Week 8: Las Galápagos

Hola a todos!

This past week was a vacation period for USFQ. During this break, I was able to go on the most amazing trip— a 5 day adventure to the Galapagos Islands. Considering the islands are warm, sunny, surrounded by the most beautiful ocean, and enveloped in rich biological history and diversity, I knew that this opportunity would be well worth the money. Plus, I got to share this experience with some of my closest friends Carolina and Elissa.

We started our trip on Thursday morning bright and early at 5am. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately our flight got delayed 2 hours, so we had to kill some time. Eventually we made it to the airport on Baltra Island. A short canal ride later, we made it to Santa Cruz Island.

From there, a group of 5 of us shared a taxi and took a tour on our way to Puerto Ayora where our hotel was located. We first went to Los Gemelos, which are two sink holes that formed due to all the lava activity on the island. Then we went to a ranch that had two sights. The first was a series of tunnel formations carved from lava. The second was a reserve where giant tortoises roam. We were able to walk on this reserve and get 10 feet away from this amazing creatures. Afterwards, we checked into our hotel, walked around town, and went to dinner. For dinner, I got the most fresh fish ceviche, and of course we had ice cream for dessert. At night we walked around the dock and saw some sea lions, crabs, sharks, and puffer fish.

On Friday, we first visited the Charles Darwin Research Station. We a got tour of the grounds, learned a little bit about Darwin and his work, and mostly saw their conservation work for the giant tortoises. At the research center, they take fertilized tortoise eggs, incubate them, hatch them, and them raise the tortoises until they are three years old. At that point, they return the tortoises to their birth location. The coolest thing I learned was that the scientists at the station where able to bring back a species of tortoise that was extinct through a process of DNA purification and then selective breeding of tortoises that shared a very high percentage of the DNA with the species they were trying to revive. Since I’m not a geneticist, I do not understand the specifics of this, but I think it’s absolutely amazing.

Afterwards, we took a 40 minute hike to Tortuga Bay—the most stunning beach with fine white sand, aqua blue water, and some fun creatures like the marine iguana and the sea lion.

Side note: sea lions are now one of my favorite animals. They are sooo hilarious. They will show off for you in the water, sleep on benches like they own the island, etc. They have such a free-spirited personality. It’s adorable (that is when the alpha males aren’t fighting over territory. Yes, I did witness this too).

After swimming and relaxing by the beach, we grabbed empanadas and went to Las Grietas. To describe it, imagine a canyon with a canal of pristine blue water running through the middle. We were able to swim in this beautiful, freezing cold water. It was breathtaking. A dinner of pizza and ice cream was well deserved, because I think we walked over 13 miles by the end of the day.

On Saturday, we got on a boat at 7am to ride to San Cristóbal island. Boy oh boy was this a choppy ride. During this three hour ride, people were sick, puking, and in general counting down the minutes until the torture was over. Meanwhile, I was reading, writing this blog, and then listening to music. However, by the end of the trip, I was very ready to get off that boat. After we made it to the island, we we to la Lobería y las Tijeretas to snorkel. During each snorkel, we saw amazing wildlife like sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, sting rays, and the famous blue-footed boobies. I am amazed by all of the wildlife that coexist together here. It truly is amazing to see these unique ecosystems.

Sunday we took an all day 360 degree boat tour of San Cristóbal. We alternated between periods of pleasant boating, hiking, and snorkeling. We tried fishing, but caught nothing. That is okay though, because I still got delicious fish with rice and cole slaw for lunch. The best part of the day was going to Kicker Rock, this huge rock formation in the middle of the ocean. We were able to snorkel around this rock, and on our journey we saw sea lions playing in the water, sea turtles, and SHARKS!! Don’t worry, these were either Galapagos sharks or black tipped sharks, nothing that would eat us. This was my favorite day by far because I got to see so many animals, eat lots of food on the boat (they had yummy snacks too), and even nap now and again.

As you can tell, this was an exhausting trip. Most days I was up by 5:30am and we were doing activities all day until sunset. I think it was well worth it, though. We had limited time and budgets, so we had to see as much as possible in a very short time. Even though our time was short, being in the Galapagos reminded me of how lucky we are to be on this earth surrounded by all of this amazing creation. There is a tremendous amount of diversity here, and I can’t believe I got the opportunity to witness it, especially with how quickly this planet is changing. Who knows, in 20 or 50 years, the Galapagos could look vastly different than it does now.

It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to the warm weather, pristine beaches, and playful sea lions on Monday. Five of us managed to sit in first class all the way home, so that was an unexpected plus that made going back to Quito feel a little better. I had a wonderful time in the Galapagos, especially due to all of the new friendships that I made with the students who came with us. This trip has been my favorite part of being in Ecuador thus far, and I will treasure these memories for the rest of my life.

Chao,

Hannah

Advertisements

Week 7: Embracing Life in Ecuador

Hola a todos!

This week was extremely relaxed. I had no tests, barely any homework, and really no major plans. Having a week to just recharge has been refreshing, but also challenging. If life in Ecuador is teaching me anything, it is how to be more “chill”. As a person who thrives off of structure, punctuality, and full agendas, this laid-back way of life still throws me off. If I could describe the feel of life in Ecuador, I would say that life is not about what you accomplish in a day, but who you spend your time with. It’s very people-oriented, rather than than task-oriented.

Since this is a people-focused culture, time loses its power. If we are late to this, it is fine. If we can’t visit everything on a trip, no worries. It is all about the experience of being with the people you care about, regardless of how time is functioning. Even being here for seven weeks now, I still struggle with this lack of structure. I’m the annoying person who wants to see and do everything on trips. I get impatient if we run late or can’t check off all the sights that we had planned to see. In my day to day life, to combat the lack of structure, I create it myself by working out, studying for the MCAT, even blogging. If my day feels full, I feel accomplished.

I clearly see how detrimental this mentality can be. I can get so sucked into doing things that I’m not really enjoying the day, I’m just mechanically moving through the day in order to check off my to-do list. If I’m so focused  and structured, I can miss out on the spontaneous moments with friends and family that form the memories I treasure the most. That’s why I’m so grateful to be in Ecuador—to receive a lesson on truly living.

So this week, instead of going stir crazy with the lack of stuff to do, I found ways to enjoy the lack of structure—I got lunch with Estefanny, my friend from Ecuador, talked to friends from home, and most importantly, I started reading a book just for fun, and now I’m obsessed. You will find me reading just about anywhere simply because I want to.

I still struggle with adjusting to this lifestyle, but this challenge couldn’t come at a better time. After I get back to the States, I’ll be thrown into real school again, with the bonus of trying to prepare for medical school. I don’t want my agenda to rule my life; I want prioritize time for my family and friends because they mean more to me than any “productive” day could offer.

Even though it is uncomfortable to change the way I’ve always lived, I’m so thankful for this semester in Ecuador to challenge me to stop thinking of my time as solely quantitative, but rather to give precedence to doing the things I love with the people I love.

Chao,

Hannah

Week 6: Waterfalls, Zip-lining, and Chocolate in Mindo

Hola a todos!

This past week had a hectic start. I was a little behind from my Tiputini trip, so I not only had to catch up on homework, but I also had to make up a test in addition to taking three other tests last week. Luckily, none of this compared to the amount of workload I am used to at SNC, so the week went by just fine. Last Friday, we decided that to do a quick weekend trip to Mindo. That night made some rough plans for our adventure and by midnight we booked a hostel for the next day.

On Saturday, I woke up at 6am to pack for our trip. I made it to the bus station at 8, but unfortunately the rest of the group got held up, so we missed our bus. Luckily, we were able to catch the next one. After a 2 hour ride, we made it to Mindo. We first got some lunch and checked into our hostel.

After we settled in, we headed for the Cascadas. Once we got there, we first took a cable car ride that overlooked the cloud forest of Mindo. Then, we decided to take a one hour hike to the biggest waterfall—Cascada Reina. After we made it, we decided to not just admire the nature, but to fully experience the waterfall. We changed into our suits, navigated the rocky bottom of the pond, and went under the freezing cold waterfall.It was so fun!

After our hiking endeavor, we went to el Quetzal for a chocolate tour. We learned about the process of making chocolate from bean to bar, and we got to try many chocolate samples, a tea made from the shells of the cocoa beans, a brownie, among other things. For dinner, we got delicious pizza from Tigrillo, and we finished the night with some dancing.

On Sunday, we went back to el Quetzal for breakfast. Then we went on a zip line adventure. For just $20, we were able to go on 10 different zip lines that overlooked the forest. At one point we even got to zip line in the “mariposa” pose. Basically, we ziplined upside down. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. To finish off the adrenaline-filled morning, we did a “Tarzan” jump. Basically, I was hooked up to this rope, I stood on a ledge, the gate opened from in front of of me, and then I was pulled off the ledge. At first it felt like I was free falling; then it turned into the most exhilarating swing ride. I was the first in our group to go, but don’t worry, I was completely safe.

And just like that, it was time to head back to Quito. Our time in Mindo was very short, but it was filled to the brim with all sorts of new adventures. I’m extremely grateful to Elissa, Carolina, Sophia, Andrea, and Mateo for making this weekend one to remember. Ecuador just keeps getting better and better.

Chao,

Hannah

 

Week 5: La Oriente del Ecuador

Hola a todos!

This weekend, I spent time in a whole new world— the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Yasuní National Park. It’s crazy to think that I even had the opportunity to go to the jungle. The whole trip, my friends and I kept saying to each other, “Wow, we are actually in La Oriente in Ecuador.” This trip was unlike anything I have experienced before.

On Friday, we all met at the Rio Coca bus station at 4:30am. From there, we took an hour bus ride to the airport, where we took a 40 min plane ride to our next destination. After a short bus ride, we arrived at a hotel on the river. We then proceeded to take a 1.5 hour boat ride. After that, we hopped on a chiva, a wooden bus that wasn’t enclosed, for a 2 hour ride. Following that, we boarded another boat that took us on a 2.5 hour journey to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. After a daylong journey and amidst sporadic downpours, I was so happy to finally arrive. As you may be able to tell, this place is in the middle of no where, but it is certainly beautiful!! All around our cabin (Sophia, Elissa, Courtney, and me. It was like I had college roommates again!) is lush jungle—picture a real life Jurassic Park. The sounds of the jungle, between the rain, bugs, and the birds is so soothing. Needless to say, dormí a pierna suelta (slept like a baby).

Saturday, we had a 6:30am wake up call. We ate pancakes with peanut butter (clearly we have been a little deprived of my favorite food) and fruit. Unfortunately it was torrentially down-poring so we had to head back to our cabins for a bit until the rain “died down”. The rain did not die down, so at 8:30am we went on a 3 hour group hike. On that hike we saw many unique bugs and plants. We even saw this one species of tree that has a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant. The ant produces toxins to prevent any other species of trees from growing to close to this tree, and in return, the ants get food and shelter from the tree. These tiny ants are edible, so we gave them a taste. They have a really tart lemon flavor. I never thought I would eat bugs, but I guess why not if you are in Ecuador? My favorite part of the hike was seeing two different types of monkeys hopping from tree to tree while they socialized and ate. That moment definitely solidified the fact that I was indeed in the jungle.

Later, we went on another hike. It started off very hot and sunny. We were able to catch a glimpse of a giant exotic bird. Afterwards, we chewed up a plant that made our tongues turn blue. Our last adventure was scaling this huge tower to overlook the canopy. The view was incredible! However, it started to downpour again, so we had to hike back in the pouring rain. The last event of the night was taking a short night hike in the jungle. On that hike we saw many LARGE bugs, and a beige and grey snake. We even turned off all our lights and just listened to the jungle in complete darkness for 3 minutes. That was insanely cool.

Unfortunately, I happened to get very sick over the course of the night (l lived, for those of you who get that phrase). Everyone was very generous with their medication, and I spent Sunday morning recuperating. I felt better in the afternoon, and I managed to keep food down, so I decided to go with the group on a boat ride down Río Tiputini to look for wildlife. After a while, we had the opportunity to swim in the water! There definitely were piranhas, anacondas, and other terrifying creatures lurking around, but don’t worry, we were all safe. This probably was my favorite part of the trip. I don’t know what it is with me and water, but whenever I am in water, I feel better, happier, and more free. Later that night, the group went to a night boat ride. I decided to stay back because I wasn’t feeling great. I heard they saw a jaguar, though, so that must have been pretty cool. The crazy thing about the jungle is that the researchers spend years trying to study the animals here, and some animals like the jaguar are very good at not being seen. At Tiputini, they have several hidden cameras around the camp to try to capture the animals that inhabit the jungle. I wish I had more time at the Tiputini so that I could learn more about the fascinating work being done here.

DSC00563

On Monday, we left Tiputini nice and early at 5:45am. Luckily, someone gave me more medicine, so I felt a lot better, although not completely cured. First it was back on the boat for 2.5 hours, then the chiva for 2 hours, a boat for 2 hours, and then an 8 hour bus ride (It was horrible, but I survived). When I got home, I took a nice hot shower (There was only cold water at Tiputini.), took some strong medicine, and relaxed.

Tiputini was an amazing adventure, and even though I did get sick, valió la pena (it was worth the pain). I mean who knows if I will ever get to visit the Amazon again?! It was the most unique trip I have ever been on, and I will remain as one of the highlights of my time in Ecuador.

 

Chao,

Hannah

Week 4: Fútbol y Otavalo

Hola a todos!

Well, I have officially been here for three weeks now! I think it has finally hit me that my friends and family are all living their normal lives apart from mine, which is weird to think about. Right now I am really missing my SNC community, especially since everyone is back at school. I miss my friends, St. Joe’s Church, the second floor of Mulva Library, the soft-serve machine at the caf, and much more.

But don’t be mistaken, I am still very happy and healthy here in Quito. I feel like every week is an adventure. It’s hard to remember to be a student sometimes. For example, on Tuesday, there was a huge fútbol game in Quito—Peru vs. Ecuador. A group of friends and I all decided to spend the money and go to the game; I even bought a knock-off Ecuador jersey off the street for $5 so that I could look the part. The game—my first ever fútbol game— was extremely fun even though we lost. The people next to me were so passionate; I learned a whole bunch of Spanish curse words in just a few hours 😉

After the game, Sophia, Andrea, and I went to a Vietnamese place for dinner. I got the Pho, and wow, it was delicious.At SNC, I would never do this much on a Tuesday, so having this much free time is refreshing.

Fast forward to this weekend, my friend Estefanny and her family took me to Otavalo, a town about 2 hours away from Quito. On Friday, we drove to Cotacachi, which is near Otavalo. On our way, we stopped at a place for Fritada—an Ecuadorian dish that had pork, llapingacho (a potato cake), mote (a type of boiled corn), toasted corn, and fried plantains. Later that night, we walked around town and watched some traditional dancers. On Saturday, we first went to the market in Otavalo, which is full or artisanal clothes, art, jewelry, etc.

Then we went to see the Peguche waterfall.

After that we went to Cuicocha to hike and take a boat ride around the inactive volcano that is in the center of the lake.

At the end of the boat ride, we got some complementary Canelazo—a typical warm drink that is sweet and made with agua de canela (boiled water with cinnamon). Oftentimes this drink has aguardiente, which is a type of alcohol, as an ingredient, but this version was alcohol free. After that, we ate some lunch and drove back home. Later I went to see a movie with friends, and that pretty much wrapped up my week.

Today (Sunday), I think I will just rest, do my homework, and try to catch up with some family and friends. Later this week I am going to the Amazon, so stay tuned for that adventure!

Chao,

Hannah

Week 3: Centro de Quito y Teleférico

Hola a todos!

This weekend was spent in Quito again, but it was a lot of fun! On Saturday, Evan and I went to watch the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight with my Ecuabuddy, Carlos, and his friends. We watched the fight at this outdoor space with a bunch of cool food stands. This was the first boxing fight I have ever seen, and I surprisingly really enjoyed it 🙂

On Sunday, Evan, Carolina, Elissa, and I headed to el Centro de Quito, the historic side of the city. We first went to Plaza Grande, which was full of people, musicians, and lots of energy. Afterwards, we went to this area called la Ronda for lunch and ice cream. Typically la Ronda comes to life at night, but we managed to find some delicious places to eat at. After eating, we headed to La Compañía de Jesús, a gorgeous church that I unfortunately couldn’t take pictures in. Anyways, this church has 4 main styles, but the Baroque style is most prominent. Most of the church is covered with gold leaf, and all of the designs are immensely intricate. I highly suggest googling this church because it was the most beautiful church I have ever seen in my life. After La Compañía, we went to La Basílica del Voto Nacional where we climbed to the very top of the church to look out at the city. I love heights, so climbing the narrow and steep stairs/ladders was not an issue for me.

School was school. Nothing too eventful happened. I really like my Lengua y Literatura class because right now we are studying microcuentos like this one by Augusto Monterroso:

“Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí”

“When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.”

Microcuentos are really fun because they are so short and open ended. We spent all of this week reading and analyzing a ton of different microcuentos from different authors, and I really enjoyed it.

On Thursday, about 60 people or so went to an Ecuabuddies event to watch the Ecuador vs. Brazil fútbol game at someone’s house. Unfortunately, we lost, but it was really fun to watch some of the game, hang out with people, and dance to some really great music. On Friday, I went with my friend Estefanny and her boyfriend to Teleférico, a cable car that takes you up the Pichincha volcano. Once at the top, we were able to overlook Quito. The views were beautiful. When we went it was nearing sunset, so we couldn’t stay for too long, but if I have the chance to come back, I would love to hike Pichincha.

Yesterday (Saturday), the Ecuabuddies threw an Integration Party for all the exchange students. There were probably around 200 people there, and it was very fun, especially with all the games, the slip-n-slide, and more dancing.

That pretty much sums up my week. Stay tuned because September will be filled with traveling.

Chao,

Hannah

Week 2: Living the Quiteño Life

Hola a todos!

It’s time for another update. So far, I am loving Quito. The city is full of life, and there is always an abundance of activities to do. On Saturday, a group of friends and I went to karaoke—a very common weekend pastime here. While I tried my best to sing La Camisa Negra and Bailando, I much preferred to listen to others sing and learn a few dance moves from them as well. On Sunday, I went for a nice run en El Parque Carolina, and then proceeded to get lost. That was fun. I had to ask about 10 people for directions before I finally made my way back. Turns out, my gut instinct was leading me correctly; it was the multiple conflicting directions that I got from pedestrians and policemen that really got me confused.

DSC00294

El Parque Carolina

On Monday, I started school. Like I previously mentioned, USFQ is a beautiful campus. I now have my class schedule set, and I think that I will have a great semester of classes. My most interesting class right now is Theory of Jazz (conveniently taught in English) because the professor is this really cute older-aged man who wears music-note bow ties and enthusiastically dances to the jazz music that he plays for our class. My other classes (in Spanish) are also going well. I am especially excited to work on my research project this semester. My professor is so kind and helpful. I think that she will be a really great mentor for me.

 

On Wednesday, a group of us went to the first Ecuabuddies event of the semester. About 100 people or so all ate at a pizza place for dinner, and then we went to a nearby discoteca to dance the night away. It was so much fun to be able to meet some of the Ecuabuddies and to meet more people in the exchange program at USFQ. In case you were concerned, I made it to my 8:30am class on Thursday just fine 😉

On Friday, since we have no classes, a group of us went to El Mercado Artesanal. There I got a lovely alpaca shawl/blanket scarf for $6. I think it will be perfect for when I return to the horrid Wisconsin winter.

Later that night, the SNC gang, our friend Andrea, plus a bunch of Ecuabuddies decided to go to an all you can eat sushi place. We started off getting about 20 sushi rolls for the 11 of us. That went fine. Then, someone decided to order more… and by more, I mean 20 more sushi rolls. The real kicker was that we would be charged for any leftover sushi that was uneaten. It took us 3 hours to consume—or creatively get rid of— all of this sushi. I’ve never eaten so much sushi before in my life. It was definitely a unique experience, and we all at a lot of fun.

That is all for now. I’ve really enjoyed getting to explore Quito these past two weeks, and I can’t wait to see more of Ecuador soon.

Chao,

Hannah

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.

IMG_3576

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.

IMG_3578

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

I’m Leaving the Country in 3 Weeks

Someone please tell me how we are already at the end of July? How? My summer has been a mash-up of work, studying for the MCAT, volunteering as an interpreter for a free medical clinic near my house, along with boring other errands and doctor’s appointments. Luckily, I have been able to spend a little time with both my high school and college friends, so my whole summer has not been work. Some friend highlights include getting “The Beast”—a 10 scoop sundae— at a local custard shop and going the first of my college wedding.

However, with all of this hoopla going on, I have seemed to forget about something… Oh yeah, I’m leaving the country in three weeks to study abroad in Ecuador. The past few days have been a wave of emotions. First, I was straight-up overwhelmed and anxious. I started making an extensive packing list, and I still have not really started tackling this list. For the record, I hate packing. It is so overwhelming that in the past I have usually ended up shoving random clothes into a suitcase just so that I can be done with the packing process. I probably should not take this course of action for this trip, though. The anxiety came from not knowing who my host family was. I was so nervous to know who I am going to live with for the next 4 months. Will they accept me and embrace me as one of their family members? Will they be kind and welcoming? I just kept praying and praying that I could get matched with a loving family.

Now, I am in a more positive emotional state. I am still overwhelmed with packing. I do need to take a bit more care when packing to go to a third world county. I need to think about what medicine to bring, ways to purify water, and other items that might be necessary to have for my overall health and well-being. I am a lot more excited, though, because I now know who my host family is. They are a family of 4, including two children in their 20’s. My host sister and mom have already been in some contact with me, and I am getting the sense that they are very kind, safe, and welcoming people. I still do not really know who they are because the first time I meet them will be at the airport in August, but I have a good feeling about this family.

So in a nutshell, I am excited to meet my host family, packing is overwhelming, and I’m slightly concerned that I will get sick from the food/water at some point. Oddly enough, I haven’t been that concerned with the idea of speaking Spanish the whole time. I guess I will see how that goes once I get there.

¡En tres semanas, estaré en Ecuador!

Hasta pronto,

Hannah