The same day that I boarded a plane for Quito (exactly 1 month ago!), the New York Times published an article highlighting 52 places to visit in 2014. Ecuador ranked 7, and made the top 5 if you exclude destinations in California, my home state. Needless to say, I picked the right place to study abroad!
While I couldn’t agree more with the rankings, I know Ecuador only received such good marks as a result of hard work advertising itself as a tourist attraction. The slogan it created, Ama La Vida, is literally painted across the country. In Quito, with government buildings everywhere, there is not a street to turn on which does not scream Ama La Vida.
Ecuadorians I’ve met do love life. We were taught during orientation that relationships are the number one priority here. Going to be late to class? Not important if my host parents offer me a cafecito. It is more important to take the time to develop the relationship I have with my host parents than to be punctual. Plus, why not drink my third cup of coffee while also enjoying biscuits, dulce de leche, queso fresco…?
In addition to fueling my caffeine addiction, my host family, and Ecuadorians in general, also have big hearts! Less than 2 hours after meeting my host Mom, she insisted on taping a photo of me to the corner of her family portrait and she began introducing me to all her friends as her hija (daughter). My host dad calls me daily as I’m coming home from school, just to make sure I’m safe. And every time I leave the house or return home, I am greeted by abrazos and besos from whoever happens to be around (typically at least 6 family members).
Everyday I learn to love my own life a little more; and everyday my heart grows a little bigger!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Kate Paladin and I'm an Environmental Studies major, Math minor at Bates College. I am a research assistant studying lake ecosystems, volunteer in an elementary school classroom and perform Bollywood dance. Most people study Spanish and then decide to visit South America, but I did the reverse - after choosing Quito for study abroad, I took my first Spanish class! Although I have just 2 years of Spanish under my belt, I couldn't be more excited to study in Ecuador.</span></p>