Monday, July 16, 2012

It has come down to my last week here.  I am so excited to see my friends and family at home.  However, that doesn't mean that I'm ready to leave the friends and family I've made here in Ecuador.

This past week was my last week of school.  My professors were kind enough to allow me to take my exams early so that I could have my last week here off of school.  I'm repeating some of the things I loved and doing things I haven't done yet.

I went back to the teleferiQo with other students from the US.  I went during the day this time so the view was different.  Yesterday my roommate and I took a trip to the zoo.  It was really cool, but we had to laugh at some of the exhibits because they were animals like deer or raccoons that are very common in Michigan.  Today we went back to the Basilica to climb up it and get a good view of Quito one last time.

The rest of my week will be filled with new adventures and tough good-byes.  I'll be back in the states a week from today!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Today some friends asked if my roommate and I would like to go rock climbing.  I used to rock climb when I was younger so I was very excited about going.  Although the plan was to go to the wall at the gimnasio, there was a competition going on so we could not use the wall.  So our friends asked us if we like nature.  Although our rock climbing experience wasn't what we were expecting, it was more of an adventure than I could have asked for.  Here are a few pictures.
I've done so much in the past few weeks!

I went on a trip with both of my roommates our friend from Washington D.C. to the coast.  We went to Pacific coast in a town called Canoa.  It was a great place to go to the beach because it wasn't very big and it was very pretty.  We were not only able to see the town and meet some of the people there, but we also walked the beach, swam in the ocean, tried some surfing, and hiked through some rocks to see a cave!  On our way back we took a small detour on the bus to see Puerto Viejo.  It was a perfect place to stop by for the day.  There was a very large and modern church that we were able to see.  We spent a lot of time in the park just outside of it.  Through out the day we ate some delicious pastries from a pastelería and had some menestra at a local restaurant.

I spent a day sight-seeing in the Centro Histórico.  We were able to see the president's house, and many churches.  The churches in the Centro are very elaborate and decorative.  My favorite was the Church of the Society of Jesus.  The ornate artwork is almost all made out of gold! It was a breath-taking experience.  We also wandered into a used bookstore and were able to pick up some books in Spanish.

Another host sister from last summer came back to visit! She is studying writing at Yale and lived with my host family last summer to do research.  This summer she is in Lima, Peru and spent a week visiting Quito again.  I enjoyed spending time with her and revisiting some of the key tourist spots such as the artisan market.

We went to the TelefériQo in Quito.  This is a chair lift that goes up the volcano Pichincha to see a great view of the city and of Ecuador.  It is one of the highest airlifts in the world that goes up to 12,943 feet.  When we got to the top we hiked up a little bit more.  We went at about sunset so we got to watch the sunset through the mountains! When we went back down there was a small amusement park.  So to top the night off, we decided to go on a roller coaster and the bumper cars.

I was in Ecuador last summer with an organization called Extreme Response.  I was able to get in touch with them while I've been here this summer.  I spent a day at Pan de Vida, a soup kitchen for the people in Quito.  It was really fun talked with other volunteers while preparing the food and then talking to the people of Quito while serving them.  Afterwards I went to a friend's for an American-style cook out and movie.

I went to Otavalo for a Saturday.  The market is open on Saturdays and we were able to get great deals on souvenirs and gifts.  After an authentic Ecuadorian meal of soup, rice, and chicken, we made our way over to a lagoon called Cuicocha.  It is a beautiful crater-lake that formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago.  Since then it has accumulated wildlife and over 400 species of plants such as orchids, bamboo, and cattails.  We took a boat tour through the center of the small hills in the center and enjoyed complimentary canelzo (a type of warm drink similar to tea made with spices).

This last Wednesday was the 4th of July! It wasn't the same experience spending it outside of the United States but we still had a good day showing our American pride.  Some of the students tried to have a cookout while others went to Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I skyped with my family while making peanut butter cookies with my roommate.  Then we met up with some friends to get a hot dog from a small-chain hot dog restaurant called Gonzalez Suarez.

My classes have been keeping me busy as well.  I had a big project in my literature class. I had to read a book from the BOOM latin american literature period and give a presentation on it.  I was worried about it because I didn't know if my Spanish skills would be up to par for this project.  As it turns out I survived! I impressed myself with how much I could understand in the book and then communicate it to my classmates.  Now with only one more week left of classes I have to keep this achieving mind-set as I finish my last exams and papers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My house mom encourages her host daughters so consider ourselves sisters, even if we've never met.  Earlier this week I had the honor of meeting one of my host sisters who stayed here thirteen years ago! She brought her husband and daughter with her.  If was really cool to talk to her and hear about her experience then compared to now.

We went to the park La Carolina.  This is easily the largest park I've ever been to!  There were people playing pick-up soccer games all over.  There were walk ways, entertainment, and a lazy river for paddle boats.  I didn't even get to see all of it!  I'm going to have to go back to see their flower garden and see their animal habitat. 

Today I went to the mercado (market).  It reminded me of a farmer's market.  There was every kind of fruit, vegetables, meat, and more! I asked about some of the things I didn't recognize.  My friends and I decided to all buy something we'd never eaten.  I decided on the fruit called "the grenade."  I was hesitant at first, but it didn't take long for me to see how delicious it was!

Here's one of the song's I've learned on my bus rides to and from school!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My roommate here studied abroad for a semester last year and is back to visit for the summer.  She is originally from North Carolina and wanted to make us all some of her home-cooked food.  Cooking American food here is a challenge because is it hard to find all of the ingredients and they are usually a little bit different than we have in the states.  And trying to cook in the altitude is a feat with in itself.  But being the chef she is, my roommate was able to make a delicious hamburger cook-out meal for us, our family, and many of our friends. I tried making brownies, but people had to eat it with a spoon.  People laughed and told me my "fudge" was really good.

I also had my first exam of the semester in my history class and my first project assigned in my literature class.  Although it is summer and I'm experiencing so many great things, I do have to do work.  But I love the challenge of learning Spanish.  So me being the nerd I am, I don't mind doing the school work because I learn so much from even a simple assignment. 

This past weekend I was able to experience more of Quito.  We went to the markets on Saturday and practiced our bargaining skills.  After enjoying lunch in the Mariscal at a great Thai restaurant, we went to a park in the city.  They had tables set up around the walkway like the markets.  Artists also came and set up their paintings for display and for sale.  There were people doing spontaneous shows with crowds around them and many many families and kids spending the day playing there.  But the best part of the day was when we took my roommate on a teeter-tooter for the first time.  The thing about these "sube y baja"s is that they are much bigger than any I've seen in the states.  She and I trying to figure out to get both of us on it attracted many kids to stop and laugh and our friend to take out his phone to take pictures and capture the moment.

Today is the national fútbol game verses Colombia.  The University was very helpful in getting us tickets.  However, many more people came early in the morning to go to the game.  Therefore, there weren't many tickets left and they were much more expensive than anticipated.  Unfortunately I didn't get to go to the game, but I did get to see the excitement of a game day.  It reminded me of what it's like before a college football game, but even more energy!  Everywhere you looked there was a sea of yellow shirts and flags being displayed.  While we have big sports games in the states, it is usually American city verses American city.  Having a whole country unifying to show their pride was a very cool thing to see.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

This week I've spent a lot of time getting to know my host family and other students a lot better.  I am involved with Intervarsity on Central's campus, so I got in touch the Intervarsity in Quito.  By doing this I had the opportunity to meet students from other universities and different areas of Quito.  After catching up on some homework, I took a trip to the middle of the world, La Mitad del Mundo.  On our bus there we met another group going to La Mitad as well.  They were students from Switzerland, The United States, and other European countries. We traveled with them and explored La Mitad with them.  Since coming to Quito I've met so many people from every continent (except Antarctica).   When I decided to come to Ecuador I figured I'd learn a lot about Ecuadorian culture, but I never thought I'd learn so much about cultures from around the world. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I had the opportunity to visit La Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow).  It was all made by hand and took almost one hundred years to make! It is made out of stone with intricate designs.  We were able to climb to the highest part of the towers.  It has such an incredible view of the city.  We happened to be there on a clear day so not only were we able to see the city and mountains, but we saw Cotopaxi seventeen miles away!