Due to the stress of midterms, the excitement of fall break, and the fact that I have never kept a blog or journal in my life up to this point, it recently occurred to me that I just might be a couple weeks behind on my posts! Oops. So, long story short, I have quite a lot of catching up to do! With the exception of fall break, the last few weeks have been fairly uneventful. Due to midterm preparations and the anticipation of fall break expenses, I traveled very little. I attended the Perugia Chocolate Festival, and during fall break I was delighted to be able to travel to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Brussels! Below I will include my favorite pictures from fall break, though some of these places I visited (Old Town in Scotland, The Cliffs of Moher, London as seen from the top of the London Eye) are simply so beautiful and breathtaking that no picture could do them justice! To truly experience the beauty of each of these places you must see them for yourself!




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Beaches and Clinical Rotations

The week has gone by so fast I can’t stand it. I’m hoping the others slow down, I can’t bare to believe that by this weekend I will only have one month left here. It’s physically painful.

Last Thursday I said a bitter-sweet good bye to my babies. One little boy even started crying, saying I could get a job as the school doctor, and that I didn’t need to go shadow in the hospitals. How can I not tear up at that?

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That night me and the girls boarded a 10 hour bus ride to Montanita, a beach town known for its shops and surfing, but quite possibly more famous for its non-stop partying. Although we had somewhat of an idea of what we were getting ourselves into, I think it’s safe to say we were a little clueless on this town’s idea of parties. I’ve never been to Vegas, but I’m going to go a head and make that comparison.

Our days were mostly overcast, but don’t let that fool you: we lounged in 80 degree weather the majority of the time, and none of us escaped without some sunburns.

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Our hostel was probably the nicest place we’ve stayed in so far, besides maybe the tree house in Mindo. It also had a bunch of Hawaii signs and sayings, which was fun to see. According to our neighbor from Peru, many Hawaiians come to Ecuador and Peru’s coast to see what “real surfing” is.

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And although the night clubs (discotecs), banana coladas, and general night life were fun to experience for a short while, we found it much more enjoyable to be doing other things, like riding bikes through the sandy streets, looking around shops, and reading on the beach.

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Shocking enough, the coast is famous for it’s seafood (who would guess?). And while here, I promised Chris’s dad that I would try one of Ecuador’s most famous seafood dishes: Ceviche. It’s like a cold soup, with (usually raw) squid, fish, shrimp, and shellfish, along with a sauce similar to pico de gallo: tomato, onion, peppers, cilantro, and lime.

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Although tasty, I think it was a bit much at 11 am (locals swear you have to have it before noon), and I couldn’t help but feet like I should be eating it like a salsa with chips, instead of straight with a spoon. Either way, it’s probably safe to say I had one of the best and most authentic versions of the dish.

We also managed to find bowls of at least 8 types of fruit, omelettes for $2 that were twice the size of our face, and coconut juice that would make you buy a plane ticket to Ecuador just to come back and have again (have I mentioned how much I’m going to miss the juice here when I have to leave?).

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After 3 nights in Montanita, including being mildly impressed by the Halloween activities and making friends with multiple street dogs, we took a bus an hour and a half north to the beach of Puerto Lopez.

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Here we took a 1.5 hour boat ride to La Isla De la Plata , an island off the coast of Puerto Lopez that is said to be similar to the Galapagos Islands. I was NOT one of the two people who got sea sick on that trip (Thank goodness for Dramamine).

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On our way to the island we saw a whale, which is a really big deal because the majority of them make their trek to warmer waters (is that possible?) in mid August-September.


Once there, we snorkeled the coral reef where we saw a sting ray, sea turtles, and other exotic fishies. (That picture is of a sea turtle) And little sand crabs!


After snorkeling we hiked to the highest point on the island and along the way saw some lizards, but more impressively: some birds literally called blue-footed boobies. Their feet, legs, and beak become a darker shade of blue with age. Their nests are lined all over the island, and we were lucky enough to see them not only sitting on eggs, but to also see them hatched with day old baby boobies.


On the way back we lounged in the sun and ate water melon (life is hard, isn’t it?).

We spent the evening enjoying Puerto Lopez and the festivities that commenced for El Dia De los Muertos, the second of three holidays this weekend. However, the fiestas were not so intriguing when the music was still blasting at 3 am and we had to be up at 4 am for a 12 hour trek back home to Quito. (By trek I mean annoyingly long bus rides) We did, however, get to share a hostel and dinner with two girls from the Netherlands, which was fun!

Today, Wednesday, was my first day in clinical rotations. FINALLY.

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My first rotation is at a dermatology clinic instead of general medicine (which seems to be just a lot of prescriptions and medication checks). I was in HEAVEN today (some of you may know I’m considering dermatology as a specialty). I worked along the side of 7 Ecuadorian medical students and a fabulous doctor who cared a lot about teaching us. (Also, a little perk, most students and staff at the clinic could speak a decent amount of English, so when I had trouble understanding something, they could clarify!)

First, the doctor showed us pamphlets they give patients, and forms doctors fill out during the consultation. Then he showed us their most commonly used tools. They have a scope you use to look closely at problem areas, like moles or acne, and that scope can attach to an ipad, where you take a picture. With that picture you can discuss the diagnoses with multiple doctors or students, get second opinions without the patient present, save it as a reference to see the progression of the skin issue, and email it to your patient for their own references. When we had downtime between patients, the other students and I would zoom in on each other’s freckles, moles, and other skin abnormalities. Which was extra fun because the doctor showed us how to label moles based on their color, size, symmetry, and density, then rank it with a point system, and determine if it the mole was possibly problematic or needed further evaluation.

Once we were more comfortable and sat in on a couple consultations, the doctor would have us do an entire appointment in pairs. We’d interview the patient, collect medical and family history, even do a physical consult (in simple situations), then come up with our best diagnoses (the patients knew we were students of course). After that, the doctor would come in, go over our notes, give us advice on how to improve them, then do his own consultation and diagnoses, and compare it with ours. After his diagnoses he would explain his recommendation/prescription to both us and the patient, then after the patient leaves we would have a discussion about the appointment. I got to be a part of four of these and saw everything from fungal infections, to warts, to contact dermatitis, to skin ulcers. On patients ages 4 to 84. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

Due to the week being so short, I will get to spend another week at this clinic and I’m incredibly excited. After that I will spend a week in surgery, a week in maternity, and a week in pediatrics (then a week in Peru, then home! What?)

I was incredibly nervous for my first day today and am so happy I left with a huge smile. I made friends my age (all on my own, with a language barrier) that are interested in the same fields and live in Quito as well. The doctors were beyond friendly and welcoming, and the patients were even more encouraging than I expected. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Tomorrow, the doctor asked us if we could come in early, but he’s buying us breakfast to make up for the inconvenience. I mean what the heck, is this real life?

Alright, I have to get to bed if I’m going to do anything productive with my day tomorrow (rumor has it we are eating cuy, also known as guinea pig in the United States).

Yo Escribire mas adelante! :) Chao!



Scotland and Halloween

Since my last post I traveled to Scotland for a weekend and it was absolutely beautiful! I went with the same program I went to Paris with called Somewhere New which is specifically for students studying around London. I knew I would like my tour guide from the start because when we met him outside the train in Edinburgh he had brought his dog with him. His dog’s name was Bonnie and if you know me at all you know how much I love dogs so needless to say I was thrilled to play with her. She was so well behaved and got way too excited every time she saw our tour guide. Our tour guide was a Scottish man who is at least, I don’t know, probably mid-fifties, early sixties. He had the rudest sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever met but he was hilarious and I really enjoyed getting to know him.

The first night we stayed at a hostel in Edinburgh which was the first time I’ve stayed in a hostel. It was really nice and even though I went on this trip knowing no one, I made friends with a group of girls who actually go to my school here in London. I love them to pieces and am very thankful to have met them and gotten to have roomed with them. During our evening of free time in Edinburgh we went to a pub and had delicious food for dinner (plus they gave us a student discount so my whole meal was only 5 pounds!) We also went on a walking ghost tour which I was expecting to be more scary than it actually was. The only time I got scared was when the ghost tour guide jumped out and said “boo!”

The next day we began our drive through the Highlands and stopped at many different locations to take pictures. We stopped at this restaurant/cafe in the middle of nowhere to eat. Our tour guide recommended us to try cullen skink which is a traditional Scottish soup made with potatoes and fish. It smelled delicious as we walked into the restaurant so of course I had to try it. It was so delicious! I would go back to Scotland just to have another bowl of that yummy soup! After I had finished eating I went and  looked around the gift shop near the cafe when I saw two young girls freaking out to their parents. I asked them what was going on and they told me that Shaliene Woodley was in the restaurant part of the cafe and that they had just met her. I went to find my friends to let them know but by the time we got back into the area where she was, she was gone. Some of the girls on our tour said they saw her walk right past our tour bus and into her own bus so I know that the little girls weren’t lying to me.

We ended up staying at a hostel near Loch Ness which was also in the middle of nowhere then we made our way through the rest of the Highlands then back to Edinburgh the next day. Everything about Scotland was so gorgeous and I would definitely recommend everyone to go visit there at least once. I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy Scotland nearly as much as I did. I would love to go back for a few days before I come home in December but my schedule is very full until then.

On the Friday before Halloween my school threw a Halloween dance that I never made it to even though I bought my ticket. I was hanging out with my friends before hand and by the time I made it to the dance the security guard told me that they had run out of wristbands so he couldn’t let me in. I honestly didn’t really want to go anyway so I wasn’t too mad but I still want my money back. Regardless of not being able to get into the dance I still had a really fun night with my friends and getting to know some new friends which is all I wanted to do anyway. On Halloween night me and two of my friends from Iowa went to this club in Kingston to meet up with some of our friends that don’t go to school with us. It was fun too but while we were waiting in line some people dressed as scary zombies kept creeping me out. I don’t like scary things so I seriously considered leaving before we even made it inside.

In less than two days from now I am leaving for Rome and I’m very excited!12191977_10207780361256584_4920397728638574225_n 12189120_10207780483539641_6587576272647343617_n 12043104_10207780351376337_2952250326033604023_n 11250996_10207804469339271_6551381377331360861_n 10408789_10207780361776597_3711768077521172318_n

Mid term post-London


It is the beginning of week 7 and Reading week for me, meaning I don’t have most of my classes this week!

Thought  I would put up a somewhat mid-term post and put some photos up because all of my other posts have been without pictures. Apologies for that!

Just went home to Sutton for the weekend which was lovely. I live with a family friend when I am not on campus and I met up with my Aunties too which is always really nice. Sutton is just outside London and on the bus, about 45-50 minutes away so not bad. Went to Kingston a neighboring borough actually not far from Roehampton and it is always fun going there because there is really good shopping! Also it is looking very Christmas-y so would recommend it to other students here in London!

Here are some photos around London and Surrey that I have taken since being here. :)

A lovely park in Surrey, a suburb just outside London

One of the views from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral. One of my favourite places in London and if you haven’t been I would recommend it!

The Albert Bridge in Chelsea. I have been watching the reality tv show Made in Chelsea for over two years and walking around Chelsea, a very posh neighbourhood in London was amazing :)

Most of my lovely flat mates that I love to bits :)

More to come later, I promise I will be a better blogger in the future :)

Cheers, xx

Week 6&7 London 2k15


I am sorry it has been so long! I have been traveling for the past two weeks so I have not had much internet access. The traveling has been amazing though!! I went to Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam and Berlin and did it all on my own! It was such a crazy, fun, awesome adventure.

Brussels was not what I was expecting, but the major sites were nice. There just wasn’t much to do there so I was glad I was only there for a day. Next I was in Bruges, which is this medieval town in northern Belgium. It was such a cute town and I really enjoyed my time there. I took a canal cruise and saw a windmill! Amsterdam was next and it was great. The first night I went to the Anne Frank house and that was definitely my favorite part of my time in Amsterdam. Seeing history like that is so incredible. You can really imagine what it must have been like. It was so sad but also very humbling. Next was Berlin and it was definitely my favorite city of the trip! There was something about it that made me feel so welcome and safe. Overall, the trip was wonderful and I had such a good time. I learned a lot about myself and discovered that I actually don’t mind being alone as much as I thought I would.

Everyone in both Belgium and Amsterdam spoke English really well. The first time I had problems communicating was Berlin and it was actually kind of fun. It was an experience I haven’t had yet while abroad, and I found it quite cool. No one was ever mad that I didn’t speak German and even if they didn’t speak English, they would still try really hard to help me out. The best thing was that instead of getting frustrated about not being able to communicate, they would just start laughing and politely make it obvious that they did not understand. Everyone I met was really nice and that made it easier to be alone.

Although I was sad to leave my adventure, I was also excited to get back to London. I missed my room, my friends, and even London itself. I did not have much time to relax as it was Halloween, but I did manage to catch up on a bit of sleep. On Friday the Uni held a Halloween dance party and that was a lot of fun. It was nice seeing everyone, even though it had only been a little over a week. It made me realize how great it is going to be to see everyone back home again.

Speaking of home, I have reached and passed the halfway point of this trip. In a little over six weeks I will be on a plane back to Oregon. I am excited, but I still have a lot more to do until then. Friday I head off to Italy! This month is definitely a busy one. I will try my best to keep in touch regularly.





London Living Week 5

Late again, sorry!! I was ill again during week 5 and forgot! I must be susceptible to European bugs!

Rough start to the week, what with being ill but had a lovely weekend. Went into Central both on Saturday and Sunday and it was great. I feel like I am really seeing more of London. I always go from our local station of Barnes to Waterloo because from there you can go wherever! Had to get my glasses from Specsavers so did the route that I now know very well, across Waterloo Bridge to the Strand. I then headed to the City via the North Bank, this was new for me because I usually walk places on the South Bank of the river, The City is where the financial district is and also St. Paul’s Cathedral which I love. I had lunch in one of my favourite food chain eateries, Pret a Manger. They do sandwiches and soups and coffee etc. It is good and it is cheap. Close to the Cathedral is a small shopping centre and I went there next to look around and I got a couple of things.

It was nice having a ‘me day’ in central and I feel so comfortable even in parts of London I don’t know as well.

I went in again on Sunday because I have Swedish friends who were in London for the weekend and we met up for dinner and a catch up. I went in early and walked from Waterloo to the Tower Bridge, which is quite a walk. I just walked along the South Bank and when I got to the Bridge I just sat for a bit and relaxed. I made my way to Piccadilly to meet my friends and we went to a lovely pub and they paid for me :)

Classes were fine during the week, wasn’t feeling ideal but not too bad. I haven’t said before, but my friend and I are in the kickboxing group together and it is great. It isn’t easy but I already feel fitter and I know that doing this the whole year is a great way to stay in shape. It is on Thursday’s and Sunday’s.

Cheers for now x

A Month in Ecuador

I can’t believe it has already been over a month in Ecuador.

I remember sitting on the couch December 30th, incredibly frustrated with myself that I had wanted to go abroad for as long as I could remember, yet I was 19 and hadn’t even been to Canada or Mexico. That was when I made my first ever New Year’s resolution: By January 2016 I wanted to at least have purchased plane tickets to a new country. And now look at me! I’ll have been in two other countries, another continent, a completely different hemisphere AND back home all before January. I’m not sure I could get any luckier.

Things are starting to settle down and feel normal here. The altitude doesn’t bother me, cultural differences don’t come across as shocking, the consistent chicken, rice, and soup for practically every meal is beginning to feel comforting, hearing everyone around me speak Spanish seems like second nature, and my routine feels as though it could really just be my every day life, like it doesn’t have an expiration date. It makes me sad to remember this is temporary, and by the end of this week my program will be half way over. (WHAT?)

The one thing that has yet to feel normal is the constant stomach issues. Last Wednesday I made my first (and hopefully last) trip to an Ecuador emergency room at 10 pm. It was my fourth time coming down with what seemed to be pretty severe food poisoning, but I also had some new symptoms that were a little nerve-wracking. Instead of sitting in pain, my roommates convinced me to go in and make sure it wasn’t something more severe, considering I have no idea what kind of sicknesses you can contract down here.


Sure enough, after 3 hours of sitting next to a screaming baby, an IV, some weak pain medicine, multiple med students taking turns squishing my stomach (which seemed more like having a contest of who could actually grab my intestines) I was sent home with antibiotics, pedialite, and the diagnoses of an intestinal infection from good ol’ street food. At least I got the reassurance that it was nothing worse, and got to observe an emergency room in a developing country from the patient’s perspective.

Everyone was incredibly nice, the tools/machines they used seemed outdated but were effective, and their techniques were interesting to watch. I even got to practice my Spanish by trying to explain my entire medical history with a very limited vocabulary. Thank goodness for Rosita – she makes every situation down right hilarious. Even when you’re sure your stomach is about to explode.

On Saturday we set off for one of Ecuador’s most famous lakes, which was voted the best hiking destination multiple years in a row online.

I present: Laguna de Quilotoa


Reminding me very much of crater lake, only practically double its altitude at almost 13000 feet, this beautiful body of water was created by a collapsed volcano due to a massive eruption 800 years ago. Geologists claim it is around 250 meters deep (820 ft) but the Indigenous people of the village have a much more intriguing theory of it being bottomless.

This lake sits to the side of the Indigenous village, Quilotoa, home to about 50 families of native Ecuadorians. This is where we stayed for the night.


This was our hostel: Hosteria Alpaca. It was ran by an adorable family that for $17 gave you a room (with a fire place and queen beds), AND made you a home cooked communal dinner and breakfast, with tea by the fire downstairs whenever you felt like visiting with back packers who stopped by.


(sorry for the sideways picture. I have given up on trying to turn the darn things.)

This was the lady and one of her sons that ran the business constantly, no matter the hour. Their clothes were much more than just a fashion statement, they were completely necessary. It got SO cold. I made sure to pack my warmest clothes I brought with me, but they didn’t even begin to cut it. So the majority of our down time I spent by the fire, snuggling with the hostal kitty:


After each weekend I always say “now THAT is the prettiest place we’ve been to so far in Ecuador!” But this time, I REALLY mean it. The views were breath-taking. I could have watched that lake and the mountains forever and be completely content. The entire time I was there I kept thinking “there is no where else in the entire world I’d rather be right now.” Something just felt extra special on that mountain.


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We got a late start to the steep hike on Saturday but it did not disappoint. On the way down I ended up rolling my ankle (multiple times–of course), but we had the companionship of stray dogs and cranky donkeys to keep us company. Speaking of 4 legged creatures, hikers have the option of riding horses back up the hill they likely slipped the majority of the way down.


Now before you judge me, remember I had rolled my ankle, AND it was getting dark (I’m also pretty out of shape). So yes, I opted to take the horse back up for everyone’s benefit. My friend Becca did the same while Lauren and Kristina trekked their way back up. The good news is that the money we paid to ride the horses went towards a young girl’s education fund, with dreams of one day studying in Quito. How can you say no to that?


This is a picture of a dog (“perrito”) sleeping outside the village (I promise it was just sleeping). There are tons of dogs here for how tiny it is, but they seem very well cared for by the community, unlike other cities in Ecuador unfortunately. I saw a puppy husky mix and was trying to find ways to put it in my suitcase.

I actually calculated wrong and have one more week with the kids before moving onto clinical rotations. Which turned out to be nice since I was sick during what I thought was my last day. I’ve built a great connection with both the teacher and the kids, and I’m going to miss them a lot after I move onto the next phase of this program. I’ve been bringing bubbles (burbujas) and stickers to class every day, so the kids are behaving wonderfully, of course. I also took a bunch of videos of the kids singing and dancing, which I’m going to keep forever :) so cute



This weekend we get a nice long break due to back-to-back holidays. First, on Monday, it is The Day of the Dead (super excited about this. Look it up if you’ve never heard about it) and then Cuenca’s Independence day on Tuesday. So Friday-Tuesday we will be soaking up the sun on Ecuador’s coast line in the beautiful Montanita and Puerto Lopez beaches.

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Unfortunately, this means a ten-twelve hour bus ride since the flights almost tripled in price due to the holiday. I’ve done the car trip from Eugene to LA so I’m hoping this will feel like a piece of cake. Especially once someone sees where we’re staying:

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For a whole $20 a night too (about double what we normally pay for a three-four bed room). Waters are supposed to be 80 degrees and the beaches are known for their surfing and other water sports. Can someone say Parasailing?

I realized I hadn’t posted a picture of Marco or Angel, our Spanish teachers that we spend 15+ hours a week with, so here they are (on their side of course).



Aaaand Angel:

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Since it’s 6 days until El Dia De Los Muertos, traditional holiday food is being sold/made everywhere. Today the preschool teacher, Juanita, brought in homemade guagua’s de pan (loaves of sweet bread frosted like babies in a blanket) and colada morada (a warm berry smoothie with cinnamon). Both were delicious.


As much as I enjoy the food here, there are some things I really REALLY miss. Like Cheez-its, donuts, and burritos. What I would give for a dang burrito. You can’t find them anywhere down here, and if you do, they’re nothing like the ones in the US. I have a feeling the small amount of weight I lost while here will come right back on just in time for the holidays 😉 Totally worth it.

The weeks seem to be going by faster and faster, which stinks. Of course, I can’t wait to come home and see everyone I’ve missed, BUT I really love it here and don’t want the experience to end. I just have to make sure to live in the moment as much as possible I suppose.

Okay, that’s it until I come back from the coast! Chao :)

Week 6: Abby Goes to Peru!

I like to call this post: Asthma, Anxiety, and the Andes

Hello world!

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. We have been gearing up for midterms and are in midterm week now. I have not forgotten about you though! I have decided that I would write this post about my trip during week 6 to the Andes Mountains. I wrote in my journal about it this trip (27 pages, to be exact), so even though it took me awhile to write electronically, I have a documentation of the weekend that I am passing on to you now!

So the weekend began as soon as we could possibly leave. I had class until 8:40pm that Thursday and right after class ended I rushed home as fast as I possibly could. I got home and had 20 minutes before we had to leave for the bus station. And in those 20 minutes I changed my clothes, emptied my school bag, put my clothes that I had already laid out the night before into it, took my trashes out, recorded and uploaded a three minute speech for my public speaking class, and ate dinner. It was crazy! Our roommate called us a secure taxi (it isn’t very safe to take a street taxi at night, especially without a male), and we were off! We made it to the bus station, picked up our pre-paid tickets, and boarded the bus. Eight hours later, I woke up in the city of Huaraz, which is in the Andes. I remember putting my winter coat on in the middle of the night and still being very cold when I woke up the next morning. Which is understandable, considering we were surrounded by mountains. We found a hostel, ate breakfast, and then embarked on a journey to find a tour. We decided on a three day trek called Santa Cruz. Included was transportation to the National Park, donkeys to carry our bags and the included camping gear, two donkey drivers, a tour guide, a cook, and all of our meals, all for 220 soles, or about 69 USD! I was a bit nervous because I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being incredible.

We spent the next three days in the mountains. Not any mountains though… The ANDES Mountains! It still blows my mind that this is my life and that I am so blessed to do these incredible things. So why did I subtitle this post Asthma, Anxiety, and the Andes? Well, my dear friends, that is because I had some asthma issues while up in the Andes. Which occasionally resulted in a bit of anxiety issues. I have known for almost two years that I have exercise-induced anxiety. This basically means that when I exert my lungs, they become inflamed and this can progress into an asthma attack. I had never had an anxiety attack before. That is, not until I decided to trek through the Andes mountains at extremely high altitudes (the highest point we climbed to was over 15,000 feet). Luckily I didn´t have a full asthma attack. All three incidents when I began to have an anxiety attack, I was able to recognize and stop it. This also meant recognizing and stoping anxiety attacks, because every time my asthma started to get bad, my anxiety would start to rise. It´s kind of scary not being able to breathe, so this is understandable, I think. Also, I had never had an anxiety attack before, so diving headfirst into this scary unknown was terrifying. Not to mention that each time I happened to be way behind everyone else and wouldn´t be able to get help if I were to have a serious episode. Luckily, I was able to recognize and stop these simultaneous asthma and anxiety attacks all three times. I am so grateful for this and for my tendency to pay good attention to my body and the signs it gives me.

I struggled with frustration about my weak lungs the whole trip and was trying to understand why God would give me lungs that aren´t strong enough to support me and all of the things I want to know. In my pondering and in my time trekking all alone through the mountains, I did learn a few things, with the answer to this question being one of them. It was as I was standing in the valley alone (aside from the wild horses and llamas), looking back at the towering mountain peak that I had just climbed over. I realized that if I had strong lungs and that if I had been able to keep up with my group, I probably wouldnt be able to appreciate the moment quite like I was right then. I am grateful for my weak lungs because they require me to stop more often and enjoy the moment, something that many of us forget to do in our hectic lives.

I am so blessed to be able to have had this opportunity to spend a few days in the Andes Mountains. I learned so much about myself and was able to accomplish so much while also rejuvinating my mind. To this day it is still my favorite trip I´ve been on thus far, and I imagine that it will continue to be one of my favorites for the rest of my life.

With care,



London Living

I’ve been having trouble trying to find a time to actually sit down and write my blog posts. I have been so busy the past few weeks and I know my schedule won’t be clearing up any time soon (I can sleep when I die, right?)

I spent this past weekend in Paris with a tour group that Roehampton recommends to all study abroad students. Paris was alright but I highly doubt I will ever revisit it there unless someone pays for my trip for me. The weather was disgusting when I was there. There was an overcast every day and it was freezing outside. The trip really made me realize how much I love live in London. I feel so much more comfortable here than I did in Paris. Although I did enjoy the bike tour of the city we went on. That was actually pretty fun and I didn’t fall once which was nice. My favorite part about my trip to France was the Gardens of Versailles. They were beautiful and I loved being able to explore the history there.

My least favorite part of Paris (besides the weather) was the sketchy environment. Paris wasn’t as dirty or smelly as I have been told but there are a lot of pick-pocketers and loitering every where you go. I kept a close watch on all my belongings and unlike here in London, I don’t think I would have felt safe exploring the city on my own. But that might also have something to do with the language barrier. It was very eyeopening for me to be in a place where the main language wasn’t English. Even though most people I talked with spoke English, it was different for me to be on the Metro and not hear a word of English. Now that I look back I am wondering if my views on Paris would be different had I spent more time there. It was such a big culture shock that I bet it would take a lot longer than three days for me to begin to settle in.

The weekend before I left for Paris I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour here in England. It was so great! I grew up reading Harry Potter and watching the movies so being on the actual set brought my childhood to life and I absolutely loved it! When I turned into Diagon Alley I was so happy I shed a few tears. It was unreal. I could have spent all day in there but unfortunately the studio was about to close and we had to rush through the last half of the tour. It was so neat being able to see the actual stage sets and costumes used during all eight movies.

The same weekend I went to the studio tour I also spent a day traveling outside London. Me and a group of my friends decided to travel to Eastbourne and Brighton, two cities on the coast of England. We hiked up a huge mountain in Eastbourne that looked over the ocean one way and the town the other way. It was beautiful but I really regretted not bringing my inhaler with me. In Brighton we ate at a restaurant on the dock and I had the most delicious fish and chips ever! I also had a Nutella, Banana, and creme crepe from a small booth on the dock and it was the most amazing dessert I have ever tasted. We spent almost the entire day walking around so I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt eating the whole crepe myself.

I cannot believe I have been living in London for over a month already. I absolutely love it here. It really is beginning to feel like home. If I could move my family and friends and my little puppy Lilo over here I would never leave. I probably said that in my last blog post but that is because it is sooo true! It is hard for me to write about my experience here because there are no words that can actually describe my experience.

Since being here I have found a new love for coffee and pasta. Pasta is cheap to make and coffee keeps me functioning.

I would like to thank my mom for sending me American mac and cheese. I can’t wait to receive the next shipment. I already have Spam waiting in my room to be added to the yumminess. paris 12141745_10207696112710423_2743473808731709275_n 12111996_10207688925690752_7795065185867159546_n 12088030_10207712582282152_1357744591824542435_n

Am I actually in Ecuador right now?

I can’t help but still feel stunned that I’m finally here, meeting such wonderful people, and participating in adventures I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.

Before I talk about the week and my weekend in Banos, here are some pictures from my weekend in Mindo that missed the cut last time:

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Here was the old grandpa horse that I got to ride for my first experience.


And here is a shot of me making my way down a 135 foot waterfall. The picture probably speaks for itself, but I was sufficiently drenched.

The rest of last week went wonderfully. I had some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had at a place called Crepes and Waffles. Since then we have already returned for delicious crepes, and a chocolate fondue plate that would probably cost like $35 in the US. $11 here seemed more than doable.

This weekend we took a 4 hour bus ride to the city of Banos. Much like the rest of Ecuador, the city is surrounded by massive mountains that seem to go directly upwards no matter where you turn.


Banos is one of Ecuador’s destinations for extreme sports. After having 3 exhausting weeks, we decided to take advantage of the more relaxing aspects of the area, but kept a look out for the activities we wanted to do when we return.

In Banos you can get an hour long Swedish massage for about $30, and a pedicure or manicure for $10. These are also the more expensive prices for such offers. I was a party-pooper and didn’t end up getting either, but I doubt I’ll leave this place without doing something of that nature.

This town definitely has a sweet tooth. Candy shops on every corner. Here you can watch vendors hang massive chunks of naturally flavored taffy, then pull and spin them out until soft and smooth. After that, you watch them twist the taffy into different shapes which you can buy packaged up.


Here is a guy doing the spinning of the taffy. The taste is delicious, and it’s better to turn a blind eye when it comes to the hand hygiene of the person making your sweets. (What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?)

There’s also beautiful scenery that you can hike around. And if you’re real adventurous, you can look at that scenery while jumping off of a 10 story bridge with a single rope harnessed around your waste. We decided to pass on that. However, on the way to a fun hike called El Pailon Del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron), our cab driver stopped along the way to show off 7 of Banos’ most famous waterfalls. Now don’t repeat this, but Oregon definitely has Ecuador beat in this department. I had to keep my mouth shut as tourists from around the world “ooo’d” and “aww’d” at waterfalls (cascadas) that don’t even begin to compare to those we see just a short drive from Eugene or Portland.


However, the Devil’s Cauldron was spectacular. A short but steep hike takes you to a peek above an incredibly large and strong waterfall that gushes around and down into a canyon, making water spray up in every direction. From here you can take a slippery stairwell down into the center of the canyon and get your shower for the day, or you can crawl up through a dark canal to a higher lookout point, or you can take a slightly sketchy draw bridge across the cauldron and get a bird’s eye view.

I really enjoy touristy towns for multiple reasons, but one of them is the fantastic vegetarian food offered that is no where to be found in Quito. Here in Banos they even offered pasta with tofu and quinoa burgers. Not to mention the fantastic freshly squeezed juice or smoothies you get all over Ecuador for about $0.75. With that price, it’s really difficult not to get one every day.


The greenery in this country feels like home in Oregon. Although the mountains are crazier than I’ve ever seen back in the states, the constant vegetation is incredibly comforting.

In Banos you can go to the Casa Del Arbol (house of the tree) and swing from a spot called “The Swing at the Edge of the Earth.” So of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. After securing yourself into a swing attached to a tree house, you pick your feet up from a ramp and swing out over the side of a mountain. For the majority of the experience you’re truly flying through air, with nothing below you for hundreds of feet.


While waiting your turn on the unregulated swing, you could also try and balance on some random pieces of wood that remind me a lot of the kid’s jungle gyms at the preschool.


Banos was fun and interesting, but it was nice to make it back home on Sunday to relax, get some dinner, and prepare for the upcoming week that is currently my last with the kiddos.


Although they can be incredibly aggravating, they can be even more sweet. I’m going to miss getting tackled by 30 little bodies every morning yelling “Buenos Dias Profesora McKenzie!” And having to wash my hands a million times because they pick their nose then hold my hand. They also love to “wash” their hands and then shove them straight in my face because they think I need to smell the antibacterial soap.

The letters “McK” and “McC” never appear together in the Spanish language (too my knowledge). This makes my name exceptionally difficult for most adults here to pronounce. So it’s pretty adorable listening to the little ones try so hard to call me by my name. They end up pronouncing it: “MAH-KHAN-SY.” Close enough :)

Some other random but interesting pieces of the culture:

-Even if you pay for a non-stop bus ride, you have to be prepared for multiple stops on what seem to be random highways to pick up hitch hikers that wave money to show they’re willing to pay the bus driver. If there are no seats available, they’ll be invited to sit up front with the driver. Most bus drivers also allow street vendors to climb on the bus and shove products in your face while you’re trying to sleep. Obviously I’m not much of a fan of that.

-Ecuador, and I’m assuming the majority of Latin America, has a very beautiful appreciation and acceptance for the human body. You’re likely to find murals and sculptures in almost any town of pregnant women captured as Mother Earth, couples dancing, and even just poses of the naked body. Even the women here seem to be accepted for all their shapes and sizes much more than you would ever see in the United States. There’s definitely a sensual vibe to the majority of the artwork, but I think it’s pretty beautiful. They have even found preserved pottery and paintings from the Incas and early humans in South America the capture the vulnerability of the human body and sexual poses in a very matter-of-fact way. I think it’s somewhat ridiculous that the United States is so obsessed when it comes to sex in pornographic ways, but so prude when it comes to appreciating the human body without over-sexualizing it or accepting it in its natural forms.

-Movies here are absolutely all North American films. Then you either have the choice of Spanish subtitles, OR Spanish voices dubbed over the English speaking actors. Sometimes that means the same voice for every character in the movie, no madder the age or gender.

-Every hostel we have been to here has had some sort of pet roaming the halls and entertainment areas. I LOVE it. I miss my kitties a lot, so it feels nice to snuggle up to an animal once in a while. Even if that animal’s name is Tarzan and wants nothing to do with you.

-For being the very religious, and what I would consider conservative, country that Ecuador is, there are a decent amount of actions and laws that surprise me. Here, both prostitution and marijuana are legal. I’m not fully up to date on the rules that it entails, or whether or not this is seen as progressive by anyone, but it’s not what I would typically expect. The bathrooms in the school that I’m working at are also gender-neutral. One big bathroom shared by all kids without the unnecessary emphasis on gender roles and expectations. I love it. (I also worked with the 5 year olds today on the human body. I was so happy to see the teacher speak about genitalia just as casually as you would an arm or a leg. It’s totally unnecessary to add all this explicit adult content to a body part to make the child get the impression it is somehow dirty or wrong. So way to go public schools in Ecuador for just teaching it how it is).

-The sidewalks in Quito desperately need some attention. If I’m not constantly looking down at my feet, I’m rolling an ankle. I wear my calf-high boots when walking longer distances to try and protect myself from breaking something (knock on wood).


(that’s a sidewalk)

-After beginning my research about health in the United States and Ecuador, I wanted to share a few statistics that hopefully remind us back in the US how lucky the majority of us truly are: Ecuador’s childhood mortality rate is 24 in 1000 kids, over three times higher than the US. Over 92% of children in the United States have access to a measles vaccines while less than 65% of kids in Ecuador have that opportunity. Ecuador’s maternal mortality rate is over 5 times higher than the US’s, and while very few deaths have been due to tuberculosis in the US, the numbers in Ecuador are over 35 times higher.


Many of you may know by now, but I have recently purchased plane tickets to Cusco, Peru in December to cross Machu Picchu off my bucket list. Traveling with me is my Aunt Anna and friend Blake. It will be so nice to travel with some familiar faces.


Alright, that’s it for now! Chao from Quito!