About McKenzie McClure

I am a junior at Western Oregon University planning on going into nursing! I will be in Quito Ecuador for a medical internship September 26th – December 5th, 2015.

20th Birthday in Ecuador

My second blog post in three days! Each day is packed with so many new things that it feels like a week has gone by.

Last night, me and my two roommates, Lauren and Rebecca, went to an area of Quito called La Ronda for dinner. While there, we stopped at the Plaza de San Francisco. Words can’t describe how beautiful it was. The picture is blurry and doesn’t do it justice, but it’s too cool not to show.

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While there, we realized everyone was interested in getting as much money out of us “gringas” as possible. Taxi rides that should have been $2 were given to us no cheaper than $6. Even if we explained we knew that was too expensive, we could never bargain cheaper than $5. If we argued, our ride would drive off. While eating dinner, we listened to amazing live music (with a $6 cover charge I may add. I highly doubt the locals were paying that, but it was worth it.). During dinner I had my first epenada…AMAZING. Something less amazing that I also tried was cow liver. I know now that it would have been extremely difficult to be a vegetarian in this country, because all their meals are surrounded by meat and grains. However, it’s definitely difficult to have meat at least twice a day. I’ve learned to not ask what meat I’m eating, or what part of the animal it comes from, and everything works out just fine. I applaud them for using every bit of the animal and not letting any go to waste.

Today was my first day of Spanish classes. 7 hours! I forgot my sunglasses this morning and on the fifteen minute walk to class my eyes got sunburnt! So all day my eyes have been burning like crazy. I should have realized it could happen that fast, Ecuador is 2 miles closer to the sun than Oregon.

On our break we stopped at a market for lunch. Here, we got to try traditional “almuerzos.” For $2.25 you got a glass of freshly made juice (today’s was cantaloupe), a large bowl of soup, then a plate filled with rice, your choice of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and some sort of homemade pickle. The soup I like the most so far has a cheese broth with homemade noodles, potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and cilantro. They also bring out homemade hot sauce you can add to the soup-so good! I decided I wasn’t ready to try the cow’s feet soup just yet.

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When we walked into the tightly filled market and it’s food court, one of the waitresses kicked out some locals from a table so our big group could fit. I’m guessing they assumed we would be spending a lot of money, but either way this didn’t make us the most popular group sitting down for lunch. I felt really bad once I realized what had happened.

While we were eating, a little boy no more than 7 years old came up and begged for food. Before we could react, our Spanish teacher shooed him away. Although we had plenty of food to offer, we have been told not to give away food or money. According to our mentors, the minute you give out food or money, you are never left alone by all those in need. Still, I’m almost wondering if it’s worth it. I think the most difficult thing this far in the trip was denying a child food. It feels criminal. I wish I had ran into him again so I could sneak him some. However, someone DID benefit from our left overs. As we were finishing, an older homeless man snuck up beside us and grabbed what was left of our chicken. He was incredibly gentle about it and had a kind smile on his face. I felt relieved that our food wasn’t going to go to waste when so many people go hungry in this country.

The market had the most amazing produce. We plan on going back tomorrow because eating out twice a day, everyday, is already getting old. Around the market there were little shops that were hidden in what looked like small garages. Here you could find handmade goods, cheaper alcohol (although it’s still more expensive than in the US), bouquets of flowers, and even freshly made slabs of chocolate! (Also chicken’s feet if you’re into that)

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That’s the chocolate people! $2 for a piece twice the size of your head! and off to the right is homemade peanut butter.

My Spanish teacher insisted on ending class 20 minutes early to teach us some salsa moves for my birthday. He told us to go home and practice and to plan on going to a salsa dance club this Wednesday to celebrate. I can’t wait!

As far as celebrating tonight, we’re having our first homemade dinner with our house mother. Then we’re probably going out for dessert epenadas (I’ll post a picture) and my first legal drink! Although, it will likely be just one because wine is like $5-$7 a glass. (which will probably be more than enough in this altitude). In comparison, that $7 drink could get me 28 trolle rides, 3 lunches, or a hand painted piece of pottery. However, beer can be bought for about $0.85 a bottle here, but I haven’t heard great things about those. At some point I’ll have to try it though.

Well that’s all for now 🙂 Thank you everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes. I’m very lucky to have such loving and supporting friends, family, mentors, and coworkers in my life 🙂 <3

Chao!

I made it! Quito, Ecuador.

The entire airport/plane ride experience went way better than I could have ever imagined. Everything was on time, all of my bags made it fine, both the staff and passengers were incredibly helpful, and I met some really nice people on my way to Quito who gave me great advice.

Once I got to my homestay (around 3:30), I unpacked and immediately went out with one of the other interns to go explore Quito (easier said than done, considering population-wise it’s 3 times the size of Portland.) We went around to a park that had some amazing crafts for sale–I fell in love with all the colors they used. We also ordered food and had no idea what we were getting. But by the time it came, we had paid $2 for delicious cheese and vegetable soup, rice, beef, french fries, avocado,and tomato. Best part: my stomach totally held up on the first day.

Quick observations made about the country in less than 15 hours:

-People on the roads asking for money will actually get in front of cars when they’re stopped and do tricks, like juggling. Others sell oranges or bottled water.

-You could not pay me to drive here. It’s terrifying. I can’t seem to pick up on any basic rule that people follow to make sure not to crash. I’ll have to keep watching and see if I end up picking up on anything.

-The driving thing kind of goes hand and hand with being a pedestrian. So far I will only cross at crosswalks, and we waited until there was a sea of people in the street before venturing out. Sometimes there are security guards (different than the police) that cross with everyone to make sure cars stop.

-There are street dogs EVERYWHERE. Most of them seem cute and harmless, but you’re supposed to shoo them away with your hands or feet, because you  don’t know when one will get aggressive or if they have rabies (super small chance).

-My Spanish sucks. Luckily, when people see us, they seem to slow down and exaggerate pronunciation, which is super nice. Even after they do that, I pick up about 1/2 of what they’re saying. Also luckily, most people here are super animated about what they’re talking about, so I can make decent guesses by their actions and facial expressions. I’m really excited to start my classes on Monday.

-So far, people have been really nice. All day yesterday the kids would get in trouble from their parents for staring. Most of them seemed to be pretty intrigued by my hair.

-Believe it or not, this place gives me allergies. I figured if I didn’t have them in Eugene, I’d be in the clear for practically anywhere. I was wrong. Thankfully someone had warned me about this possibility before I left, and I picked up some allergy meds that will last me a while.

That’s it for now! So far, my first few hours here have been wonderful. I can’t wait to keep sharing what I see. Today I think we’re headed to the supermarket — thank goodness because I’m not used to this whole “only drink bottled water” thing. 🙂

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Pre-Departure for Ecuador!

It’s officially less than a month away! It’s hard to explain all the emotions running through me as I try to prepare for not only my first experience abroad, but also my first experience traveling by myself. I’m most of all excited, but get waves of anxiousness and fear, which is to be expected I guess.

I have had little interaction with Latin American customs and culture in my life, so I have very little knowledge on what to expect when entering Quito for the first time. I imagine it to be breath taking (literally, at 9500 sq ft). I’ve been told it’s colder than what you’d imagine, and relatively conservative compared to the culture on the coastal side of Ecuador. Everyone I talk to tells me to expect overwhelming kindness and interest in my arrival from the locals. I’ve also been warned about the lack of the concept of personal space– apparently in America we have odd social rules on space and touching to the majority of the world. I’ve heard it’s not uncommon for people to stroke your hair or have a hand on your shoulder while talking to you, even if they’re practically strangers. All these differences make me excited to actually live them in the moment for the first time. I’m already laughing at the shock I’ll inevitably feel the majority of the time. It will be humbling I’m sure.

I hope that after I acclimate to the climate, altitude, people, and culture, I’ll be able to fully participate in every-day Ecuadorian life. I want to completely take on the culture I’m living in — Everything from taking an afternoon break to eat an insanely large lunch while socializing with family, to celebrating El Dia De Los Muertos, to speaking in Spanish with the locals with ease. I’m also excited to do some exploring. I can’t wait to see the beautiful cathedrals, Inca cites, and natural wonders like the Cotopaxi volcano that just erupted.

I guess in a little over a month from now I’ll be able to tell you if those are realistic expectations or not. I guess while I’m anxiously awaiting my travel date, this will be it for now. I’m sure there will be much more to come once I’ve actually touched down in what I hope will feel like my home away from home.

 

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