*Disclaimer: This post has been documented in real time. How I felt in those moments on those specific days. These incidents occurred 2 months previously. My feelings and opinions may have changed and previous issues may have been resolved. I may even have been misinformed of specific occurrences. However, I still believe it to be beneficial to document my progression of experiences and how I’ve evolved.
*I am volunteering in Quito, Ecuador for 2 months with IVHQ’s Volunteer Connection Ecuador.
January 3, 2017
So I arrived last night to my “homestay” at around 12 a.m. The lights in Quito are so beautiful at night time. It was about a 30 minute taxi ride to my homestay. My driver was reckless though. He had me freaking out because he was reading the navigation from his phone 80% of the time without looking at the street. I woke up to 5 volunteers on my floor in total and realized I got the worst room (in comparison). I plan on switching into another room within the next two weeks when two girls leave. So far everyone here is pretty cool. People seem to be around my age-23- and there is one guy who is much older and pretty chill. Went to orientation, it was super long but very informative. I met two other girls teaching English. They gave us 6 schools to choose from. I also bought 30 Spanish lessons. This is what I am looking forward to much. I honestly can’t wait! Quito is more modern than I expected, kind of reminds me of a fusion between Cuba and Japan. Maybe the fact that I’m from NYC and everything here looks smaller (like japan), but also feels Cuban. It’s so weird going into stores and seeing excess after Cuba. The malls are huge. I had a meal with three other volunteers and the price was only $3 including soup, pineapple, fresh juice, chicken, rice, veggies. We also stopped by the gym that is also close to the office and it costs only $2 daily with an initial $5 sign up fee. The host families don’t really know much about us. Breakfast was sad. It was only bread, jam, fruit, milk and tea. We were all pretty disappointed.
January 4, 2017
Had a freaking freezing shower that traumatized me.
Super cold showers! I don’t believe that I will be showering much while I’m here. There is literally no hot water. When my house mates were discussing this fact, I just thought they were over-exaggerating but NO- the water is BRIC, I literally only washed my private parts. No- this cannot stand. So earlier in the day I arrived at the center to get dropped to school. I spoke in Spanish-with Francisco my driver- the entire ride. The town was rural and the kids spoke good English and loved me being there. They were so enthused to learn. After only about 4 hours of work. My housemate Yan and I had “Platano con Queso”. I was so excited to try it because I had read it on a list of “Top 10 things to eat in Ecuador.” It was trash though. The woman I bought it from had the platanos out all day. They were basically cold and hard, with no sweetness at all. When she put cheese on it (the cheese tasted sour by the way), it didn’t even melt (like the pictures online 😦 ). After, I had my first Spanish lesson, which was really boring but we did talk a little. I want more conversation but I am still not sure if I like my professor. After my lessons I had Tres Leches which only cost a $1.50, then went to the gym. The second I got outside after the gym it was pouring. Did I mention that it is raining season and Quito has bipolar weather?Not only was it pouring but I got lost and panicked. I almost stopped at the police station for help. When I got home I looked for meetups in Quito to attend but there didn’t seem to be that many. Two other girls in my house are planning to go to Banos for the weekend but I’m not sure if I am ready to go anywhere yet. I’d like to explore Quito more. The older guy in my house got sick from food poisoning and he had vaccinations. Now this is giving me Cuba flashbacks because I made sure to get vaccinations this time as well.
The day felt like less work. I had a Spanish lesson that was ok and reduced my hours to 20. Later I read Alexinwanderland’s negative review of Quito which made me feel…a little sad. I had also read another popular blog post about hating Quito before I even arrived. But it was still the cheaper option, a smaller country and I knew someone who loved it so I trusted my gut. I guess I’m just feeling FOMO for not choosing the more popular Peru or Columbia. So far nothing really special about Quito. Now I’m just second guessing if I should have stuck with Peru, but I really like the people I’m with although the food is just okay. So anyways, I spent the night creating a presentation about New York for my class the next day. The teacher I work with, Monica, recommended I do one.
*Alex also had a very positive review about Mindo, Ecuador, which excited me a lot to take a visit.
My presentation went amazing. I put a lot of work into it and my students loved it. I showed it to almost every class I went into. The presentation showed life in NYC, my family, friends, etc. The kids went crazy when I showed them the food options in New York. The literally gasped at every picture. When they saw Central Park they shouted out, “Madagascar!” They’re so cute! Plus they gave me candy. At one point I sat in the PowerPoint class, and Monica (the teacher) used my presentation as inspiration for them to learn PowerPoint. The third day of Spanish lessons was much more conversational(I mentioned the lack of conversation to Gina’s assistant as to why I lowered my hours). After lessons, Yan and I were deciding if we should choose Quilotoa or Cotopaxi mountain. In my heart I was leaning towards Quilotoa because Cotopaxi is super cold, but Yan is only here for two weeks so I let her decide. We chose Quilotoa – YES! And booked through Gina. That night (Friday), Yan and I took a taxi to la Mariscal to meet up with two other girls. We had difficulty finding them and when we all met up we were all a little annoyed with each other. There was confusion as a result of them not having wifi, and us thinking they stood us up when in reality they were standing outside waiting for us but we never saw them. We ate at Mama Clorinda which had good reviews online. I got to retry actual ‘delicious’ Platano con Queso which was around $3 (the street one was 60 cents). I loved it. After that, all four of us split one Cuy (for $33.60). This is literally one of the main reason I came to this country. I saw so many videos on Youtube and it looked so delicious. The taste was very interesting however. It was salty with hard skin but also very greasy. I’d definitely try it again but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. After Mama Clorinda, the girls and I went to the square to chill. I absolutely love the vibe of La Foch. It’s so cool. They had drinks and I ordered a dessert called platano con dulce y helado. It was so freaking delicious! Honestly though, the highlight of the night was one of the other girls (or should I say woman as she is a high school counselor) was so fascinating. She is one of the most independent people I have ever met. How can someone be so confident? Seriously, goals. This is why I travel, to meet inspiring people like her.
January 7, 2017
Saturday: Took the day off, went to gym, the day was so hot then got cold by 4p.m. I went into a small family looking restaurant, the guy asked where I was from. Unfortunately, I didn’t seem ‘Ecuadorian’, this is very disappointing as I was hoping to blend in. I told him I was from New York and his energy changed. The meal was only 2 dollars, but it wasn’t very good and the place just felt dirty. Another guy in the place kept staring at me. I think he overheard me telling the other man where I was from.