Tuesday, April 28, 2015


     We get every weekend off work and a couple of weekends ago some volunteers and I went to visit Santo Domingo. It's a city with about 225,000 people, and the ingenious group Tsachilas. We wanted to visit their main community and see their museum. We started off getting a little lost, but we found a great Tsachilan community that was happy to teach us about their culture. 
     While we were there we got a cleansing from a Shaman, who happened to be a woman. Normally, shaman are men but this Tsachilan woman told us her story. She explained how her brothers were not interested in learning and becoming a shaman like their father, so the dad taught her how to be a shaman. This upset many in her community, but she still practices as she was taught. I've never experienced a "spiritual cleanse" like this before. It was interesting; she had me hold a heavy stone in my left hand in my lap, and she whistled a tune. I asked her what the tune was for and she explained it was the voices of nature singing. The shaman was very interesting and I'm happy to have met her.
     This lady also told us about her life with an abusive husband and two children. She is now running the museum with her children and trying to preserve her culture by providing guided tours around her property. Her story is incredible, and she is a strong figure for women and Tsachilas. 
     During this day trip, we got stuck in Santo Domingo because of the rainy weather. (The road to the nature reserve closes often because the rain has been causing landslides.) The shaman said we could stay the night with her and she'll serve us dinner and breakfast. Our dinner was a piece of chicken wrapped in banana leaves with lime and wild cilantro cooked over a fire, served with plantain and rice. We ate the savory meal by the fire in the dark and she told us the legends of the Tsachilan rain god, moon god, and sun god. She then gave us Tsachilan names. She named me Quimi. It means hummingbird in their language. She said she chose this name for me because like a hummingbird I seem delicate and flighty, but these are not weak qualities. She said the hummingbird provides balance and harmony in nature and without them the flowers would die. 
     Speaking of hummingbirds and nature, I've been seeing these little creatures all over the place! I love the nature here, and I'm trying to soak up as much as I can before I leave. 
These lines on the arms and legs are supposed to symbolize protection.

This is the table the shaman had set up for our cleanses, and these are the items she used.
There are so many things I could add about the Tsachilas, but I don't think I can fit it into a whole post. Please feel free to ask questions! I wrote down notes during our talks about the legends and their culture; I'm happy to share! Alright Quimi out. Goodnight.

Hugs. Chao. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Keeping Up

           By now I’ve finished my classes, and I’ve been doing a month long internship in a reserve 2 hours southwest from Quito. It’s in a beautiful cloud forest, and it has rained almost every day since I’ve been here. The hardest part of living here is trying to stay dry from sweat or rain. We are learning so much about how to organically farm coffee, grass to feed cows, sugarcane, and a handful of vegetables. I enjoy picking lettuce for lunch, and taking care of the cows. This week we are starting to learn how to ferment sugarcane, salt, grasses, and alfalfa for the cows. We also have chickens and horses, but I mostly clear trails with a machete and work with the cafe trees.

            The reserve sits further and higher up into the mountains than the pueblo by the road, and the locals from there are very sweet. The kids are never shy and they always want to know what we’re up to. We were repainting a sign for the reserve and we invited them to join. They were so happy to hang out with new friends that they showed us a waterfall 20 minutes down the road. Ecuador is such a beautiful country; I’m happy to experience the nature out here. 

hugs. chao.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cooking Class and Anti-Presidential Protest

I’m not sure how well empanadas and anti-government chants go together, but La Acadamia offers cooking classes every Thursday—which happened to be right before a huge protest in downtown Quito. Of course I had to go check out all the commotion. I only stood by as an observer, but the energy of the protest was strong. There were medical students, mechanics, small business owners, feminist groups, young and old all marching through the streets. I felt this was an interesting part of Ecuadorian history, and I wanted to take photos. From my understanding, many people are not happy with President Correa. He has been increasing the taxes on imported products making electronics and clothes extremely expensive here. Many people from Ecuador take weekend trips to Columbia to buy their school clothes or iPhones. Politics interests me, but only to an extent; however, I’m happy to have had this political experience.
Now let’s talk about food. Cooking classes at La Acadamia are optional, and every Thursday you bet I was there. For the first cooking class we learned how to make Locro de Papas. It’s a creamy soup made with potatoes, cheese, and garlic. Serve it up with some slices of avocados, tomatoes, onion, and platano, and you have one of the best dishes in Ecuador.
In another class we made empanadas. These were also quite simple, and they are traditionally served with hot chocolate. Although it sounds boring, it’s not. They throw a few chunks of white cheese into the hot chocolate, stir it up as it melts, and drink it as is. At first I found this combination a little strange, but it was really tasty. 

All in all, things have been going really well here. I’m feeling like a part of the community, and I don’t feel so new and lost. I enjoy being able to navigate the bus system and not feel intimidated by greedy taxi drivers. I also feel a strong improvement in my Spanish. The other day somebody asked me if I am from Venezuela. I can’t believe this study abroad experience will be coming to a close soon.

Hugs. Chao.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

¡A Mindo!

     I have been enjoying my time here to the fullest. I've been getting involved in the culture, tasting new foods everyday, picking up the slang, and listening to local music. I went to a concert at the bar, El Pobre Diablo, and saw Spiritual perform. They're a reggae band from Quito. This band is a pretty big deal here. The energy at the concert was charged, and everyone in the crowd knew every word to every song. You should definitely look them up. 


     I've been making local friends and closer connections with those in my school. My professors are my role models, and my host family has included me in their lives. I'm very appreciative for my family here. Pily is a woman of many strengths and grace. My life here is full of blessings and adventures. I can't believe I'm already at the halfway mark in my semester. 

     My professors taught me a card game called Cuarenta. They told me this game is special to Ecuador. I wrote down the rules, and I've been practicing. My host mother is so good at this game; I haven't been able to beat her yet. I can't wait to show everyone at home how to play.

    Last weekend my friends and I hopped on a bus to Mindo. It's about 2 hours by bus from Quito, and costs $2.50. Mindo is a small-small-small town with much to offer: hiking tours of the waterfalls, zip-lining, butterfly sanctuary, chocolate factory, water rafting, and repelling. We all split a hostal for 8 bucks--not bad, huh? 

     Mindo is an incredible place; the air is clean, the water is fresh, the naturaleza is breathtaking. 

     Last night was Cari's--one of the students here--last night with us. We all went out to Plaza Foch and danced the whole night away. Plaza Foch is filled with bars, clubs, restaurants, and everything for the nightlife. We love meeting people from here. Everyone has been welcoming and we exchange pleasant conversations in Spanish. We had so much fun dancing, singing, laughing, and just being silly. I'm going to miss nights like these.

Hugs. Chao.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Baños Trip

     Last weekend was a blast. Me and five other students went to Baños. This city is well known for its extreme sports and flashy tourism. We stayed in a hostal that was pretty dang good, ate some tasty locro de papa soup, and laughed. We also rode horses through the mountains, zip-lined from one cliff to the next, climbed the treehouse at "the end of the world" and swung from its rope swing, and visited a roaring waterfall. 

       But by Monday, we had to be back in class. I like class, however, homework is still homework: it's a drag. In fact, I'm writing this post instead of preparing for my oral presentation. It seems I'm still a procrastinator even in a different country. The classes are small, and students always come and go. I enjoy meeting and making new international friends. It's been more than a treat.
     I couldn't be more happy to share this adventure with these lovely-traveling-students. We've laughed together, cooked, cleaned, and clashed together. I'd say we're a good bunch. I've made a few friends in a restaurant and in a bar. They're teaching us Ecuadorian slang. We had a good chuckle when they tried teaching us to call your friends "brothers." But they also taught us that "pana" is slang for "friend" here. 
     Alright, I should get my homework done because I'm planning on heading out to a concert tonight. 

Chao, panas. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Settled In

     Everything has been going well, and I feel settled into a routine by now. I enjoy life in Quito, but my least favorite part of the day is the seven minute bus ride to school. However, before I get to hop into that mess, I always start my day off with fresh juice. People of this country really take pride in their produce here. Ecuadorian fruit is starting to make a home in my heart. So far my favorite fruit is pitahaya. 

     On the weekends we get to go on little excursions. Some students and I went to Otravalo, which is well known for its market.

    This city has the most colorful market I've ever seen. I just want to stuff everything in my backpack. We had to negotiate prices, and even if I talked them down I still felt a little robbed. All of my little gifts to you will most likely be from Otravalo. 

    My host mother, Pily, has been amazing. She's like having another abuelita in my life, and there can never be too many of those around. She took me to a concert that featured local musicians, and my favorite was Pancho Teran. I've been trying to find a CD of his. 
     Yesterday, Pily took me to the middle of the world! She woke me up and I thought she asked me if I wanted to go to "el centro comercial." Sure, sure, the mall sounds great, but really she meant the center of the world! It was more than a treat; I got to cross something off my bucket list.


    I miss my family and friends, but I'm not ready to come home yet. Not if Ecuador keeps feeding me like this:

papas, empanadas, platanos, carne, and tostadas

     Although, the big holiday was Carnaval here in Ecuador, we still celebrated St. Valentine's Day in school. Love you, hope y'all had an amor-filled weekend. 





Tuesday, February 3, 2015

First Day of School y Más

     My first day of school went muy well. Pili, my host mother, walked me to the school and I met with the other students. We all had our evaluations which consisted of an oral and written exam. Then la profesora took us to see the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace. We stood in the plaza in front of the palace which is the center of Quito. 

    After that shindig, we visited a couple of churches nearby. I kid you not, the walls of these churches are caked in gold. The beautiful buildings are ridiculously big and completely decked out. 

    Entonces, some other students and I went exploring. We found 3 malls within a few blocks of each other, and a park where we ate a fruit called chirimoya. Speaking of food--my favorite subject--everything is so cheap. And delicious. I've been eating lunch for about $4: salad, soup, rice, meat, fruit, and a bottled water. There are so many different flavors here. I gotta catch 'em all.  

     Today was my second day of school; we started grammar classes. Much fun. But then we went to the market. That was a real treat, and I need y'all to help me not spend all my money there. 

    As I've said before, the streets are always full of life in Quito. Like right now at 10pm there's live music playing somewhere around my block. Every time you turn a corner there's someone selling you fruit or gum or water or who knows. It's a surprise every time, and here's a picture of a man painting landscapes with motor oil:
¡Que chévere! (How awesome!) See, I'm learning stuff.