Alicia, Student Blogger: Week 4

Day 22

I previously forgot to mention that Paula was still here, so we both woke up around 8.  While I wasn’t planning to share my room at all, it was nice to have company for a while.  Breakfast was bread with bologna and cheese, apples, and tea.  The other students went out for a walking tour, and I went with Paula to see her off.  The other students and I were going to meet up for lunch, but they weren’t back by 2pm.

We had plans to go to Parque Carolina, there was supposed to be a fundraiser for the earthquake victims.  They’re bringing in people from the coast with seafood to sell, but the family says that’s tomorrow.  Regardless, Rob and I were hungry, so we left to eat.  We ran into the others while walking, and they’d met Hannah from the UK on the walking tour, so the five of us went to eat. By this point, I was quite hungry, and by that, I mean hangry.  After threatening to leave and eat alone, we finally decided on a **sandwich shop in Plaza Grande.  The pork sandwich with lettuce and tomato, and fresh strawberry juice, were both delicious.  On our way back, we stopped for ice cream at a heladeria that I hadn’t tried yet.  I’d only have soft serve, but this place scooped their ice cream, and it was a little more expensive.  My “red berry” ice cream was delicious, and everyone else said the same about theirs.  I also stopped to buy more chocolate truffles, or “Bohemios”, as they’re called at the cafe.  I eat about one a day, and for $0.35, I can afford to.

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After our late lunch, I blogged and blogged and blogged until dinnertime.  We had soup with potatoes and cheese, meat with rice, broccoli, and cauliflower, and guanabana juice for dessert.  Then I got to talk to my grandparents and tell them about my trip, which was also lovely.

Day 23

Breakfast was, again, bread with bologna, with bananas.  Bella was gone, but Fred, Rob and I met up with Hannah in the Park with seafood on the mind.  Shockingly, they had run out of seafood by the time that we arrived around 1pm.  We settled for bowls of ceviche from one of the normal vendors there, and then supplemented out hurt feelings with chocolate-covered strawberries and marshmallows.

Without a definitive plan, we wandered around the park.  I’d never been to the far north end of the park; there was a group of people salsa dancing under a pavilion.  We stayed to watch for over half an hour.  When we finally moved on, we bought ice cream (I know, we eat a lot), and then headed to La Mariscal district to watch the Ecuador v. Haiti soccer game.  I didn’t realize exactly how expensive that district is: most of the restaurants were more expensive than they would have been in the US!  We found a reasonable restaurant, enjoyed the game, and then headed back to the house for dinner with the family.  **It was called Akelarre, right on Plaza Foch.

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Day 24

This week, I have class with Fred and a man from Canada, Steve, and Edison is our professor.  We picked a topic, the environment, and worked with that topic all day: vocabulary, defining terms, using it in a discussion, etc…  We also had another student join us for an hour; there are lots of new students this week!  I also heard from the office at school today and I am able to go to Cuenca my last week in Ecuador.  I’ll take classes with the same school and stay with my dad’s family (my grandma’s cousins?) who retired there.

After class, I took Fred to the market to eat the delicious pork that I previously discovered with Jason, and we bought lots of fruit to snack on this week.  **Later addition: We bought our food from El Plato Tipica de Dona Ceci.  We came back to school and went to visit the Basilica with someone from the office and another student from California.  The style is very similar to the Basilica in Rome, and another somewhere else.  It is actually unfinished, as there is a legend that the world will end when the church is finished.  We climbed up to the top of both towers, putting us at the highest part of Quito!  If you can handle the height and sketchy stairs, it’s definitely worth the entrance fee and climb.

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We came back to the house and I got to chat with my mom for a while.  I also blogged, and BOUGHT MY PLANE TICKETS to Cuenca!  **TAME Airlines had the cheapest tickets, but make sure to shop around.  Also, if you can fly out on a non-busy day, you’ll get cheaper tickets.   I’m so incredibly excited to see another part of the country, and the internet seems to prefer Cuenca over Quito!  We had spinach soup, then pork with rice, beans and tomatoes, and tamarindo juice for dessert.  I also got to chat with my dad after dinner!

Day 25

Class today followed the same format.  I really enjoy the group classes, but one of the other students has a very strong personality, and I found myself overwhelmed today.  I also started feeling feverish, but Fred and I went ahead with our plans for the day.

We ate lunch at the **San Francisco Restaurant, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend.  It was relatively expensive (starting at $9), and the food was good, but not typical, and I paid for a lot of food that I wasn’t able to finish because the portion was so large.

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We then caught the double-decker tour bus ($15) and rode it around the entire loop, all 3 hours.  It was a nice way to enjoy some fresh air and, potentially, see new parts of the city.  I’d seen most of where the bus went, but we did go up to El Panecillo, at the top of the hill.  It’s not recommended to walk there, and a taxi would probably cost almost $1o for both ways, so the bus was a nice way to get there.  We stopped and had a bit of time to walk around, so we took pictures and paid $2 to go up to the top of the stairs.  The views of the city really were incredibly, but it was very cold at the top of the hill.
**Later addition: Seriously, don’t walk there…  You have to climb a ridiculous amount of stairs, and as the internet will tell you, people have been mugged on their way to the top.  Another concern is the dogs: another student from the school decided to walk (alone), and was bitten by a dog in the process. It’s 100% not worth it to walk.

Tomorrow, we’re sharing fruits at school, so we bought our fruits afterwards, and walked back to the house.  As soon as I was able to lie down, I knew that I had a fever.  I laid down for a while, and then took my laundry to the laundry lady, and then napped more until dinner.  I still don’t know how or why I was sick again, but I believe it was related to the crazy changes in weather that Quito has had lately.  I wake up shivering in bed, and by the time I leave the school, it’s quite warm, and there’s always a chance of cloud cover/wind/rain.

Dinner with the family was grain and potato soup, then beef with cucumbers, and potato and eggs, with guanabana juice for dessert.  I was definitely hoping to wake up feeling better!

Day 26

Breakfast was bread with cream cheese, and a bowl of uvillas, apples, and banana.  Uvillas are very similar to “tomate de arbol”, or tree tomato.  They’re both fruits that are common here, and they both taste like sour tomato to me.

We focused on music today in class, so we played lyric games and listening games, as well as discussing music and learning new vocabulary.  It was also fruits day at school  Fred and I then ate at a **typical restaurant in the Plaza Teatro: cheese soup, then rice and chicken and veggies.  The food is always flavorful, but the lunch menus at the typical restaurants are very limited and they rarely change.

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After lunch, I made a quick stop to buy chocolates (not out of my norm, I know), and then headed back to the house for a while.  I got two blog posts finished and submitted, and then met up with Fred to walk to the President’s house, Palacio Carondelet.  We met Paul, another student, and Gisela, a professor, to take one of the free tours of the palace.  To get there, you just walk down Guayaquil and then west to the Plaza Grande.  The Palace is, well, the Palace.  *Tip: you have to have your Ecuador ID or a copy of your passport (or the original).  They will not let you in otherwise.  Other tip: you have to go through a metal detector.  It helps if you’re not wearing lots of jewelry or, in my case, a money belt.  I just took it off and put it back afterwards, but it’d be quicker if you don’t wear it to begin with.  Also: come back on a Monday morning to see the changing of the guard.  It’s supposed to be very neat, I’m going to ask my professor if we can go, even though it’s during class.

They have tour guides that speak both English and Spanish.  We had a mixed group: some spoke solely Spanish, a few only English, and the group from school spoke both, more or less.  This actually worked out nicely, as I got to practice listening in Spanish, and then everything was clarified in English.  You begin the tour by saluting the flag of Ecuador, which felt very un-American, but it’s just a very quick bow as you walk by.  They then show you a mural by Guayasamin (he’ll come back in an upcoming post) that depicts the discovery of the Amazon.  You then get to see the big meeting room and dining room, both of which were very neat.  In the dining room, a space that used to be for smoking was converted into a prayer space.  I asked Gisela, and she said there really isn’t a problem with separation of church and state here because the country is mostly Catholic, and almost everyone else is Protestant.  All of the gifts that have been given to the president from other governments are on display, which are also neat to see. There’s also a room, I’m not exactly sure what for, where they have the official, heavy-duty flag, as well as portraits of past presidents .  It’s a neat room, as well.

The tour is not incredibly long.  The first floor isn’t on the tour because it’s mostly a courtyard.  You only get to see half of the second floor because the other half is the office of the president.  **Tip: if the president is in his office, there are two guards outside.  The third floor is entirely off limits, it is where the president could live.  The current president lives in his private residence because his wife is not Ecuadorian, and she prefers privacy, but many other presidents have lived in this building.  **At the end, don’t forget to wait and get your passport back!  Someone almost left without theirs, and I can’t imagine what a nightmare that would have been.

**Super important tip: Always.  Always.  Carry a copy of your passport.  Leave the original somewhere safe, a copy will suffice, but keep a copy with you (and a copy at home with someone else).  If a government official or police officer was to stop you, you are required to produce your passport.  I don’t know what happens if you don’t, but you also need it to buy bus tickets out of town, and police checks of buses apparently are not uncommon.  It’s also required at hospitals/medical clinics/to enter some places such as the palace.  Just carry the copy and save yourself the hassle.

On our walk back, we decided to take a detour through the shopping mall near the Plaza Grande.  They have some nice little shops, but we were interested in the ice cream.  They prepare it a certain way, which involves mixing by hand.  It was delicious, and they had lots of local flavors.

We didn’t do much until dinner, but dinner was a pleasant surprise.  We had lima bean soup (yuck…), but the main course was spiral pasta with bacon and alfredo sauce, and broccoli!! I’ve definitely been missing my pasta, and the family makes delicious pasta on the rare occasion that they don’t serve something more traditional.

Day 27

I got lazy with my written journal, y’all…  I went to class, didn’t write anything about that.  I know that I bought flowers at the market to dry, then came back and had a fairly decent cheeseburger for lunch at the restaurant down the block from the house.  The ketchup here ROCKS.  It’s sweeter, which I usually dislike (I usually don’t like ketchup).

Later, we went to salsa lessons, as usual.  Jason came and brought his family, and I went with Fred, Rob, and Bella, who didn’t dance.  Our instructor was faster-paced, so we got to learn several new turns!  Afterwards, Hannah met us and we all headed to La Ronda to watch the USA v Ecuador soccer game!  **The host family said La Ronda isn’t safe at night.  It is.  It’s probably the safest place to be.  There are police officers, lots of people, security guards for the individual restaurants.  Bella and I decided to share a meal for dinner (mostly because I’ve gotten cheap, and La Ronda is more expensive).  We ate cuy (guinea pig)!  Luckily, I couldn’t see/here them in the back, so I never had to see the guinea pig pre-cooking.  There’s hardly any meat, but I think I tasted good!  They also drank canelazo, a traditional drink made with Rum, orange juice, and cinnamon, served hot.  It’s supposed to be very good, but they said it was very strong at this restaurant.  Fortunately for me, and sadly for Ecuador, the USA won… There were some sad Ecuadorians, and some angry ones as well, but we had no problems getting to a taxi and getting home afterwards.

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Day 28

Again, I forgot to journal… I do know this, we planned our weekend trip to MINDO (cloud forest)!!! This was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip so far, and I can’t wait to write about it!  Paul and Mattias were going to come with me, and we booked $10 dorm beds in a hostal recommended by Jason and Fred.  Bella was going to come, but return to Quito on Saturday, rather than stay the night.  We planned to meet at the bus station to take the 9:20am bus to Mindo.  That’s all that I have for this day, I do know that I very excitedly packed my backpack and went to bed early so that I could get up early.

Mindo is going to be its very own post, since I enjoyed it so much.  To anyone who is still reading, thanks for sticking with me and taking interest in my adventures!!

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