I've been in Quito, Ecuador for almost two weeks now...it still doesn't feel real at times. I keep thinking that I'll wake up and everyone will be speaking in English again, or I'll suddenly remember that I'm not leaving in a week- I'm here for the long haul. Sort of. Four months.
I guess this should be a longer post, since there's so much to tell already. I will be here until December 20th taking classes at the University of San Francisco-Quito, the top private liberal arts college in Ecuador. I'm living with a host family that was picked for me by the school, and it has been a great match so far. Ximena (pronounced Hee-MAY-nuh) and Fernando Lopez are the grandparents. Marie Fernanda (who we call Fer) is their 30-something years old daughter, and then there's Fer's 9-year old son Elias. They have a small house about 5 minutes from the airport- the house literally shakes when planes come and go. I have my own room and bathroom.
They are all very warm, loving, and caring people. I call Ximena and Fernando Mami and Papi, and they have really taken me in and helped make the first couple weeks easier. They are understanding of the language barrier- although I am definitely proficient in Spanish, I still have alot to learn. They are good about repeating themselves and explaining things to me until I understand fully. My family has been wonderful about helping do important stuff like: registering my visa, obtaining a censo (an Ecuadorian ID card), changing my traveler's checks, and finding my way around Quito.
Mami is an AMAZING cook! The typical Ecuadorian meals are as follows- breakfast: fresh bread, homemade marmalade, fresh homemade fruit juice, eggs, tea/coffee. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is served around 1 or 2pm; it consists of soup and then a main course of rice, potatoes, and some kind of meat...we've also had empanadas and sandwiches. Dinner is served between 7-9pm and is bread, cheese, and coffee or tea. There are all sorts of different fruits here that we don't have in the US and I am really enjoying trying them all. My favorite so far has been pineapple juice...it's delicious! As is the coffee here- we have legit Columbian coffee almost every day.
Quito is a huge, long, sprawling city and is also very diverse. It is in the Andes mountains, and on the west side (I think) is an active volcano called Pichincha. The streets are narrow and crowded with taxis, cars, buses, and people. The drivers here are crazy! To get to school, I have to walk about a mile from my house to the bus station on one of the main roads called la Avenida Rio Coca. At the bus station, I hop on a green bus with a CUMBAYÁ sign in the front, and from there it's a 20-30 minutes bus ride to Cumbayá, the suburb of Quito where the University is located. Any bus ride here is only 25 cents, no matter how far you go! It's an amazing journey to school every day- we go down the mountains and into the huge valley, and the view is absolutely breathtaking...mountains against a blue sky, the crowded valley below. It makes me feel so lucky to be here!
I have class in a few minutes, so I had better get going. More to come later.