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ahoy! Ciao Boston!

(the following was written my 2nd day in Ecuador in a big email that I´ve been convinced to start a blog for…)

Hi all! So I’ve decided that I am going to try really hard to document my time here in South America, since I never really do that traveling and a lot of people, especially my family, know I’ve gone all these places but don’t really get what I’m doing or exactly what I´m getting out of it. I’m going to try and send weekly emails blabbing about what I’m learning, seeing, experiencing, and all the exciting observations and people I’m meeting. I’ve only been here 2 days and already have about 5 people I’d love to blab to you about! If I´m emailing you, its because you said to keep in touch or you are someone I really want to keep in touch with!!! I promise to send indiv emails too… but, That said, I don’t want to spam anyone’s inbox, SO if you do want to stay on this list, just send me a quick reply.… really don’t feel like you have to write me a long email I totally understand everyone is super busy. But if you don’t reply with a ¨yes keep me posted¨ message of some kind, I’m going to start removing people from the list so as to not bombard your inbox!   Also let me know if you I should send to a different email or if I´m missing someone who you think may like to get emails. thanks 🙂

I’m also going to try and keep a very detailed blog and hopefully the weekly emails will entice you to visit that. OR I might just copy and paste the blog to the emails… in the very beginning stages of organizing thoughts as you can probably tell.  Its extremely different traveling and studying alone because I have a lot more time to myself (thats for right now before I´ve had a chance to meet people…) and to think about everything going on… as cliche as that may sound… its not a bad thing at all though I´m liking it so far!

(Okay, so I have just re’read this very long email that I wrote last night when I was very bored and excited… and PROMISE the next ones will not be so long at all unless people really like all the ridiculous random details I included… I´ll probably just write all the details in the blog and then summarize in weekly emails… or whatever ends up working… anyway sorry for the length you don´t have to read it all !!!)
ANYWAY… here it goes…

January 10th….Day 1 the nameless conversers and actually arriving with no problemas!!!

Despite the one hour of sleep and feelings of being completely overpacked but underprepared (even after preparing for 2 months), the flight from Boston to Miami was a great kick off to my adventure. I ended up sitting by the window and to my right was this very nice guy who started a conversation with me shortly into the flight merely by asking if I lived in Miami… this led to an entire plane ride of discussing Boston, travel, jobs and everything in between… I’m realizing now that we never even exchanged names. Turns out he claims Boston as his hometown, although he his Columbian and lived in Bogota for half of high school and also went to medical school there. He now works some medical job at Harvard, but was on his way to Miami for a medical residency job interview because he is broke. His interest in neurology, psychiatry and the brain was really interesting.. he was reading a book about Proust and how his work connected to art. He told me about his band who sometimes played at the Middle East, his ten year old son, Isabella Allende’s book on the founding of Chile…. and when he sat next to me he looked just like another college student close to my age. To me, he was an eye-opening example of how one can be extremely intelligent and educated, well-grounded in their life goals, have a mindset to travel the world, have children… and still be young in appearance and at heart. OH and by the way, he told me I could pass for Ecuadorian, a definite plus! Pretty sure all I need is a good dark tan… hooray!

As if having this one fascinating person to chat with wasn’t enough, turns out the man to his right (also did not catch his name) was also no his way to Ecuador to volunteer for a month in sustainable forestry. He was older (I would guess around 55), a retired builder from Maine, and another reminder that growing up doesn’t have to mean an end to the adventures in travel and volunteering! I´m not saying I think that growing older is going to be totally boring, just have always assumed  I need to take advantage of my young years now because later it will be much more difficult… which I´m sure is true…

Although there was not much sleeping nor Spanish studying involved in my first flight as planned, I’m truly greatful to have met these two anonymous inspirations. The second flight was not quite as lucky, where the most exciting thing that happened was me spilling tea all over the German girl next to me… beyond awkard and awful!!

I want to tell you a very interesting thing about the language school I am going to attend – first of all, I did not pay any amount of money ahead of time. I merely sent a registration form online (with minimal information requested), spoke to a person on the phone very breifly, and exchanged a few emails with my flight number, dates, etc. This was enough for the school to agree to make all the arrangements necessary including various forms of transportation and homestay. So all of this has now been done without paying a dime just yet.

That said, when I got off the plane I was eager to grab my bags and find the person who was holding sign with my name on it, because if I took too long and he left, I would be one very lost gringo. Of course, my bag is nowhere to be found. So I wait in a long line of travelers with lost luggage, seeing everyone receive forms and a promise to have an answer by the next evening, I am getting very nervous. Finally it is my turn – and the woman looks to the other worker and says DAMICO, and he asks me, “a backpack, rojo?” ¨YES! that’s mine!¨ The lady then walks me over to a back locked-door closet where she checks and finds my bag. I’m still very confused about this… why would they put some bags locked away in back closets and others thrown on the luggage wheel? It is not as if all big backpacks were put back there, I saw several on the floor in the airport. Certainly, it was the Ecuadorians testing my gumption and ability to keep it cool and calm in moments of presumed-disaster… in this case I have to say I almost broke down out of fear that I’d be left by my transporter, but in the end kept it together and was very lucky! FEWF! I found it really interesting how the school didn’t need any monetary confirmation from me that I was coming, and they waited the 30 minutes or so… it is crazy how they can run a successful business this way, I’m really glad it works for them and wish other businesses could have reason to be more trusting. (update… I have had one day of class and still have not paid…need to goto an ATM still ha!)

Turns out that not only the school’s director but also another student that had just arrived were all waiting for me… Isabella from Montreal. She must have been over 60 years old and quite a charming lady… she told me about her plans for South America – really learn and study Spanish in Ecuador and then see everything there is to see in Peru. She is studying at the Quito school for 4 weeks and then her boyfriend is meeting her and she will be their translator for the rest of their trip. This wasn’t her first time doing a language school either, she went to Mexico for 8 weeks off studying 2 years earlier. She also told me about how she used to work in diplomatic service, was married to a diplomat and got to live in amazing places such as India and Nepal. And all of this in just a 30 minute car ride! Quite an amazing lady…

After we dropped off Isabella, I then got a chance to sit up front and chat with the language school director. I was quite amazed and excited… I was able to hold a 25 minute chat with him all in Spanish! It was a relief to see that Ecuadorians speak much slower and clearer than those crazy Chileanos and Spaniards. I really liked him and I’m glad that he will be at the school in Otavalo.

The hostel I stayed at in Quito was in the heard of La Mariscal – the dubbed tourist section of the city with numerous clubs and bars – it was so loud at midnight! However, I found out that Quito is nothing like Santiago (Chile), because the bars have to close at 2 or 3 just like in Boston, whereas in Chile the bars/clubs did not get crowded until around 2!! The hostel was very cute, the boy at reception very nice, but it was very strange in that my room only locked from the inside, and even though it felt very safe, I was obliged to take all my important possesions to the bathroom with me. I wasn’t there long, but it was a pretty nice hostel.

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Day 2! Getting out of the city!!

The next morning, 11 Jan 2009 (trying to get used to this much smarter way of telling the date), I made my first, hopefully last, language/careless mishap. The director who dropped me off the night before had told the boy at reception that someone from Taxi Lagos would be picking me up around 11:15, and the boy wrote it on a note. So the next morning I came out the lobby with my stuff around this time. The now different boy at reception was very nice also, but I think a bit confused. When I had been waiting a few minutes, he finally showed me the note and I said yes thats me. He then made a call and said the taxi would be here in 2 minutes. When it arrived, I got in no questions asked and we were on our way. When he asked where to? I knew I had probably made a big mistake and gotten into the wrong cab. He said it would cost 50$ for him to drive me to Otavalo. I asked (a lil too late) if he was taxi Lagos, because my ride was supposed to be paid for already. He said no but he knew them, and we drove to their station. The people there told him the taxi was waiting at my hostel… so we sped back. A crazy amount of stress and 3 dollar ride around the city for nothing…but I was back at the hostel and piling into the right cab, who would not cost me any money. Lucky that this first lesson in needing to be abit more assertive, especially with a huge language barrier, was not the disaster it could have been!

The 2 hour ride to Otavalo was nothing less than beautiful and gave me a great panarama of the city and the outlying mountanous surroundings. I’ve added some photos I took from the ride because I can’t really do justice in describing it. Interestingly, as I had been warned, we experienced many of the seasons on this ride as well… first it was comfortably warm but not sunny, then as we drove on it got quite bright and sunny, then it started to drizzle and rain a bit, and finally ended in Otavalo where it was a chilly and moist air, in the mid 50s I would say.

I am now in the Recalde family home where Jorge the Dad and little Daniella (10 years old) greeted me and showed me to my room where quite unlike myself, I apted to passing out for multiple hours rather than exploring the town for the Sunday afternoon… though boring it was probably a smart choice. Woke up for dinner around 7pm where I met others in the family – the beautiful Abuela (Grandma) who made dinner and then more of Jorge’s children and their friends ( not sure if there is a Mom in the picture). The Abuela was gorgeous – her face could have been on the cover of a travel book – that is the neat thing about this town, most are descendants of indiginous tribes and have very unique features, and also as I was driving in I noticed that many still wear traditional indiginous clothing as well. From what little I’ve seen of this town, I can tell it is going to be really different and enlightening.

A few more tidbits about the family – little Jorge, who is turning 16 next week, is super cute and friendly. He loves basketball and wants to see photos of the Celtics. The family also has lots of pets – dogs and cats… who also have babies!!! So Jorge brought in the tiniest little kitten thing I have ever seen… it was seriously a mini-rat… and then I found out they have puppies too so he showed me this 3 week old adorable little cocker spaniel maybe? Not so sure, but I’ve added a photo of them too! Now its off to bed as I have my first day of class at 830am! and no idea how to get to school… hoping the dad Jorge remembers he has to show me… adios for now 🙂

xoxo Abrazos (hugs),
Michaela

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