It’s going to be QUITE difficult to recap this past week and a half, as it’s been filled with so many incredible experiences. I’ve been blessed with a great group to make lifelong memories, and I look forward to what lies ahead.
I arrived in Quito a day early (after some stressful flight delays) and got a quick glimpse of the capital city before I met the rest of my group. Ordering for myself in a foreign country was a bit difficult, but I really enjoyed the transition and was prepared for the challenge. The Andes Mountains are absolutely GORGEOUS…stuff out of postcards and fancy inspirational pictures online. However, driving around on those mountains and the precipitous, half-mile deep cliff faces was absolutely terrifying.
After several days in Quito, Otavalo, and the surrounding areas, we stayed in a lodge in the AMAZON RAINFOREST and rode everywhere on a boat. Surprisingly, the mountainous terrain and diversity of flora reminded me a bit of the good ol’ Smoky Mountains, but the Amazon was another beast entirely… I mean MONKEYS and TARANTULAS and POISON DART FROGS. I ate weird lemon ants off of some plant (a tour guide told me to, I’m not crazy), and I tried the indigenous ritual beverage (it was different, to say the least).
Anyways, I’m in total awe of how Ecuador treats its indigenous population. Albeit, I’ve never really looked at how other countries treat their natives, but Ecuador bases several parts of its educational and fiscal systems around the indigenous people and the Quichua language, which is pretty darn neat and progressive. The integration of these cultures has been one of the highlights of my trip, and some of the Quichua phrases that I’ve learned are quite fun to say.
Cuenca definitely isn’t the rustic little town that I had imagined it to be, but it’s a bustling city with a population of friendly people. I’ve come to love the unique atmosphere that it imbues. Having tiny class sizes is most certainly new, but it’s been helpful in learning Spanish and it makes discussion all the more engaging. My walks to and from class have been subject to some of the best discussions with my friends so far (both in English and Spanish), while I learn some new and inspiring facet of Latin American life every single day.
Already I’ve had some instances of pretty butchered Spanish (that darn “trucha…”), but my language skills are improving daily and it’s pretty exciting to have whole conversations with my host family in their native language.
Meeting my host family was a really happy time. They have been another major highlight of my trip, and most welcoming to the stranger that they’re letting live in their home for the next three months. I firmly believe that my host brother, Ivan, is more plugged in to US culture than I am. He’s been great, the food is out-of-this-world, and I enjoy coming home to practice Spanish and live in a completely different culture. This has already been a revolutionary time in my life, and goodness it’ll be interesting to see how I come out of it all.
Thanks to everyone for reading and tune in next time!