Mitad del Mundo

Today, Amanda, Emily, and I went to Mitad del Mundo, which translates into “Middle of the World.” We went to the equator!

I had seen everyone else’s photos on Facebook from the Mitad, so honestly I was not that excited to go. A big secret down here is that the monument that I went to today is actually not the real equator. It’s just the monument. The actual equator is about a mile away. We were too lazy to take the one mile walk, so this is what you get!

We had a nice lunch and walked around and saw all the little stores and tourists. Who can say they have been in both hemispheres at the same time…kind of?



Otavalo Market

Just 2 hours away from Quito by bus, Otavalo market is a busy bustling maze of arts, fruits, vegetables, hats, clothing, jewelry, and the list goes on. Otavalo is one of the most visited destinations in Ecuador, and seeing that I have been here over a month now, it was time to go!


A group of 9 of us decided to go last Saturday. Saturday is the best day, because every other day it is just located within a plaza, but on Saturday it’s literally down all the side streets of the plaza as far as the eye can see. Lots of bargaining and negotiation tactics are useful at a place like this. And most items are relatively cheap!



I think the best part about Otavalo was the hats. Hats for days! They aren’t just normal hats There are hats that look like any animal or character you can think of. I even saw a hat embroidered with Simba. Interesting. I have about 5 pictures of myself in different hats. Here is one of I’m guessing a Bert or Ernie hat.



Another cool thing the food. There were tons and tons of vendors cooking up some sort of Ecuadorian food. Some of which looked very appetizing, while some did not…


We stopped for ice cream… twice. How could we not? It was homemade and amazingly delicious. We  also found a lot of cool and interesting items. We came across the littlest plastic bag we’ve ever seen. Including handles! Thanks to our model Abby!


Otavalo market was a great experience. I wasn’t really prepared to be so overwhelmed with stuff and the huge size of the market, but I loved it. I want to go back… Christmas is coming up you know! It makes for great gifts! I will be retuning closer to my homecoming, to stock up on some more gifts. 🙂


Yacuma Ecolodge

The most anticipated jungle edition is hot of the press!  Two weekends ago, my procrastination still applies to this blog, Emily, Amanda, and I went to Yacuma Ecolodge, in the province of Napo. It’s in the Oriente the jungle, or should I say the freaking Amazon Jungle, is dissected by its many rivers and branches of rivers. It looks just how anyone would expect the Amazon Jungle to look like.

We left early Friday morning, early meaning 5 am, and set off on our journey. We picked up another couple from Spain who would be joining us for the weekend and headed to the bus station in South Quito. We hopped on a bus, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t be full, so that we could use up two seats instead of one for this 5½-hour ride across the mountains. I slept on an off, but was able to see a lot of cool things along the way; waterfalls, puppies, baby llamas, mountain towns, cows perched on sides of mountains, etc.

We made it to Tena, a bigger city further east, and met with a staff member from the lodge. We ate lunch and ice cream, and then hopped on another bus. This time the bus situation was a little different. School kids flooded the bus to stand in the aisle after everyone had their seats. It was literally a can of sardines. The aisle spill over just leans on all the seated people. Not too comfortable if you ask me. I’m also going to say that it was probably 85% humidity and 80 degrees. The bus was a sweatbox.

After this LONG, ride of 3½ hours, I accentuate long because we all ran out of water and the dust from the dirt roads was just flowing in the windows furthermore drying out our throats and lungs, we got off the bus and hopped into a motorized canoe! How cool! The river water was really low, due to the long dry season this year, so at a few parts some of the guys got out to push and pull the boat over the bottom of the river.

We had finally made it… almost 12 hours later! Yikes! We were greeted by two coatis and some iced tea that the indigenous people from the Amazon drink. The indigenous wake up around 3 or 4 am to drink this tea. It helps them think about their life and goals for the day. It’s basically a day starter, for all you coffee people out there.

After that we got settled into our cabina, and were slowly imprinted on a baby orphan monkey. His name was NeNe and he was incredibly cute, minus the monkey poo that he got all over us the first day. Emily did not like the monkey baby at all.

The next day we started off with a 3-hour hike through the jungle, with boots and all, to look at plants and their uses. We had a little indigenous man as our guide, while we tromped through mud, rivers and little trails. I took way too many photos the jungle and plants. We saw lots of mushrooms, butterflies, flowers, fruits, and trees I had never seen before. We heard lots of birds native to the jungle and even saw a tree with a bunch of nests hanging down from them.




We returned, ate lunch, and relaxed. Later on in the day, we went on another hike to the other side of the river. We saw the guides home and visited a shaman. It was really interesting. We also learned a lot about cacao, which is one of the biggest exports here in Ecuador.  Ecuador exports the most cacao in the world. We also saw a little tiny school for 14 kids. They learn both Spanish and Quichwa, the indigenous language. The school reminded me of Honduras! We hiked back, spent some time with the monkey and enjoyed dinner. After dinner, they brought out canelazo, which is a drink native to Ecuador. I really couldn’t tell you what’s in it, but it kind of tastes like hot apple cider, with some type of alcohol.



The next day we were up and on our way! This journey was a little bit shorter, by 4 hours! Thank god! Along the way, our bus was stopped by a military checkpoint. We had to get out and show our documents and they searched our bags. Lula says its just part of the military protection against drugs and immigrants. After that hiccup, we were home! I would say that was a pretty amazing weekend. 20 hours of travel for one awesome day of jungle. I like that tradeoff!


Bus (Post #1, I’m sure there will be more to come)

Leaving school on Thursday was just like any other day that week. Emily, Amanda, and I walked down to the green busses. We are slowly learning the bus systems here, but the green ones go back to where we need to be. They cost $0.25 each time you hop on a bus and it’s amazing. It’s probably one of my favorite parts about this city so far!

Back to the story. At each stop it’s common knowledge that someone is going to get on the bus and start selling something. Whether it be ice creams, peanuts, chocolates, or parasite protection pills. Yes, I just said parasite protection pills. Usually it is just little kids who get on and sell candy, but this time a man got on an whipped out a notebook filled with photos.  Warning: The following maybe somewhat descriptive. He flipped through the pages of parasites and worms found in people. There were actual photos of parasites coming out of peoples’ behinds. It was unreal. The next thing you know he’s holding a tube with a parasitic worm in it! Que asco! (How gross!) My host family said that was a little weird, because mostly people just sell chocolate or some type of sweet. What an interesting bus ride home! Probably more to come!


Imigración y La Mariscal

Friday we went to the Immigration office, so that we can legal within Ecuadorian lines. What a process! The girls, Amanda F., Chanika, Amanda S., Kristen, and Emily, and Lula (la mejor host mama) went together. After waiting for quite a long time, we were finally done. I think it was around 2 hours, but I didn’t even notice because we were talking and also found out that there is Solitaire on the brick phones. Score!!

After that errand, Kristen, Chanika, Amanda F. and I walked down to La Mariscal and the Plaza Foch. La Mariscal is where most of the tourists go to party and go to restaurants, but there are also a lot of Ecuadorians too. We were there during the day, so there wasn’t a lot going on.

We decided to eat at a little place called The Tarzan. Qué rico! It was so cheap and such great food. Most places around here have “Almuerzos” and these are lunch specials ranging from $1.75-$2.50. It comes with juice, soup, rice, some sort of meat, and a dessert. How amazing is that! Naturally I didn’t order that. I ordered burritos. Who would have thought 🙂 Anyways, the girls ordered tortilla and some type of Ecuadorian chicken, corn, and potato soup. Amanda and I also decided on some super fresh blended margaritas and the other two got fresh lemonade.

Ecuadorian Soup con pollo, maiz y papa

Sopa de Tortilla

After we finished eating, we hopped on a bus and were back to La Casa de Amanda. We had two options of getting back to the house once we got to the bus station. Walk or take another bus. Walking was the final choice. Being confident Ecuadorianas and all, we totally knew where we were going….. Right? Anyways we got lost. Hopping in a taxi and for a $1 ride, found out we were just one street away. Ding Dongs!

I decided to go home, so we called another taxi, and I was on my way. Only to find out he was driving all over the place to up the meter price. What a jerk! On the upside, I did find a coin purse wedged in between the seats when I was looking for the seat belt bucket. Score again! So I paid him $2.75 with the new change that I found. I am genius. I get home and my key doesn’t work. Ecuadorian lock…. y u no open!?!? I was outside freezing for about ten minutes when I found out Cinthya was inside. Duh! But I did get a chance to talk to this guy again 🙂 Rex

Later that night, we went out again to La Mariscal. At night it is a huge CF! It was cool and interesting up until I couldn’t even move in the bar. I was over it. I will go there again, but at least I know what to expect. La Mariscal is the place to be on Friday and Saturday  nights. Maybe I’ll go on a Thursday!


Colonial Ecuador

After battling a fever all night, I was ready to go see some parts of the city and experience the bus system. Lula said that we would go further into the city and then go to el Distrito Colonial, which is the very old colonial part of Quito.

We took a couple of busses down to Ecicenter, which is a really big and nice mall that has all the stores we know and love. (Except my favorites; Target, Marshalls, and Starbucks…Damn!) But they had L’Occitane, Tiffany’s, Abercrombie, McDonals, Dunkin Donuts… you get the gist. We looked at cellphones there, because I needed to buy one, but because they were in the “Americanized” mall, they were much more expensive.

So we hopped on a bus, which by the way only cost $0.25, (Amazing right?), and we rode to another bus station. Got off and on to another bus. So many buses, I know, but they literally go everywhere. The bus station was right next to a stadium where they have bull fighting once a year. It’s a very controversial subject down here. Cinthya said that it is powered by the rich and powerful people, but mostly all the other people are protesting against it. She said a few years ago the government opened up a ballot for people to share their opinions of the bull fights, but it really doesn’t matter what the voters say, because the people who want the bull fights have money. It seems to be a very Latinoamericana-esque issue. Money and power.

This bus took us to the Colonial District. There was a lot of traffic because the city is fixing the streets. They are made of cobblestones, so they wanted to make it a little bit better for the buses but keep the colonial feel. We got off the bus at this plaza. Lula said that it is a big theater plaza. There are two theaters and sometimes there are concerts in the plaza area.

When we were here, I started to feel really sick again, unfortunately. But we kept on. Colonial Ecuador is famous for its churches and its Spanish styled architecture and buildings. Cinthiya said that Quito is called the Light of LatinoAmerica (El Luz de America Latino), or something like that. Because Quito was the first place to gain independence in South America from the Spanish during the colonial era. They call it the light because it lit up the rest of S.A. to do the same. Lula said that everything is cheaper in the Colonial part, so we bought a new cell phone for me. You all would be really jealous… Nokia brick phone. It was $41, but the minutes down here are so cheap!! All of the technology and cars here are more expensive than back home, but the supplemental goods for these items are very inexpensive. Gas is around $1, and I can pay $14/month and get unlimited text and some extra minutes.

Also there are a lot of legends and stories in the Latinoamericana culture. Ever since I started learning Spanish, all my clases had stories or books we read that were mythical legends or religious stories. Most of them dealing with selling one’s soul to the devil for something in return, like a super power or food, etc. Cinthya told me that the church below also has a legend. It says that during the time of the Spanish conquest, the ecuadorians couldn’t finish building this church. So they asked an indigenous man to do the work. He said yes, but his work was mediocre and not acceptable for the people. So he made a deal with the devil, that the devil would help him build a marvelous and beautiful church, but when the man puts in the last stone, his soul will belong to the devil. But the man was smart and he worked all the way up until the last stone, and called it complete. Below are the photos. Also Cinthya and I on the bottom in front of this church.

As you can see in these pictures the sky is really blue in some and grey in the others. The weather here is LOCO! For 5 minutes it will be super caliente. Then it will be windy and freezing… no joke. And they don’t have 4 seasons here, just winter and summer. I guess it’s kind of like San Diego, but with extreme UV rays. We made it back to the house after feeling terrible for most of the day and I fell asleep for a long long time and woke up around 8pm. Lula had made me some amazing chicken soup with zanahorias, cebolla, papas, y ajo. (Carrots, onions, potatoes, and garlic.) Qué rico!


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