Monday was an great day because we got out of school at lunchtime to go to the immigration office to pick up our passports. It didn't take long at all, so we went out to lunch in Mariscal/the Plaza Foch, where all the gringos hang out. It was the first real food I had had in a while, and I was excited! It was also a girl in my program's birthday, so it was nice to be able to celebrate with her. Most people took taxis back to school, but a group of us took the bus because it was 25 cents and there is something that just feels much more Quiteño to be smashed up against everyone and trying not to fall over. We then all got super stressed over a group paper/presentation that was happening on Thursday and I was very excited to return home. That night, I decided to go to the Supermaxi to get some food to make lunches. (My host mother got very upset that I got sick and decided I should not even get bread or bananas from the tiendas around school. Probs Supermaxi bananas also have germs, but it was nice to go see what was there and my lunches have been great. I made a huge pot of chili, my favorite food ever, and it turned out to be 8 servings. Not sick of it yet!) I also checked out a gym within walking distance to my house, but it seemed awfully expensive for one treadmill, three elipticals, three bikes, and two group fitness classes per day.
(Lunch for 8 days!)
Tuesday was one of the longest days of school we will probably ever have, but that night it was my host sister's birthday. She is 36 or so and lives with her family outside of Quito, but we had the birthday party in my house. It was a really fun time watching all of my nieces and nephews run around together, meeting baby Nicolas, who is my host cousin's child, eating really good pizza (more real food!), being offered wine (I passed because I was still on antibiotics), and talking to my family. More than half of them speak English, but my host mother has insisted that I want to learn Spanish, so we always talk in Spanish. After the party, I went to my across the street neighbor's house to do homework. I'm so lucky to have someone in my program living so close to me.
Wednesday we got out of school early, but I was exhausted from lack of sleep and trying to coordinate a group paper with ten people (don't ask, I never want to speak of it again), so I headed straight home. I took a nap and when I woke up, Sarah (my neighbor on the program with me), our host moms, and I went to get our nails done. Sarah and I were under the impression that the salon was like those in the U.S., where multiple people could go at a time, but it was just one girl in the back of a hair salon. We were there for probably three hours just to get Sarah's and my nails done. They use the same tools on everyone, spraying them with alcohol, and it isn't exactly luxurious. But there is a book of hundreds upon hundreds of designs to choose from, and I was really missing doing fun nails with my mom. Sarah and I were worried about homework, but when "Hopelessly Devoted to You" started playing in the salon and I serenaded her ridiculously, she said "I needed this," and I couldn't agree more. Plus, my manicure cost $6 including a $1.50 tip. I got home and ate dinner, skyped with a good friend from back home, and agonized over my presentation the next morning before falling asleep on my homework, but I wouldn't have had Wednesday any other way.
Thursday after school I went to my friend Katrina's house (we took a long walk that was fun until we had to run in front of cars to cross the street to get to her house- pedestrians do not have the right of way here, and crosswalks are only sort of a thing). Katrina, Annie, and I were going to go to bible study together in the evening, but first we sat in Katrina's little room talking about boys and insisting that we should be doing our homework. Katrina's mom fed us traditional Ecuadorian food with really good tea, and we caught a taxi to this church. I was interested because the bible study was bilingual and a lot of people our age go to practice English or Spanish. It was really more of an English bible study, since the pastor spoke about as much Spanish as I do, but I met some really nice people, and we stayed and talked after for a long time. I talked mostly to Marlon (24 and a veterinarian), Jairo (around 25), and Galo, a man who had lived all around the world. I'm sad I probably won't be going back. I wanted to meet the people and experience different religious life in Quito (I've already been to Catholic Church), but it just feels disingenuous to really be a part of the group. Although I'm not sure what I believe entirely, I know that it does NOT include "salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone," (was raised Catholic, dudes) which I get the impression that that is all this bible study will ever talk about. I got back home in a taxi at like 10pm after getting a bit lost, which was scary. It was my first time in a taxi alone because the other girls got dropped off much before I did, but all was well, except that the guy charged me $8 (it should never be more than 6). I just felt glad I am starting to be independent in this country.
Friday was Valentine's day, and we got out of school early. I gave my parents flowers and my niece and nephew a Dora valentine from the U.S. They were there to hang out and help prepare for the HUGE birthday party that happened on Saturday for my two year old nephew Rafael, who, you may recall, already had a birthday party. His father was on business in Colombia, though, so they had two. This one involved 70 people, a cake, cupcakes, and cake pops, a jumpy thing, cotton candy, and a Despicable Me theme, I heard. (I was sad to miss it, but I went to the hot springs on Saturday.) A whole bunch of us went out Friday night to Bungalow 6, a very popular dance club type place in Mariscal. I had a FABULOUS time because I love dancing, and my group was super fun (and also good at looking out for one another, which is a good thing in crowds). One of the girls in our program went with her host sister, and her host sister brought friends. I ended up salsa dancing with an acquaintance of hers and was SUPER happy about that because salsa dancing is #1 on my list here and he was fun, not creepy, and probably one of the best dance partners I have had.
Saturday we were up early to head to Papallacta, about 2 hours outside of Quito. We went on an incredible nature hike, got some lunch at the little restaurant, and bathed in the hot springs all day long. There are two hot springs options, the regular baths, or the spa. Regular baths cost $7.50, the spa $21. Most of us chose the regular baths, and I was thrilled with my experience there. There were at least nine pools, most of them bathwater or warmer, but some freezing, as well as the river to play in (which was colder than the freezing pools, but we stayed on the rocks). Most of the visitors were Ecuadorian, actually, and I love feeling like I'm doing things that people here do, rather than people that visit here do. (This was really both.) Check the pics on facebook. We were home by just after six and I relaxed because I was exhausted.
(Chillin' with a llama in Papallacta!)
Today is a homework day for sure (two essays due this week), but I had to get in some sort of reflection, even if it is just listing what I did As you can see, it has been quite a bit too busy for journaling or blogging.
I write this less reflective piece both to give people who care (hi mom!) an update, as well as to remind myself that no matter how much it feels I have too much work, I am making lots of excellent time to experience life here. (And just talking to my host family is probably the most genuine experience I can get.) I am so, so lucky and this week was a blast, even if stressful. I'm not sure how grades are looking or really how we are graded at all, but perhaps I shall continue to try not to think about those things. It has been going pretty well so far.