Natasha in Ecuador – Blog 7
My last week in Quito has come to an end. Tomorrow morning at 6am I, along with 6 other volunteers, am heading south to Cuenca, where we will start our volunteering placements. The 10 hour bus ride will undoubtedly be filled with reminiscing, excitement, sadness, wonderment, nerves, and I hope a lot of sleep! I feel as though Quito is already my home, and uplifting –after what has seemed to be forever – it somewhat strange. I feel as though I’ve been here forever, yet I haven’t even started what I came here to do. Previously, these few weeks in Quito didn’t even register on my radar – my sights were firmly set on Cuenca and Quito was just to be a short stop over. I never imagined that I would form such strong connections, grow and learn so much before I even started volunteering. I have summarised everything I’ve learnt during the last 3 weeks about Ecuadorian life, and this place in general into 9 facts/tips:
1. Learning a language requires huge amounts of courage! I have completed my two week Spanish Course at Vida Verde and I think it is definitely fair to say that I have improved (not very hard with only two weeks previous experience). After this time I have come to the above realisation. You need courage. Courage to dismiss the “oh, you are a foreigner, that’s why you speak Spanish like an idiot” looks that you get, and keep pressing on. No matter how little you know the best way to learn is just to speak! This is the valuable opportunity I will be getting in Cuenca. Here in Quito – surrounded by the other volunteers – it is far too easy to speak English instead. But, in Cuenca, being hosted by myself and working with children who will likely have no knowledge of English, I am going to be forced to speak Spanish. Well, either that or I become a recluse……. not a chance!
2. The churches in Quito are overwhelmingly stunning! On the first day of our orientation this week we had a walking tour around the Old Town of Quito. This part of the city is hands down the most beautiful. With the old Spanish style buildings I felt as though I was somewhere in Europe – Spain most likely. We visited numerous stunning churches, one that took hundreds of men 160 years to build and complete. This astounds me. Men dedicated their whole life times – at least two generations – to these incredible buildings. They are truly breath taking. However, coming from a church back home that is tucked into the industrial area and next door to a bottle store, they can be a little bit overwhelming.
3. The toilet water really does spin the opposite way! If any of you didn’t realise (not meaning to sound patronizing because up until now I didn’t realise either) Ecuador was given its name due to the fact that it is the highest point on earth that lies on the equator – Mitad del Mundo. There is a simple line (well actually there are two, one done by the French, and the other by military GPS) representing the ring that wraps itself around the earth. Crazy to think that as I jumped from side to side I was jumping between the Southern and Northern Hemisphere! I have always heard Americans say that the toilet water spins in the opposite direction for us Down Under, but I’ve never exactly believed it. Now I know that it is true! At the museum a woman gave as a demonstration that showed that the water spun in the opposite direction depending on whether you were in the Northern of the Southern Hemisphere. Funnily enough sitting right on the equator the water doesn’t spin at all! It simply gets sucked straight down.
4. Ecuadorian Zip Lining is fantastic! A highlight of orientation was when we went to Nayon Xtreme Valley and zip lined across an Ecuadorian Canyon. Feeling like you are flying over beautiful valleys was unforgettable. In addition to this we all did what they call the Tarzan Swing. Launching yourself off a ledge, stomach dropping as you freefall for a split second, and then relaxing as you enjoy the incredible view and the adrenaline shot.
5. When visiting the Presidential place always dress expecting to meet the man himself! If all this wasn’t thrilling enough on Wednesday we met the President of Ecuador! Whilst on our tour of the Presidential Palace we stumbled upon the political leader, and were lucky enough to snap a picture with him….. HE ALSO TOUCHED MY FACE!!! The President caressed my cheek, and I was wearing my sports bra and sneakers – always keeping it classy! Please refer to the picture proof below if you are having doubts about the validity of my claims. Also, as a side note: don’t try to pull the bunny ears behind the President. I will say no more, just don’t!
6. Always put your toilet paper in the bin! That’s right, don’t flush it! This seemed crazy for the first week, and Lucy and I played the naive foreigner card for as long as possible. However, it is hard to avoid the inevitable. It seems totally disgusting, but it is one of those things you simply get used to. To be honest I would rather suck it up and pop it in the pin than block Quito’s sewage system.
7. The animals here speak a totally different language! Being an animal person (apart from chickens, which are super annoying and I can’t stand), and coming from a house hold with a beautiful cat and a mental dog, this fact was hard to come to terms with. It was clear from the start that we were never going to get along with our host family’s cat, Max. The poor thing was probably completely freaked out by the weird English speakers, yet I deem his behaviour to have been quite unfriendly – especially considering the fact that we have tried our best. Three weeks on and we simply haven’t gelled. Apart from him only understanding and responding to Spanish, he is also petted differently. My attempts to pet him using my usual techniques ended in hissing and swiping paws.
8. Carbs, carbs, carbs! Upon arrival we have eaten a diet consisting of mainly carbs: bread (three meals a day), rice, potatoes and more bread. I have heard this is not dissimilar to the diet at university; however, the Ecuadorians back their diet up with their food pyramid. Theirs goes as follows, from the bottom (what you should have the most of) to the top (things you should have the least of): Water, carbohydrates, protein, fruit and vegetables, salts and sugars. Whilst I can definitely see the proportions played out in the carbs department, I think salt should be moved down a couple of spaces: they put it on everything! They are even worse than my dad!
9. Never stop adventuring! In 3 short weeks my life has changed, and each day has been an adventure. I am so excited to see what the next 4 and a half months will bring, and I cannot wait to start changing the lives of the people in Cuenca. I go into the next phase determined to explore everything I can, treat each new day as a new adventure and each new person as a possible connection and someone to learn from.
Adios Quito, Hola Cuenca!