So I have arrived and settled into my new home in Quito, Ecuador. I am actually living in Cumbaya, a small suburb, with my host family. Their home is a beautiful condo in a gated community, very close to my campus, Universidad de San Francisco. Yesterday the international students and myself took an all day city tour and got to know each other. Most students are Americans, a few Canadians, and two from Norway. We first rode to Volcan Pululagua, an enormous forested volcano about an hour outside the city. It is very nice to be able to admire geography so similar to Colorado, and even more novelty with the valleys patterned by farms in the valleys below. Next we went to the Museo Intinan and Mitat del Mundo, the monuments and museum marking the middle of the world. We learned about the culture of the Wuaorani and Kichua indigenous tribes and tested the unique gravity at the Equator, by balancing an egg on a nail, etc. Hilarious. We stopped at a small restaurant afterwards so that I was able to check off one of my goals in Ecudor: to eat a roasted cuy. Yes, yes, a cuy is a guinea pig (sorry, Katie!) that is roasted on a spit over an open fire or a bbq. Esta muy delicioso! I took pictures, of course, because those are bragging rights, mi amigo! After my adventure with fried rodents, we went to the Old Town of Quito and the Panecillo hill. At the top of Panecillo hill is a statue approximately 120 feet high of the Winged Virgen of Quito. (I believe that this is the only representation of the Virgin Mary with wings) It was built in the late 1890's and you can climb to the top and get a bird's eye view of the sprawling city. We spent some time in the city square, where many Ecuadorian families spend the weekend afternoons, buying helado (ice cream treats) and flying kites. We visited Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, an historic church built from 1605 and completed in 1765. It was nearly fifty feet high and the walls and moldings were all made of gold and intricate carvings and paintings. Que bonita!
My host family is very accomodating; Fernando, mi papa doesn't speak any English, but he is still very talkative and interested in my family and schooling. Magdalena, mi mama, is very thoughtful and goes out of her way to make me potatoes and porkchops, while the rest only eat cheese and bread for dinner. I have dos hermanas, Andre (16) and Gaby (15) who are very sweet and help me with Spanish vocabulary, and mi hermano Fillip (8) reminds me of a Latino Dennis the Menace. We played tennis this evening and he said I was a decent match, que comico! One subject my family doesn't seem to understand is that I don't like sugar in my coffee, my juice, or on fresh papaya for my breakfast. They were all standing around me at the table, disbelief and a little disguist in their eyes when I declined the sugar bowl. They wondered about my family, and it wasn't until I explained that my dad likes sugar in his coffee that they were able to seem a little more at ease.
Today and tomorrow are my orientation days at school, tomorrow I will travel to the embassy to obtain my censo and visa. The campus is beautiful and most students seemed very outgoing so far. Classes start on Wednesday, and I will also be starting my PADI certification classes soon (to become a certified scuba diver). Monday I will travel to Tiputini Biodiversity Station for the week, along the river Tiputini. It is much like ExploreNapo, the research station in Peru that I visited last summer, with international researchers and cold showers and canopy walkways. I will be there for the week, and return on Friday. Until next time...kiss kiss!
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