First Impressions and Second Chances

Kristi Ch
September 3, 2013

After spending a summer in a South American metropolis, Lima, Peru, I expected the transition to life in Lima to be a little bit easier. I had never lived in a big city before this summer, and for the first time in my 20 years had to learn how to navigate the highly disorganized public transportation system, become a pro at crossing treacherously trafficked streets, walk with brisk purpose in my step, ignore catcalls and wolf whistles, and speak a lot of survival Spanish.

So, as a result, I thought the transition to Quito, a city of 2 million dwarfed by Lima’s 9 million, would be easy.

I was wrong. I’ve been in Quito for almost 3 weeks now, and the adjustment has been quite a bit more difficult than I expected! The culture is different, expectations are different, the concept of time is different…the food, the people, the manner of greeting one another, the climate, the transportation, and the slang and culture of the youth. All different. Having to adjust to all these things at the same time, while getting figuring out daily life and adjusting from American and Peruvian cultures (both distinctly different from Ecuadorean) has been disorienting, confusing, exciting, hilarious and frustrating. I asked for an adventure, and an  adventure is what I got.

So far, my host sister has been assaulted and robbed, I got into an almost-kidnapped situation with a sketchy taxi driver, my host mom was robbed at knife point, and my host brother got beaten and paint balled by the police at a protest that was supposed to be peaceful (IES is right—though they  are exciting and are a great demonstration of a people’s democratic agency, listen to me when I say it is a good idea to avoid these protests—they are unpredictable, crowded, and have a high potential to turn violent and dangerous very quickly. There are also very strict US laws that prohibit Americans from participating in certain types of manifestations in other countries.)

Don’t let this scare you though. Despite all this, I am not scared. Careful and aware, but not scared. My 26 year old host brother told me, “Sometimes shit happens– you just gotta let it flow” (IES might censor that.) This isn’t typical, and admittedly it is pretty unusual to have so many instances of danger within the first month. But living in Quito is like living in any other big city—just have to be careful and be smart. Though it still sounds scary, even  to me as I type this, don’t let fear rob you from experiencing something full and rich and new, whether that be living in a big city (I am NOT a city girl) like Quito, trying a new food, or visiting a new place. It will always surprise you, and you will always find something worthwhile.

In the following posts you’ll find more photography and examples of the adventure, beauty, people, and surprising, worthwhile pieces of my experience here so far. Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy following along on this adventure of mine as you decide on where to spend yours.

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Kristi Ch

<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&#39;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&#39;ve always had an awareness of other cultures, countries, and customs. I&#39;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>

2013 Fall
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