Monday, September 28, 2009

La vida Ecuatoriana


I haven't added an update for about a week... but I've pretty much just been working and going to class. Everything is going well! I'm really liking my internship still, and we haven't been too overloaded with homework yet.
As there is not much to update on, here are just a few cultural things I’ve been noticing:

Panty lines and PDA-- they're everywhere

No one ever, ever, wears shorts or sandals here. And if you see someone who is, they are definitely foreign. (or it’s while exercising in the parks on the weekends).

Guests are very important, and always welcome. Some guests also help out around the house by doing the dishes after a meal, tidying up the house, folding the laundry. (In my household anyway) But it’s not expected here. I always try to help but usually I’m turned down.

People seem to find the need to call me “niña” (child), for instance while I’m getting yelled at for using the bathroom only for customers, or when I’ve tried to tell the cab driver that he was lost (when he definitely was). I hate it.

It never fails, my mom always leaves me breakfast in the morning because my family all is out of the house before I wake up (which isn’t even very late, I’m up by 8!).

We don’t drink with our meals, or wait for everyone to be seated before we start. And my mom always is shuffling around making sure everyone has what they need before, during, and after she eats.

It’s a city, so people here dress pretty trendy. Skinny jeans, flats, high heels, and converse. I’d say European-ish. But good luck buying these kinds of clothes if you didn’t bring them. If it’s not from Ecuador, it’s suuper expensive. Anything imported is way over priced.

It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, I will always get started at.

Breast-feeding is not a private action. Anywhere.

I don’t care how cute the kids are, I do not like when they follow me around trying to sell me things. I could go broke buying gum and candy.

Who the @%&# would want that?? (referring to a ceramic dog or other random trinket someone else is trying to sell me on the street)

If you’re 20 minutes late for something with Ecuadorians, it’s really okay. If the other person is there already, they only arrived 2 minutes before.

It's popular to add "ito" or "ita" to the end of words. Adding it to the end of a name signifies affection. Names are also shortened when this can't be done- I'm Nati to my family and people I work with. I'm really starting to like it :)

Honking. They do it like it’s their job. Not a fan

After reading this...I realize a lot of it sounds pretty negative! I don't mean for that...it's all just stuff I'm getting used to. I love the life here...it's all great :)

I'm going to Yasuni national park in the Amazon rainforest this weekend...stay tuned for details!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I <3 Bici!

Chicas de Todas en Bici...we're an unstoppable team!
I know it's been awhile since my last post, things have been pretty busy in the last week with my internship and class. I have the first weekend's worth of activities with Ciclopolis- Todas en Bici under my belt! Ah I love it...it's such a great organization! There are definitely some things that are a bit different and will take some getting used to (the methods of organizing and scheduling and what not), but as a whole it's amazing. I don't know of a city in the US that blocks of 30 km worth of city streets for 8 hours a day, once a week to promote biking!! And my sector of ciclopolis is promoting biking for Mujeres! (women) The Todas en Bici team is made up of 2 Ecuadorian girls (Anahi, Monica- both 22 I believe) and then Charlotte (my age from Macalester college) and me. Saturday I helped to teach (or more like learned!) one of the workshops we give for women. I say learn because this week we had a mechanic there, and I learned the correct way to change a flat tire. I'm glad I did! It was a bit hard to try and help in Spanish- but it was good practice. The women were all so great and eager to learn. They made it definitely worth while! They ranged in age from 15 to late 50's. Yesterday was their second to last lesson, and 8 out of the 10 are now able to ride quite well on their own. (They didn't know how at the beginning--but 7 lessons later!) For the second part of class I lead them on a ride around the huge park where we give lessons. It was fuun. I'm really excited to be a part of this organization--I hope to be able to make a difference in my short 3 months with them. The weekends are a bit exhausting...working 6:45-11:30 am saturday and 7-4:30 Sunday. Yikes! But it's worth it.

Who knows…maybe I’ll have to start a program of my own some day..

Always empowered, always inspired,

Natalie

video

Monday, September 14, 2009

2nd weeeekend!


12/9
Today was the all-family picnic at Parque Metropolitana with everyone in the program. Ohh my what an amazing view! I hiked around a bit in the "woodland" area. The picnic was good…delicious food! That took up most of the morning/afternoon. After that, I went with Leo and his friends (Philip, Sebastian, Sesar) to Quitofest, a huge music festival. The location was awesome! It was in Itchimbia Park, which is up on a big hill that looks over the city. And of course mountains all around! The music wasn’t exactly my style—metal—but it was still pretty good. It was also freeeezing! Yikes. But I had a good time jumping around. I didn’t talk much, it’s still a bit hard for me to communicate. I made it an early night and just read a little before going to bed.

13/9
Whew. What a day! This morning I went to the English Fellowship Christian church service. I really liked it. It was mostly all in English, which may not be the best in the long run, but it was a lot more beneficial right now. It compared pretty well with The Crossing (or as close as you can get to that in Ecuador). It was weird to see so many white American type in one place! There was a good share of native Ecuadorians there, too. After church we ate soup and then packed lunch for the road. I didn’t quite get where we were going, my parents said, but I thought we were going to someone’s house. It turns out we were going to an archeological park called Cochasqui. I’d call it Ecuador’s version of Machu Pichu, but on a much, much smaller scale. Definitely not as sweet- but it was still cool to see and hear the history behind the building of the pyramids and calendars. It was about an hour and a half drive to get there…and the scenery was amazing! (like usual) Mountains everywhere…and I got a picture with Cayambe, one of the volcanoes near by. It was great- to get up there we had to go on this suuuper bumpy (or more huge stone-y) road, and my dad was just flying up it. We were going all over the place, and I just smiled and laughed out loud. It was way fun.
On the way back, there was a huge line of backed up traffic. It turns out there was an accident so they had to close one of the direct roads into Quito. This was bad news for us because we had to take a large round about way back into Quito. It ended up taking us over 4 1/2 hours to get back! Yikes. But like I’ve heard many times before, and now experienced, these types of things happen all the time in Ecuador. You just need to let it roll of your shoulders and go with it! And the drivers- wow, let me tell you. I would piss my pants driving in Ecuador! It’s a normal for cars to drive 3 wide on a 2 lane road in the mountains. People just drive right in the middle of the lane to pass (at any time) with oncoming traffic. And everyone seems to be in some sort of hurry! When traffic was backed up, and we were at a dead stop, cars would just come zooming around in the other lane and have to find a place to sneak in when oncoming traffic came. Amidst our detour, we stopped in the town of Cachi (?) and saw an amazing cathedral. (I guess that is ALL this town is about). It was another gold plated one, and we happened to get there during a service, so the music was beautifully echoing off the walls.

It was so nice of my parents to take me to Cochasqui and to see the area around Quito. They were very patient on the way back (I guess you have to be living there). The only bad part is I hardly got any homework done this weekend…Good thing I’m not here to study! Oh wait…

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pichincha!


This morning I had my interview at CICLOPOLIS. I met Martha, the program director, at the HECUA office at 9:30 (my interview was at 10), and we didn’t end up leaving until around 9:50 (which is typical Ecuadorian time). By the time we had gone back to the office to pick up some forgotten papers, driven past the correct street, got stuck on a one way, and drove about 10 minutes out of the way…I got to the interview at about 10:15. Which was totally fine, by the way. The interview was quick and easy, we just went over what I will be doing and we talked about the dates I’ll be gone because of fieldtrips, breaks, etc. CICLOPOLIS is a sweeet organization, let me tell you. I don’t think I saw a single person over the age of 30 there! My “boss” is probably in her early 20’s, somewhere around my age. It’s a really up-beat organization. I’ll be working with Todas in Bici, which is a sector of the organization that promotes bike riding for women. This semester we are supposed 20 hours a week with our internships. My hours will mostly be spent on the weekends, which I feel is both good and bad. It’s good because the things I’ll be doing will be great! On Friday mornings, I’ll meet with a group of women over food/coffee and chat to build relationships and what not. Saturday morning we give lessons (to mostly these same women) on how to ride a bike, bike safety in the city, answer any questions they have. And then Sunday is the Ciclopaseo, which I described earlier as the citywide bike ride. These will all be awesome events. I’ll work one other morning (by morning I mean about 10 am) during the week, probably doing a bit of office work. I’ll have a lot of time during the week to explore the city and do homework and other things…but the downside is that I won’t be able to do as much traveling on the weekends. I’m still super excited to get involved, though.
After my interview, Martha drove me to the teleférico at Mt. Pichincha to meet up with the rest of the group. The teleférico is basically a cable car/gondola ride up the mountain. Once we reached the top, we could hike around on dirt paths; you are allowed to go off the beaten path, but with our program we can't (it's supposedly pretty dangerous once you get higher in the mountains...I guess people are just dying to steal from you up there). But even from where we were, it was an amazing view! We picked a pretty nice, cloud free day to go; you could see a large portion of Quito and the Andes beyond (plus 2 volcanoes, Cotopaxi included). The altitude we were at was 4100 m…you can do the conversion to feet- but we were pretty high! I took pictures...but of course they don't do it justice! Put this one on the list of must-sees when in Quito!
Tonight we went salsa dancing at a pretty fancy place with the entire group. It was a ton of fun! Expensive (for Ecuador standards)…and late (10pm-1am) but fun. Now it’s off to bed after another long, fabulous day

con amor

Natalia

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quiero ser una artista!


“Yo lloré porque no tenía zapatos hasta que ví un niño que no tenía pies”

“I cried because I didn’t have shoes until I saw a child that didn’t have feet.” This phrase is written on one of the walls in the Guayasamin art museum that we visited today. Guayasamin was an amazing artist born in Quito who got his inspiration from Pablo Picasso and Francisco Goya. If you know anything about art history, you can really see these artists come out in his work. Much of what Guayasamin painted shows the pain and suffering endured by the people, especially indigenous women and children. Although depressing and devastating, I found it beautiful. Guayasamin was also an advocate for peace and hope. Some of his paintings (as seen above- my favorites) were quite a bit more pleasant. It was an amazing museum; it was obvious by the architecture that the building was built around the art. I don’t have many pictures from the inside because we weren’t supposed to take any, but there were quite a few murals outside as well!

I also had my first experience being sick in another country! Yikes...last night I was so so sick. I'll spare you guys the details, but it was miserable. And of course, all I wanted was my mommy! But my host mom was very good to me. I think we decided it was because I ate strawberries from the local market on Monday without disinfecting them- my friend only washed them with the tap water there. Mistake. I should have known with my stomach! Ha...well you can bet I won't be doing that again!

Classes have started- quite a bit of homework already, but I've been managing. I have a lot of free time in the evening, and since I haven't been feeling well I haven't gone out much. My host brother invited me out to a discoteca tonight, but I better get well first, and I have to be up early tomorrow. Today I was still pretty queasy! I have my interview on Firday morning for my internship with CICLOPOLIS. I hope that goes well- it's kind of sad because that's the day we're going up Mt. Pichincha so I'll miss part of it. But I'll make it and come back with pictures! Until then...

paz y esperanza,
Natalie

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Iglesias y bicicletas!

Me gustan muchos los domingos! A ‘ciclopaseo’ takes place very Sunday in Quito. Throughout the morning into the afternoon, many streets are blocked off to make a safe path for cyclists. There are usually about 40,000 people that ride in the ciclopaseo each week. This event is suuuper awesome; it’s put on by the organization “ciclopolis”, which is where I think I’ll be doing my internship. It’s a great way to promote biking in the city; many different people get involved. Today our group went on a tour of Historic Quito on bikes. Yes, 16 of us in one group (18 counting our guides). It was great. We rode around the city and stopped at 2 churches; the Basilica (the video shows the view of the city from the top of a tower- sorry it was so windy!) and La Compañía. They were both quite amazing. The view from the different towers of the Basilica was incredible. I’m not afraid of heights, but it was scary climbing up these super-sketch outdoor ladders in order to get to the tops of the towers. We climbed so many! And so many stairs. But it was worth it. Under the Basilica are the tombs of past presidents. We were touring with a woman whose Godfather’s tomb was there! La Compañía is a beautiful church; the inside is plated with 7 tons of gold. The sight was breathtaking. This 16th century structure took 163 years to complete, and it is the most ornate church in the country. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside, but I don’t think they would do it justice anyway. (Look it up on the internet!) I also really liked the paintings and School of Quito murals on the walls. Now that I’m an art history nut after last semester, I could actually appreciate the art. There was so much history there. We also saw the Historic city center- there were people everywhere! I tried 100% dark chocolate. It was disgusting. I do not recommend that. I’ve also been looking at buildings with my host mom in the past couple of days for a new Yoga studio. The views from some of them were amazing as well. I could live there. For sure.

Tomorrow We start actual classes. I also have my interview sometime this week with my internship. It’s more of a “get-to-know-you” chat”, and to make sure it is what I want to be doing. My parents think that ciclopolis is also located close to our house—that would be nice! Hm, I already have quite a bit of homework, so that’s probably what the rest of my day will consist of. I keep *almost* forgetting that I’m here to study, not just learn the language and travel! I think I’ll be back in the swing of things soon enough…

Adios!

Natalia

video

Saturday, September 5, 2009

GOOOAAALLL!







Today was a great day. We visited Pasochoa; a protected wildlife/woodland area outside of Quito. Houses are EVERYWHERE in Quito. Driving out of the city, it was insane to see how close they were together and what kind of shape the houses were in. It looked like the projects; it was really sad to see kids outside these houses with hardly any clothes on sitting in the dirt next to the road. I kept forgetting that people actually live there. There was also TONS of trash alongside the road-plastic bags mostly. (Adopt a highway anyone?) The reserve wasn’t too far away- but our group went on a bus, and the roads were terrible once outside the city, so it ended up taking about 2 hours. The bus drivers are amazing, though- winding around on narrow gravel roads with huge potholes and dug out areas. We even had to back up a couple times to let logging trucks through. Once we arrived at Pasochoa, we were given a brief explanation of the different distances of paths we could take and the wildlife we could possibly see. We didn’t end up seeing much wildlife, but hike/view was amazing. Throughout the trip we stopped and played different interactive games focused on communication, trust, teamwork, and interpretation to get “integrated” with the culture and one another. It was a ton of fun. When it came time to eat lunch, we all had to put all of the food our family packed for us in the center and we swapped/shared. This was because EVERYONE shares almost everything in Ecuador. Food, drinks, houses— you name it. People are very generous and family/friend oriented. Lunch was a bit weird at first, but then ended up being great for the group- we just took bites of things and passed them around! It really did help us to get to know each other better. The ride home was a blast as well. We sang a large variety of different songs from Journey “Don’t stop believing” to “Apple Bottom Jeans” in a competing/battle royale game two of the Ecuadorian women taught us. It was great. Tonight 13 of us went to the Mariscal, a neighborhood about 6 blocks from my house with a ton of bars, restaurants, and shops, and we watched the Ecuador vs Columbia “playoff” futbol game for the world cup. Too bad we lost—there was quite riot throughout the town. Cops everywhere, and we did see some fights break out. We then went to another smaller bar off the beaten path and did some dancing. I finished up the night sitting at a nice outdoor restaurant/bar with 7 others chatting and watching the Brazil game. I took my first taxi home (they strongly recommend that after dark-even though it was only 6 blocks away). So cheap! 1 dollar. It was a day full of many new and exciting things- much like many more to come I'm sure!!

Estamos en fuego!!
Natalia

Thursday, September 3, 2009

La vida loca


WOW. That is the only word I can think to describe my experience so far. Everything is so overwhelming and new! It’s great…but exausting. I arrived Wednesday at 8 pm (After some delay in Denver/Miami). Flying into Quito was quite the experience- Quito is situated on the hillside of Mt. Pichincha and is surrounded by active volcanoes. With a population of 2 million people- the city lights were amazing! Quito extends 35 km (22 miles) lengthwise and only 3-5 km (2-3 miles) widthwise.
My mom was waiting at the airport with a sign- she hugged and kissed me on the cheek right away. Everyone is so friendly here! Driving back to my house was very interesting- Ecuador is home to many crazy drivers! Honking and cutting in front of another car is like saying hello. My mom was very good about speaking slowly so I could understand her. We had a nice conversation on the way home, and I got to stop and see their yoga studio. I live right in the city center, only 2 blocks from a line of “discotecas” or clubs. My dad and brother, Leonel, were very friendly and welcoming. There was also another guest, Rafael, staying at our home. From what I can tell, Ecuadorians always seem to have guests and willingly welcome people into their homes. We ate and drank tea and had good conversation- Nelson (dad) knows English pretty well so he could help me out when I was stuck. I was thinking about going to bed, but Leo offered an invitation to a discoteca with he and a few friends. I figured I might as well! It was very fun to go to the club and dance- about half of the music was American. I didn’t feel to out of place (maybe because it was dark) but I’m not usually one to sit back and watch while others dance and have fun! There was a lot of smoke, though. And moshing is big. There were about 5 songs where people ran in circles kicking their legs and pushing people. Not really my scene… However, the night ended well. I was exhausted and sore. It was a bit hard to go to sleep in an unfamiliar place, but I managed.
Today I got up and ate and ran some errands with my host mom, Leo, and Rafael. We did quite a bit of driving around, and I saw more of the city in the day time. One thing I found eye opening- at each stoplight people would be wondering around selling candy, gum, board games, newspapers, snacks- you name it. Many times it was women and children--quite sad. The supermarcado was fun to see, similar to the US, but one thing I thought was weird was that many items are in bags (ketchup, yogurt, milk). We bought TONS of fruits and vegetables- it will be fun to try them all. My mom also bought me beautiful flowers to welcome me!
I then unpacked my things and hung around the house before we ate a delicious meal- soup, stirfried vegetables of all kinds and an interesting (but good!) pasta salad. In Ecuador they eat big lunches in early afternoon then eat a snack or small meal in the evening/before bed. I then had my first group/class orientation this evening. It was nice to meet with everyone and speak a little English! I finished up the day watching a movie in Spanish with Leo and chatting with him- it was a good way to practice my spanish! Whew…after this detailed account, I’m off to bed- I have to be back at the HECUA office at 8:30 am. And I have an exam already! Yikes…

Muchos besos,
Natalia

Don't worry- they won't all be this long!