Welcome to the land where mountains surround, altitude sickness occurs, hectic traffic and crazy drivers rule the roads, and where people are relational above all things! I left my cozy small town of Zeeland, MI, Monday morning to arrive in the large foreign city of Quito, Ecuador, for the semester. Yes, for the semester… I am still trying to convince myself of this even as I am here.
I arrived late Monday night and met my fellow international students through IES on Tuesday. Together we were given a tour of old town Quito, Iglesia compañia de Jesús, Iglesia San Francisco, and Basilica del Voto National (pictures attached, see google for more!). These churches are incredible in the nature of their architecture that reveals the religious and political history of Quito. Wednesday through Friday this week were consumed with full days of orientation to learn about rules, safety, academics, culture, and tourism of Ecuador. While the information was helpful and needed, they were very long days.
Luckily, we were rewarded after a long week with a group excursion on Saturday to the Otavalo market that is famously run by the indigenous Andean people selling anything and everything handmade in hundreds of tents in the street. On our way we stopped for a typical Ecuadorian breakfast of bizcochos with coffee or tea at a small restaurant with a view of Cayambe Volcano. We also did a short hike on our way to the market to Cascada de Peguche, a beautiful waterfall, where we got to slightly test our lungs in the altitude. After a time of much fun and buying all things alpaca at the market, we went to Laguna Cayapas Cuichocha. This lagoon is in the crater of Cuichocha Volcano, which we later found out is active and the fourth most dangerous in Latin America. We took a boat around the lagoon in the crater to see the bubbling volcanic gasses being admitted to the surface of the water; it was beautiful!
Despite the excitement of being in a new country, being able to travel, and seeking out new opportunities in language, academics, and culture, I have struggled this week with feeling overwhelmed. Jumping into a new lifestyle is not easy for me and we had so much information thrown into our brains that is so foreign in just a few days of being here. I’m struggling with the idea that the middle of May feels so far away, yet I know that I will regret saying that by the time May comes around. Ecuador is a country that has so much to offer, I just need to learn how to live into the person I was created to be in a new place, with new people, and with new opportunities.
(click on first photo to view as slideshow!)