Hola mis amigos! Ahora, estoy en Puembo, Ecuador. I landed in the Quito International Airport yesterday, September 7, at around 1:15 with my good friend Hector Ortiz! The day itself was LONG, as I had to wake up around 3:30 to catch my 6 AM flight from Charleston to Miami, and then I had to catch a connecting flight from Miami to Quito, Ecuador. Honestly, the flights were SO SIMPLE and very amazing. I was able to see Cuba while flying, and honestly, it was amazing to just know I had left the United States and was heading somewhere so new and unknown. I had an entire row on the plane to myself, so I just slept, listened to some podcasts, and started the Netflix show “Money Heist.”
It was so insanely comforting to have someone I knew on the planes with me even though we did not sit together just because I knew that I’d have at least one friend to support me on this journey. Hey Hector, if you’re reading this blog, THANK YOU. Your presence was calming, and you definitely kept me sane during our layovers and time waiting to get through customs.
When arriving, I took videos and pictures of all the amazing views of Quito simply because I was BLOWN AWAY by the beauty of the mountainous landscape. It’s amazing how such a large city is built around and on such large mountains.
While I walked off the plane and into the airport, I began getting oh so nervous due to the language barrier. Every sign was in Spanish, the airport and customs employees all spoke Spanish, and I was literally half awake trying to figure out what the heck was going on. When walking up to the customs counter, I began just blurting out all I could say in Spanish about my trip and why I was visiting, and the officer was genuinely so kind and offered to speak English with me, but I persevered with my Spanish. He marked my passport with its FIRST STAMP EVER, told me “felicidades y bienvenidos,” and I walked into Ecuador. WOW. It was exhilarating, honestly. Hector and I found our luggage and walked through the exit to find the staff member who was assigned to pick us up, and before I knew it we were on a bus driving through the landscape. The roads were windy, hilly, and suddenly all cobblestones. I knew we’d be to the hotel soon, and I was giddy to exit the van.
We arrived at the “Hotel San Jose de Puembo” around 1:50 PM and were shown our rooms and then it was time for lunch. The hotel is almost like a compound in a way—there’s a giant fence around the entire property and within the grounds there is a spa, SO MUCH green space, an animal farm (with rabbits, chickens, roosters, ducks, and llamas), a ZIPLINE (!!!), and an amazing restaurant. Lunch by the way is the LARGEST meal of the day here, so I was served fresh limonada, corn, more corn as a “fritada,” and honestly the best chicken I’ve ever eaten.
Our SIT staff members were so kind, but they spoke tons of Spanish at lunch, which stressed me out a little. After, we were given about three hours of free time since many of our other cohort members hadn’t arrived yet, so I attempted to nap, but my nerves absolutely got the best of me. It just didn’t hit me that I was thousands of miles away from home until I lay in my bed in this hotel room alone, looking out at the landscape. So instead, I called my boyfriend, my parents, and my best friend, trying to distract myself. I think I’m still at the point where I’m just extremely excited for everything to come, but I know my homesickness will hit most while I’m alone.
Generally, I am EVER SO EXCITED to try all the foods here, as the lunch and dinners on the first day were amazing. I even got to try some new fruits; one is called the “uvilla” (I think). It almost tasted like maple syrup. I cannot wait to leave Puembo, which is outside of the capital and much more rural, and transition into the city. As for now, I’ll just keep hanging out with the free-range llamas here. And no, I am not kidding about the llamas. They’re pretty darn cool.
Although it’s only been 24 hours, I know that Ecuador is already starting to grow on me. Thus far, everyone has been so kind, and I’ve been able to practice my Spanish without feeling too silly or out of place. I am really looking forward to the next 15 weeks! One thing I do hope for is some more consistent weather…it’s rained out of the blue at least thrice since I’ve been here.
Hasta la próxima vez,