**I was not able to rotate some of the pictures for some reason. Sorry, so frustrating.**
Despite getting over a stomach bug and then developing a small cold, I had a fantastic weekend–probably in the top 10 best weekends of my life.
The four of us interns spent all of Friday exploring Quito because Kristina, the latest intern to arrive, had yet to really see the city. We toured La Basilica, Ecuador’s tallest church, and climbed all the way to the top and looked out over the entire city.
Lauren has a friend from the United States that lives in Quito, so we got to spend Friday evening with her, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s friend. As much as I enjoy hanging out with our Spanish teachers and Rosita, the house mother, it was nice to spend time with people our own age that knew the city. While with these people we got into a tiny fender-bender in a parking garage, where we MAY have gotten our car’s paint onto another parked car. I spent the next 45 minutes using my sweater and some dish soap getting the paint out, and sure enough, the security guard let us leave without leaving our information! When we came back, he said the owner never noticed a thing…Now perhaps this was SLIGHTLY unethical, but in our defense, I guess that’s just kind of how things roll over here.
We planned on taking the Teleferico, a cable car, that goes up one of Quito’s highest mountains that looks over the city, but at about 5pm Quito got it’s first rain in months, and the cloud cover was too thick for a good view. So we will have to go back another time. However, I DID see a 10 foot tall, glow in the dark, dancing robot at a bar that night. So that kind of makes up for it.
Saturday morning we went to Mindo, which is 2 hours North West of Quito and puts us right in the rainforest. SO BEAUTIFUL. Our hostel was a cabin, and we got to our room by climbing up a ladder. Once inside, there were huge windows looking out into the trees…it was literally like a treehouse. We had a blast. It was also right next to the river where I got to see an amazing sunrise and tons of birds.
This was the view from our beds. Told you, totally a treehouse. AND HOT WATER — best part about hostels is not having to take cold showers.
While in Mindo we made sure to fill our time with as much activities as possible. Lauren and I went horseback riding through the forest/jungle, which is a really big deal for me. Not only am I terrified of horses, but it was also my first time riding one. It’s probably safe to say I won’t have a better experience in that department. Which I’m okay with.
After that we repelled down a waterfall, which I didn’t expect to be so scared of, but once I got up there, saw the equipment, saw the 135+ foot WATERFALL, and then the guide only spoke in Spanish to explain the procedure, I started to panic. And luckily, I have a gopro video of the entire thing capturing my moments of pure terror. However, it did NOT capture the moment where I saw the person below, that was supposed to be securing the other end of the rope, NOT holding the rope, and TEXTING. Thank goodness I didn’t let go right?
Oh, and this was our method of transportation all weekend:
After cleaning up from repelling, and taking a zipline swing across the river, we toured a local chocolate factory. There they grow the fruit, cut it open, harvest the beans, ferment them, then turn them into chocolate. We got to see the whole process, and the best part was the samples at the end. Who knew chocolate, chili powder, and ginger went so good together?
We finished the evening with a fantastic dinner (freshly made pizza, we watched the guy go cut off the vegetables) and some dancing. The people here are amazing dancers. It’s seems to be part of growing up. Like learning to tie your shoes, you learn to dance. There was live music in the park and I watched a 3 year old with way better dance moves than I will ever hope to have. Luckily, the majority of the locals find my two left feet endearing–or at least they pretend to
Sunday was filled with more relaxing activities. We visited a butterfly reserve, hiked in a nice German couple’s back yard (the bugs were not so nice. I was bit by fire ants), drank lemon grass tea on a balcony, and observed some of Mindo’s many bird species.
We also spent the time taking advantage of some of the best snacks I’ve been offered. I had helado de paila (kind of like a sorbet) inside quinoa pudding…very interesting. But the food that stole the show was the grilled corn and bananas, dunked in sauce and cheese (not cheddar cheese–I wish). The corn here, called “choclo,” is massive, much lighter in color and texture, and almost fluffy. SO good. A lady and her husband sold them at a small market along with chicken kabobs.
Grilled bananas are really common here. It makes the texture very interesting, and makes them about 5 times as sweet. The sauce and cheese was a good touch to taming down the sugar.
We got home late Sunday night, the bust taking almost two hours longer than usual due to the massive amount of wrecks on the road. It was a holiday weekend over here, so there were at least triple the amount of travelers. Sadly, that created some fatalities.
As I already told some family members, I’m not yet homesick, however I miss the normalcy and familiarity of home, where things are just easy. Stores have more than one product, I don’t have to worry about who prepared my food and how they did it, I could drive myself around when I wanted, where I wanted, etc. It’s exhausting being in a new country, learning so much EVERY DAY. I’m constantly being aware of my surroundings, watching the culture with curiosity, translating everything I can in my head, all while making new friends and working and going to school. However, today I was able to find a Subway and it was a little piece of heaven. Funny what 15 minutes in a familiar setting can do for your psyche.
The preschoolers are hilarious. And by hilarious I mean devil children. Haha no they’re sweet…but then sometimes they’re not. Half of them just want to love on me and share their snacks and hear “muy bien! Lindo!” when they show me their coloring books. The OTHER half want me to cry myself to sleep at night I’m pretty sure. They have caught on that I don’t know a ton of Spanish, so when I give orders they’ll be like “what was that? I don’t think you’re saying that right. I don’t understand you.” Even though I KNOW my classroom commands are fine…I use them A LOT. They’re a handful, but I love them all. Even when they take sewing needles and put them pointing upwards on the carpet under my desk…
However, today I started to notice some of the issues the kids and teachers are facing. Although the school puts on a good front, they’re very poor. The teacher I’m helping was distraught today when she realized she only had enough funds for either 1) classroom paper or 2) a clean water dispenser for the kids. A little boy also showed me bruises on his arms and told me he was scared to go home because he “wasn’t strong.” This brought me to tears. Protecting children here doesn’t work like it does in the US. The parents would be notified about the accusation and likely take their kid out of school. If there truly is abuse in the household, it would likely get worse in this situation, and then the child wouldn’t have the five hours of a safe place to play. So unfortunately, it’s likely safer for the child if action was not taken. So while wrestling with this dilemma, I just reminded him that he was safe here and very loved.
Tomorrow I start a research project analyzing the children’s health and comparing it to children’s health in the United States. Then I will look at the accuracy and availability of vaccinations in both the US and Ecuador to draw further conclusions on why their health may differ.
Here are some more things I’ve noticed while being here:
-There are just as many female police officers as male police officers…Maybe even more. Which is SO unlike the United States. I’d like to know the reasoning behind that trend, but whatever the reason, it seems pretty cool.
-You can only buy liquid yogurt here. Like in a cup that you drink.
-Ecuadorians like to put pineapple in everything apparently. Which isn’t awesome for me, considering I’m allergic and all.
-The snacks and sweets lack all the additives and artificial ingredients that are in the US. I’ve unintentionally lost a little bit of weight from the fresher food and the huge amount of walking we do.
-Taxi drivers don’t pick you up if it’s raining and you’re soaked. So you’re screwed.
-Sometimes what get’s lost in translation can be hilarious. The Spanish verb “molestar” means “too annoy” or “too bother.” Luckily, we knew this in Mindo when a store owner came up and told us in English he was not trying to “molest” us. We didn’t have the heart to tell the guy he wasn’t saying what he thought he was. We just thanked him for telling us his intentions. Lol it’s fine because last week I was trying to ask if the juice had pineapple in it (pina) but instead asked if it had penis in it (pene). Awesome.
Well that’s all for now! Happy Wednesday!