Highlights of my time in Ecuador

Hola amigos, sadly my time in Ecuador has come to an end. However, for those of you who may be thinking about studying abroad (or just visiting Ecuador), I’ve compiled a list of highlights of my time abroad. If you visit Ecuador, some of these places should be on your list too!

  1. Amazonía – Tena & Misahuallí

  2. Baños
  3. Carnaval Weekend
  4. Centro Histórico de Quito
  5. Cotopaxi
  6. Enrique Iglesias Concert
  7. Mindo
  8. Mitad del Mundo
  9. Museos de Quito
  10. Quilotoa
  11. ¡Quito!

What I’ve Learned Through Study-Abroad

¡Hola amigos! With just a few more weeks left in this beautiful country, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on things I’ve learned, my growth, and how I’ve changed since arriving. While it’s difficult to name all of the ways I’ve changed (I’m sure to discover changes once I return to Holland), I’m going to try my best to generalize these changes so that all study-abroad students can relate.


 

PHYSICAL CHANGES

First of all, there will be physical changes after studying abroad. I’m near the equator, but no matter how much sunscreen I wear, I inevitably became more tan. If you’re used to living in a sunny climate and study abroad in a cloudier, sun-less climate then you’re likely to return to your home country with a paler, lighter complexion.

Next, depending on how well (or not) you eat in your host country, you’ll most likely either gain or lose weight.  At the beginning of our program, our directors told us that in most cases women tend to gain weight and men tend to lose weight. But all of that depends on how well you treat your body and your overall mental health. For example, if you’re having a hard time adapting to a new environment you might have a loss of appetite for new foods and lose weight.  Or you might have sleepless nights adjusting to the jet-lag and new sleeping sounds (for me, it was all of the cars honking and gas trucks beeping at 6 A.M. every morning).

Lastly, you might gain a new scar or two depending on the different adventures you embarked on in your host country. I have a ton of scabs on my legs that will eventually scar over from scratching all of my bug bites. If you’ve witnessed something traumatic in your host country, then you’ll likely be left with an emotional scar as well (this should be dealt with by seeking counseling provided by your host school or home school upon return to the U.S.). This leads me to the next set of changes…

MENTAL CHANGES

Studying abroad is one of the greatest ways to mature, grow in your knowledge of cultures beyond your own, and become open to new ways of thinking. Even if you travel to a country with a culture similar to your own (i.e. a mexicana studying abroad in América Latina… en Ecuador), you’ll still be able to learn more about your own culture and the new culture you’re immersed in.

In my own experience, I thought it would be easy studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country because of my Mexican background. What I learned is that although the two countries share many Latin American customs, they each have their own dialects and ways of thinking.

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Learning with my friends in an interactive museum on the equator

I’ve also found some similarities between United States culture and Ecuadorian culture, so I find that interesting as well. I think that because I come from a Latina background, I was able to adapt faster to the culture here than most of my other classmates who came from different backgrounds in the U.S.

Lastly, my classmates and I have changed mentally by learning about the history, environment, and language of this country, but we’ve learned most from the daily interactions we have with Ecuadorians. If it’s possible to stay at a homestay in your host country when studying abroad, I would highly encourage you to do so. You’ll be surprised how much you learn from your homestay family about the culture and from hearing about your classmates’ homestays. Plus, if your ideologies clash with theirs you’ll have a great opportunity to learn from a different perspective (but if you really can’t get along, you can always inform a program director and they can find a better homestay for you)!

SAFETY CHANGES

One amazing thing about living in the U.S. (and especially in Holland, MI) is that you usually aren’t concerned about your safety. We have awesome security forces that work to maintain our safety at all times. Living in a country where security can be an issue will teach you (just as it has taught me) to be more aware of your surroundings and cautious.

It’s important to take care of oneself, so when you travel to a new country keep in mind that there will be different threats than ones that you are used to back at home. In Holland, I’m alert for the occasional tornado watch or winter storm alert. I practiced fire drills and safety drills in case of a school attack from an armed stranger. In Ecuador, I had to keep in mind that I was surrounded by a few active volcanoes that may or may not erupt while I was here. I also had to make sure that I looked out for my personal safety and belongings whenever I left the house because of the pick-pocketers in the big city. Besides that, we were warned about potential earthquakes although we did not imagine that a serious one would ever occur while we were studying abroad here.

What I want to say is that there are dangers everywhere, but depending where you are in the world the dangers might be different. Studying abroad has taught me that you should do everything in your control to stay safe, but there are just some circumstances that are out of your control that you may have to deal with. Try your best to stay positive and take everything as a learning experience; these are the things that will end up changing you.

SPIRITUAL CHANGES

The last type of change you will likely face is a change in spirituality. Think about how religions are different all over the world and how your religion may not be the dominant one in your host country. It’s okay not to actively practice your religion at a place of worship if there aren’t any places nearby where you can do that.

However, if you do find it easy to practice your religion in your host country, then do so… and learn more about it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep learning about something you care so deeply about. If you feel like spreading the word, then do so, but keep in mind that others may have completely different ways of viewing the world, religion, and spirituality. Just be respectful.

Along with that, you can also learn about new religions from your host country. It’s always exciting to see how people think and view life and death in a different culture or religion. It’s even more exciting when you can find ties between two or more religions in one single religion. Connecting a new religion to your own can expand your way of thinking and can also help you see that we are all connected in one way or another. After all, todos somos humanos.

I hope that you can relate to some of the changes I’ve experienced. For those of you who haven’t studied abroad (yet), I hope this helps prepare you for the journey you have ahead. Para todos, ojalá que hayan aprendido sobre mis experiencias de intercambio.

Final note: I would like to dedicate this post to the people of Ecuador after living through one of the most destructive earthquakes to strike the country. The Ecuadorian northwest coast is mostly destroyed leaving many people in need of assistance, supplies, food, and shelter. Any donations are helpful while the country begins to rebuild itself and continue to search for people under the rubble. I’m asking for any kind of help for my host country. There are a few websites where donations can be received: My.Care.org, Generosity.com, WorldVision.org, and YouCaring.com (this site donates directly to the town of Canoa which faced a lot of destruction). Thank you ahead of time for your generosity and donations and for helping a country that has found a place forever in my heart! Muchas gracias por todo #UnidosConEcuador #PrayforEcuador

The Flora & Fauna of Ecuador

Why did you choose to study abroad in Ecuador? Why didn’t you pick some tropical place like Costa Rica? Before I came to Ecuador, I knew that it was a tropical country because of its location on the equator, but I never expected it to be as diverse as it is.

Ecuador is ranked as one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, and because of its small size it is probably one of the most diverse relative to size. So to that person who asked me why I picked Ecuador over Costa Rica: that is the reason why.

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Image Source (The Galapagos Islands have been enlarged to show the shapes of the islands)

The country is divided into 4 different environmental regions: The Galapagos Islands (Galápagos), the Coast (La Costa), the Mountains (La Sierra), and the Amazon (El Oriente / Amazonía).

Because the climates in these environments are very different, there are tons of different species unique to each area. The mountains act as a barrier between the coast and the Amazon, making isolation of these species easier. The isolated species reproduce over and over again throughout generations which makes the species vary from a similar species found elsewhere in the country. Great examples of these evolutionary changes are found on the Galapagos Islands where the species have evolved to adapt to their environment over several hundred years.

I had the opportunity to visit the Guayllabamba Zoo just north of Quito. This zoo is unique in that most of the animals found there are actually animals of Ecuador. A few exceptions would be the African lion and the ostrich. There are many species of birds there that would typically be found in the Amazon.

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Other animals I saw included monkeys, bears, wild cats, and the famous Galapagos tortoises.

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Besides its wide array of species, Ecuador also has a variety of different plants. Because of it’s different types of ecosystems like the páramotropical rain-forest (the Amazon), cloud-forests, dry-forests of the coast, and Galapagos, to name a few, there are thousands of different plant species all over the country.

Going to the botanical gardens of Quito is a great way to become introduced to a variety of the plant species in Ecuador. I have taken two trips there and both times I was introduced to different types of plants; there are just too many to show in one day. Our guide showed us the different medicinal plants that some indigenous communities of Ecuador still use. She also showed us which plants were edible and which were definitely not. As a part of the tour, we explored the orchid exhibit which housed hundreds of orchid species native to Ecuador. Along with that, we were able to enter the carnivorous greenhouse where we were introduced to the carnivorous plants one could find in the tropical rain-forest.

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I had a fun time exploring the different flora and fauna of this country and I hope you do too with these pictures! ¡Hasta luego, amigos! Stay tuned for other study abroad tips with me 🙂

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!

Top of the Mountain & Tropical Mindo

¡Hola a todos! Classes have begun and I’m looking forward to learning a whole new wealth of information about my host country! However, to celebrate the end of our first week of classes, I decided to take a few trips to different places around Ecuador.

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First of all, I took advantage of Friday by joining three of my new friends to the top of Mt. Pichincha here in Quito. I can see the mountain every morning from my bedroom window, so I really wanted to explore the top of the mountain. It would have been a long time to hike up there, so we took the cable car (TelefériQo). I didn’t imagine that it would be so scary going up to the top, but I realized that the cable car was going to be like an amusement park ride; I don’t enjoy amusement parks.

But once I got to the top… the view was amazing! It was such a different environment than the city (which I could see clearly from the top of Pichincha). My friends and I hiked around and stood in silence for a while. SILENCE! There is no such thing in Quito since it’s such a busy city. It felt wonderful being away for a while and enjoying nature.

Roaming and observing the surrounding mountains.

We even observed some wild cows roaming the land. I did not pet the cows because I am also afraid of getting bit by wild animals. Instead, I just observed some of my friends getting licked by the cows and photographed them.

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We noticed that there were horse rides that would take us to the crater of Pichincha which would let us see inside the volcano (!). However, since we didn’t bring enough money for anything other than the taxi rides, cable car, and food, we didn’t ride the horses. ¡Pero eso será para la próxima vez!

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Leaving our mark on the dirt path on Pichincha.

As if I didn’t already experience enough adventure, the next two days I went to the cloudy forest in Mindo. I stayed in my first hostel and ended up traveling with a large group of IES students from Quito and Cumbayá.

I think the bus ride took about 3 hours, and we dropped more than 1,000 meters in altitude. That means warmer weather and lots of bugs! We were all supposed to go tubing down one of the rapids as soon as we got there, but right before I got on I got very sick and had to sit out. 🙁 I think it was the bus and taxi rides with all of the curvy and bumpy roads.

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The view from our hostel’s second floor.

Thankfully, I felt much better after eating lunch! A small group of us decided to hike around the rapids before we took a chocolate tour near our hostel. The tour lasted about an hour and a half, and we were able to see how chocolate is grown and made in Mindo. Plus, we got to sample a lot of cacao beans, stevia leaves, and dark chocolate! Fun fact: the only other place they produce Mindo chocolate outside of Mindo is in Dexter, Michigan; what a small world!

The next day was packed with adventure as we took a cable car (even scarier than the TelefériQo) across the cloud-forest to a trail that led us to different waterfalls. The arduous hike became somewhat dangerous after it rained and the trails became slippery with mud. The rain also made it a little colder, but I felt like I was in a rainforest! I walked around with wet feet for a majority of the hike.

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When we returned to the small town after the hike, I ate my lunch quickly and hopped onto the bus to return to Quito before dark. ¡Fué una aventura maravillosa! I hope to return to Mindo to explore more of the town and to go tubing. So until my next adventure, ¡cuídense mucho mis amigos! ¡Nos vemos!

 

First Impressions

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The view from the restaurant window where the IES leaders took us to eat on the first day. Look at those mountains! Too beautiful!

The altitude takes some getting used to, but the view is phenomenal! This season is the rainy season in Quito, so it’s been mostly cloudy (Quito has two seasons: dry and rainy). However, when the sun comes up it gets HOT! I made sure to pack some SPF 50 sunscreen bottles to protect my skin.

So far I’ve met the other students who I’ll be studying with this next semester and the IES program coordinators/directors in Quito. We signed a contract to pledge that we would only speak in Spanish throughout our time here (except for emergencies, etc.) to really immerse ourselves in the language. Luckily for me, I already have a lot of experience con el español, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

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The main dish at the restaurant on day one: ensalada, pollo, y arroz.
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The rice was in the shape of a pyramid!

Still… there are some words that I don’t understand/use because they are not common in Mexican Spanish. For example, I didn’t know that ñaño(a) could be used in place of hermano(a). That confused me a little. Also, Ecuadorians use the word chévere to describe something that is cool or awesome or great. When I Skype with my parents in a couple of weeks, I’m going to inevitably use chévere in my conversations.

Speaking of Skype, I video-chatted with my parents last night to let them know I got here safely (but I used Facebook Messenger instead). They were super worried that I hadn’t called sooner. Ah, I love my parents, but they worry too much! I told them about the lovely host family who welcomed me with lots of hugs and kisses (I’m not making this up). My Ecuadorian family is super kind and affectionate, as most Ecuadorians are.

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My cozy room in Quito 🙂

I’m excited for this next week since I’ll still be in my IES orientation. They’re taking us to explore Quito and other nearby cities! So until next time, mis amigos. I’ll leave you with this view from the 12th floor of the IES building. ¡Que se la pasen muy chévere!

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Looking west towards the Pichincha Volcano from the IES building’s balcony.

Me voy para Ecuador

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Waiting for my connecting flight to Miami.

For weeks, I knew that the hardest thing about leaving for Ecuador would be the goodbyes. My mom is very emotional (and so am I), so there was no way to escape the waterworks as I departed from the airport on my way to Quito.

The Mexican culture is very familial, and my family is, of course, very tight-knit. I care about them a lot, so it was hard to make the decision to travel so far knowing that they would be in a panic with my absence. My parents are “traditional” Mexican parents meaning they are strict and conservative; it was hard for them to see me leave knowing that I will be on my own. The only thing that reassured them was knowing that I was going to be with a Latin American host family, and they assumed their culture would be similar to ours.

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I found it interesting that Google knows where I am! Note: this screenshot was taken after arriving to Quito.

I had some contact with my host sister through email a few days before, but I have yet to meet my host parents (and sister) face-to-face. It’s somewhat nerve-wrecking, yet I’m hopeful that my family will be awesome! I already apologized to my host sister about my language goofs because I know that some Mexican-Spanish words don’t translate well in other types of Spanish. No matter how sad I was for leaving my family for the semester, I’m excited to meet new people and gain una nueva familia.

My “new family” won’t simply be my Ecuadorian host family, but also my IES familia. I’ve only met one other student so far and that’s only because she also goes to Hope! I ran into her at the airport in Miami, and I’m positive some of my other future-familia are on the same flight to Quito even though we haven’t officially met.

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Departing Miami… next stop: Quito!

I’m excited for what’s ahead, yet glad to be taking it one day at a time. I’ve done some extensive research on insects and diseases, and I’m just about over my fears (Quito is a relatively safe city insect-wise). I’m sure I’ll have my surprises though.

My final flight is boarding soon, so until next time! Stay tuned, mis amigos! ¡Nos vemos en Quito!

~Otavalo Market~

It is impossible to visit Ecuador without also visiting the indigenous markets at Otavalo. Every Saturday, without fail, the streets are filled with indigenous men and women selling every article of clothing and fruit imaginable. Shouts of “amiga, compra esa” “chica, chica” “agua de coco, agua de coco” can be heard throughout the streets. The colors of the textiles were all so vibrant, in hues of reds, yellows, greens and blues; I wanted to buy everything I set my eyes on.  There was also fruit spread all across the tables: guanabana, plantain, grapes, naranja, maracuya, piña, mangos, coconuts…you name it and it was at the market. I was told that at the market you can barter for a lower price and I quickly had to learn the technique if I wanted the best deal for what I was getting.

By the end of our time at the market I had the softest pair of alpaca socks (they are actually made out of alpaca wool and have little alpacas knitted on to them), 5 woven headbands, a pair of ‘tropical pants’ (loose pants that are woven with different colors), and a beautifully hand painted wooden bowl with flowers and swirls, all for under $30! My friends and I were all also able to find string bracelets in the colors of the Ecuadorian flag – red, yellow and blue.

A glimpse of the center of the market. You might notice the woman on the left side of the screen dressed in the traditional clothing of the Otavalo region.
A glimpse of the center of the market. You might notice the woman on the left side of the screen dressed in the traditional clothing of the Otavalo region.
The woven Alpaca socks I bought at Otavalo
The woven Alpaca socks I bought at Otavalo

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The different headbands & bracelets made by hand
The different headbands & bracelets made by hand
The vibrant textiles that can be found at the market
The vibrant textiles that can be found at the market
The beautiful handcrafted wooden bowls
The beautiful handcrafted wooden bowls

In other words:

The highlands around Otavalo are known for their bizcochos. Bizcochos are similar to biscottis but are warm and served with Dulce de Leche (which is similar to caramel but sweeter). We stopped for breakfast at a restaurant that served bizcochos, eggs, fruit juice, hot chocolate and tea all for just $2 a person. During our breakfast we were serenaded by a group of men who played traditional indigenous music for us. During our day trip to Otavalo we also traveled to Las Cascades and Lago Cuicocha, where we got a chance to explore. Las Casadas and the Lago Cuicocha were absolutely breathtaking, and when the clouds lifted we were able to see for miles.

Well that’s all I have for now, I’m off to the coast of Ecuador until next Tuesday with my Techniques of Marine Research Class!

Las Cascadas
Las Cascadas
Lago Cuicocha
Lago Cuicocha
Lago Cuicocha got its name from all the wild 'cuy' (guinea pigs) that run around the area
Lago Cuicocha got its name from all the wild ‘cuy’ (guinea pigs) that run around the area