The landscape, lit by magical lights, made it easy to see the mountains and valleys of Quito as we descended. The mountains and ridges donned few lights, while the valleys were peppered with the magical lights of many warm incandescents with a few blue LEDs scattered throughout. Now came the grounding. The shaking, the sound of the engine fighting against gravity along the runway, the brakes working as they should, led to a jumble of emotions, then at once, relief: we were, grounded in Quito, Ecuador.
This travel experience was one of the smoothest I have experienced in a long time. Checking into GSP International Airport, every person I encountered along the way was so friendly and nice to me, which was a pleasant surprise. As I waited to board my first plane from GSP to Atlanta, I found Evan, another Wofford student going on my program and we chatted, which calmed my nerves. Waiting on our second flight, Evan and I found some more of our classmates who we got to know better eating dinner in the airport. Both of the flights were a few minutes early and encountered only a little bit of rain. Customs was muy fácil for me as the worker was friendly and didn’t grill me on details of my stay.
Though the travel experience was smooth, each time I looked out into the clouds outside of my window seat, I thought “It is crazy to be on this plane right now.” It was the reality of COVID-19 pandemic these past eighteen months had crushed any dreams of international travel that on the plane it was almost unreal. It was finally real.
Since arriving in Ecuador my program has been staying in a hotel near the airport to rest and adjust to the altitude while completing an orientation and introduction to our semester classes. We haven’t interacted with much of the local culture inside of the hotel, but we will soon when we move to a hotel in the city of Quito. I am feeling excited and hopeful for more cultural and linguistic immersion as we begin our classes and time in Quito.