miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2011

Climb a Volcano, check

On Sunday, I went to the Antisana ecological reserve with my host family.  The drive was just over an hour from their house, but none of them had been there before.  That seems to be the case with most Ecuadorians.  Their country isn't incredibly large, but most of them don't travel within it, even those who can afford to.  Antisana is a volcano southeast of quito and the reserve has a huge lagoon and tons of birds and is gorgeous.  My host brother and I climbed to a peak close to the lagoon and the air is so thin that we kept having to stop even though we probably only went up 200m.  It was beautiful though and totally worth the views.

On our drive back from Antisana, my life flashed before my eyes.  They drive pretty crazy here in Ecuador and if you've got a nose in front of another vehicle, you've got the right of way... but my host dad was really hungry and snapped and driving like a raging lunatic.  All of the rest of us were super nervous and my host mom and brother kept asking him to slow down to no avail.  Thankfully, we made it back safely.

Yesterday, Tuesday, a bunch of us went to Pichincha, the Volcano that lies to the West of Quito.  There is an amusement park at the base and then the teleferico is a cable car that goes up the side of it.  We rode the teleferico up to 4.050m and then kept hiking upwards.  There were trail rides available, but I didn't have enough money for one if I wanted to eat lunch so I kept hiking with my friend Sam.  We just kept going and the air was so thin.  My heart was pounding and we'd stop and I feel better but then after about 10 more steps I was dead again.  We pushed on for a while and kept going over peaks thinking we must be at the top, but after we decided to turn around, a guide was telling his group that they had another hour of hiking to reach the summit.  It was still an amazing hike, and I was super proud of myself for going so far.

lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

Fun Facts

-Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and lies in the middle of the Andes Mountains at 2.850m (9,350ft) above sea level

-Quito lies just to the East of the active stratovolcano Pichincha which is also the name of the province in which it lies

-Ecuador is about the size of Colorado and is divided into 24 provinces, one of which is the Galapagos Archipelago (Islands)

-Ecuador has the most biodiversity per square kilometer out of all the countries in the world

-The country is split between the costal region, the highlands, and the amazon region in the mainland,                plus the Galapagos Islands

-Ecuador gets its name for being on the Equator.  The country was known as Quito, but when the French came to study the shape of the world, they called it the Land of the Equator so that there was no reference to the fact that they were in a Spanish domain and the name stuck.

-The piping in Quito is pretty awful and you can't flush toilet paper- you have to throw it away

-Ecuador uses the US dollar because their economy collapsed 10 years ago, but there is a change crisis and it is difficult to get change for $20s even though that's what ATMs distribute

-Ecuador is one of 2 countries in South America that doesn't border Brazil

sábado, 20 de agosto de 2011

Los Primeros Dias

After traveling for about 14 hours without my cell phone or internet (oh man was I lost), I arrived in Quito, Ecuador and after dodging hundreds of Ecuadorians I found my bag and was greeted by my host brother, Alvero and his German girlfriend Nadine.  It was one in the morning and an interesting ride to Cumbaya, the valley outside Quito where they live and the university is located, with a mixture of Spanish, English, and German being spoken.  We arrived to their house which is huge and I met my host mother, Jeanethe, and she showed me my room.  It's so huge- I'm pretty sure my bed is king size, I have a 40 something inch tv and my own bathroom and a window looking onto the patio which has a pool.  I'm shocked that I have a nicer place here than at home. Also, they have a maid who cooks and cleans daily which is really weird because everyday when I get back my stuff is slightly rearranged which kind of bugs me.

My first day, we drove into Quito to the IES Abroad center and I met 10 other students on the program and we sat through orientation in Spanglish about health and safety and Ecuadorian culture. A police officer talked to us about safety and made us all get up and dance and then offered us drinks to explain to us not to accept drinks from strangers to avoid getting date raped which was an... interesting... icebreaker for us all.  We went to lunch at this really nice hotel overlooking a valley which was awesome.  In Ecuador, the main meal is almuerzo (lunch) and they eat soup, a main dish, and dessert and they drink juice.  I've tried so many new juices in the past few days, all of which have been delicious.  Ecuador is virtually self-sufficient on food (they rely on the US for wheat, although they produce some here) so everything is super fresh.

Thursday, we went back to the IES abroad center and turned in forms to register our visas, learned more about culture, health and safety and after waiting out a freak hail storm, we went on a city tour.  We went   to la iglesia de la compania de jesus, a church completely covered in gold on the inside, we toured el colegio san fernando and went to the roof which was super cool and we went to dinner at a hotel in the main square of the city where we were served ice cream on dry ice by a guy dressed in purple robes that looked like the kkk.

Friday we had orientation at the actual university, la Universidad San Franscico de Quito, which is only about a 3-5 minute walk from my homestay.  The campus is gorgeous which almost made the 3 extra lectures on health and safety worthwhile.  So... if you ever plan on traveling to Quito, let me know because I am fully informed on how to stay safe and healthy- lets hope it pays off and I have no problems while here. 

Today, Saturday, all of the Galapagos Islands (GAIAS) students went on a city tour.  In addition to the 11 of us from IES, there's a huge group from Chapel Hill NC, a group of grad students from Oregon and some others as well.  I think there's about 40 of us total.  We went back to la iglesia de la compania de jesus and the main square of Quito, but we also walked around the colonial part of the city, went to a park that has a cool overview of the city and we went to the north and got to straddle the equator.