A Rough Road to the Galápagos

Nina Finley
September 26, 2013

It’s the morning of my plane ride to the Galápagos. My alarm is set for 4:30am so I can be at school by 5:15. I’m tossing and turning all night with excitement – or is it nausea? I wake up at 3am spewing vomit all over my bed. Ok, that was nausea.

For the next three hours, my kind host parents sit by my side and feed me homemade oregano juice while my body purges some dreadful bacteria I picked up who-knows-where. Maybe it was the seco de chiva (goat/salad/rice platter) I had two nights ago at La Ronda – but that would be too long ago for such a violent reaction, and yesterday I was hiking up Cotopaxi, a 5,000 meter volcano, in perfect condition. Maybe it was the chicken soup or queso fresco (fresh cheese) I ate on Cotopaxi as a picnic – but my four friends ate those things, and they’re fine. Maybe it was some bug I picked up from the bus railing. After all, I took eight buses, a taxi, and a pickup truck to get to the volcano and back. Whatever the cause, the result was clear: I would not be leaving the bathroom, much less the continent, this morning.

Well, my flight was supposed to be rescheduled for the next morning, but for various Ecuadorian reasons – the travel agent wasn’t answering, or maybe nobody was calling – I finally managed to get a ticket for two days later. The main illness had passed in only three hours. (Naturally, the exact three hours in which I had a flight scheduled.) But I was still weak and sweaty when I arrived on the Galapagos. Here’s my first impression:

I feel like crap. My class is leaving for a snorkel hike a few minutes after I arrive, and I’m expected to attend. I’m behind two days of class, which amounts to 5 hours in this compacted class system. Everyone tells me this class is way harder than our last one. I have a midterm exam in three days. My host family consists of a swarm of unidentified children. I don’t know where they come from. The bathroom smells bad and there’s visible poop on the trashcan lid. The beach smells like sea lion poop and the sea lions are scary. The rice is not nearly as good as the heavenly rice in Quito, but there is more of it. There is a lot of friend fish with bones. There are no fruits or vegetables. There is a lot of white bread. There is no brown bread. My towel never dries. I feel dirty. The shower is cold.

I guess it was culture shock.

The front yard and path to my house.

The dog who guards the path.

The backyard.

The perpetually unfinished building out back. Notice the ocean in the background!

My host brother and his two kids, David and Mayeli, studying outside their bedroom.

My host dad watching TV in the living room.

The nightly visitor to my bedroom, an introduced gecko.

The view from my bed, where I am right now.

But don’t get the wrong idea! Within two days, I had a system figured out for the bathroom: avoid it unless you need it; keep flip-flops on; touch trashcan lid only with toilet paper. I learned how to turn on the hot-water heater. And I realized the sea lions just want to play!!!

Class on the beach! Instead of doodling, I lined up shells on my leg.

I’m happily on island time now. Thank goodness I have another three months on San Cristóbal!

Nina Finley

<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);">Nina Finley is a sophomore at The Ohio State University. She ventured to the Midwest from her hometown of Seattle, Washington to major in Animal Sciences and Evolution &amp; Ecology. She would like to become a livestock vet or marine biologist. When she&rsquo;s not studying, Nina loves to play ultimate frisbee, watch birds and raise meat rabbits. She&rsquo;s passionate about agriculture, nature and Spanish, all of which she hopes to explore in Ecuador. Join the journey as Nina traces Darwin&rsquo;s path and explores the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands!</span></p>

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