Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Tomorrow morning, my first class starts at 11:00 am. I’ll wake up around 7:00 in order to get ready and walk to the bus by 8:00. It only takes about 25 minutes to drive to campus, but the buses make frequent stops and will probably take longer. Then I’ll have a good two hours to get on the internet, write some emails that I’ve been meaning to send, and add photos to the blog (as well as this post, even though I’ll probably make it say I posted it the previous night. Mwahaha…). If there’s time, I’d like to meet with the International Programs staff – they were incredibly welcoming and friendly at orientation, and even if I didn’t have a few questions about classes I would probably drop by anyway.
The 'Pagoda', where my Philosophy and Religion in India class will be held
This morning started super early (okay, at 6:40 am) so that my host mom could drive me to USFQ’s campus by 7:45 for orientation. It was good to see Tom and a lot of the other kids we met on the plane on the way in. There are a ton of girls from North Carolina – UNC, NC State, High Point, UNC Wilmington… the list goes on. They are, of course, being North Carolinians, incredibly nice. We all hung out and sat through a few quite entertaining lectures over the course of the morning, and broke for a campus tour. USFQ students who had studied in the United States guided it, and they were incredibly welcoming. If they are anything like the rest of the student body, I really don’t think getting to know local students will be a problem.
After the tour and a coffee break, we got a very serious talk from a representative from the US Embassy here in Quito. Let’s just say there will be a post later on entitled, “Not Doing Dumb Things in Quito.” Preview – my favorite quote of the lecture: “In Ecuador, sometimes bad things happen to good people. But usually, bad things happen to stupid people.” Let’s just say I’ve registered with the US Embassy online so I can get emails telling me which field to head towards with my passport in order to be airlifted out in the event of an earthquake or (apparently, relatively frequent) government overthrow. [Sidenote – okay, the last one was a bit of a joke, not in that it won’t happen while we’re here – not likely in the next few months I’m told, though more or less an eventuality – but that if it does, it really isn’t that big of a deal.]
We finished around 1:30, but even though a group of kids were heading out to eat, my host mom had already arranged to meet me at the front gates and I still lacked a cell phone to call her. So, after returning home for lunch, we went to the Movistar store at Quicentro, from what I gather one of the nicest malls in Quito and within walking distance from the apartment. For $60, I got a Nokia phone and nine dollars worth of minutes and texts that won’t expire for 30 days. I think it’s 8 cents per minute, but since the whole conversation with the representative was in Spanish that’s a little fuzzy. I think it’s 8 cents to other Movistar users, and 19 cents per minute with other phones. Texts come in there somewhere, I’m pretty sure they’re cheaper, but this is cell-phone math that defies normal laws of calculation.
El Parque Carolina, about four blocks from my apartment
With the newfound freedom included with the phone, I headed out soon after to meet Tom in front of the Stadium across from Quicentro. We walked around Quito for a while (don’t worry Mom, it was still light out) which, okay, not the most exciting thing in the world, but fun to explore.
And since no one is probably still reading after this ridiculously long post, I’ll wrap it up. ¡Hasta luego!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
The main event of the day was a birthday party for Janette’s 14-year-old niece and 11-year-old nephew, who celebrate birthdays only a few days apart. It was more like an extended family reunion at her sister’s house, down the valley from Quito. It was such a pleasant time, and I was so grateful for how everyone included me in a very intimate gathering. Janette introduced me as her “hija” or daughter to everyone present. I wish I could recount everyone’s name and relation, but unfortunately most of it escaped me. There were six or seven young cousins running around, and two my age – Diana and another girl who seemed a bit older. Then, there were four couples to whom the young kids mostly belonged, and then a bit of an age gap to my Mom, her sister, and another grandmotherly figure.
The neighborhood where we were for the afternoon was very beautiful. It was in a more rural area, gated at the entrance and again for each house, with high concrete fences surrounding the spacious grounds. Shards of glass were embedded along the top of the walls – a sign that, despite the well-off appearance of the neighborhood, this was still a city in a developing country with enough crime to make two gates necessary, apparently. Once inside, however, the compound was stunning. The main house was a rambling hacienda-style building, with whitewashed stucco walls and dark wood beams topped by red tiles. Flowers and outbuildings dotted the yard and garden, including an aviary of parakeets. Even though the house was outfitted with modern appliances, the rustic feel gave the impression that it must be decades old.
And the food! We started with “choclo” or corn, served roasted on a stick with shredded cheese and butter. Absolutely delicious. With lunch, there was some kind of sausage (chicken, I think) with soft, white French-style bread (but without the hard crust), fresh cheese, and a spicy salsa. I gathered that these were all meant to be eaten together. Janette’s brother then served thick slices of beef tenderloin and roast chicken, and we passed various other dishes around the table.
After lunch, the adults sat outside on the lawn talking while the kids amused themselves, mostly with the four-wheeler or “cuadro” – yes, I accepted a ride from the birthday girl, and yes, I almost died. The family also had a few dogs, including the CUTEST pug, reminiscent of Franny’s “Betty la Fea”. Later, around 5 o’clock, we gathered to sing Happy Birthday (first in English, strangely enough, followed by the Spanish version I was familiar with from grade school). There were two delicious, homemade gooey chocolate cakes, one for each child, and – I guess this is a tradition here – at the conclusion of making a wish and blowing out the candles, each child went to take a small bite of the cake only to have their siblings and cousins push their faces into the cake!
We left soon after the cake. So far, no headaches from the altitude, but I am incredibly tired. I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow yet. I know I have to get my visa registered, but Janette mentioned something about taking tomorrow to rest – sounds good to me!