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Enough of the beforehand mumbo-jumbo SO GLAD THAT PART IS OVER

….and I’m finally here!!!!

Ready to share more of this crazy sweet place…
AH, Disclaimer #2 – hopefully the last – at times I am sure I will
find myself referring back to a previous adventure and may digress
into a story that has nothing to do with my time here, but hopefully
this can help you to make the same connections….


-OOpsss I lied… Disclaimer #3
– If you didn’t notice, I thoroughly
enjoy using “…..” It helps me feel like this is more like a
conversation than a Kayla-rant-session. Hope that’s cool…………

Why I love Otavalo

This indigenous town is the most known in all of Quito because of its
enormous Mercado (market) of artisans, clothing, animals, fruits, etc.
The guidebook even says it is the home of South America’s most famous
crafts market. My school is actually located on the street that shuts
down on Saturdays  for the huge market.  Everything is handmade,
unique, great quality, and very barrato (cheap).  For example,
Giovanni told me today that a pure silver ring that would cost 60$ in
the US would be at the most 10-20$ at the market.  (at la mercado this
Saturday I bought a warm wool hat for 1$!) Now, although one of my
goals was to discard things as the trip goes on and not accumulate
stuff, I may not be able to pass this opportunity so I m taking orders
for items that are unbreakable and  will fit in a bread box….

However, I also need to share the downside of this market.  My first
day walking around, on Monday, I did not see ANY tourists.  Not one.
It was amazing to feel like one of the villagers, or at least like the
only outsider in a place where everyone is so friendly and kind. But
of course, when la Mercado is open in full effect on Saturday, I’ve
been told that tourists are everywhere!! This is definitely not an
awful thing and even the locals I have talked to seem to not mind, but
it was nice to feel lucky for a while that I had found this hidden
gem, adorable little town. (update after the weekend… totally not
true, I went to the mercado from 7-845 in the morning and from 230-4
in the afternoon and it was just lovely… not many tourists and the
vendors don´t bother you ridiculously like in other places… really
amazing things to look at and so much to see and people watch!)

I also found out that Otavalo is the second safest town/city in Quito
which can ease all minds that thought I was in some crazy
internet-less, run-down Latin American country. It is amazing to feel
so comfortable walking around, in comparison  to our last couple days
in Chile when we were all so nervous (if you dont know the stories, I’
ll tell you in person too hard to type!)

I am also learning more and more about los indigenas (indigenous
people)of the town during class and observing them around town since
they make up about 80% of the population here.

The women, including Juanita (the Grandma in my homestay), all have
one long braid in their hair, wear frilly and lacey-sleeved,
embroidered, white blouses and long black skirts and also bright gold
layered necklaces. The indigenous men dark felt hats, blue ponchos and
have long ponytails or one long braid.  It is really fascinating how
they are able to preserve their culture so well while living among
many of the modern same amenities we have in the US… and it is nothing
like Plymouth Plantation where it is all just for show!  In my travels
I have found that this kind of seemingly ancient  dress it is usually
just part of a tourist attraction.  But here it is just their everyday
attire. Take a look at the photos I’ve tried to  sneak from my
school’s balcony!

Seven Horas Cada Dia

Seven hours a day, I am speaking and understanding Spanish.  It is
really neat. It has only been three days and I can sit in a room with
an Ecuadoriano and speak Spanish. Sidenote- these Ecuadorianos happen
to be seasoned profesors who are used to understanding broken Spanish.
When I talk to the 16 year old boy in my house, he is always laughing
at me…But still, it feels like progress!

I have class in the morning 830-1230 and the afternoon  from 2-5,
going home for almuerzo (lunch) in between. In the morning it is with
Giovanni and the afternoon with Carlos. With both, we usually spend
about half the class on grammar and exercises and half just talking
about various things-  our very different cultures, travel, family,
friends, etc etc. All of the teachers have gone to college and are
really great at what they do.  What is really different about class is
that they take the notes for you!!! I know it sounds strange but for
some reason it is just what they do. We sit across from each other at
a table and they talk while writing in my notebook , always color
coded in blue and red and sometimes also green. The way they are so
organized, precise, and neat is really incredible and helpful.  I just
need to keep up memorizing boring verb forms…

Dude s and Bettys

How fun is that to say? Try it! Haha…anyway, that is the name of the
store directly beneath my school. Ridiculous, no? What is even more
ridiculous is that it is of course all American clothing –  Hollister,
American Eagle, etc etc.  I found this hilarious… and also probably a
little sad that this silly name reminds them of our “culture” in the
USA.  But even more hilarious is how I came to notice it, because the
sign is not large. The first day of class, I was in a room by the
window all morning there was a very loud back-drop of music…
literally fifty cent, Beyonce, and those other hip groups  that are
all over the radio and clubs.  All I could think was is it really not
possible to escape the drowning sounds of Britney and Coldplay even
here in Ecuador?!

During the break for lunch, I had to find out where it was coming
from, and I was lead right to Dudes and Bettys –  where you can spend
a modest entire month’s rent (125$) on 2 t-shirts…

¡Pan Pan Pan!

Why are all Latin American countries addicted to pan (brea d)? And how
do they not get so huge eating at least two bigger-than-bun-size
pieces per meal and between meals?

Just like Chile, we have pan, pan, pan all the time here! The ducle
(sweet) aroma is everywhere…And it is soooo good and so normal for
everyone, I don’t  know how to s ay no! The pan that is customary to
eat every morning and during breaks and after each meal is almost like
a French croissant –  sweet enough to not need butter but not quite
dessert-like. I am sure the reason they eat it so much is because it
is so  fresh, delicious, cheap and filling.   And they probably don’t
get  enormous because they do so much more walking from place to place
than people at home. Okay so I just answered my own questions but I

still don’t have the answer for how to quell my newfound addiction!

The Amazing Run.

Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy my Spanish Classes and have become
pretty good friends with both teachers. Carlos is actually born and
bred in Otavalo and also an athlete. When I asked him if it would be
weird to run in the streets here (which I knew the answer would be
YES), he told me there is a stadium that people run around, like a
track, and also routes you can take around the town and through the
countryside.  He told me he runs, too… at 5:30 in the  morning…

But, he hadn’t that morning, and said he could take me on an afternoon
run to a nearby puebla (town) called Las Palmeras.  It would be much
nicer than running circles around an old stadium, he said, so I agreed
to the adventure through the countryside!  Despite that I haven’t run
since maybe December 16.  I was really excited to jump back into the
world of exercise in a brand new country, and it was really amazing of
course!!  FAR too hilly then necessary at first, but it was so
interesting running past cows, houses far from any sounds or people,
goats, etc etc.  On the way back, we took an even more off the beat
path, through what seemed almost like a jungle! It was so serene and
scenic, even though at times I was a bit scared that an animal or
reptile was going to pop out and attack!

UPDATE… today is the inauguration!! YAY happy new America,
hopefully!  Its been interesting talking to people here about Obama
… but its really weird being so disconnected… I am here in a
computer cafe and the comp is too slow to watch on CNN… I saw the
very end on TV…  I watched it with my Swiss friend Ramona… it was
really strange, we just laughed at Bush walking out and the big
microphone hiding the guy who was speaking last.  Hopefully I can find a
better comp to watch it on… and hope you all are celebrating!! Its
ironic because today is a very lively day in Ecuador as well because
the indigenous people are protesting today the new mining laws that
President Correa is likely going to sign which many of the indigenous
people (who usually are in line with Correa) believe are going to
infringe on their sovereignty and their land.  Ramona and I are going
to walk about an hour this afternoon to see if we can get a glimpse of
the protests… our teacher told us where they usually try to blockade
the Pan American… but also not sure if it will be much because it is
centered in the capital… updates to follow….

Things you should get excited about me describing when my eyes are
able to stay open….

-Juanita my hero
~ La familia – Jorge, dany, HSM
~ la comida (the foooood!)
~My first friends!!
– first night out… awed by the passionate music and people!
~el juego de letras (game of letters…. Any guesses)
-terro moto, chess
– Las Dias en general (the days in general) – cumpleaños
-Weekend mini-explorations
-españolllll!!!

Miss you millions, hope all is super and keep me posted on your lives 🙂
Con Amor,
Michaela

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