It’s been almost 2 months now since I’ve arrived in Quito–and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. In a couple weeks, I’ll be at the halfway point of my time here, which is even crazier to think about. While the adjustment was hard, I am so thankful to be able to say that I finally feel settled in my life here, after making a few more Ecuadorean friends and, starting my internship at a photo and design studio, and getting hooked up with people from a really cool organization that does social work here in Quito, but also in other parts of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru (www.incalink.org)
One of the most surprisingly gifts that I’ve found in my time here is my host family. I have heard people rave about their host families in the past, but didn’t think I would actually feel like I have a family here. They have been my saving grace, source of laughter and crazy stories, support, and advice for the past two months. My parents are older, late 50s and early 60s, but are so full of life. My mom, Ana Maria, is the best cook and motherly figure. My dad, Francisco, is 60 years old but probably more active than a lot of people my age. It’s been a great fit, because he loves to go biking, hiking, exploring, camping, and trekking, so we have gone on several adventures already, almost every weekend.
He’s also an avid beekeeper (who woulda thunk?)
Last week, we harvested the honey, processed it, and sold it, quite a lengthy process, but rewarding and I was fascinated by the complexity and otherwise unknown secret life of bees. With the earnings, we took a family camping trip to Oyacachi, a tiiiiny pueblito about 3 hours north of Quito, tucked away in a valley near Cayambe volcano. No tourists, and even most Ecuadoreans, know about this place, so it felt like I was getting filled in on a hidden gem of Ecuador. My host dad grew up in Cayambe, and has been going to Oyacachi since he was little. We left early Saturday morning, and enjoyed the views of a cloudless sky (rare this time of year) and clear shots of Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Antisana, and other volcanoes that are usually hidden by haze or clouds. Even my family excitedly exclaimed as we passed these landscapes–they had lived here their whole lives and had never seen the taitas, Quichua for “father”, like this before.
After arriving, we set up camp near some pools of thermal waters, and I tagged along with the boys to the river to fish. I’ve never caught a fish in my life, but hey, first time for everything, right? I ended up not getting a chance to cast a line though, because a local boy that my dad knew ended up lending me his family’s horse for the afternoon, and I explored the Andean landscape and countryside on horseback, galloping over bridges and racing around cows, without a saddle and only an old rope for a bridle. It was a dream. You can’t plan these sort of adventures.
The rest of the trip was spent getting acquainted with the extremely friendly locals, sleeping under the stars, relaxing in the thermal waters, exploring and enjoying the quiet outside of the city. I accidentally tried cuy (guinea pig) when I bought a pincha, or skewered meat, from a lady; I thought it was chicken. It was the best street side meat I’ve ever had.
Something I thought was pretty cool was that, in Oyacachi, we were on the equatorial line, and at a very high elevation (almost 4000m, or 12000 feet). It occured to me that the sky looked even bigger and closer than it did in Quito, and the harvest moon hung in the sky, full and luminous. In that place, at that altitude, and at our lattitude, that is probably the closest I’ve been to the stars–which were numerous and scattered in unrecognizable patterns. You can’t even orient yourself with the North star here on the equator.
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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);">I'm studying studio art, entrepreneurship/social enterprise and international studies at Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!). Born and grew up in Canada by Malaysian born parents, I've always had an awareness of other cultures, countries, and customs. I've always wanted to travel South America and after spending the summer interning in Lima and volunteering in Kenya, I am excited to stay in one country for a while and live out some new adventures. I enjoy everything about the outdoors--camping, rock climbing, hiking, biking, running, hammocking, and have recently taken up surfing while in Lima. I also love all things art-design, painting, photography, and film, and hope to be able to share my experiences in Quito through my words and images.</span></p>