A Quirky Young Lady’s First Impressions of Quito

The view of dotted lights painting the city of Quito at night? Well, nothing compares to a welcome like that.

A month…okay…roughly 4 weeks have gone by since my Quito arrival. After a tearful goodbye with my husband, taking a red-eye flight from Denver to NYC, a flight from NYC to Fort Lauderdale, and a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Quito, (breathes in), you can only imagine how tired I was when I arrived at 10:30 p.m. at night. After we landed, nearly everyone on the plane started clapping. I knew right away I was in a different country because Americans don’t usually clap on a plane unless the plane ride was bumpy and frightening along the way!

I met up with several volunteers in the airport after customs, and we waited for our shuttle ride drivers. After waiting for other volunteers and the drivers, the drivers walked us over to the two cars. Somehow the drivers packed about 11 people’s bags into/onto (literally on top of) two different cars and drove us to the hostel, which was 45 minutes away. My first impressions of Quito were that the people are welcoming and the city has a mixture of rundown and developed buildings (many are colorful). I nearly shouted hallelujah after seeing a shower and bed at the hostel at 1 a.m.  After a much needed night’s sleep, several volunteers and I explored Quito a bit the next day.

First of all, you have to be careful walking around here because the taxis, cars, buses, and bicyclists are on a mission to get to their destination (pedestrians don’t have the right-of-way). Trees and metal rods jut out of sidewalks, and some sidewalks have square holes in the ground (#justcitystuff).  Vendors and kiosks line the street with odds and ends and goods and more goods. We walked around the famous Foch area and had a bite to eat.

Foch sign Foch area

During the day, the ladies from the first hostel moved over to a different hostel. It had a lovely terrace area, and we played a few card games.

Later that evening, everyone met up (38 volunteers total), and we played a spider web yarn game with the group. We then ate traditional food at a swanky restaurant. I tried ceviche and goat for the first time, and I was impressed with its deliciousness. I also learned that it’s not recommended to drink tap water here, but that’s okay, because the variety of fruit juices are endless (guanoabana for the win), and 2 liters of bottled water is like 60 cents. (It’ okay to use the tap water for brushing your teeth and washing your face.)

goat

We started orientation the next day in CEC, and that evening, the son and mom of my host family came to pick me up and another volunteer. The mom gave us a warm welcome, and after her brother-in-law dropped off our bags at the house, he came back and picked us all up. We live only four blocks away from CEC, so we lucked out in that regard. The host family house has an upstairs and downstairs. The other volunteer and I each have our own bedroom, and we share a bathroom (the host family doesn’t use this bathroom). They also have a washer and clothesline in their patio area.

The next two and a half weeks were filled with orientation activities, from diversity and safety sessions to teaching and culture sessions. I also took 10 Spanish group lessons as well. I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to go in too much detail about orientation, but it was all important stuff we needed to know to have a successful year abroad here teaching English in Quito.

On the weekends of those two and a half weeks, we went on several trips.

First, we went to TeleferiQo, where a cable car transported us on the east side of Pichincha Volcano. It took us up from around 10,000 feet to about 13,000 feet. A few of us hiked up the volcano for a couple of hours. Some made it up to the top, and I was pretty close, but I was cold and hungry, and I wasn’t prepared to climb rocks. The views were stunning though.

Teleferiqo

Teleferiqo

Another trip we took was to Mindo. Here, I zip lined on 10 different lines, swung on a Tarzan swing, and tasted the best coffee of my life after learning how it’s made right there.

Group view

Front

I also checked out Mitad del Mundo with our volunteer group. Here, half my body was on the northern hemisphere, and half my body was on the southern hemisphere. I also balanced an egg on the equator, and I earned a certificate!

Ecuador latitude line

Egg balance

They called me the “eggmaster.”

Egg certificate

Last weekend, I toured the historical center of Quito with an Ecuadorian. We visited a glorious church with golden walls and sculptures (no pics allowed), a cultural museum, and El Panecillo.

Cultural art bell church

El Panecillo

El Panecillo

In the meantime, I’ve been meeting some great Ecuadorians at language exchange clubs, spending time with my host family here and there, practicing some yoga, shopping, and relaxing and studying Spanish as much as I can. I earned a Spanish minor in college over four years ago, so I’m having to relearn some stuff while practicing the best I can.

I’m not going to deny that I haven’t experienced my fair share of challenges along the way. Mostly with struggling with Spanish, missing my husband and family dearly, trying to eat foods without milk/cheese because I’m lactose intolerant, accidentally bonking my head on one of my favorite restaurant’s low ceiling and bleeding a bit (the restaurant painted it red after that haha), trying to practice yoga, being brave to walk outside or ride the buses alone, remembering to throw toilet paper in the trash (plumbing can’t handle it), praying that when I get into the shower it will be warm with full water pressure, and feeling confident with lesson planning and teaching.

What I’ve loved most so far? The host family and Ecuadorians are kind and happy, there’s cute dogs everywhere, the parks are beautiful, supportive WorldTeach directors, other friendly volunteers, the culture revolves around family and friends, not individualism and capitalism, the 25 cent bus rides, endless cultural activities and sites, the mountain views are glorious, the places to shop are endless, there’s plentiful places to eat $2.50-$4 almuerzos (lunches) with soup, rice, meat, juice, and more that will fill you up to your heart’s delight. I grew up in suburbs nearly my whole life, and nothing compares to city living in another country.

I start teaching next Tuesday, and I’m looking forward to working with young adults and professionals. My contributions could open up more opportunities in their careers. While Ecuador has plenty of teachers who can speak English, this particular college is in need of sophisticated native English speakers who can teach those at an advanced and academic level.

I’m also looking forward to getting into a routine, meeting other Ecuadorian teachers, and doing more writing and exploring on the side. Who knows what the next nine months will bring?

I welcome questions. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are my own and are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach.

Experiences in Las Vegas (so far)

After the semester ended at graduate school, my boyfriend flew to Denver then took a shuttle to Fort Collins, CO. When he arrived, we arduously packed my things into the back of my hatchback. It was tough fitting everything in there, but we figured out the puzzle. We drove 13 hours in one day from Fort Collins, through the mountains of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, and we arrived late at night. My first thought arriving in Las Vegas was “I never thought I would actually live in Las Vegas in my entire life.” My eyes bounced back and forth from the strip buildings to a typical living area. It’s hard to imagine that people live off the strip as well as permanently in the city.

Before I started my internship for the World Series of Poker, my boyfriend and I went to the water park on the outskirts of town, and we had a lot of fun sliding down the slides with the sun beaming on our faces. We also went out to eat at a fancy Italian restaurant, and my pasta and white wine were delicious.

My internship started during the last week of May, and I had a hard time finding the media location because I’m not good with directions. After I found it, 10 other interns were already in the room. I learned about my responsibilities and took a tour of the convention center. After the first week, I learned how to use the content management system and all of the media rules. Throughout the internship, I updated poker data to wsop.com, escorted media affiliates from several different countries to the tournaments, and I helped watch over the media center. I met media affiliates from Sweden, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Norway, and France. I also saw Ray Romano and Paul Pierce. Some of my colleagues saw Aaron Paul! I had a lot of fun seeing an event from the operations and production side, and I liked watching the final players of each tournament play poker even though I do not know a lot of poker, but I learned more about poker after working for the World Series of Poker.

During the hours I wasn’t working, my boyfriend and I went to The Bodies Exhibit, and we saw real flesh, muscles, bones, and organs of people who had donated their body to science. I had a hard time imagining that the same organs, bones, muscles, and flesh were a part of my body as well. The exhibit helps you learn the importance of eating right and taking care of yourself.

I have also started volunteering for the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, and I’m grateful that I can help out with the dogs by playing with them and walking them at adoption events. I have also met some friendly volunteers as well.

On the 4th of July, my boyfriend and I visited Mt. Charleston, and we decided to hike the Mary Jane Falls Trail. The trail was a lot harder than I expected, but I made it to the end and saw the trickling waterfall. We experienced cooler weather in Mt. Charleston than Las Vegas (nearly 20 degrees). After the hike, my boyfriend and I watched the Dead Poets Society, and we ordered in Portuguese food. We also watched the pouring rain too. My internship is now over, and I’ve been trying to keep myself busy by reading books and volunteering.

Thanks for reading!

Sydney Thompson