This month, I had the pleasure of hosting my aunt for one adventure-packed week.
The highlight of those seven days was definitely visiting the town of Mindo, located in a lush cloud forest just a couple hours north of Quito. There, we went all out! In a matter of half a day, we managed to explore a jungle reined by hummingbirds, stuff ourselves silly in a chocolate tasting session, hike above the misty treetop canopy, and take a dip beneath a rushing waterfall.
Many things have come full circle with my aunt, this place, and myself. As a little background, my aunt Debby is my mom's twin sister (and also my favorite Spanish instructor!) We share similar interests in terms of travel and language: In fact, Debby is also no stranger to study abroad. As it happens, she spent time in Spain via the same organization as me. Thats right- she's an IES Abroad alum!
The coincidences don't stop there, however. In fact, my affinity for Ecuador started with my aunt Debby, who leads group trips around the world to Spanish-speaking countries. When I was 16, I was lucky enough to travel with her to Quito and the Galápagos. Perhaps she wanted me to explore outside of North America, or perhaps she wanted to ensure that I continue with my foreign language... Whatever it was, though, it worked. Not only did my two weeks in Ecuador push me to pursue a degree in Hispanic Studies, but it also sparked my insatiable desire to see the world.
Now, back to our trip -
after Mindo, we went to a visit both old and new companions. It was nothing less than touching to reunite with the tour guides (and close friends) from our initial visit to Quito. Even though I hadn't gone to visit Ligia and David before Debby's visit, they welcomed us both as warmly as ever. What wonderful contacts to have in this city! On the flip side, I got to introduce my aunt to all of the friends that have made my experience here buenasa (so good!). I think the most comical part of this reunion was getting to show them where some of my family traits come from, such as the (freakishly?) large hands that both Debby and I share. Luckily, I got away without her telling any embarrassing stories!
Last, but absolutely most charming, was getting to host her in the home of my host family. Naturally, they all got along wonderfully, given that they are all such buena gente (good people). We spent numerous hours discussing anything from coffee to cultural traditions. Amidst these interactions, I began to sense the satisfying certainty that this will not be my last time in Ecuador. I have learned many things from my aunt, and she has inspired me time and again. However, the biggest lesson has been seeing the beauty of making lasting connections all over the world. ¡Gracias, tía!
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<p>I'm Dani - a leftie, a henna artist, and a wannabe world-traveler. My passion for exploring began when I was 10: taking inspiration from Indiana Jones, I fancied myself "Indiana Dani." Ecuador will be my second time studying abroad, as I spent a semester last year in Granada, Spain. I'm hooked, and hope to one day work in this industry!</p>