Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Excursions galore and a whole bunch more!

Yes, I am alive and well for those who have been wondering what I've been up to for the last couple of months. My apologies for not updating this sooner. I'm a slacker, mah bad (my mom just read this, and asked what "mah bad" means. embarrassing. haha) but I have been keeping track of everything in my journal so no worries. Plus, my computer was broken for about a solid 3 months here, and is now finally somewhat fixed and operating.

Let's roll back in time to the end of September.

My whole group from BCA went on a day trip to this cool place called Bomboli ( a private ecological hacienda in the Cloud Forest where a middle aged couple live "off grid"). This family grows a lot of their own vegetables/fruits, and they also sell homemade cheese and chocolate sauce.

The families main goal is to prevent deforestation from occurring. The man who owns the hacienda (Oswaldo) says you only need 3 things in life: "Amor, agua y comida" Translation: Love, water and food. The land around the hacienda was filled with beautiful orchids and medicinal plants. We also witnessed a man do crazy tricks on a pregnant horse. Not something you see everyday haha. After a tour of their property, we were served a delicious lunch. Probably one of the best lunches I've had here so far. Everything was homemade and made with the freshest ingredients. At the end of our day, we were able to buy fresh cheese that we saw them making earlier in the day. I also bought a small cup of their homemade chocolate sauce. Yum

During that week at school, I walked onto campus to find a Volkswagen car show taking place. Strange place to have a car show, but sure why not. The same week I was walking from class and found myself watching a break dance battle and rap performance. Every week at my school, there is always some sort of excitement. I love it, such a difference from studying at a school in the US. Super chevsss

Now for the month of October:

Went to Ecuador vs. Venezuela game with my friends Eric, Clay and Emily. Tickets were $20 for first come first serve seats. This was my second time at a national game, but this game was filled with fans throughout the entire stadium. The fans are nuts here, but it's honestly such an awesome experience to go to these games. Ecuador won 2-0, sick game!

The next night (October 8th) I went with my friend Clay to see David Bisbal perform live in Quito. (He's the guy who performed the song "Waving Flag" with K'naan at the 2010 FIFA World Cup). I only knew a few of his songs, but he was a fantastic singer. The funny thing is, the guy who opened up for David Bisbal,  looked exactly like David. Clay and I thought it was legit David Bisbal himself for the the entire 15 minute performance. It wasn't until the crowd went wild when the real David came out, that we realized that was just an opener. Fail. but both were extremely talented and we had a great time!

That same night, I hit up a discoteca called "LIFE" with some of my chicas from BCA. I danced the entire night, and my salsa moves were on fiyaaaaaa. My dance moves always have a Latin flare in them now. It's going to be weird returning to the states when not a lot of people dance salsa or other Latin styles of dance lol.

The next week, I went to a fancy resort on Saturday (Oct. 15th) with Clay, Jordan, Eric, Madde and Emily. There's a website called WooW ( that is an Ecuadorian version of the US Livingsocial website. On this wbsite, my friend found a sweet deal for this gorgeous Botanical  eco-lodge resort called "Arashá" which is about 2 hours from Quito (close to Mindo). The cost per person for one night is usually $60, but we got it for half off. Not too shabby. Our bus ride to Mindo cost us $2.50 a person (close to a 2 hr drive). So cheap, I know! Unfortunately, the bus couldn't bring us directly to the resort so we found a taxi driver who offered to take us in his van. We got the van for $20 total and it was the total gringo mobile. It was a clean, roomy van and the minute we hopped in, the van turned into a club on wheels. Our van had a sweet tv in it, and our driver played popular techno music vids for us, plus some Lady Gaga thrown in too. Already a good start to our stay.

Once we actually arrived to Arashá, we got settled in our rooms and decided what things we wanted to do for the day. We brought all our own food, so we pretty much lived off sanduches for the next day or so. We brought some of our own alcohol too, so we wouldn't have to spend much at the bar that was located right by the pool. We played an intense game of mini-golf, in which I was one of the two people to get a hole in one. wassss good. After, we explored the premises a little bit and saw that they were doing a lot of work to clear areas to build more hut like rooms. This was a bit sad to see because many trees were being cut down. Later on that night, my friend Madde had a serious conversation with our bartender about this. jaja

We swam a whole bunch during the day, and there was a jacuzzi as well. The pool and jacuzzi were only open until 10, but Madde and I befriended some of the staff so we were granted access to go night swimming. Awesomeee. Although the resort was really nice and peaceful, it definitely seemed more so for couples that wanted to get away for a while. We were pretty much the only young people staying at this resort, but we made our own fun. If we had more money to spend on the spa services and the classy food, we probably could have had a more enjoyable experience. Either way, we still had a great time with one another and it was relaxing to get away from Quito for the night. 

I've seen a few movies here and they are always in English with Spanish subtitles. Tickets at most can be $4-5 a person, but usually you can get 2 for about $3-4 on certain days. I am not looking forward to returning home and getting my movie ticket for about $8 the cheapest! Everywhere in Ecuador, you can find legal stores that sell copies of all types of movies. Now I know this illegal in the US, but here they cost about $1.50-$2 a movie, and they are the BEST copies ever. Totally worth every penny, I've probably bought at least 8-10 DVDs now. My one friend has a collection of about 32! haha

As for my weekends, I'm done with class before 4pm on Thursdays. I usually go out dancing with friends or hit up a few chill bars for some drinks with a group of people. Every week I tend to meet new people that go to the same school as me. These last few weeks, I've met some really cool people. I love making new friends and just talking about all kinds of things. I think it's important to go out and just enjoy my time here. Before I know it, I'll be heading home on a plane back to the good ol' United States. At this exact moment in time, I only have 32 days remaining here! Just a little over a month, I honestly can not believe it!

That following week (Oct. 21st) I went out with a group of new friends I had met a few nights earlier (all Ecuadorian) to a concert at the Teleferico. Tickets were expensive so we kind of just sat outside and listened to the band perform. It was a popular band from Mexico called "Zoe". They're music was pretty good, but I don't think I heard of them before that night. Although I love hanging out with my American friends, I also enjoy going out with just Ecuadorians every once in awhile. It's great way to practice my Spanish and we always have interesting topics to discuss. 

The following Tuesday (Oct. 25th), a new friend of mine invited me to come out to Trivia night at a pub called "Finn McCools" (it's basically all gringas and all the questions are in English hah). My team tied for 2nd place and lost to the first place team by half a point. womp wompp but hey, we won a free pitcher of beer!
This past week of school, my University planned a Harry Potter Themed week. They had a legit train display that was supposed to look like Platform 9 and 3/4. Inside the train, they were selling butter beer and many students/professors were dressed up as wizards. They also had games of quidditch set up on the soccer field which was really neat! I LOVE my school. I'm always excited to attend school each week, and there is always some kind of crazy/cool event taking place each week. I wish all schools in the US were like this!

Here comes my BIG Galapagos update:
 So BCA and I left for our 9 day excursion to Los Galapagos! We took a 2 hour plane ride early Saturday morning (Oct.29th) and instantly arrived at the Santa Cruz Airport. I'll split this all up day by day, pretty much how I have it written down in my journal.

Day 1:
We met our tour guides for the entire trip (Juan and Julio). what a pair. jaja Juan was a very professional and knowledgeable tour guide and Julio was new to working with kids around our age. On one of our hikes, I asked Julio what he thought about working with our group. He said he absolutely LOVED working with us and was planning on working with young adults more in the future. Our first stay was on the island Santa Cruz. After our ferry ride to Santa Cruz from the airport, we all packed into a private van. Our first stop was Los Gemelos (The Twins), which are two pit craters. The view was gorgeous and filled with so much plant life. The temperature everyday was much warmer than Quito, so probably about 70ish/80ish *F everyday. At this sight, our tour guides went over the rules of the Galapagos with us (no standing less than 2 meters from the animals, no using flash when taking pictures of animals, etc.) 

Once we loaded everyone back on the bus, we made a quick stop at the Escuba Cafe, the family owned hostel where we stayed the night. We had a yummy lunch and tried on some snorkeling gear that we would be using throughout the whole trip. I was miserable with my goggles because they constantly would fill up with water and would eventually get all foggy too. Totally ruined my snorkeling experience in the Galapagos, but whatevs. I got over it.

After changing into our bathing suits, we hit up Las Grietas which translates to "the cracks". We had to hike for about 30 minutes before we arrived at Las Grietas, which is where we went cliff jumping! I've never cliff jumped before, but hey, I'm in Ecuador so I'm down to try anything. I come from a family that has never been into extreme outdoor activities, or even anything as basic as skiing/hiking or going camping. Since I have lacked these high adrenaline rush activities growing up in my family, I take every opportunity now to experience these awesome experiences. The water we jumped in from the cliffs was very calm and deep enough where you didn't have to worry about smashing your legs into the bottom. I was glad to see my director take the first jump from the highest point of the cliff. It all looks really easy when your at the bottom looking up, but the minute you're at the top, your about to piss yourself. haha

So there's 3 different heights to jump from. I decide to at least start from the middle one, about 30 feet or so up. As I was looking down from the cliff, my heart was racing incredibly fast. I told my friends to count me off, which indeed was helpful. The jump lasts for probably no more than 2-3 seconds, but the toughest part is just releasing yourself from the edge. It's the best feeling though the minute you're in the air and about to meet the water. Some of my friends landed on their back side and let me tell you, it LOOKED painful. 

After successfully completing my first jump, I decided I wanted to be one of the few people who jumped from the highest cliff (about 45 feet or so). I'm always a bit of a dare devil and love taking risks. Sometimes things don't work out too great, but life is all about taking risks and I'm not about to stop now. Just the hike to this part of the cliff was brutal. I was barefoot and the rocks were sharp and painful to step on. When I reached the top and looked down I could not believe I was about to do this jump. My friends on the middle and first levels looked so far away. My options were to either jump and be done in 5 seconds, or make my struggle back down the painful rocks with thorns all over the floor. I picked the jump obviously.

I had my friends count me down again, and I barely even remember how I got myself to jump away from the ledge of the cliff. Que miedoooo, but totally worth it. I hope I'll get another chance in the future to do more cliff jumping!

After cliff jumping, I returned to the lower part of the rocks and was getting my clothes and sneakers on. I ended up dropping one of my sneakers through a crack and legit thought it was a goner. Now it makes sense to me why this place translates to "the cracks" jaja. Luckily I managed to squeeze between the two rocks, and rescue my shoe. I'm sure my friends enjoyed watching me struggle to get this damn shoe. 
That night we had some delishhh ice cream from a restaurant called "El Chocolate". Unfortunately the prices in the Galapagos are at least 20-30% more than in Quito. womp womppp.

Day 2:
We left our hostel and took a bus to the lava tunnels! Lava tunnels are carved by rivers of lava that would flow through because the outside cools and hardens faster than the inside, allowing the lava to continue flowing through. It was super dark and mucky in the tunnels but our guides filled us in on some cool stuff. We learned that various colors on the walls were an indication of different minerals mixed together (iron, sulfur, calcium, etc.). Some parts of the tunnel were very low to the ground, resulting in the group having to army crawl through. 

After the lava tunnels, we made our way to Rancho Primacias, a private owned coffee farm that is open to the public because of the huge amount of tortoises that reside there. These tortugas were MASSIVE and it obviously opted for a perfect photo shoot with them. To tell the age of the turtle, you look at how many rings are on their shell. The more rings they have, they younger the turtle is. The less rings on a turtle, the older it is. 
At the end of our tour, we were allowed to try on an old turtles humongous shell. It weighed quite a bit and was rather difficult to walk in. I managed to take 75 steps in it, top score for the girls of the group! But damn, it hurt so bad since the inside of the shell had any extremely sharp spinal cord like structure. 

After chillin with the tortugas, we had lunch at the Escuba Cafe and were in route to the island of Isabella. We took a 2.5 hour boat ride in very rough water. One of the Japanese students from Soka University got terrible sea sickness. He ended up passing out on the floor of the boat and remained there until our arrival on Isabella. hah

So the minute we arrive to Isabella, we're greeted by our Chiva driver blasting the best song I've heard in Ecuador thus far. The driver was ready to go, and instantly got us all excited for our 4 day stay on this island. He was standing on top of the open doored wooden van, grabbing our bags to the beat of the song that was blasting. After hearing the song play multiple times every time we drove in the Chiva, I looked the lyrics up on youtube and sure enough, found the exact version. Here it is for your pleasure: We even had some sweet choreographed moves to this song.

Isabella was a very relaxing and laid back kind of island. Definitely less populated than Santa Cruz and not as commercialized. Our bus pulled onto a sandy road and we arrived to our beach front hotel. The beach on Isabella was gorgeous, especially when the sun set at night. Although all the hostels we have stayed in the past were perfectly fine, this hotel was a bit more on the luxurious side. It was semi-new looking and was very clean. And did I mention, we were no more than 20 feet from the beach? Can't ask for anything better than that.

That evening we ate dinner at a restaurant that served us 3 meals a day for our entire stay. The food was delicious and each meal was very fulfilling. That night we met some locals that were about our age. We all just chilled on the sand outside our hotel and had great conversation the whole night (another great way to practice our Spanish!).

Day 3:
So the next day, we woke up for breakfast at 7:30 and were all packed for our first snorkeling adventure. We needed to take a boat ride for about an hour and half in choppy water once again! Tad bit scary but I was on a boat with Alma, Madde, Emily, Masako and Junko. The best part is, we had the nicest boat, equipped with a bathroom! hahaha. While on the boat we saw thousands of iguanas just climbing cliffs, sea lions (lobos) chilling on rocks, some cool birds and 2 huge manta rays!So sickkk.

Our original plans were to head to "Los Tuneles" but the current was too strong for the boat to get in. Instead, our guides took us to El Difunto (the Dead) which was a spot that BCA has never gone to before. The entire land was composed of volcanic rock, and awesome tunnels that were formed as well. When the tide is high, it's impossible to walk around this area because the small pools fill up with water from the ocean. In the small pools of water, we saw two sharks (tiburones) and an array of vibrant colored crabs! The type of sharks we saw are called "white tipped reef sharks" and the crabs are known as "sally light foot crabs". They were the most beautiful crabs I've ever seen. Towards the end of the tour, I was walking around with my director Daniel, and a few other friends. We witnessed a huge sea lion making an escape from sharks that had spotted the sea lion from far away. Luckily, the sea lion escaped, but the two sharks began to fight with one another. We're not sure what caused them to act aggressively, but it was really cool to watch!

After exploring the volcanic island for an hour and a half, we enjoyed our boxed lunches that the restaurant prepared for us. They really hooked us up with the best meals. Sitting on the rocks, I got to enjoy both my lunch and the beautiful view of the ocean. The water was crystal clear and looked like something straight out of the Bahamas. After lunch, we got our snorkel gear and hopped right in the water at the same location we explored earlier. Although my goggles failed miserably, I still saw some of the coolest species while snorkeling. We snorkeled with SHARKS, sea turtles and lots of fish. I saw a huge starfish and multiple kinds of sea urchins. It was a bit scary to think how close the sharks were to us, but in reality they are more scared of us than we are of them. When I was little, sharks of all kinds were my favorite type of animal. Not sure why, but it was still awesome to be able to swim with them since they were something I always I had an interest in as a child.

After snorkeling, we returned home, showered and had another fantastic dinner. Later at night we hit up a local bar called "Iguana" and I actually saw a few people from USFQ that I knew which was pretty cool. My friends and I had a great time dancing with the locals but made sure not to go to bed too late since we needed to rise early again the following day!

Day 4:
This day, we set out for our 6 hour hike on Volcan Sierra Negra which is an 18km wide crater! The beginning part of the hike was very foggy and the air was filled with mist. We encountered a look out point of the crater and it was just massive. The bottom was filled with dark hardened lava. Even though there wasn't much plant life at the bottom of the crater, it still was a beautiful site. The last time this volcano erupted was on October 26th, 2005. Luckily, nothing happened while we were hiking our way through!

It was neat as we continued to hike, because the terrain would change instantly. One minute you would see green plants and dark soil, but within a couple of steps you felt like you were in the desert. Cacti everywhere and hard lava rocks all over the place. I was in the front of the pack so we reached the top of the crater before the others caught up. It was a breathtaking view and was well worth the hike through volcanic matter. We had another great boxed lunch while overlooking the view of the ocean and volcanic plant life. We had about another 3 hrs left to hike back, and by the time we finished the hike we were all filthy and burnt to a crisp. The whole right side of my face and neck were severely sunburned. I pretty much got a 2nd degree burn on my ear because it began pussing the next day. Kind of gross but my friends got a good joke out of my peeling/pussing ear. hahhaha

Day 5:
This day we took another boat ride to a small islet which was called Isla Tintoreras (white-tipped reef shark). This island was very similar to some of the others we have visited but it's made up of “aa” volcanic rock. It's called “aa” because when you walk on it, you say Ah ah due to the sharpness of the rocks. Marine Iguanas were EVERYWHERE on this island. Even though they're really ugly, it's fun to watch them because they literally hangout out on top of each other. They don't even care if another iguana is taking a free ride on their back. so funnyyy. On this islet, we spotted a penguin swimming in the ocean! The only one I saw the entire trip in the Galapagos. 

After walking around a bit, we got in the water again to snorkel. This time I saw 8 HUGE tortugas beneath me in the water. I wish I had a waterproof camera to have taken pictures to prove it! Several times, the turtles would swim up for air. They were close enough to touch! but obviously we weren't allowed to do that. But it honestly was such a cool experience, that I can't even put it nto words. 

After snorkeling in this area, we took boats back to Isabella and went to another secluded islet that was close to the docks. Here we swam and played games with a sea lion! It was so playful and loved having us chase after him in the water. Everyone was splashing like crazy after the sea lion, so I stayed back a little and sure enough the sea lion would fly past me in multiple directions. The sea lion would swim directly at you, but right before he was a foot from you, he'd do a flip and swim away. So cute! and so fun! Not everyone gets the chance to say they snorkeled with all these types of animals!

Later that day we checked out a turtle breeding station. Here we saw tons of baby turtles and even at 8 years, they are still quite tiny! We took our bus to an area where a flock of flamingos were stationed. Their feathers were so pink and by the way their legs moved in the water, it seemed like they were dancing. Super chevere.

After checkin' out the flamingss, we visited "el muro de las lágrimas" (wall of tears). During WWII, the Galapagos was used as a US Military Base. In order to keep the prisoners busy, US soldiers forced prisoners to build a wall made out of volcanic rock. We hiked up the steps to the top of the wall, and got a view of how high up the wall went. After our tour of the wall of tears, we headed back to the hotel for dinner. On the ride home, I saw a gathering for el dia de los difuntos (all souls day, but it's similar to "day of the dead"). There were alters set up along with a collection of items that had meaning to the person being celebrated. It was pretty cool to see first handed. 

For our last supper on Isabella,  the restaurant owners went all out on an extravagent meal. We had huge barbequed lobster tails. They didn't serve the lobster tails with melted butter, but the seasoning on them was all they needed. They were superb!

Day 6:
We woke up at 5am to take a boat back to Santa Cruz. A few people from BCA returned to Quito, but a total of 15 of us remained in the Galapagos on our own for the next 3 days. Some stayed in Santa Cruz, but I ventured out to another island with Clay, Eric, Madde, Alma and Emily. We had to pay $25 for a boat ride to to the island of San Cristobal but it was well worth the price. San Cristobal is known for the massive amount of lobos (sea lions) every where. We also have two friends who attend USFQ's San Cristobal campus, so it was nice to see familiar faces! 

After the 2 hour boat ride, we were in search of a cheap hostel. We found one for 10 bucks a person per night. It was clean and had hot water. It looked very new from the outside, but perhaps they ran out of money to invest in updating the inside of the rooms. Although we found small red spots on the tile floor, which indeed did look like splatters of blood, everything else was fine so we just made sure to never walk barefoot. hahaha

After taking a hot shower, we all went out for a nice dinner. We found a cute little place known for its ceviche and seafood dishes. I got a yummy plate of rice and camarones (shrimp). It was good, but hugeee so it made a nice lunch for the next day. After traveling all day, we were exhausted and went to bed early around 11ish.

Day 7:
Clay and Emily have their scuba diving certification so they went out on an 8 hr scuba dive excursion. The rest of us explored the town a little bit and rented some snorkel equipment for only $5 a person. Because of the severe sun burn I received the day we hiked on the volcano, my face began to peel only on the right side. It looked horrible and was a bit painful since the skin underneath was slightly raw. ouchhh. After walking around a bit, we found a cool rocky area that let out into the water. Here we swam with sea lions again, but this time they weren't as playful. They kind of just hung out and did their own thing. They had no interest in us and just minded their own business. After laying out in the extremely hot/strong sun, we set out in search for another place to snorkel.

We walked on a trail for about 30 minutes to another location that opened up to the ocean. There were a few sea lions in the distance but I didn't come across any while snorkeling. This water was super clear and calm, so it was neat just swimming around and looking at all the massive rocks beneath us. Any time I tried to swim down a bit deeper, my ears instantly felt like they were about to pop. I'm guessing it's because of the pressure from the massive body of water we were swimming in? Who knows. lol

That night we ate dinner at a cute cafe called "The Mocking bird". Our friends Miranda and Bryce joined us for dinner and afterwards they took us to a local bar that they enjoy going to. This bar was also called "Iguana" something and was filled with gringos who attend the USFQ San Cristobal campus. At first I was kind of bored since it seemed like all your typical gringo bars, but things got interesting when our bartender asked me to salsa dance with him. Turns out he's a salsa instructor on the side, and he sure as hell made me look like a professional. After a few pilsners with good friends, we were all enjoying ourselves and the crazy topics of conversation we had. Good way to end our last night on San Cristobal!

Day 8: 
Madde, Keiko and I decided to head back to Santa Cruz with the rest of our group for our last day/night in the Galapagos. The rest of the gang was staying in Cafe Escuba again (same hostel from our 1st night in Galapagos) so we joined them in one of their rooms. It costs us $10 more per person per night here than it was in San Cristobal, but it was a nice hostel and breakfast was included as well. 

Once we were settled in our room, we all got dressed and hopped in the back of a truck en route to "la playa Garropatero" (known as tick eater beach). This was a very small beach, but it was one of the most gorgeous beaches I have been to in my life. For about 5 hours we swam in the calm, warm water and also built an epic sand castle. We had handstand competitions and soaked up some sun. Overall, it was a very relaxing day and a great way to end our stay in the Galapsss. After the beach, we ate dinner at a pizza place for one last night in the Galapagos and did a little souvenoir shopping.

Day 9: 
After having breakfast at 7am, we crammed into taxis and went to the bus station. We took a van over to the ferry's and got to the airport on time to check in for our flight. As you can tell, I had the best time of my life in the Galapagos. I have learned so much from this trip and have left with some great memories. Everyone should try and make a trip here sometime in their life if possible! 

November updates!

Some updates with my internship:
I have about 130 hours completed and have 70 more to go. Although I love the Social Worker I work with, I really feel that I am not gaining much from this experience. Some days there is a lot to do, but most of the time we have no work to do for a solid 8hrs straight. A typical day usually consists of Fabiola sitting on the computer just looking around at different files. I'm left sitting in my sit next to her just staring at the documents she's reading through. Days like this leave me with a lot of time to think and also write lists of things I need to get done. Since there was no work to do last week, one of the nurses asked me if I could get some work done in the historia clinica room. This is the room that contains all files of every client that has recieved services from ABEI. It contains over 24,000 Historia clinicas and my job was to search through all of them and look for folders that were not placed in chronological order. Although I did this for 6 hrs straight, it was honestly better than sitting in the office with nothing to do. I was at peace listening to my iPOD and I actually felt somewhat productive for once at my internship. This past Monday, I finally did something cool out of the office. Fabiola and I attended a conference on a debate about "la ley de discapacidad" (disability law). It was interesting to see how many professionals came out to support those with a disability. There were many people participating in the conference who had a hearing impairment. Through out the entire conference, there was an interpreter at the front of the room translating every sentence being said using sign language. After interning at ABEI I am well aware that this type of Social Work is not for me. I still have an interest in Geriatric Social Worker, but now I want to look into SW in a hospital setting. I need to work in a fast paced environment with lots of action to keep me busy!

As for this past Sunday (Nov. 13th) I went on a day trip with BCA to Quilotoa. We took a private bus and made the 3.5 drive all the way from Quito. Quilotoa is a beautiful volcanic lake which is located in the middle of several indigenous communities. We stopped off at small indigenous tienda that sold colorful acrylic paintings. They had really nice hand crafted sweaters and figurines as well.

The walk down Quilotoa wasn't too bad, just very slippery because of the sandy/loose dirt. When we reached the lake, I ran into my tour guide Alejandro that brought Dana, Laura and I to Otovalo. He was obviously bringing people on a tour, but it was so funny to see someone I knew almost 4 hours outside of Quito. Like I've said 1000 times this trip, it really is a small world. Quito is a big city and I have seen so many people I know in the most random places!

At the lake, you can either rent a kayak or a big raft that fits up to 8 people. The kayaks were all taken, so my friends and I jumped in the raft. 6 girls trying to paddle at the same time is not a good idea. We spent the first 10 minutes just trying to keep the raft moving in a straight direction. After a little while, we sort of got the hang of it. We eventually gave up and brought it back after 20-25 minutes of struggling out in the water. Either way, it was still a fun and memorable experience.

Going back up the volcano we could either walk or take a horse/mule (caballo). If it was any normal day, I would have chosen to hike back up. This particular day I was dead from the night before and had terrible cramps to go along with it. The best option was to go for the caballo and you bet I did. It was pretty funny riding the horse up but I felt bad for the young kids that follow the horses up. The horses only do 2 trips a day, but the poor indigenous people must go up and down this volcano at least 4-5 a day! Unbelievable. Once back up at the top, we had lunch and a few minutes to look for soveingnors. After a long day, we took the bus home and arrived in Quito at 9pm.

These past couple of days have been pretty busy. Yesterday I decided last minute to go to the Ecuador vs. Peru game. Best decision ever! The entire stadium was filled with a sea of yellow and the fans are locooo! Luckily my friends had seats because I was only arriving about 45 minutes before the game started! I ended up buying my ticket in the taxi and got it for only $15! Not too bad of a price when the game is that close to starting! The first half was kind of lame, but the second half had madddd action. Ecuador had posession of the ball almost the entire second half. The minute they scored their first goal, the crowd went wild in celebration. People throwing beverages up in the air and shouting ridiculous things at the opposing team. Right towards the end of the 2nd half, Ecuador scored their 2nd goal and ended the game with a score of 2-0! 

Today, I had a bunch of stuff to do (aka finish this blog posts, and YES I finally am completing it). I also have a group role playing presentation tomorrow for my Spanish Conversation class. Only problem is, my group hasn't started it, and it's almost 11pm. Mierdaaaa. But anywho, I decided earlier today to get a new piercing. I've wanted a double tragus piercing for about 2 months now, so I just went and got it done today. Piercings are wayyyyy cheaper here, and I got the 2 peircings for only $14! That includes the 2 earrings as well. I know back in the states, this kind of piercing costs at least $30-$60!  and that might not even include the earrings. Such a steallll, just hope it doesn't get infected. hahahha I was thinking it was going to hurt really bad, but it honestly was not bad at all. The video of me getting it done is actually way worse. Even now, I haven't felt any discomfort. The funny thing about peircings in Ecuador, is people believe in not eatting/drinking certain things. Apparently for 8 days, I'm not supposed to consume any type of chocolate, spicy stuff, pig?, peanuts, etc. I have no clue why but anyone I've spoken to about this has told me the same thing. Strange, but oh well, that's Ecaudor for you.

I can't wait to get this presentation over with tomorrow so my weekend can begin! I'm going to Baños early Friday and will be returning late afternoon on Saturday. Baños is a sick place to go for extreme sport kind of things. I plan on going Puenting (which is like Bungee jumping off of a bridge) Canyoning (repelling yourself down a waterfall, and white water rafting which is pretty self explanatory. My cousin Dana will be visiting me again on Saturday for about a week! Hopefully we can make our way to Cuenca or Guayaquil for a couple of days next week! 

Obviously I am having the time of my life and am feeling a bit sad that I will returning back to the states in about 4 weeks! I have made some great friends here and also amazing memories that I will never forget. Coming to Ecuador was the best decision of my life, and I'm grateful to have parents that have supported my decision both emotionally and a bit financially. SO big thanks to DEB and GIUSEPP. you guys are the best. I'm bitter sweet about leaving Ecuador, but words can't explain how excited I am to be reunited with all my friends and family. I have never been away this long entirely from friends and family, so I'm excited to update one another on our lives for the past 5 months. Thank god for my journal, otherwise I would not have been able to remember all of these facts and stories! 

For the remainder of my last month here, I will try and stay on top of things! I also will be doing my best to see as many things as posssible before my departure! I hope you all enjoyed this extremely long post about my most recent adventures!

Until next time, hasta luegoooo mis amigos!

P.s. pictures will be coming soon to match up with their descriptions! Writing about everything was the least I could do! jaja =]

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So my host father is very into cycling. Last night he asked if I would like to go bike riding today. I like bike riding, so I said sure! We left around 10:15am this morning and just returned at 1pm. My sister Karla came along too, but she used roller blades instead of a bike. This was wayy more intense than I had expected!

On Sundays, the main street Rio Amazonas is closed off in one direction for bicyclers, people rollerblading and walkers/runners. The hours are from 8am-2pm. The ride back was a bit easier because there weren't as many hills to ride up. I have a terrible cough/runny nose right now so it was very difficult to breathe. At times I was coughing like crazy that I almost lost control of my bike a few times. hahah

Luckily there were no falls on this bike ride today. However, I did see a teenage girl completely lose control of her bike and hit the ground hard. Scary! 

I'm not sure how far we biked, but it took us close to 3 hrs. Muy intensooo. I feel like we saw all of Quito. I biked down towards the historical center, right where my sisters apartment was. I passed La Mariscal and I also made it into the south part of Quito. I'm hoping to try and go for a run next Sunday on the street. The beginning part is very flat so I would have no problem running on it. 

As for my most recent post, I dedicate this section to my mother who can't seem to understand the culture of Ecuador. She seems to have a "problem" with the way I describe my experiences in full detail. The point of my blog is to expose others to a culture different from their own. I appreciate all kinds of cultures, and love to learn/hear about new things. I am also a very detailed writer and I like to be able to paint a picture in my audience's head. It's the best way for them to fully grasp everything I have been doing here. My mother thinks the description of my CUY experience was too gory. How can you possibly try something like that, and not want to share it with others? It's an ancient tradition practiced in Ecuador and I think it was an awesome learning experience. So for those who enjoy my detailed descriptions, I can assure you I will continue to write more! As for people like my mother, skip over it and move on. Muchassss gracias =]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the BIG 4 week update.

Warning: readers brace yourself. There's a wholeeee lot of stuff to update on here about!

Since my computer is still not working correctly, I have been experiencing difficulty updating my blog. Hence why I haven't written anything in almost a month. but no worries, I've been keeping track of everything in my journal so I will be sure to update you about EVERYTHING. Hope you enjoy because I have some rather interesting stories/experiences to share!

Let's rewind back to August 14th-21st (my trip to Rio Muchacho and Puerto Lopez) the coastal part of Ecuador

My BCA friends and I left early Sunday morning for a 6hr bus ride to the coast of Ecuador. Our first stop was in Canoa (very beachy town), about a 30 minute drive to Rio Muchacho. We were given a couple of hours to relax on the beach. The temperature in the coast is way different than in Quito. It's much warmer and people actually dress way more casual. It felt good to be wearing shorts and flip flops again! The water was pretty warm and it was a bit wavy. Clay, Eric and I explored towards the end of the beach a little, and climbed barefoot over huge rocks. We got some awesome action shots with the waves crashing into the rocks. Gorgeousss.

After spending 2/3 hrs on the beach, we hopped in the bed of a pick up truck and rode up to Rio Muchacho. This was just one of my many experiences riding in the back of a truck. SO fun, honestly is the best way to travel and see your surroundings!

Rio Muchacho is an organic farm that is about 80% sustainable! After we met the owner of the farm and were given our assignments for each day, we all dispersed to settle into our new homes for the next 3 nights. I stayed in a tree house type of cabin with a total of 12 girls.  There were multiple bunk beds lined up in a row + we had a cool loft up top with hammocks as well! Our room was fully covered but my bunk was closest to the window, which didn't have anything covering it. I was on the top bunk so if it rained my bed would get very damp. I was usually pretty tired at night that it didn't really bother me. I probably had spiders crawling around me at night, but oh well, I was over it. haha

Out of the 3 mornings we were there, each person was required to take part in helping out with chores on the farm. We needed to be dressed at 6:15am and ready to work. Clay, Emily, and I were in charge of working with the horses and cows. We had to shovel cow/horse poop into a crate and then drop it off in its designated area. Each type of animal poop served a purpose on the farm. Many of times it was used as fresh fertilizer, along as a way to heat the water for the showers we took. Luckily, the poop didn't smell too bad so I didn't mind doing it. I would do it again if I had to. lol

As for our bathroom situation, we had a separate area that was located outside. We had a sink with running water and little showers that dispensed cold water most of the time. Our bathrooms were little outhouses, but were similar to natural port a potties. After you were done using the bathroom you sprinkled saw dust into the toilet. Human feces is also used to heat the water, kind of gross but interesting at the same time. haha

We had 3 meals a day on the farm, all were vegetarian, minus one meal that contained a bit of tuna. All the fruits and vegetables were so fresh! I enjoyed the food very much. There were also other students on the farm apart from BCA. It was cool to speak with the others who had traveled from other countries. Some stayed for a week, some for a month, and some for 3 months! Totally cool.

We had a really cool river that was a few steps from our cabin. After hikes and meals, we would take a dip in the river. Lots of fun. We also learned how to make chocolate and coffee from scratch. Both were lengthy processes, but the end results were amazing. Our hot melted chocolate was drizzled on top of fresh slices of banana. The coffee had to have been one of the best coffees I've ever tasted. Super deliciosoooo.

We were also given a tour of the farm. There is a primary school for children located on the finca. The children are taught basic subjects learned in school but are also taught about sustainability and the environment! I think that is such a great thing to learn about at such a young age!

On the 2nd day we had a small hike to a tree that was very old and MASSIVE. Its roots were so strong that you could climb up it as if you were rock climbing. I went up to the top and it was such an awesome experience. I climbed it barefoot and really got a good arm workout. We had the best tour guide ever, named Edgar! He was about the same age as my friends and I and was very knowledgeable about all the plants and animals that surround Rio Muchacho.

The next day we set off on a 2 and half hr hike to a Monkey forest. Some students took horses both there and back. I shared a horse with another student and rode the horse on our return to the farm. A majority of the hike was very simple, but it got a little intense when we entered the forrest part of the hike. While in the forest, we hiked up slippery/step terrain. We actually got to see 5 black little monkeys! The cool part about it was, we got the monkeys to hallow at us (holla back monoooooo, woo woo). I'm embarrassing, I know, but it was totally necessary to make that joke. jaja

The "horse" I rode back on was quite tiny. I would consider it to be a pony that you would find at a petting zoo. Just kiddin' but seriously it was slow at times, but when it wanted to race it really picked up the speed! For some reason it was very competitive with my friend Sara's horse. My horse refused to let her pass and would begin galloping next to her every time she approached our side. Very funny but a lot of fun!

After hiking, Edgar showed us how to make our own rings from a type of wood that is similar to the coconut family. We carved them down to fit our finger perfectly, and after an hour or so of intense sanding, our rings were beautifully polished!

Here comes the update on Puerto Lopez! ( a fishing town on the coast of Ecuador about 5/6 hours from Rio Muchacho)

After our last morning at Rio Muchacho, a group of 12 students (including myself) ventured out in route to Puerto Lopez. This trip was on our own, without the help of our director and assistant director. We needed to take a total of 3 buses to get to Puerto Lopez. How we didn't manage to get one knowssss. In total, the cost of the 3 buses I took to Puerto Lopez was no more than $6. Unbelievable for 5/6 hours of traveling.

When we arrived in Puerto Lopez, we were greeted by Clara (the owner of the hostel we stayed at/tour guide for the national parks in the area we stayed). Clara was the best! She hooked us up with the best deals ever and really helped make our trip run smoothly. She took care of everything and was a saint! The total cost of our stay in Puerto Lopez for 3 nights/4 days was no more than $150. That price included: our stay in the hostel, 3 meals each day, trip to a private beach, trip to a national park + beautiful white sand beach, a long whale watching boat ride, snorkeling, and transportation to and from each place. You can not beat that price!

The first day we were there, I went for a 30 minute run on the beach with Clay, Mah and Norito. It felt good to go for a run, plus it was SOOO much easier to run on the coast than it is in Quito. I can thank the lower elevation for that! Later that night we got to help volunteer an hour of our time with locals from the area. Clara owns a small school across from the hostel that has a language exchange program. We got to work with a group of 6-8 young adults and practice our Spanish as they practiced their English. It was very similar to the class I took last spring semester. I'm glad I was able to help out!

The next day we took a ride over to a beach that was about 15-20 minutes from our hostel. The weather was kind of crumy but we pretty much had the entireee beach to our self. The undertow was pretty strong but we still enjoyed our time both in the water and out. We saw many baby sized man of wars along the shore. Thankfully no one got stung. We also found the cutest little dog that was abandoned on the beach. He was so dirty but we tried to make him a little house out of pieces of drift wood. The entire day he sat on top of my favorite hoodie. I made sure I washed that hoodie good because there's a good chance that dog was covered in fleas. yuckk

Our 2nd night out, we hit up the center of the town. All along the beach are small bars with lots of music! It was very calming to enjoy a frozen cocktail while listening to the sound of crashing waves. We enjoyed each others company and made some new friends with the locals! At one point, a family who owned a bar, was calling me their 'profesora'. I would like to think I did a great job teaching them some basic English. hahah

The next day we took a ride over to a national park that is home to  a small village of people that live in a way similar to those who lived during pre-incan times. On our small hike of the park, we saw almond trees, cotton trees, banana trees, etc. We also visited a natural sulfurous bath. A few students went in, but I only took part in the natural mud mask made from soil, sulfurous water and other types of minerals. It made your face feel very fresh and rejuvenated!

After the national park, we hit up a national park beach called Los Frales! A gorgeous white sand beach with clear blue, calm water. Clay and I decided to run up a trail to a lookout point. The view from the top was so beautiful. Our last night in Puerto Lopez we had a bonfire on the beach. We purchased small marshmallows, bars of chocolate, and vanilla flavored cookies to make s'mores. Not your standard US s'mores but still good!

For our last day in Puerto Lopez, we took an hour boat ride to a private little island. Before reaching the island, we had the chance to whale watch! Luckily for us, there happened to be two huge whales no more than 50-100 meters out from our boat! My camera died early on in this trip, so unfortunately I could not take any pics. Thankfully all my friends still had battery and memory left in their cameras! It was amazinggg to watch the whales pop in and out of the water from such a close view! You could tell which was male and which was female because of the way they would act. Whales are usually found in the Arctic Ocean during feeding times, but they come out to the Pacific for mating. Males are the ones typically seen doing flips out of the water. This is their way of showing off to the females. If a female likes what it sees, they flap their fins up and down in the water. I think it was pretty clear that the female was expressing interest in the male whale! hah

After whale watching, we went on a 3hr hike on a secluded island. We saw so many blue footed boobies! They weren't even scared when we walked by. The male and females make very different noises from each other. Males make a whistle sound and females tend to squawk more. They are usually seen in pairs and are very calm. I think they are adorable! Their fur looks so clean and their head is super cute! We also saw 2 albatross birds which is VERY rare!

After the hike, we went snorkeling for about 30 minutes in the water right by the island we hiked on. I have never snorkeled before so this was a really cool experience! It's a bit difficult to breathe through the tube at first, but after a couple of puffs of air you get the hang of it. I saw lots of colored fish, blue starfish, coral reef, big blue fish, and a clear little jellyfish. Muy chevere experiencia. I'm looking forward to more snorkeling in the Galapagos where the water is more clear and there is a better selection of species to see!

For our last night in Puerto Lopez, we decided to cook dinner on our own. Clara was nice enough to let us use the kitchen in her school to prepare dinner. You'll never believe what we made! Early in the morning a few of my friends went out by the shore in search of finding some fresh shark to purchase. Every morning fisherman are on the shore selling all kinds of seafood! We purchased 6.5 pounds of hammerhead shark for only $8! Although we recently found out that hammerhead shark is apparently on the "endangered species" list, I can assure you we had no idea previously. Sorry I'm not sorry shark, but you were delishhh. woops =/

The dinner was a total team effort! We had no idea how to cook shark, let alone how to filet a shark. We did our best googling recipes for shark but we kind of just went with the flow of everything. Clay and Alma did a pretty bad ass job of filleting our shark into small pieces and Meg was in charge of marinating the shark in cilantro, lemon and garlic. I was in charge of making fried sweet plantains and pan frying potatoes in garlic, onions and oil. Yummy. Jordan pan seared each filet of shark and let me tell you, this shark was SO good. I was expecting shark to have a very fishy taste, but it was not fishy at all. It was very tender and oh so delicious. It ranks up there in my top favorite type of fish! Sadly, it's technically illegal to eat so that could be my last time ever having shark for dinner. =[
After dinner, we gathered all of our belongings and headed home on our 7hr bus ride. 12 bucks for a direct ride to Quito overnight. not too shabbyyyy.

And here begins the the update on my sister and cousins 2 WEEK stay in Quito:

So I arrived to my house around 5:30am on Sunday ( Aug. 21st) after my long bus ride home from Puerto Lopez. Laura (my sister) and Dana (my cousin) arrived the day before on Saturday. They rented a really nice apartment in the historical part (old town) of Quito. Although the apartment was very nice and safe, everyone would continue to express their concern for my sister and cousins safety. At night the historical center is not the safest place to be in, many people try to rob those who stand out as foreigners or should I say "gringos". Luckily after their one week stay, nothing bad happened to them! That day we went out to la Mariscal to check out some places for different tours.

The next day I had my first day of classes. I didn't start my internship until this past Monday so I had a lot of free time to spend with my family even though I had to attend a few classes. The first week I shopped around for classes, to see what would fit in my schedule best and what would be required for me to complete my core classes at home. I was originally signed up for 2 classes: a water color class and a class that would be considered as my writing intensive course. Turns out, I am no longer taking either of the two classes. Who would have known! haha but the art class required me to buy $80 worth of supplies and come in every Friday for only one hour of studio time. Not gunna happen when I have no classes scheduled on Fridays and already have a ton  of the supplies needed back at my house in the US. So since the school dropped my Poesia Ecuatoriana class (writing intensive) I was frantically searching for another class to take its place. I tried two other classes but there was not a lot of writing involved. Clearly a problem. After looking into more classes with my director and e-mailing Etowns registrar office, I came to conclusion that I could take American Literature. The class is taught entirely in English and the professor is a quirky middle aged man from the United States. I enjoy the class very much and their is a good mix of Ecuadorian students and foreigners. Usually it is very difficult to make friends with the Ecuadorians on campus (especially girls) but a few of the students in my class have displayed an interest in talking with me. =] It makes me glad that not all Ecuadorians at USFQ are afraid to make new friends with foreigners.

As for my other class, I am taking an Intermediate Conversation Spanish class. It is very fun and helps with oral speaking in Espanol. My professors name is Claudia and she is quite the character. She lovesss throwing in English words here and there and enjoys making students laugh. Some of her favorite words to use are "sexy" and "chevere". She also jokingly tells us that we can bring some cervezas to class if it will help us speak better Spanish. She also suggests that being "friends with benefits" (amigovio-cross between friend and boyfriend/girlfriend) can help your Espanol as well. hahahha Oh Claudia, such a jokster.

Did I mention all morning/afternoon classes were cancelled the other day? I got to school and found out that there was a celebration for USFQs 23rd birthday. First the President gave a little speech in the gymnasium that I didn't know existed, and afterwards we were escorted outside to the main center of the school. Here, I watched a runway show of students modeling the sport teams new uniforms and new school apparel that is sold in the bookstore. I thought this was a joke, but nope, apparently this occurs every year. As soon as the fashion show ended we had the most decadent cake that was prepared by the culinary students (USFQ has one of the best culinary programs in South America). Followed by cake was glasses of RED CHAMPAGNE. If I wasn't in shock enough by everything else, I almost died right there on the spot. Thinking only one glass per student would be given out, we were allowed to take 2nds, and after that waiters were fully refilling your glass. Some of us may have had too many free drinks, but wow was it good! What school in the United States would ever have such an event, let alone serve unlimited amounts of alcohol to students por GRATIS (for free). After taking advantage of a few drinks, I some how drifted towards a few other students that were from the US as well. We instantly became the best of friends that day and hung out with a few guys on the USFQ soccer game. After having a blast, I had to attend my American Lit. class with my friend Madde. I have never attended class before after consuming alcohol. What an experience that was. My school is honestly the best! The campus is beautiful, and the profesoras are great! How lucky am I to attend such a prosperous school?!

Back to more stuff I did with Laura and Dana. The first week they were here, we took a ride up on the Teleferico. A cable car ride that brought us up mountain Pichincha! Really beautiful view! The next night, Diego took us to Papallacta (a place that has pools filled with hot natural spring water). It was very relaxing! It's important to shift back and forth from the hot water into cold water, so you don't get dehydrated. I think Dana may have learned that the hard way! She was very ill the next day, and may have regretted not taking a dip in the cold springs! jaja

We also took a trip to Cotopaxi. Laura and Dana were already staying over in a Hacienda in Papagayo. I left early in the morning and took a ride with a few other travelers that were heading to the same place as me. While in the car, I met a young couple from Israel. Maya was visiting her sister that lives in Quito and works for the Embassy. I also met this cool guy from Germany named "Ole". He was about 25 yrs old and has taken the semester off to travel from the "middle of the world" to "the end of world". His deadline to complete this was 8 weeks! We became pals on our Cotopaxi excursion. The tour we went on was called "Cotobike tour". We were driven up to 4,500m on Cotopaxi (the tallest active volcano in the world) and hiked up to the Refugee center which is located at 4,810m! It was probably the most intense 300m I have walked in my life. I can run 300m on flat land in under 50 seconds, but just to hike up this 300m, it probably took at least 45 minutes to over an hour. Literally had to take a breather after every 10-15 steps. It also didn't help with all the wind that was there that day! Some how Laura and I managed to make it up to the refugee center without dying. We were supposed to go up another 200m or so to the top where the glacier is, but due to the intensity of the wind, it was too dangerous. What a shameee.

The hike down Cotopaxi was a piece of cake compared to the trip up! Laura was very cautious and I was literally running down the mountain. It was very slippery but reminded me a bit of what it feels like when I go snowboarding. Cool adrenaline rush. (Which reminds me friends at home, gotta start planning for this winters ski trip! haha)

Once we got back to the parking lot of the base level, we hoped on mountain bikes and were ready for the 9 mile bike ride down Cotopaxi. It was so step that you didn't even need to pedal. We had to hold down onto the rear break the entire time down the mountain because of how steep it was. There were huge rocks that we needed to carefully dodge. At one point I almost flipped over the handle bars  when my tires skidded out from under me. My friend Ole asked if I wanted him to take a video of me going down the mountain. I'm glad he was video taping me, because sure enough I wiped out hardddddd when I squeezed the break too hard. I was wearing 2 pairs of spandex pants, and the fall was so hard that it put a hole in one of them. It also left me with a big cut on my knee! It took me a couple of minutes to walk off the pain, but once I saw there was no bone popping out of my knee, I was good to go. I hopped back on my bike and finished the ride down to a lake! Good times, good timesss.

The next day we went to Otovalo. I did pretty much the same stuff from the time I went with my BCA program. Laura and Dana bought quite a few stuff but I didn't buy too much this time. Only a small souvenir for my neighbor! Oh yeah and a new Alpaca sweater! so warm and cute! We also went to the bizcocho factory! Yummy biscuits made from flour, egg and lots of butter!

The following Sunday, Laura and Dana were supposed to return to the United States. At that very moment, Hurricane Irene was taking a tole on Long Island. JFK was not allowing any flights to depart or land until the weather calmed down. My family lives south of Merrick road so they needed to evacuate our home immediately. Luckily there was no damage done to my house, but my cousins block was hit badly! His house is right on the cove, so their street was flooded completely. There was so much water that his neighbor was kayaking in the street! locooo. As a result of this weather, Laura and Dana were required to stay another week. I know they were soooooo upset by this (NOT). hahaha they were LOVING Ecuador and had no desire to return back to the good ol' US. As much as I loved having them here, I reallyyy found myself spending way more money than usual! Obviously it's no where near how much I'd spend at home in a week, but for Ecuador spending, I was dropping cash like it was no tomorrow. Thankfully, I have a very generous cousin who paid for a lot of my stuff! =] I told her I'll make up for it when she has a baby that I can spoil! haha

That week we went on a tour to Mindo! We went tubing, zip lining and went on a tour of an Orchard garden that was a home to butterflies and humming birds! Tubing was fun, but it wasn't crazy exciting/intense. Still can't beat it for only $6. The canopy tour was so sickkkk! For $13, we went zip lining through 13 different canopy lines. It was seriously one of the coolest experiences ever! Most of the time, you rode alone on the lines. I tried 2 different positions with my tour guide attached to my line. One being called the "Superwoman" and the other "la mariposa". Both were a bit awkward because of how your legs and body were positioned (haha) but they were lots of fun! For superwoman, your body was positioned horizontally, and it felt like you were legit flying. Mariposa was upside down. Totallyy crazy! The orchard garden was beautiful, so many types of exotic plants! Some of the butterflies were gorgeouss in color! and the humming birds were so fascinating. They fly so quickly that they can remain in the air at the same place for a long period of time. They are difficult to get pictures of because of how fast they are! I love them!

Last Friday we got tickets to the Ecuador vs. Jamaica futbol game. It was just a friendly match, but Ecuador did awesome! Laura and I rocked our new jerseys with pride and had a blast at the game. Later on at night, we went out to a Mediterranean restaurant called "Aladdin's" with Diego and his high school friend Felipe! We had delicious falafel and tried some flavored hookah. Only $4 for everyone. wickedd cheap.

The next day, Diego's family took us to their families Hacienda which is only about 15-20 minutes from Quito. The hacienda is called San Jorge Eco-Lodge. The property was gorgeous and we got to go on an intense hike to a few small waterfalls. Awesome views! After the hike we had some lunch and headed back to Quito. That night, we all went out dancing in la Mariscal. It was especially funny to watch my sister try and dance salsaaaa. She clearly doesn't have moves as good as mine. I'm not sure where she came from because both my mom and dad are great dancers as well! hah

Early the next morning, Diego's dad Daniel made a phone call to a local "Shaman". What better way for Laura and Dana to end their stay in Ecuador, than to make a visit to a "Shaman". This experience was like no other! We drove about 45 minutes early Saturday morning and were right on time for our appointment with the Shaman. We actually needed to wait a few minutes for "Mama Mercy's" arrival since she was traveling from Otovalo (at least 2 hrs away). She is only present near Pifo on the weekends. We were lucky that she had time to squeeze us into her schedule. A shaman is someone who practices communication with the spiritual world. People usually see a Shaman when they have a specific problem that no others can solve. You don't necessarily need to have a "problem" to see a Shaman. People go to distress and free themselves from any bad energy they may be experiencing. I have heard that some Shamans make you strip down to nothing, but I was made aware that this Shaman lets you wear a bathing suit through out the whole process. Little did I know, she made me take my bikini top off and only let me wear the bottoms. Guess there was no arguing with Mama Mercy? haha

WARNING: SOME GORY/ INTENSE DESCRIPTIONS AHEAD: continue reading if you wish, it is actually very INTERESTING!

The first process of my Shaman experience, was a rather interesting one. Mama Mercy whipped out a live Guinea pig (Cuy-pronounced Kwi) and automatically snapped the spine and neck. All right in front of me. woahhhh. Next step, she rubbed the dead furry cuy all over my body. There was CUY FUR everywhere! (haha that just sounds terrible). It was very soft but it was a bit disturbing to hear it's body flopping back and forth. =[
Next part she had me turn around, and took a huge swig of alcohol from a water bottle. She then proceeded to spit the alcohol into a flame of fire that ferociously came at me. Luckily, the flame did not reach my body, just an immense amount of heat!
After this, she then skinned my guinea pig to see what problems I may have wrong with me. I was expecting her to use some type of sharp object/razor to skin the cuy, but nopeeee. She did it all bare handed! a hugeeee WTF moment.
She pretty much just took her fingers and ripped the skin up from the cuys butt. pobrecitooo!
The organs of the guinea pig seemed fine but she said I have bad lower back pain. Which is totally true because I hurt my back very badly several years ago. She also told me that I have very tense shoulders and neck. also true.

Next step, she rubbed some type of herbal/alcohol liquid all over me. She then had me inhale a rag soaked in more alcohol stuff. Who knows what that was, but whatever, she was doing her thing so I just obeyed. It at least cleared up my congestion for a majority of the day.

After that, she took more swigs of alcohol and began spitting it out all over my body. Including directly in my face. Thanks Mama Mercy, you're too kind. I then tried to open my eyes, but alcohol slowly began to drop into my eyes. What a burning sensation that was!

Mama Mercy then grabbed a bundle of shacapa leaves? that were covered in another type of alcohol. She began to hit my body with the bundle and say some type of shaman words. The leaves didn't seem to hurt, but the alcohol began to burn my skin a bit. I also developed a few small welts on my body that resembled bug bites. They went away about an hr or so after my Shaman experience. After being smacked by a plant, she rubbed a candle all over me that she then lit and told me more things about myself. While looking into the burning candle, she told me I'm the type of person who sets big goals and that I do my best to achieve them. She also said I have a lot of good energy, which I was glad to here!

The whole experience took about 20 minutes and was $40 a person. You're not supposed to shower for at least a day, but I kind of forgot and found myself swimming in a pool later that day. Mah baddd. I was expecting to smell gross after the whole thing, but you really smell very clean and my body felt so relaxed and pain free! I still think it was a great experience whether or not it truly works!

This past week was the start of my internship at an organization called ABEI. It's for children with mental/physical disabilities. At first I was trying to work at a school that was only a 2 minute walk from my house, but there wouldn't be enough social work kind of stuff to do. I need to leave my house by 7am on Mondays and Wednesdays to get to my internship by 8am. It's annoying to have to get up so early each time and take 2 buses to get there, but it really is a great organization. On my fist day, I was a bit disappointed because I did not work with the social worker. I got to play with the children which was fun, but other than that I had to feed them, change their clothes for nap time, and clean dishes. Not a whole lot of social work there. Luckily I had a much better experience on Wednesday! I worked the entire day on the side of ABEI's Social Worker (Trabajadora Social). Fabiola (Social Worker) put me right to work. We were so busy throughout the entire day. It's a very fast paced environment which I like! At one point in the day, we had 3 families in Fabiolas office at once! so crazyyyy. I was working on interviewing new families that were looking to receive support from ABEI. I worked on Social Histories which was cool because I just learned how to write those up my junior year of college. Doing everything in Spanish, makes everything a bit more difficult. It's such great practice for me if I want to work in a setting that serves a large Hispanic population. Questions that would normally be so easy to ask, require a lot more thinking because I need to translate everything in my head into Espanol. All the documents are in Spanish, so I have learned new words that I never knew before. I like that Fabiola let's me get a "hands on experience". I learn very well when I get to try things out on my own. During the interviews, one of the documents asks you what problems are presented in the family. Fabiola always asks my opinion so I need to think on my feet and come up with an answer in Spanish! I think it's going to be a great place to have my internship this semester!  Totally looking forward to this Monday! =]

I think that just about does it, for updating the last month of my life here! I can't believe that it's been almost 2 months already! Only 3 more remain =[ If I think of anything I may have forgotten I shall re update this but until then, chao chao my friends!

P.s.: Since this update took me foreverrrr to write today, I can't guarantee I can attach pictures just yet, but hopefully I'll have pics by tomorrow to match up with their descriptions!

Muchas gracias for your patience and attention span to read this whole post! <3

New favorite word/phrase: Siga no mas! (meaning: Go!)

you would think this means: don't go anymore, but nope it means CONTINUE! don't stop! =]

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Experiences!

I'm a bit behind but here's an update from last week until now!

Last Thursday we visited the Museo de Guayasamin (aka La Capilla del Hombre)! Oswaldo Guayasamin was a famous artist from Quito, Ecuador. He captured the suffrage humans faced during the Spanish war. All of his paintings/sculptures express the pain felt by those affected by war. We also got to visit one of his houses that was located right next to the museum. I also got a picture by the arbol de la vida (tree of life). Guayasmins ashes were spread there:

On Thursday night, my friends and I tried out a popular bar called CLUB MIA. It was ladies night so all the girls didn't have to pay! It had some good music towards the end of the night, but overall I was not too impressed. However I was talking with a guy from Ecuador who was a med student. It only takes 6 years to get your medical degree in Ecuador! How crazyyy is that!? Schooling here also does not cost nearly as much as it would at home. Now that's a way to save some money.
Pics from Club MIA:

Lexi, Masako, Emily, me, Olivia, Junko and Meg

Friday was our last class with our salsa instructor. Clay and I partnered up again and we continued to practice old moves combined with new moves. The problem I have with salsa, is allowing the male to take the lead. Dancing in the US is way different and I like to know what move is coming up. With Salsa, you never know what move is coming next because the male has control. Overall, we had a great last day of salsa class. Hopefully we can take more classes in the future!

Friday night a bunch of my BCA friends and I took a taxi to La Mariscal. We hung out at a cool lounge bar called "Cirque" and it was a good place to go and converse with friends over a few drinks. Jordan and Clay shared some type of salty beer. I tried it, but was instantly not a fan because I don't like salt too much.

Here's a few pics from Cirque with my BCA friends:
Sara, me, Madde and Emily

Clay, me, Eric
Me, Eric, Emily, Madde, Jordan, Stina and Clay

Jordan and Clay

Stina y yo

On Saturday morning I left to go fishing with my friend Diego and his father. This fishing trip was like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. We left around 11am on Saturday morning and didn't get to the private farm: Yanahurco until about 5pm. We had plans to spend the night in a civilized building, but the owner of the farm forgot to leave the keys for us. Luckily for us, there was a hut style home that was equally as nice (total sarcasm for those who haven't picked up on it yet). It reminded me of the indigenous huts I saw last week in a town close to Otovalo. Before I came on this fishing trip, I was well aware that it was in the mountains but I was not ready for what I was about to get myself into. Out of the 5hr drive, 4 hrs was driving up hill on old cobble stone streets. But the majority of the drive was basically on huge rocks and consisted of off roading through streams and muddy terrain. The farm was located near Cotopaxi which is the largest active volcano in the world! I got some pretty awesome pictures of the snow caped mountain! As if the drive to the farm wasn't an adventure in itself, I was in for a lot more fun. Our campsite was supposed to have a small amount of electricity that was offered until 11pm. I guess the owner of the farm knew I was coming and decided that electricity wasn't an important factor. It's not like I've been camping before, clearly I could handle this. HAHA. but thank god I'm a go-with-the-flow type of girl, otherwise I don't think I would have survived the weekend.

 Once again, I must make another shot out to my mother DEBB. She bought me an EXTREMELY small key chain flashlight before I came to Ecuador, and I was like what on earth will I ever need this for!? But sure enough, it was probably the most useful tool I had this weekend. None of us had flashlights and we instantly went fishing in the dark the first night there! THANK YOU DEBB for purchasing this life saving mini flashlight! It prevented me from getting totally stuck in the muddy swamps. I say "totally" because I could barely move for almost 5 minutes. Thankfully I had big rubber boots that kept my feet somewhat warm and prevented any dirt/mud from getting in my shoes.

Saturday night was extremely cold and it was not easy to catch any trout when it was pitch black out. Let alone, my lack of fishing skills using tuna and flour for bait. HA. But after freezing for about 2hrs we called it a night and went back to the camp site for dinner. We had a home made fire and I tried out my domestic skills by heating up our previously cooked rotisserie chicken. I must say, I did a pretty damn good job cooking over that fire! Even if my eyes were burning from the amount of smoke that was being blown into them. But after dinner was over we went to bed, which was one of the coldest sleeping experiences I have ever had. All I wanted to do was fall asleep so I could wake up the next day feeling warm from the heat of the sun.

Sunday morning we went fishing again around 9:30am. This time, the sun was shining so I had a much easier time seeing where I was going and what exactly I was throwing my line into. There was A LOT of walking and trekking up/down hills during this fishing experience. I suggest only those physically active try this type of fishing. Did I mention how much harder it is to breathe when your thousands of feet above sea level? Not fun. After fishing for about 4hrs, I had no success in catching any trout. I almost had 2 the entire day, but they got loose from my line as I was trying to pull them in. FAIL. but oh well, I learned how to gut a fish which was kind of cool/gross. haha

Although the day went quick, I was pretty excited to pack up and head home. I've gone fishing before in the past, but nothing like what I had experienced this past weekend. I think I'll stick to fishing on a boat from now on. It was definitely an awesome experience, but I'm not sure if I'll find myself doing something similar again in the near future. This type of fishing is something you would find on the Discovery Chanel. WARNING: for extreme fishers with a LOT of patience. Don't tell me I didn't warn you! hahah

Here are some pics from my weekend fishing trip: *(the view was AMAZING)

this is what we were driving through!

little bridges we had to cross


heating up some chicken haha

frost in the morning

haha pretending to eat a trout

the trout I should have caught

standing in front of Cotopaxi!

On Monday night, Clay's uncle got a few of us cheap tickets to the Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito futbol game (LDU for short). They are a professional Ecuadorian club team that play in the A series. Unfortunately they lost but the game was a lot of fun, and their fans were wild! Plus they were selling huge cups of Pilsner beer for only 2 dollars! A drink at any professional league game in the states would cost you at least close to 10 bucks! Jerseys were also being sold for less than 10 dollars! Incredibleee. I really want to go to a national game soon! Need to buy myself an Ecuador jersey first! =]

Chicas-Me, Sara, Masako, Stina, Emily and Madde

chicos-Clay and Eric

This past week of school, was my last week for my pre-semester class. I had my final on Thursday and today we had to put on our final presentation. The entire group of BCA students (21 students) were separated into 4 groups. The 1st group was North America (United States), 2nd group was Central America: (Cuba and Dominica Republic, but Mexico was included as well), 3rd group was South America (Ecuador and Chile) and the 4th group was Asia (China, Japan, and Korea). The funny thing is, the professors placed students into groups based on their ethnicity and physical characteristics. All the students from Asian decent (minus my friend Madde hahaha) were placed in the Asia group. Many of the students with blonde hair and north american characteristics were placed in the US group. Students placed in Cuba/Puerto Rico group were students actually from those countries or had Hispanic backgrounds. Not too sure how I was placed in that group but I guess it's because I'm Italian but seem to resemble someone with a Hispanic background. bahahah Either way, it was a blast! Each group cooked foods that are typical in their country. Everything was delicious! My group made Empanadas and tostones (made from green bananas, a salty snack). Both very easy to make! and very cheap as well. We also put on a performance for the class of 4 different styles of dance (Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and Reggaeton). Gasaolina by Daddy Yankee was a big hit! haha

Here are some pictures of my classmates with their professors:
Evelyn's class

Sonya's class

Claudia's class

my class-professora Lidice

all the professors with my director Daniel

As for now, I need to prepare some paperwork for tomorrow morning since I need to head to the consulate early! On Sunday, I will be leaving for a 3 night excursion with the rest of my BCA classmates. We are going out to the coast and will be spending several days at Rio Muchaco which is an organic farm that is about 80% self-sustainable. We will be participating in daily chores on the farm and hiking as well. Some students are renting horses for the day while some will take on the muddy hike to an area that is home to bunch of monkeys! I am super excited! After our stay at Rio Muchacho, some of us will extend our stay on the coast at a private beach. The hostel/private beach we're staying at will cost us anywhere between 12-20 bucks a person per night which is bit on the costly side here, but we do get our own private beach! Try finding something that cheap in the US! yeah rightttttt. but I'm excited for this trip, it's going to be awesome! A week from tomorrow, my sister Laura and my cousin Dana will be visiting me for about 8 days. I can't wait for them to experience with their own eyes, the beautiful country that I get to live in for the next 4 months. They will have the time of their life here!

New favorite word/phrase: endings ito/ita. This is not a word or really a phrase but people here love placing this on the ending of certain words. I bought a DVD the other day for 2 dollars and the man selling it to me told me it's only "dos dolaritos". Meaning only 2 small dollars. You can also use it in context when addressing litte kids or calling something "cute". My sister here is named Karla, but my family will usually call her Karlita! I love itttt.

Even though there are not too many things I miss about living in the United States(minus my friends and family of course), but here are a few things I DO miss about the US:
1-being able to stroll out of your house in shorts/sweat pants and flip flops without people staring at you and instantly thinking you're a gringa.
2-easy access to having a car to go wherever you want, when you want.
3-never having to take a crowded bus.
4-never having to worry about people stealing your stuff.
5-this is a BIG one. NOT HAVING TO LOCK MULTIPLE GATES TO YOUR HOUSE. And I thought my family at home was bad with making sure the door is locked at all times, at least we don't have multiple locks on a gate outside of our house that take forever to open. hahahha

One more thing: I don't think I ever posted pics of my living quarters so here's a little peek at my room! I have my own bathroom too which is awesome! Not many BCA students have that privilege so I'm grateful for that!

So far I'm loving everything about this country! This has been and will be the best experience of my life!

Until my next post, hastaaa la vista!