I´m writing to you from the beatiful city of Cuenca in the southern sierra of Ecuador. As most of you know, my program has been over for almost 2 weeks, and I had the pleasure of a visit from the family. At first I must say it was very strange to be sitting in my favorite shawarma place drinking Pilsener in the middle of Quito with my family, but at the same time it was so wonderful to see all of them. I´m really happy that they got the chance to experience some of Ecuador, and that we got to do a few things together that I hadn´t even done yet.
And then there´s the Galapagos, which was a wild experience. In such a short amount of time we did manage to see some amazing things thanks to Becca and Mom, the travel agents. We also traveled with my good friend Sarah from my program and her mom, so I didn´t have to let go of my friends here quite yet. Dad took some amazing photos that will do the experience much more justice than I will.
So after we got back I took the family out to the Valle de Los Chillos where I spent the first month of this program (which seems like years ago) and we all had dinner with my first and favorite host family. It was very enjoyable, and acting as translator was silly and fun. It was another really strange experience of sitting between my two families who of course were delighted to get to meet eachother. Two worlds colliding! Once mom dad and Becca hopped on their planes Saturday morning, Sarah and I took a 10 hour bus down through the Sierras from Quito to Cuenca. It was a gorgeous day and we were able to see 3 of the volcanoes perfectly. In Cuenca I have a friend who is staying the summer, and 3 other friends who were visiting at the same time. It was a great reunion together and we found a cheap but lovely hostel with a kitchen and have been enjoying that immensly.
The first day in Cuenca we walked around and enjoyed the many many Churches and Cathedrals that the cobble stone center of the city has to offer. On Monday we took the bus out to Incapirka, one of the only remaining sites of Incan (and Cañari, the community the Inca´s took over before the Spaniards domiated them) empire. It was a beautiful day and while the ruins only took up about an hour, the surroundings were amazing. The interesting thing about the site is that it is a fascinating combination of the two cultures. The Cañari worshipped the moon, while the Incas worshipped the Sun, which meant that the Cañari culture was more matriarchical and the Incas were more patriarchical. The different shapes of their buildings and tombs was an intriguing juxtoposition.
And yesterday was by far the best day as we ventured out to Parque Nacional Cajas, only an hour outside of Cuenca. We ended up completing a 12 mile hike through the most beautiful landscape I´ve ever seen, and the weather was perfect. Cajas is in the Paramo, or the second highest type of landscape that is known for cold temperatures and almost constant rain, but we had sunshine all morning and a partly cloudy afternoon. Which was ideal no only for hiking, but because the trail was already so muddy that any more rain would have swallowed us up. It was quite the adventure and the highlight of my week.
I head back to Quito tomorrow to celebrate Sarah´s birthday and then one more day of enjoying Ecuador on Saturday when we go to the natural hot springs in Papallachta, just north of Quito. My flight leaves Quito at 6:25am on Sunday and I should be sitting in Grandma Mary´s kitchen by about 6pm. This is going to be quite the transition, and I´m trying to enjoy these last days to the fullest.
All in all this semester has been some of the best 4 months of my life. Getting to really learn a new language and culture is difficult but very rewarding. It gets exhausting because every day is a new challenge and every conversation takes effort. I´m already getting nervous about losing my Spanish, but luckily my summer internship will require me to use it daily. I feel like I´ve learned how to be a culturally competent and succesful traveler, and how to best get to know a newly introduced culture.
I also come home with amazing new friendships and connections, many here in Ecuador, but also many that I will be able to continue when I return to the states. I know that I have to come back and explore the rest of South America sometime because even the tiny country of Ecuador has taught me so much that the big wide world can only have more to give. And because the beauty of Ecuador is just a taste, albeit a delicious one, of the south American continent.
I hope to see you all soon, and I´ll attempt to put up some more photos on this blog when I get home. I´ve been using Becca´s camera this whole week so I finally have a camera to myself, and have been using it nonstop.
Cheers for reading along with me, my apologies that the entries weren´t very frequent, but face to face stories can only be better.
All my love,