is where most people usually wax poetic with patriotism, but I'd rather hear what you, my family and friends think about this man's statement, as I was taken aback by it.
So for now, that's all. I'm loving life and living quite the adventure.
On my love for the grocery store and giving coca light another chance.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I know I preached of my utter disdain for coca-light, but today, I thought perhaps I'd give it another chance. Knowing that there is nothing quite as refreshing as a fountain soda, today I took the plunge and ordered a coca-light at McDonalds. It wasn't great, it wasn't even very good, but better than the bottled version. Moving on…
The past few days have been uneventful. Of course, I've tried some new foods, had some humbling language experiences, but all in all, I feel like I'm falling into a routine here. Life is good and easy for the moment in Quito. In lieu of trying to string together the experiences of the past three days, please read these as though you're enjoying the CNN ticker during Anderson Cooper 360 (how I miss that man).
- Thursday, I met a cute dog in the park, the owner was also pretty attractive. However, I was too self conscious about my lack of language skills to approach said owner.
- Almost every day now, I visit the market on my way home from school. Santa Maria is a little like Walt's – homey, full of elderly women, and overall makes me very happy. My roommates find this profoundly funny and love to mock my grocery addiction. In my defense, it's not just Santa Maria that I like. There is also an open market next door, where you can bargain and practice Spanish.
- Ecuadorian tamales are a touch on the nasty side. Slices of boiled egg and green olive in the side? No, gracias.
- Fiora Vanti Soda has been the pride of Ecuador since 1868, and comes in strawberry, pineapple and apple flavor. Yum.
- Today was the "Turkey Bowl" at Alliance Academy, and some of the S.A.ers played. The Youth World team won, and all of us left with some totally great tan lines... I should say burn lines.
- After dinner tonight, we ran to the store for ice (for Sharon's sprained ankle from said Turkey Bowl). Latin America isn't big on ice.
- Today, I bought string to make friendship bracelets. It was 98 cents per skein (?). Just an FYI- it's 10 cents a pop in the States. En Serio?
Bruises, blisters, and another almuerzo…
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Another school day, getting up early, falling asleep while Mario drills Spanish grammar into our cabezas...
And another almuerzo, those $1.50 lunch specials that are one of the biggest South American food gambles you can take. You may remember from my last post, "Spanish class, salty snacks and a whole lotta walking", that my first almuerzo was quite the adventure. Today, the other S.A.ers and I visited another small restaurant offering cheap eats (unfortunately the "baby place" from Monday was closed?) and ate soup, chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, and Tang (the Kool -Aid of Latin America.)
My feet have begun to rebel against me. From all of our walking, I now have a total of seven blisters between both. It's like stigmata of the feet. I was tempted to post pictures, but apparently that's gross? Additionally, my killer bruise from zip lining is the nastiest, most unnatural, gray/green/purple I have ever seen.
Ecuador's still wonderful at about 70 and sunny – happy snow day, Chicago!
Spanish class, salty snacks, and a whole lotta walking…
Monday, January 31, 2011
From my first few postings, it may have seemed as though I’m here in Ecuador on an extended adventure/vacation. This is true, very true. But, today we started the classes to justify this extended adventure. The other study abroaders and I began our Spanish classes today- not as wild and crazy as zip lines, but an adventure none the less!
We girls trekked all the way down the hill on our street, Via Lengua, to meet the boys at our usual rally point – Pollo Gus (a late-night, greasy-chicken joint). We walked to the trollé and took the green line south to our school. Our classes are held in El Mariscal, a very cool neighborhood with lots of tourism because of the many hostels. The language institute we are taking classes at is held inside an old restaurant that was once the Mango Tree. Now, it's less comida and more habla. Love it! We have two professores-Mario y Fauky.
The real adventure came after class. While most of the S.A.ers visited the artesian market in El Mariscal, Sharon, Chelsea, and I went out for una almuerzo. "Almuerzos" are lunch specials that cost about $1.50 and are usually traditional Ecuadorian food. The restaurant we went to was a hole-in-the-wall place and we stepped over a baby in a bouncy chair to enter, and then ducked down into a cramped, cavernous basement dining room – a pretty literal hole in the wall. The place was very small and a little dirty- perfect for cheap almuerzo. The atmosphere definitely left a little to be desired, as the circa 1970s wood paneling was molding in some places and Chelsea's mango juice was served in a cracked glass (classy, right?). We felt very adventurous, and it paid off. The food was great! Chicken, rice, avocado and ahi (a special Ecuadorian sauce like salsa that is unique in every restaurant), and I haven't gotten sick yet!
After that adventure, we took the trollé back north (after a wrong stop and some horribly fudged Spanish directions) and made a quick trip to La Santa Maria grocery store to buy snacks for our breaks during class. Turns out Rold Gold pretzels are not a staple in Ecuador, which is one of the less enchanting aspects of Ecua culture. I love pretzels. : (
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Firstly, a small preface. Remember, I came to Quito hoping to better my Spanish and hug a few orphans- not exactly traverse mountains and fly through the rain forest.
The following is true.
Today, I zip lined down 13 cables to cross a ravine in the "cloud forest" of Mindo. THIRTEEN CABLES. I wish I could do the experience justice here with words, but I know I cannot.
All 8 semester-abroaders piled into a van and drove two and a half hours to Mindo, where we drove up through mountains into the cloud forest. On the way we passed through a few little towns and even saw a waterfall! Crazy. After hours-long "make or break" or "would you rather" games, we embarked on what is probably the most adventurous thing I've ever done... ZIP LINING.
We geared up and were good to go. And just like that, we hopped up and zipped through the cloud forest.... Of course, I sustained a few battle scars and probably will never do that again.
So that's zip lining. Que Chevre! (How cool!) Oh! I should also mention the free spa treatment I also got today. In between each post was a good walk up the mountain. It was raining steadily, and by the end my legs (and brand new Nikes... sorry Mom) were totally brown with mud. Sweet. Mountain climbing, spa treatments, new, cool and hip ripped jeans... oh adventure.
Two Hemispheres. One Day.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Checked out the Equator today. And tried Qui (Guinea Pig, and Ecuadorian delight)!
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Dear Quito, I love you. Today was insane.
We did a little scavenger hunt around the city.
A city we don't know.
A city we've never been to.
Kids that can't read maps.
Kids that can't speak Spanish.
Trolleys that people get packed into like sardines.
Trolleys with signs that say, "Cuida su vida"(guard/watch your life).
We started in our neighborhood and walked to Plaza de Americas, a mall a few blocks from the girls' apartment. The streets are crazy here and crossing them is a joke, so you follow a native. My teammate Chelsea made it halfway across the street and then realized the cross traffic was about to kill her. Excellent.
Some more highlights: Visited a huge park a mile or two south of our neighborhood with an abandoned, graffiti-ed air plane. I'm not kidding, there was a slide coming from the cockpit. (Seriously, I'll make a legitimate effort at photo documentation.)
Moral of the story, today was great-it was an adventure and I can't wait to do it again! We ended the hunt with really inexpensive spaghetti we bought at El Bosque, while looking at the mountains and the entire city through a great window wall.
I'm not kidding. We ate spaghetti for lunch in Quito, Ecuador. Love it.
**Insider tip for anyone traveling to Latin America. Avoid the "coca light" at all costs. Terrible, just terrible. NOT DIET COKE.**
…when it Quito
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I guess it must be that when you live in a place forever, it’s beyond your comprehension that other ways of life exist. That being said, Ecuador is not the states, and as we study abroaders say, "It's not good, it's not bad, it's just different." Fun differences, I've gathered from days 1,2&3:
-Creating a line of broken bottles on a fence is a common (albeit a bit unsightly) security measure here.
-No screens on the windows.
-The customer (me) is not always right. Today I asked for lettuce and tomato on my sandwich and the waitress politely, but firmly, said, “No,” because it was a hot sandwich. : (
-Every family has a dog. These dogs only make noise from 5-7 a.m. Some of said dogs wear clothes.
-High heels up hill, totally no big deal.
-Ecuadorians pay their bills in a physical place, not through the mail. As in there is something similar to a currency exchange where sometimes, you can wait in line for up to 45 minutes and pay for your water and gas.
That being said, I love the weirdness. I’m soaking it up and still trying to figure it out. Still no pictures, really out of choice. I'm just not a picture person- go read Sharon Chun's blog for all that. : )
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Did some orientation stuff today. Learned about normal Ecuadorian greetings- cheek kisses are the thing here! We had a lot of laughs while we met the two guys who are also studying with us. Hope to take some pictures soon and have some more exciting news. The orientation week is a little overwhelming, and seems like info overload right now.
Today’s highlight: I purchased my first beverage from an Ecuadorian tienda in Spanish. It was terrible. : )
Monday, January 24, 2011
Arrived safe and sound in Quito at about 8:45 tonight, unpacked with the girls, took in the sights from the roof of our apartment, and met our new roommates.
Best part of my day? Two-way tie between practically running through the Miami airport with Sharon, as to not miss our flight to Quito, and the fact that I made it here alive. : )
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Well, I’m leaving Los Estados Unidos por Ecuador en 22 dias. Ahh! It’s exciting. Gearing up and getting ready to go!