Week 1: Preparación para la Escuela, Pan y el Panecillo

Hola a todos!

Updates

I made it to Quito with few slip-ups. At the Chicago airport, my carryon bag had to be inspected because of some suspicious item. The culprit—my MCAT books. Luckily, I got the books back once the security knew that they were indeed books. When I arrived at the airport, my host mom and sister greeted me. After we got home, my whole host family— María and Javier along with their children María Laura and Mateo (both in their 20’s)— ate some delicious soup. The rest of the night I unpacked and slept.

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Welcome to Quito!

The next day was all about rest. Quito is the highest capital in the world, and altitude sickness is quite common here, especially if you jump right into sight seeing. Besides relaxing, my host mom did take me on a short walk so that I could see some of the popular cafes students like to hang out in after school.

On Thursday, all the international students at USFQ had orientation. In order to get to school, I have to take two buses. While they are not that complicated, Quito is a busy place; the buses are even more hectic. That being said, even though you have to be aware of your surroundings, most of the people in Ecuador are genuinely nice. On the way back from school, I sat by this old man who I think told me his life story. To be honest, I don’t know what he said because the bus was loud and he was soft spoken. Anyways, he was so sweet, and he was excited that I could come to Ecuador for the semester. Back to orientation. We learned a lot about health and safety while in Quito, we got a tour from the Ecuabuddies team—a student organization that helps plan events and trips for the international students so that we can learn more about Ecuador and the culture—and ate some delicious lunch. More on food later. The campus is lovely and the people who help make the international program possible are so kind and helpful. I start classes on Monday, and I’ll make sure to take some pictures of the school soon.

On Friday, I actually had a chance to see some of Quito. In the afternoon, a group of us went to Quicentro Shopping, which is a really nice mall in town. After that, we took a taxi to el Centro de Quito and drove down El Calle de Siete Cruces, a street with seven churches that are all lit up at night. I can’t wait to come back to el Centro de Quito during the day, so that I can tour these break-taking churches. Our main destination was El Pancillo, an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary with wings conquering a serpent—a representation of a scene in Revelation. This statue and all of Quito is lit up at night, and all of it is unbelievably beautiful.

A Detour on Food

I was very interested to see what the food would be like in Ecuador, so I thought I would share what I have been eating most days. So far, breakfast consists of coffee, some kind of croissant-like bread with cream cheese or jam, and fruit. They have a ton of fruit in Ecuador, so I have a lot of tasting to do. Lunch and dinner have been pretty similar. Normally it is meat with rice and a side of vegetables. The diet here in Ecuador is pretty much the complete opposite of what I normally eat at home. Typically, I eat tons of vegetables and fruit. Here we eat tons of bread and other starches. I can’t really complain, though. While it probably is not the healthiest diet in the world, all of the food here has been delicious. And if we are honest with ourselves, I think we all can agree that fresh, buttery bread tastes better than spinach.

Family Life

My family has been very nice and welcoming. At first I felt a little out of place because I didn’t know the level of interaction I should have with them, but now I am getting the hang of it. If I want alone time, I can have it. If I want to explore the city, I can do that. Also, if I am bored and want to just watch tv in my host parent’s room with my host mom and sister, I am welcome to do that as well. It is definitely a process trying to adjust to a new family, but I am learning.

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The view from my house

Fun Ecuadorian Facts

Some things I have learned so far: greetings and traffic. It is very common for people in Ecuador to greet you with a hug and a kiss on the right cheek. I was prepared for that, but I am still getting used to it. Then for traffic, drivers—not pedestrians—have the right of way. Needless to say, I have to be very aware of cars here. I can’t just walk in the street like I do at school and expect that people will stop.

 

So far I am really enjoying Quito. It is quite different than Wisconsin, but it is a very vibrant place to live. I can’t wait to explore Ecuador more!

Esto es todo para ahora. Hasta pronto!

Hannah

¡Voy a Ecuador!

¡Hola a todos!

In four short days, I will be boarding a plane to Quito, Ecuador! For four months, I will be studying at the University San Francisco de Quito, taking classes (most of which will occur in Spanish) ranging from Spanish literature to research with a professor about various public health problems. To be completely honest, I feel mostly excitement and peace about the situation…maybe that will change once I actually land, we will see. I am extremely grateful that I know all three of the girls from my school who are also studying abroad in Ecuador. We are all flying together, so even if the flights give us trouble, I will not be alone. Furthermore, I have been in some contact with my host family that I will be living with. While I have not personally met them yet, they seem like wonderful people, and I am thankful that they have so graciously offered to take me in for the semester.

Even though, I feel positive about this experience, I am trying to brace myself for the challenges that will inevitably come my way. First, my Spanish reading comprehension and writing capabilities are relatively strong. However, I know very well that my listening and speaking skills are lagging. I know that once I am faced with all Spanish, all the time, I will be overwhelmed and exhausted. Also, for those you know me, I love my routine and consistency. For example, I would be perfectly content eating oatmeal with peanut butter and banana every day of my life given the opportunity 😉 . Once I step off that plane, though, my old routine will be gone—I will have to adjust to different food and mealtimes, school dynamics, and family interactions.

I think all of these challenges that could present themselves are the reasons driving me to go Ecuador. I want to be pushed with my Spanish skills so that I can come back fluent. I want to disrupt my routine so that one, I can work on becoming more flexible, and two, I can better embrace a new culture. Finally, I am really interested in seeing how I adjust to the challenge of living in a third world country, especially since I’ve been privileged to live in a very nice part of Wisconsin my whole life. Also, since I am fascinated my medicine, nutrition, and public health, I am excited to learn more about the health disparities in Ecuador, especially through the research program that I am doing.

So that is a little preview of what is going through my mind right now as I prepare to leave. I will do my best to post on a regular basis, for those who are interested in hearing about my life in Quito. I do not know what my communication situation will look like once I am in Ecuador, but anything with wifi should work: Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, etc.

¡Hablamos luego!

Hannah