Things to do at La Mitad del Mundo

Just by looking at the name “Ecuador” you can guess its location on a map, correct? Ecuador straddles the equatorial line, so one of its attractions is visiting the “Middle of the World” or la Mitad del Mundo. So, mis amigos, I’ve created a list of things you can do if you visit the equator in Ecuador!

Cuy (although this photograph was taken in Baños, Ecuador and not la MDM).
Cuy (although this photograph was taken in Baños, Ecuador and not la MDM).
  1. Try some cuy. There are many locations in and around la MDM where cuy is sold. If you’re wondering, “What is cuy?” let me tell you that it is a delicious meat eaten in Ecuador that tastes like chicken… except it’s guinea pig. You have to try it at least once. I’ll assure you that I was skeptical at first because I know a lot of people own a pet guinea pig. But just so you know, one of my friends here has a pet guinea pig back in the states, but he still tried cuy and loved it! Recommendation: Eat cuy at Restaurante Pueblita located outside of la MDM in a town called Pomasqui. I’ve heard that this is the best cuy place.
  2. Visit the Museo Intiñan. This museum will take you through a tour of the animals in the Ecuadorian rainforest, the process of making a shrinking head, the living spaces of a group of indigenous peoples of the rainforest, and many other surprises. You’ll be able to take a picture at the equator standing on both hemispheres! Also, if you ask, you could get the chocolate tour which lets you see the chocolate-making process and you can sample some chocolate bits.

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  3. Balance an egg on a the head of a nail. This is also done at Intiñan as part of the tour. But the cool part is that if you actually get it to balance, you get a little diploma that states your accomplishment. It took me only two tries to balance the egg and feel like an equatorial champion.

    "Successfully Balanced an Egg" ft. my friend's thumb.
    “Successfully Balanced an Egg” ft. my friend’s thumb.
  4. See the UNASUR building. This building is only a few years old and was used earlier this year to hold the UNASUR conference. UNASUR is the Union of South American Nations, and their event hosted the presidents of the South American countries as well as some of the Central American presidents. Outside of the building are the flags of all of the South American nations.
  5. Go see the monument at the Middle of the World. I did not have time to see this monument because the area was closing (I took too long at the Intiñan Museum). Inside of the closed area is another museum full of history of Ecuador, more flags, and the giant monument where you can take a picture.
  6. See the “actual” Mitad del MundoThe tourist areas are the ones I’ve mentioned before, but the real MDM (where GPS devices have confirmed is the actual longitude and latitude zero) is on top of a mountain a few kilometers away from the monument and UNASUR building. There is a pole at the top of the mountain that marks the spot for the real MDM. Ask any local and they will be happy to point you to the area.

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  7. Visit the largest self-sustained volcano valley village. There are taxi rides that will take you to Pululahua to see inside of the volcano. It’s villagers only travel outside to buy some commodities not grown or found within the volcano. However, the villagers grow their own food down there since the land is surprisingly fertile and they receive a ton of humidity from the clouds. My only advice would be to visit this site earlier in the morning when there are no clouds or fog so that you’ll be able to see inside the volcano crater. Another tip: Wear warm clothing since it’ll be colder there.

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That’s it for the list, mis amigos. But be sure to keep following my blogs to find out more about studying abroad in general and specifically in Ecuador! ¡Hasta luego, amigos!

Seeing Enrique Iglesias!

¿Cómo están mis amigos? I’ve been MIA for a while, but I’m back to update you all on what’s been going on since my last blog update! Plus, if you know anything about the man in the title, prepare to be excited…

As part of his Sex & Love Tour, Enrique Iglesias made a stop in Quito. On March 3rd, he performed in the Coliseo General Rumiñahui along with the group Gente de Zona. If you’ve ever heard the popular Latin hit “Bailando,” you’ll recognize that Gente de Zona sing with Enrique Iglesias on that track.

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From where we were sitting, the stage was pretty close. Photo ft. my new headband.

Well I was fortunate enough to be able to see him at this concert with a big group of compañeros from my program. Three girls in our group bought the tickets for us all so that we could all sit together, and we paid them back. We didn’t have the closest seating, but since the stadium was pretty small we could see the stage very well from where we were sitting.

Our evening consisted in taking a ton of group pictures beforehand and shouting at the top of our lungs. I had bought an “Enrique Iglesias Love” headband outside (while waiting in line to enter the stadium) and wore it throughout the whole night. I thought that Enrique might be able to spot me from afar if I wore it (I don’t think he did, but it made me feel better).

Photo taken by a Gama TV reporter. She was ecstatic about our excitement!
Photo taken by a Gama TV reporter. She was ecstatic about our excitement!

The concert started off with a smaller, lesser-known artist who only sang probably two songs. Then Gente de Zona came out and sang a few songs when suddenly… the power went off…

We were told to wait for “five minutes” till they fixed it. We waited probably half an hour anxiously anticipating Enrique’s arrival. We wanted Enrique to come out! But once the lights went back on, we had to watch the rest of Gente de Zona’s performance before Enrique took stage.

When he did… I could not believe it! He was there in the same room as me and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I spent the rest of the concert dancing along to his music, jumping up and down when he would look over at our section, and shouting con emoción. I thought I would lose my voice.

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I cried only a little when he sang the song “Heroe” since it’s emotional and it made me emotional hearing him sing it live.

Gente de Zona returned for the last song so they could sing “Bailando” with him. Overall it was a great concert and a great experience for me since Enrique Iglesias is one of my favorite artists and this was my first real concert. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up! He sings in Spanish and English. But until next time, amigos: ¡Ciao!

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I’ll leave you all with this image of Enrique. Quisiera que fuera mi heroe.

Things to do in and around Quito

¿Cómo están, mis amigos? Are you curious about what to do in Quito? I had no idea that there were so many possiblities for exploration and entertainment in Quito (or on the outskirts of the city). For all of those adventurers out there interested in delving into Ecuador’s beautiful capital city, here is a list of 10 things you can do:

  1. Take the TelefériQo up Pichincha and then go hiking. To do this, you’ll need: a waterproof jacket, layers, good hiking boots, sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water. Also suggested: sunglasses, gloves, friendly companions, strong lungs, and an early morning visit (to avoid the clouds). Cost to ride the TelefériQo is $7.50 per person (tourist price).

    At the peak of Rucu Pichincha. Photo credit: Aimee Hoffman.
    At the peak of Rucu Pichincha. Photo credit: Aimee Hoffman.
  2. Visit El Centro Histórico. This is basically the old Quito, so it’s full of Spanish architecture, big churches, museums, parks, restaurants, and so much more! This is definitely a good place to visit if you like to roam around old places. Still, most of this part of town has been updated, so you’ll see a lot of modern things mixed in with the old. You can also visit El Panecillo, a hill with a giant statue of La Virgen del Panecillo.

    The Virgen del Panecillo seen from the Historic Center of Quito.
    Walking through El Centro Histórico and seeing La Virgen del Panecillo.
  3. Go to a museum. To really learn about the history of Quito or Ecuador, you must visit a museum to experience the past. Two of my favorite museums in Quito (also located in El Centro Histórico) are Museo de la Ciudad and Museo El Alabado. The first has detailed exhibits of the effects of the Spanish Conquista and the second is full of Pre-Incan and Post-Incan art. Plus, they are only a few blocks away from each other!

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    Ceramic artwork displaying the clothing of a shaman found at Museo El Alabado.
  4. Eat good food. It’s Ecuador, so the food here is delicious anyway. But since this is Quito, the capital, there are a variety of tasty restaurants from all over. If you want to try some Cuban, Spanish, Chinese, Mexican, or any other country’s food, you’ll likely find a restaurant for it in Quito. The restaurants are located all throughout the city. There is also street food (not recommended for travelers) sold all over Quito. Plus, if you’re craving good ol’ American food, there are tons of American chains here including Subway, Domino’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, and KFC (although their menus have some Ecuadorian twists to them!).
  5. Watch a play. There are always shows at La Casa de la Cultura and El Patio de las Comedias. I’m not much of a theater-geek, but I did enjoy watching a play with one of my friends at El Patio de las Comedias. It turned out to be a very popular show since it was a comedy about Cupid’s love life! My only recommendation is to buy a ticket in advance (online) or show up early to buy one (I almost didn’t get a seat).
  6. Visit a park. There are tons of parks to visit in Quito. So far I’ve only visited one, Parque La Carolina, since it’s large and close to my school. At La Carolina, there are lots of trees, places to play different sports, a skate park, and a playground. There are also free Zumba classes at La Carolina on Sunday mornings. Safety tip: never visit parks alone or after it gets dark.

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    The botanical gardens in Quito are also found in La Carolina!
  7. Take a peek inside the churches. There are many churches in Quito since the city has a strong Catholic background. But I think the most beautiful churches are located in El Centro Histórico. Two churches that are a must-see are the Basílica del Voto Nacional which has so much beauty inside and out (and it’s HUGE), and the other is La Compañia de Jesús which is adorned with gold inside.

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    The entire church was impossible for me to capture with my camera! This is La Basílica.
  8. Go to a fútbol game. This is still on my to-do list. A really popular place to watch professional soccer games is at El Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa located in the northern part of Quito. When I get the chance to attend a game, I’ll, of course, have to buy an Ecuadorian t-shirt to support my host country’s team!
  9. Attend a concert. It doesn’t have to be a big concert; Quito has tons of mini-concerts every week. Some places have jazz, rock, and Latin music. Most of the mini-concerts are found within local pubs or breweries. But, Quito also has big concerts! On March 3rd, I’ll be attending an Enrique Iglesias concert at El Coliseo General Rumiñahui! I’m so excited (I’ll mention it in a future blog, I’m sure)!
  10. Learn to dance. Or if you already know how to dance, then just find an awesome discoteca to go dancing. Like I mentioned before, there are free Zumba classes in the park. There are also a few places I’ve seen where they teach belly dancing! I haven’t personally tried those classes, but what I have done is learn to dance from a native. To do this, go to any club that plays Latin music (my favorite), start dancing with friends, and, sure enough, a native will want to dance with you!

So there’s a short list of a variety of activities to partake in when you visit Quito, and I hope you do! Till my next blog, ¡ciao, amigos!