I think island time is getting to me, it’s taken me almost three weeks to write this post since setting foot on San Cristóbal. With a population of ~5000 here in the town of Puerto Baquerizo things work a little differently than back on the mainland in Quito. Nothing in the town itself is more than 15 minutes away from anything else by bike, and my official address is simply “House of Martha Morales”. When my host family called a taxi (all of which are white pickup trucks) on my first day Martha simply said, “To the house,” and he took us home. Also, it’s a fact of life that the town essentially shuts down every afternoon for about three hours as all the storeowners take an extended lunch. There’s really a different sense of time here, after all it’s not like anyone is going to go somewhere else. On the flipside most stores are open really late because closing time is just whenever the person at the register decides to go to bed.
After landing on the island the first place we went was the University, and it could not have a better location. Before being bought by Universidad San Francisco de Quito it was a hotel, so there’s a beach called Playaman literally across the street. I’ve gotten into the habit of changing into my swim trunks after class and going snorkeling or just taking a nap on the sand. My favorite place to study at night is the balcony overlooking the beach just listening to the waves.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the Galápagos without mentioning the wildlife. Before I came here I was afraid I wouldn’t see any marine iguanas—after less than a week I had almost tripped over them multiple times. Since the whole island chain is a national park its completely forbidden to touch or harass the animals. Consequently, everything is incredibly docile. When my class toured the uninhabited island of Española, it was almost surreal. Birds nest everywhere and pay no heed to human visitors. Walking along the beach we saw multiple ridiculous albatross chicks. The waved albatross nests only on Española, and since there are no predators on the island, the parents are freely leave their helpless fluffballs unattended.
Here on San Cristóbal, pelicans and bright red crabs are everywhere on the rocks by the harbor, and the beaches are covered with sea lions. Plus, since we’re lucky enough to be here in the birthing season, there’re tiny sea lion pups (kittens?) chasing each other and playing in the surf. They don’t mind people for the most part, but the rules don’t say anything about them harassing us, and I think some of the males know it. Every so often, one will decide he doesn’t like somebody and chase them to the other side of the beach. They’re not all that fast on land, so it mostly funny rather than dangerous.
Since tourism is the main industry here, the town has been made to be very welcoming, and many businesses cater to outsiders. The main walkway near water, the Malecon, is especially adorable and there are murals and art pieces all over town with blue footed boobies and tortoises featured heavily. I enjoyed living in Quito, and I wish I had the chance to spend more time there. But Quito is chaotic, and after living for the past two years in the city, it's good to get back to the small-town life. Things are tranquil here, everything happening in the news is literally an ocean away back on the mainland. Every day I swim with exotic fish and the shop with the green shutter sells frozen chocolate covered bananas for 30 cents, at the moment. I really can’t think of anywhere I would rather spend the next three months.
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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>