Alicia, Student Blogger: Week #1

Day #2

Breakfast is at 9am when we don’t have school.  We had bread, like a croissant, with a slice of ham and cheese, sliced bananas, and tea.  They gave me Coca Tea, which is supposed to be really good for helping with the altitude.  I later learned that it’s related to cocaine, so be conscientious of that. If you work in the medical field (which gets drug tested a lot), or will be returning home quickly, you probably shouldn’t drink it, as it can test positive in a drug test for a while.  The tea itself is legal, though.

My first shower here was quite chilly because the water is heated electrically in each shower as you use it, and I couldn’t get mine to work.  I haven’t done that since; I really dislike cold water.  Then Yolanda, one of my host moms (there are many people in this house) showed me how each key works.  I have one for the garage, one to get from the garage to the house, one to get into the apartment (the entire 4th floor), one to get into my room, one for my balcony, and one for my desk (6 keys!!).  Then I took a very short walk to the bakery to buy something for lunch and to the store across the street to buy my own water, as travelers shouldn’t drink the tap water in Ecuador.  I then sat on my balcony and got my blog up and going, since I didn’t think ahead enough to do that prior to leaving home.

For dinner, we had cabbage soup, then a dish with noodles, and ice cream for dessert, my favorite.  After other students using my shower because they struggled with their hot water, too, I Skyped with my boyfriend, Jimmy, and called it a night.  At this point, I could tell that I was at a much higher elevation because my chest was tight when I went on my walk.  Otherwise, though, I was just tired.  This soothed another of my fears: not handling the adjustment to the altitude well.

Day #3

Day three was my first day of classes.  We had bread and butter, pineapple, and more coca tea for breakfast.  The student from Canada and I walked together; it’s about a 1 mile walk exactly.  I started out as the only student in Edison’s class this week, and we just reviewed things that I should already know.  Then we waited for 2 other students to finish their classes, so that we could all eat together.

The other students, a grown man (the self-proclaimed old man) from Colorado, and a 25 year old woman from Germany, met us and we had “Italian” for lunch.  It was neither Italian nor American-Italian, but it was quite good!  Food here is cheap, Spaghetti with a soda, garlic bread, and a small salad cost me $5.50, which is in the middle range for lunch here.

After some time at the house to rest, the student from Canada and I took a taxi to Parque Carolina.  Fun fact about the taxis: the internet is paranoid.  IT tells you to always call for a taxi, or to do this or that.  Really, this is unnecessary.  The most safe you can be is just to take the taxis with the red/white/green “taxi” sign on the top.  These are the most regulated and I believe they’re government registered.  At night or early in the mornings, you should call to make sure you get where you need to go, though.  This park was huge!  It had a botanical garden that we missed and will return for.  It has a skate park, a dog park, a manmade pond for paddle boating, ice cream vendors everywhere, a running track (1km, I believe), soccer fields.  The taxis here are inexpensive, as well.  Our taxis cost $2.50 there and $3.50 back because of traffic.  Just make sure to have them use the meter, or negotiate a rate beforehand.

Dinner, as usual, was delicious.  We had soup with a vegetable very similar to spinach, but not spinach.  Then rice with a sauce made from some kind of small pea (I hate peas, and this sauce was good), and chicken breast, and then blackberry juice for dessert.

Day 4

Breakfast: bread with blackberry jelly, cantaloupe, coca tea.  Day two of classes, and they moved me to a different class.  This happens often, to try to keep students with other students close to their difficulty level.  There are only 6-10 students at this school at a time, and there’s no time minimum or maximum on how long to stay, so things get shuffled around frequently.  I’m now with the student from Germany and our teacher is Fernanda.  Today is a holiday, the anniversary date of the Battle of Pichincha, in which this region of Ecuador gained their independence for the last time. We talked about that, and the parade/4 hour long speech by the president.  This also means that we get Friday off of school.

After class, the two of us from the house walked to buy my mani de dulce (sweet peanuts, roughly translated).  I have to bring them to class tomorrow.  Every week there’s a lesson with all of the students.  Everyone brings one food from the topic, this week: grains.  We split an awesome lunch, too.  A slice of thin steak with two fried eggs on top, rice with that pea sauce, avocado, and we added a cheese empanada.  Then we just decided to walk.  We walked through the 2 free exhibits in the Museum of the City: one was a photo gallery (no apparent theme), and one was about the hospital that used to be in that building, the first hospital in the city.  Then, there’s a street called La Ronda that’s very trendy and popular.  Most of the restaurants and stores are only open in the evenings, but it was a nice walk.  At the end is a big, modern athletic complex.

Then we walked back to the road that takes us by the school.  We went in the Church of San Augustin.  They asked for no pictures to be taken, but it was quite beautiful.  There’s also a convent attached, which we didn’t try to go in.  On the walk back to the house, we bought movies to watch, and we bought ICE CREAM!  It was so good; most of the ice cream here is made with mostly cream, as opposed to water.  We watched the Incredibles in Spanish with Spanish subtitles to rest when we got back to la casa.

For dinner, we had soup with potatoes and barley, then a really neat 2nd dish.  It was a fruit, similar to a banana, mashed and formed into a ball with cheese inside of it, then fried in a pan.  Mango juice for dessert.

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Day 5

Since I’m obsessed with food, I’ll probably share what I eat for every meal, every day, in case anyone is as excited as I am about food.  For breakfast, we had bread with a slice of meat and cheese, a bowl of papaya, and apple cinnamon tea.

I had my very first walk to class alone, which went just fine, as usual.  The biggest concern here during the day (to my knowledge) is pickpocketing, and I walk faster than almost everyone here.  This makes it easy to notice if anyone is keeping up, and I haven’t felt threatened by anyone or anything yet.  This was the day that we all shared our grains.  There were lots of them, and I’m a bit behind on journaling and blogging, so ask if you’d like to know about them.  My favorite was choclo mezcla, different types of corn mixed together with cilantro and some other seasonings.  It was very plain, but good.

After class, I ate with some other students.  Chicken soup, pork with mushroom sauce (I LOVE MUSHROOMS) and rice, and juice to drink.  So far, the food and drink from restaurants haven’t posed a problem.  We eat at places that seem clean, and if I order water, I order it bottled.  The juice hasn’t been an issue thus far, either, and it’s one thing that many people warn against.  Risk vs reward, I guess.

On the walk back home, it started to rain.  And I mean RAIN.  It wasn’t incredibly scary or anything, but there was a significant amount of water running down the streets, and some thunder and lightning, too.  We decided to wait for a lull in the storm, and then get a taxi.  The taxi rate here starts at $.50 for getting in, and the most I’ve paid for one so far has been $3.50.  Most of the time, it’s between $1.50 and $2.5o, unless you’re going far.

I then returned to school for the cooking class that I signed up for.  We made ceviche de camarones (shrimp).  It’s cooked shrimp; chopped: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cilantro; lemon and orange juice; and a bit of ketchup, mustard, salt, and pepper.  We ate ours with popcorn on top, and I thought it was delicious.

We also had dinner with the family (lots of food today), and this was one of my favorites so far.  Soup with cabbage and bolsas (“bowls”), which are ground corn formed into a round shape with cheese inside.  That was good, but the best part was the second half.  We had boiled potatoes with an AMAZING cheese sauce, delicious veggies (I don’t even know how/if they were cooked, but they were so good), and meat that I’m assuming was pork. I definitely ate well this day.

Day 6

At this point, I got a little behind in my journaling, which is what I’m using to write the weekly blog posts.  I don’t remember what we had for breakfast, but we did have orange tea that smelled amazing.

In class, we discussed the holiday.  The 24th was the anniversary of the Battle of Pichincha, the day that this region gained its independence for the last time, but it’s also a 3 day weekend to celebrate.  We talked about this and the things that there are to do during the long weekend.  We also talked about our respective cultures much today: mine, of the USA, another student’s, of Germany, and the teacher’s, from Ecuador.

After class, 4 of us students ate (I can’t remember where), and went to see the churches.  First, we stopped at the Cathedral, which is, I believe, the oldest church in Quito.  Then we visited La Compania de Jesus.  I don’t have accents on my computer, so that phrase is missing like 3 important accents… Anyway, this church was beautiful!  This church and La Iglesia de San Francisco had a competition of sorts to out-do each other, and it was quite impressive.  There was lots of gold and arches and religious symbolism that I couldn’t describe.  A really cool part of this day was that Jason, the self-proclaimed “Old Man” of the students, also a super cool nurse, is also Catholic!  A very knowledgeable Catholic, at that!  So, we had a lovely tour of these churches with a very informative tour guide that we didn’t even have to pay for!  To get in, we asked about a student rate since it was a little pricey.  $2 for students was a lot better than $5!  Then, as it turned out, that also covered admission to the museum.  I believe it was the Metropolitan Museum, according to the map, but I’m still unsure. The museum was about the history of the equator and the process of finding out where it was.  Much of that discovering process was done by the French, so it was lovely to have another student there whose first language is French!

Then we went to the San Franciscan church, and wow.  This church is covered in gold, and I mean covered.  The other was beautiful and impressive, but I must say that this church is over-the-top.  With no fee to get in, we decided to pay the few dollars to get into the museum, too.  It used to house a convent, so it had a lovely courtyard with captive and wild birds and beautiful flowers.  The museum was about (I think) the history of the church, and it also had lots of artwork of Jesus, many sculptures.

After returning to our houses for a short while, we were then off to Salsa dancing lessons!  They’re in a part of town known as “Gringolandia”, or the place where the white tourists hang out.  Regardless, it was very fun!  We then went to a bar and ordered a delicious pizza with bacon, mmm, bacon, and enjoyed the night.

(Day 7 will be in the next post, and there’s a reason why.)

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