This weekend a group of us visited Baños, a town I had heard was the “adventure capital” of Ecuador even before arriving in the country. Between everyone, we covered a range of activites – biking, hiking, ATV-ing, ziplining, white water rafting…
But what I will remember most is puenting, or bridge jumping. Three of us harnessed up, and with a leap of faith jumped into a 100m (~325 ft) ravine. The experience was exhilerating, and I never thought that jumping off a bridge would so closely parallel the emotions I’ve felt during my study abroad experience thus far.
As I put my harness on, I excitedly watched others jump off the bridge. I was a little nervous, but I knew I’d deeply regret backing out. At home, I heard stories from all my friends who had studied abroad and eagerly awaited the day that I would land in Ecuador. I suppressed the butterflies in my stomach.
Others leaped off the bridge and spread their arms like a bird’s wings. My jump was anything but graceful. I flailed my limbs in every attempt to save myself from what I was convinced was my premature death. While less dramatic, my first week in Quito was difficult. Spanish was hard, and I was utterly overwhelmed by the large city, traffic and laid back lifestyle (since when is it normal for a professor to show up to class 30 minutes late?).
After the initial fall, the jumper swings back and forth in the ravine and is slowly lowered to the land below. Once I got past the initial shock, my life in Quito also slowed significantly. With some free time, I began strolling through La Parque Carolina and stopping on the way home from school for some fresh mango or a cheese empanada.
Hiking Back Up
When I unclipped from the rope, I was sent climbing back up the steep ravine. Now that I’ve gotten past my honeymoon period in Quito, things have gotten harder. I’ve realized that I actually have to work in my classes, encountered some cultural clashes at my home stay, and explored everything I know about in walking distance from my house. I love hiking, even up steep mountains; likewise study abroad is still really fun, I just have to work a little harder to reap all the benefits.
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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>