(pre-script: the computer I'm using right now is all in Spanish, so bear with me...I figure it's good practice for what's to come!)
Thanks for checking in! I'm new to this whole blogging thing...and I tend to get really long-winded when I tell stories and write emails, so skim if you wish, read every word, or just wait and ask my mom for an update next time you see her :)
I've been in Quito for 2 days now, and things could not be going better! After a long day of travelling, I arrived Friday around 10 pm. I was really nervous about going through customs (mostly because I was by myself and had no way of convincing them to let me into the country, if need be) but they hardly glanced at my passport/visa before stamping and waving me through. I collected ALL my luggage and immidiately spotted Dan (guy from St. John's who is also volunteering down here) waiting on the other side of security - we were both pretty happy to see each other, considering he's been down here by himself for 2 weeks and I'd be on my own with no place to go if he didn't show!
We caught a cab and chatted a mile a minute, catching up on everything. I'm pretty sure I had a huge grin on my face the entire ride - I was so happy and relieved to finally be here. The Sheraton his company put him up in is probably one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in. We were both starving and exhausted, so we ordered room service and called it a night.
It's strange not to have anything we have to do, especially considering the crazy schedule we'll have once we start at the CMT (Centro del Muchacho Trabajador = Working Boys Center). We took full advantage of this and slept in until 11 yesterday and today - I don't think I slept that late once this summer, it was so nice! The altitude takes a lot of you too (Quito sits at almost 10,000 feet - twice the elevation of Denver). When I was here for spring break it really affected me, so I got some drugs from the travel clinic this time. The adjustment hasn't been too bad so far, but I've still been really tired, light-headed, out of breath, and my hands, feet, and face are tingly. It's really strange - especially when we're strolling down the street, talking, and both of us have to stop to catch our breath!
Yesterday we mostly just walked around and explored the city. We saw a lot of churches and buildings we had toured when we were here before. It's nice to have some familiarity! Although, I'm realizing that we really never had to navigate or find our own way during our spring break trip. We had guides from the Center who took us everywhere. In fact, I don't think I looked at a map once that entire week (unbelievable, for those of you who have travelled with me before, right?!)
We found a really cool little British Pub (I know, weird.) last night and had a few beers and played cribbage (for two people who love cribbage, we both forgot our cribbage boards! We can't find one here, soooo the first person to visit...you know what to bring :)). We made do though and had a great time....or, I had a great time, seeing as I beat Dan 6 out of 7 games. I had to let him win the last one just to guarantee that I would have a bed to sleep in last night! haha. We met some really cool people there though, and I loved discovering a little piece of London...in Ecuador, of all places!
Today, we took it easy - went over to the mall and Megamaxi (Ecua version of Target, right down to the red carts), ate chicken shawarma (yummmm!), and tried to get into a soccer game (our hotel is right behind their huge olympic soccer stadium). Dan did some work for his internship (he's been researching the social and political situation in Ecuador all summer for a wealthy mining investor in MN) and I journaled/napped (some things will never change...).
I had my first language barrier frustrations before I even entered the country! I sat next to an adorable little Ecuadorian girl and her mom on the plane from Atlanta to Quito. They were both so friendly and I wanted to be able to talk to them so badly. The little girl kept wanting to sleep on my shoulder and her mom kept trying to move her. I did my best to communicate that she was fine and she could lay on me. I'm not sure if the mom actually kind of understood or just finally gave up and let her daughter sleep peacefully in my lap. It was pretty precious and (a) made me so excited to get to work with little kids on a daily basis and (b) motivated me to spend a few hours of the flight reading my spanish phrase book!
We start spanish language school tomorrow. I'm so excited and ready! I have had such a desire to learn spanish since I was in Guatemala 2+ years ago, and now I'm in circumstances conducive to learning it effectively and efficiently. Dan knows a little more spanish than I do, but it's been fun working together to try to communicate in stores and restaurants. I've realized I know more than I thought I did, but I still have SO far to go.
Well, I think that's probably good for my first blog. If you made it to the end, congratulations! I promise, they will start to get more exciting soon. Let me know at any time if you have questions, or if something isn't clear. Although, I feel like I explained CMT and life in Ecuador to everyone and their brother before I left, I know I probably missed something here or there. I want to paint the clearest and most accurate pictures of my experiences as I can for you (that would be the anal, communication major side of me :)).
It sounds like I'll have pretty good access to internet most of the time, so comment here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd LOVE to hear from you! Take care, God bless, love you and miss you!