It seems like this blog has been getting off to a negative start what with all my worrying in the last post, BUT in my defense I started my trip in the worst possible way.* While I was in the bathroom at SeaTac airport in Seattle I handed my passport to my Dad; he didn’t hand it back before saying goodbye at the line for the security checkpoint. He doesn’t own a cellphone, so my only option was to wait and hope he noticed. For about ten minutes I thought this whole excursion was going to fall apart at the very first step. He came back obviously, but still not the best way to start a trip.
Thankfully the flight to LA was unremarkable.
The next leg of my trip was to Mexico city. I spent most of the flight watching The Isle of Dogs but we spent the last hour or so flying through a thunder storm. Always check what’s out your window. I think I may have been the only one on the plane to see it, when I looked around everyone else was either sleeping or lost in their screens. Each bolt of lightning would illuminate a cloud from inside, so for an instant it appeared like great a luminous mountain before being swallowed again by the night. The skies are really a different world, flying will never get old as long as I have a window seat.
When I landed in Mexico City, it was close to midnight. To my surprise, we had to go through immigration upon deboarding the plane. I filled out a form which I kept for all of two hours before I returned it upon boarding the plane that would take me to Ecuador. The whole thing wasn’t difficult per se, it was just confusing because I had no idea there was such a process just to catch a connecting flight. Luckily, I made a friend at the baggage claim who spoke Spanish and guided me through the intricacies of the Mexico City airport.
After another 4-hour flight I arrived in Quito right on time with the sun rising over the city. The turbulence made our landing feel like riding a small roller coaster, I enjoyed it. From when I left my own house to when set foot in my host family’s home I had been traveling for about 27 hours. My first hours in Ecuador are consequently a little blurry, but I did learn that that very day August 10th, is Ecuador’s day of independence.
Even in less than a week there’s too much to say to fit in one post. Quito lies high in the Andes cradled by forest covered hills to the east and west. To the south the snow covered peak of Cotopaxi surges unequaled through the clouds at its base. Being accustomed to the omnipresent edifice of Mt. Ranier over western Washington for me a vigilant mountain in the distance is a comfort.
After a few days here, a few things have stood out. First my host mother, Maribel, is a lovely cook. Meals follow a standard template. They always start with a plate of fruit, usually kiwis, bananas, or papaya. At breakfast this is followed by eggs or grilled meat with tomatoes and peppers at lunch and dinner. Lunch and dinner also include rice or tortillas de papas which are kind of hard to describe but really tasty. Avocados feature heavily in many meals. Juice is omnipresent whether it be orange, strawberry, pineapple, or one of the native fruits which I’m still having a hard time remembering. This is just what we eat in my house but the variety of food in the city is huge, and it’s very easy to eat for dollars a day. For example, there are plenty of restaurants which sell a whole meal, drink include, for 3.5 or 4 dollars.
The city itself is a mosaic of different styles and schools of architecture ranging from centuries old colonial era buildings to modernist glass business centers that could easily be in any American city. Nearly every house is surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire, electric fencing, broken glass bottles, or some combination of the three. These deterrents are a little alarming at first, but they seem to be doing their job. My own house is built in a traditional style with whitewashed walls, a tile roof, and a big garden where the two dogs and a bunny live. The dogs are two adorable cocker spaniels named Tobias and Soledad who never seem to stop bouncing around, we just call the bunny La Conejita.
Clearly there are some very poor areas here, but the roads are either brand new or on par with those back home which surprised me. I also noticed trucks carrying concrete tunnel supports that I learned are being used to build the city’s first Metro which is scheduled to be completed next near. The government is clearly investing heavily in infrastructure here. Much like in Seattle, where it’s practically impossible to go two blocks without tripping over a crane, all this gives Quito the feeling of a city on the rise.
In fact, everyone seems to be up to an entrepreneur here. Un-solicited window washers, mimes, and jugglers can all be found wandering through traffic. Every crowded bus or street has people hollering prices of goods they’re selling which include gum, ice cream, underwear, fresh fish, selfie sticks and more. I really shouldn’t have been worried about bringing enough underwear because I could have bought 3 pairs of the same brand for half the price off some guy in the street.
Not everything feels foreign though, there’s plenty of American brands like Dominos, Papa Johns, KFC, and even TGI Friday’s which I assumed had gone out of business. We went to a hardware store and, save for everything being in Spanish, it could have been any Home Depot in the U.S. Heck, the national currency’s the U.S. dollar, so there’s always at least a couple familiar faces around.
*Apparently the day after I flew out somebody who worked at SeaTac stole a plane and crashed it into the forest. Now the whole airport’s shut down, so I guess it could be worse.
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<p>I grew up in Eatonville, a small town in Washington just outside the entrance to Mount Ranier National Park, but I moved to Seattle two years ago for college. There's a lot more to do in the city than back home; I've taken dance lessons, played clarinet in a campus band, and this summer I learned how to sail. Exposure to nature here is limited though. I used to go hike in the national park after work, but now I feel like I hardly leave the library! In the Galápagos I plan to spend plenty of time outside both on land and sea.</p>