Wednesday, July 17, 2013

El TelefériQo

Today my host brother took me to part of Quito called the telefériQo. The telefériQo is a lift that takes you up the side of the Pichincha volcano and over looks the whole city. We left in the morning got there by taxi and waiting in line for awhile. While we were in line I think that I could hear at least 4 different languages being spoken. The telefériQo is a big tourist spot in Quito. We finally got in one of the cars and headed up the mountain. We started at about 10,000 feet and when the ride was done we were close to 13,000. The Pichincha volcano is a little over 15,000 feet high just to give you an idea of how far up the mountain we were. 


I had no idea what to expect before I went on the telefériQo but once we got to the top it was a lot colder and really windy. At the top there was some small cafe places and some other buildings and then the trails started. We walked by a small church and started to head up the mountain. At first I was doing really well, but then I really could feel how hard it was to breathe and how even harder it was to catch your breath after. But we keep on hiking up. It was amazing how big the city was from up there and at the same time how small it looked. My host brother pointed out where my university and a large park I went to earlier this week. I could also see the Basilica and the part of Quito the is the historic center. I tried to look for my apartment but all the buildings were soo small I couldn't find it. 

This was a great thing to do for one of my last days here in Ecuador. If anyone ever comes to Quito the telefériQo is a most! Ever if you don't like hiking the view is worth the ascend. It was a great experience and was my first time climbing on a mountain and it won't be my last time. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to the Beach

Sorry I haven'e blogged in a while, I just got done with my classes here. Exam week went pretty well, it was busy but what else can you expect from the last week of classes. I finished up with my classes on Thursday and that night I took off with my host family to the beach in Emeraldas.


It took us all night to arrive but we made it. My host Mom and Dad came and so did my little host niece who is 7. We stayed with a sister of my host Mom with her family. Her house was amazing. It was a lot different than houses that I have been to in Quito. Tile floors in every room and high ceiling with the wooden beams exposed. They also had air conditioning which made our stay there even better. She also lived in walking distance of the beach.

The first day we rested in the morning and then headed to the beach after lunch. The weather this day not very sunny and really windy but the water was soo warm we still swarm in it. It was really fun to have my host niece there to play with and we played in the waves for hours. The next day the weather was really sunny and we made a sand castle and played in the water for a long time.


The family we stayed with had employees that cooked a lot of the food that we ate. The whole weekend all I ate seafood. It was probably the best seafood I have had in my life. We had fresh fried fish, fresh shrimp in a sauce made of unripened bananas and crab. The crab was the best. It was super fresh and I learned how to eat it like the natives do. Instead of using silverware to crack into the shell you use your teeth. It got really messy but it was definitely worth the work to get to the delicious meat inside. I am definitely going to miss all the fresh seafood in Ecuador.


The last day we stayed my host Mom wanted to take me to the house of her father. He lived out in the countryside of Esmeraldas which was a little bit of a drive. The country out there is not like anything I have seen before. Green everywhere and not very many houses. I lot of the houses were up on the mountainsides and there were a lot of ranches. It was really neat to see where my host Mom grew up. I can now have pictures to put with the stories that she has been telling me about her life.


This weekend was a great way to spend my last weekend in Ecuador. I had to use my Spanish all weekend, which I think has gotten a lot better since I first arrived. Also getting to see where my host family first got started was a great way to end my trip here. I can't believe that I only have one more week left in this beautiful country.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Things I love about Ecuador

I only have a little more than two weeks left here in Ecuador. I am started to get a little excited about going home but I do not want to completely have my mind check out because I am still here and I need to keep enjoying every last day that I am here. So I decided to list out all of the things that I love about Ecuador as a reminder to cherish these things while I can.

First I have come to really enjoy the convince of public transportation. I can go to soo many places just here in the city of Quito for super cheap. Back home if I want to go anywhere I am the one paying for the gas so sometimes that can make traveling limited but not here. That is something that I am going to miss. Also people watching in the bus stations can be pretty entertaining.

The next thing that I am going to miss is lunch with my friends. I have really started to get close with some girls that are also studying abroad. Everyday after class we have lunch together. I love how lunch works here, we pick a place, pay a maximum of $6 for tons of food, and sit and relax together for sometimes 2 hours. I am going to really miss my new groups of friends here (I might have to do some traveling back in the U.S. to visit them).

I am really going to miss nature here. There are so many different kinds of plants here and also being surrounded by mountains and volcanoes everyday is pretty amazing. I will miss just looking out the window during class and seeing the mountains and the sky go on forever. You just don't get those kind of views in Michigan.


I will defiantly miss speaking Spanish as much as I do here. I love going to church in Spanish and I will miss the friends that I have made at church. I have always heard that South Americans are very friendly and welcoming and I think that it is true. No matter where I go weather it be at church or with another students home here the people here are so kind and welcoming. They will do anything to make sure you are comfortable and they always make sure that you are well fed.

The thing that I think I will miss the most about Ecuador is my wonderful host family. Over the weeks we have had some wonderful conversations about everything around the dinner table, that I will never forget. They have really welcomed me into their family and I will always have a family here in Ecuador that will always be in my heart. I am really going to miss all the work that my Mom here does for me and especially here cooking. I am going to miss the stories that my host Dad tells, he is always very animated when he tells stories. I will also miss the jokes and teasing from my host brother. I am going to miss my little host nieces a lot and their little cute voices in Spanish.

Living in Ecuador has been a blast. I have enjoyed my time here so much and hope to make the most of the next two weeks that I have here. There are so many things that I love about this country and I am sure that I am going to talk everyone's ears off about it when I get home.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

La comida (food)

I thought since I am getting close to the end of my time here I would talk about the different kinds of food that I have been eating while I am here. Most weekdays I eat my food around the same times. I have breakfast in the mornings before I leave for class. Usually I have some kind of fruit, fresh juice, bread and sometimes eggs (I am not a huge breakfast person so I told my host Mom that fruit and bread are enough for me). I have had a couple different kinds of eggs here. Usually I have scrambled eggs but sometimes my host Mom makes what they call here a tortilla but in the U.S. it would be like an omelet. Also I have tried so many new kinds of fruit here and other than a few I have loved every kind. The fruit here is always soo fresh and sweet. One of my favorite fruits here is called maracuya, which is a type of passion fruit, and it is great as a juice.

These are called uvillas and are kind of like mini oranges  but a lot sweeter. 

I eat lunch with my friends after my classes around campus. We have eaten everywhere from the food court in the mall, sandwich places, pizza to more traditional lunch places. The places the serve traditional lunches start with some kind of soup and then usually come with chicken, rice, fruit, juice and fried plantains. This places usually cost around $3-4 which is a great price for the huge amount of food that you get. Also lunch here is a lot different from in the United States. Here most people eat lunch a little later like around 2 and most working people have at the minimum an hour for their lunch break. I really enjoy taking a long time to eat lunch, it is a really nice break in the middle of the day. I think that is why lunch is so important here because it is a time to re-energize for the rest of the day.

I have noticed that people here in Ecuador don't snack like some people in the U.S. do. For me that is something that I am still not used to. At home I snack all day long but here I just really eat my three meals and maybe sometimes I will eat some chifles here (they are a kind of like potato chips in the U.S. but they are made of plantains).

My favorite meal of the day is dinner. I am super lucky to have an amazing host Mom here that loves to cook and is really good at cooking. Also because I have diet restrictions she has been really good about making sure the food she cooks is something that I can eat. I have eaten a lot of different things here for dinner. Lots of times we eat some kind of soup with chicken or shrimp in it to start our meal. Sometimes we have chicken and rice. Other times we have vegetables and fish. My favorite vegetable here that I have never had in the U.S. is called yucca. It tastes like a potato and is brown on the outside and white in the inside but it is not as starchy as potatoes. Lots of time is it in soup or cooked and served with meat.

One of my most memorable dinners with my family here was when my host Dad was away on business and returned with some huge shrimp from his travels. They were soo delicious and a little messy to eat but the whole family enjoyed eating them together. I have to admit that I had to trade the heads of my shrimp with my host Mom for the rest of her vegetables because I wasn't sure if I wanted to eat them.


All in all I have really enjoyed the food here in Ecuador. Most of the food is natural and not as processed as the food in the United States. I am defiantly going to miss the fresh fruit and the fresh shrimp and fish here when I have to go home.

Monday, June 24, 2013


This last weekend I had the chance to go a town called Otavalo. This town is famous in Ecuador for a native group that makes and sells all kinds of art and crafts. Every Saturday they have a market open for everyone that spans a huge part of the town. Otavalo is only two hours away from Quito so my friends and I decided to make a day trip out of it.

I have heard from friends that went before that the market is a great place to get gifts for your friends and family. We arrived in Otavalo around 11 and got some lunch at a same restaurant on a street near the market. After lunch we headed into the market. It was amazing to set foot in the market, it seemed to go on forever. It was fun to see the different shopping styles of my friends. Some of my friends wanted to look around at everything before they even bought anything. But I am the kinda of person that when I see something I want I know that I want it so I just go ahead and buy it.


One of the most important parts about the market in Otavalo is that you are allowed and encouraged to barter for the items that you want. I have a friend who is also studying abroad who was really good at bartering and she gave me some pointers. What she always does is ask  how much the vendor wants for an item and then asks for half the price and then from there they work their way into an agreement.


One of the main items that I wanted was a hammock. I found a stand that sold them right in the first part of the market. I was able to get a great price for it. I was also able to find gifts for my family while I was there. You could easily spend a lot of money there and come home with a ton of items.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Tiputini Biodiversity Station

This last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. This is a station that is owned by USFQ in the east part of Ecuador which is also in the Amazon rain forest. This is a place solely dedicated to research and learning and has actually been highlighted in National Geographic Magazine in past years.

Getting to the rain forest is no joke. I woke up at 4 a.m. and took a taxi to a nearby bus station. From there I met up with my group and we took a bus to the airport outside of Quito. Once we got there we waited for our plane. We took a plane ride for half an hour to an airport in Coca. Then from there a short bus rides to a motel on the Napo River. Here we waited. We waited for a long time but we were all excited and we made friends with the squirrel monkeys that seemed to be pretty tame. Finally our boat arrived. We took this boat for a couple of hours down the Napo River which was the widest river I have ever seen. I really enjoyed the boat ride because we were out in the open and we could begin to see that rain forest that was surrounding us.

After this boat ride we arrived and a security check point that was owned by an American oil company. Here we waited some more and had a sack lunch. You could defiantly feel a difference in the climate here, there was way more humidity than in Quito.  Once our chiva (a bus with no walls or windows) arrived we started our journey down the oil company’s dirt roads. At this point things started to get a little weird from me. I felt like I was on a dirt road up north in Michigan surrounded by nothing but green trees, but the trees looked nothing like any trees in Michigan. I felt like I was home surrounded on all sides by nothing but green. 

After the 90 minute chiva ride we arrived at the Tiputini River where there was a small boat launch. We helped unload food and other supplies off the chiva and got in the boat. We were all excited to be almost there. This boat ride was long because the river was smaller and had many twists and turns. Everyone was soo excited when we finally arrived at the station. We ate some snacks and the manager Juan de Dios gave us the run down.
In the station all the water came from the river and was processed and clean, so we could drink any water from any tap. Because of this we had to use their special biodegradable soap and shampoo. Also the station only ran power at certain times so we were informed when the best time to take showers and charge electronics was. We had specific meal times and we needed to try our best to be quiet so not to disturb the researchers since noise travels far in the jungle. After this we got our cabins and went to pick out the boots that we would be hiking in the next two days.

The first day that we went hiking we met up after breakfast and split into groups to get our guides. My guide was named Ramiro and I was in a group with all girls which turned out to be very fun. The first day we hiked in the morning and after lunch. Ramiro was amazing. We would be walking on trials that were pretty defined in the jungle then he would spot or hear something and start running and tell us to follow.

Many times we would be far from the trial in the middle of the jungle looking at all kinds of wild life. The first day we saw 3 different species of monkeys and by the end we saw 4. The different species are Titi, Golden Tamara, Wooly and Spider.

We also saw many different kinds of insects, some of which we even got to hold. Before I came to the jungle I made up my mind that whatever the guide asked me to try or do I was going to do it even if I was afraid. I wanted to get the full experience. So when Ramiro stood next to a tree that had lumps in its limbs that were filled with lemon flavored ants, I stuck my tongue right in and took a taste. I also got to chew on a root that made my tongue blue for the rest of the day  

    Another awesome thing that is part of the Tiputini experience is the towers and bridges. They own two towers that researchers can us to get a view above the canopy of trees and look out for birds and monkeys. One of these towers you had to wear a harness that had two safety lines and it contained different bridges with platforms. One of the platforms had a ladder connected to part of a tree that you could climb even higher. So of course I climbed up this ladder. It was pretty scary because part of the climb on the ladder all that was under you was a steep drop that you could see in-between the rungs of the ladder.  Once you made it to the top the view was incredible.


On the last day at Tiputini it is tradition to take us on a boat ride for the river float. We took the boat a little ways away from the station while on the ride we saw a caiman on the bank of the river. Then we put on our life vests and jumped in. This was probably my favorite part of the whole trip because the water felt so good on my sweaty body. The Tiputini River has zero visibility because of all the minerals and sediments. So who knows what could have been swimming around with us.

Tiputini was an amazing journey. I learned so much about all the different animals and lots about the different kinds of plants. In such a small part of Ecuador there is more diversity than the entire U.S. and it was a once in a life time experience to live with all those creatures for such a small time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Today is day 25 here in Ecuador and there was a pretty important soccer game or as they call it fútbol here. The national team of Ecuador played the national team of Argentina. I had been looking of a jersey to wear for this game since I arrived in Ecuador but I did not want to pay too much for one so I held out. It was a good thing I held out too because there was a street vendor selling jerseys that day before the game right outside of the university. I got my jersey for only $6!

Unfortunately I was not able to get tickets to the game that was played here in Quito. So some of the other students here and myself decided to watch the game together. We all met up and found a public area with a T.V. to watch the game from live. The atmosphere was really exciting. Everyone was decked out in blue or yellow jerseys and lots of people had their faces painted as well. Even though we weren't at the game you would have never known if you had closed your eyes. People were yelling, cheering, chanting and blowing horns throughout the entire game.

The game was a close match with both teams scoring one goal towards the beginning. But sadly Ecuador could not score another goal, even though there were many attempts made, so the match ended in a tie. Even though we did not win it was great to be surrounded by friends and get to be part an event that is a very  important part of South American culture.

My friend Julia and I enjoying the game!