Today is my flight to Ecuador! I really can't wait, because this is my first trip outside of the United States and my first airplane ride as well. I am so excited and I know that this will be a great opportunity to both experience a new culture and expand my Spanish language skills, which I will admit need a lot of work. To tell the truth, I am a little worried because I am not very good at conversational Spanish, especially when it is spoken muy rapido. I hope that I can keep up and at least get the general idea of what everyone is saying.
I have finally gotten the information on my host family, which I have been waiting for. I am staying with the Polo-Ortega Family, which consists of a mother, Nelly Ortega, a father, Paul Polo and their daughter Carolina Polo Ortega, who is 22. They have a schunauzer named Tosping who I am also excited to meet. Nelly is a doctor and Paul runs his own business which I find interesting. I got a gift for them yesterday at the bookstore. It's a book about South Carolina that has plenty of pictures so that they can see where I live. I even found a picture of The Citadel in it after I bought it, which made it an even better purchase.
I have finally arrived in the mountainous city of Quito, Ecuador! It's hard to believe that I'm actually in another country, let alone South America.
I guess I really am an American, because the first thing that I bought when I got off of the plane was a coke. It had strange dimensions that they don't seem to sell in the US but it tasted the same, if not a little better because I think they make theirs with real sugar (I'll have to check on that). Everyone told me not to drink the water or risk getting sick so for now I will listen to them and avoid municipal water sources. It looks like I'm going to be drinking a lot of soda and jugos (juice).
We arrived at the hotel after a slightly frightening bus ride. The bus driver drove at a very high speed, which in itself was not the end of the world but unfortunately this was very close to massive drop offs into a gorge full of rapids. I am also fairly sure that he drove in two lanes at one time for the entire time. Fortunately, we survived and made it to the Hotel Akros in downtown Quito. This is a very nice place and seems to have most of the amenities that American hotels have. I was also tickled to see that doormen and bellboys actually are called botones, which is Spanish for buttons. I had learned about this in Spanish class last semester and it was neat to see it in person.
Tomorrow is an exciting day. We take a tour of the city of Quito in the morning, eat lunch at the Mall and then get on an hour long flight to Cuenca, Ecuador. From what I have seen of Quito so far, I am excited to explore it further. At night looking down into the city it is very picturesque all lit up.
I do have to say, we saw some things that we found amusing and some things that were concerning. One thing that we noticed was that Ecuador (or at least Quito) has a lot of KFC restaurants. We only saw one McDonalds but we saw at least five or six KFCs, which was funny. In the states it is the other way around. We also noticed that Quito has graffiti on nearly everything- buildings, walls, tarps. Anything that could be tagged was tagged. The group found this funny as well. We have graffiti in the US but not to this degree.
On the concerning side, we did see a lot of extreme poverty. I have never really seen actual shanty towns or literal shacks with people trying to survive in them but Quito seems to have many, especially in the area directly around the airport. As you travel closer to the heart of the city things improve somewhat but the outskirts are literally hovels. This made me feel really grateful to have such a good life in the United States. Even our poorest individuals do not come close to the level of poverty that people exist in developing and third world nations. We also saw a lot of evidence of crime, including a possible hold up of a person by a man in a ski-mask. Of course, we were barreling by at about 80 mph but it didn't seem to be friendly discourse. I only wish there was something we could have done to help that person. I hope that we are not affected too much by dangerous circumstances here in Quito and in Cuenca. I am not used to having to be so careful just stepping outside, and I am not sure that it is something that I could get used to in one month but I suppose we shall see.
Anyways, buenas noches. Tomorrow, Quito!
|Jennifer in Ecuador|