Category Archives: Firsts in Ecuador

So . . . did I summit Chimborazo?

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chimborazo.pictureAnd the answer is . . . no.  But . . .  I am completely at peace with the outcome because it was an amazingly beautiful (and challenging!) weekend.  Here’s a play by play for you.  Also, after you read the chain of events from the weekend, check out the pictures at the end of the post that show you more details about the journey.  (By the way, if you have no idea what I am talking about so far, read this post first.)

Friday, June 21

  • 2:30pm: I was driven to Casa Condor (about 30 minutes away) by a friendly taxi driver named Roberto.  Ironically, he ended up being the father of one of my previous students here in Riobamba.  I stayed at Casa Condor because it is at a higher altitude (3800 meters/12,400 feet) than Riobamba and it’s wise to slowly acclimate to the higher altitude of Chimborazo.
  • 4:00pm: I went on an incredibly challenging “walk” to acclimate to the higher altitude (this was suggested by my taxi driver).  The place I walked was so steep, it was quite a challenge!  Here’s a video of me while I was resting on my walk.  As you can tell, it was a bit windy!
  • 6:00pm: I went to scope out the kitchen in the hostel so I knew where I’d be cooking my dinner.  That’s where I met two other guys that that I learned would be hiking with me the following evening.  They are both from Australia and their names are Garrick and Ron.  They are nice guys and as it ended up, I was really glad that we all took this journey together.  That evening, we made a pasta dinner and talked a bit to get to know one another, since we’d be spending plenty of time together over the next 36 hours.
  • 8:00pm: I went back to my room and was asleep by 9:00pm. 🙂

Saturday, June 22

  • 8:00am: I got out of bed after reading for awhile, took some pictures of the beautiful countryside, and made breakfast.
  • 10:45am: Garrick, Ron and I went on a walk around the community where we were staying.
  • 12:30pm: We were picked up by our guides and drove to the first refuge (4800 meters/15,700 feet) of Chimborazo.
  • 2:30pm: We drank Coca tea (apparently helps with altitude sickness) and soup at the refuge.
  • 3:00pm: We went to rest/sleep to let our bodies get ready for the upcoming demands of the evening.
  • 4:30pm: We woke-up and ate “dinner” and then hiked to the second refuge (5000 meters/16,400 feet).
  • 6:30pm: We arrived at the second refuge and got ready for bed.  We were supposed to sleep from 7:00pm until 10:00pm to rest for the hike.
  • 6:45pm: I walked outside to see an amazing sunset and filmed a short video before going to sleep.  Watch it here.
  • 10:00pm: We were woken up and to eat “breakfast” and then got dressed and ready to leave for the hike.
  • 11:30pm: 3 hikers (me, Ron, and Garrick) and 3 guides (Fabian, Raul, and Alberto) left to begin the journey up Chimborazo.

Sunday, June 23

  • 12:15am: After hiking for about 45 minutes, we stopped to put crampons (equipment you put on your shoes in order to hike in snow and ice) on our boots for the rest of the journey.
  • 12:20am: I had no idea how to walk with crampons.
  • 1:00am: I started to partly understand how to walk with crampons.
  • 2:00am: Our group of 6 discussed our progress at that point.  We were pretty exhausted already.  Our guides decided that at our current pace (apparently rather tortoise-like), it would take about 6 more hours to summit Chimborazo.
  • 2:15am: Two of us decided to go on and continue to hike onto the glacier.
  • 3:30am: My guide, Fabian, told me that we still had about 5 hours until the top.  At that point, I needed to stop about every 30 seconds to rest and I didn’t foresee that getting better as the altitude increased.  After hiking through a lot of ice and snow, I decided to call it quits (5700 meters18.700 feet) and surrender.
  • 4:00am: We started to descend and head back to the refuge with another hiker and his guide.
  • 6:30am: We arrived at the second refuge and tried to get a couple of hours of sleep.  (This was very difficult because it was freezing!)
  • 9:000am: We walked down to the first refuge, were picked up and driven back to Riobamba to end our adventurous journey.
This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

This is where I stayed on Friday evening . . . obviously an amazing view.

After going on my "walk," I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at Chimborazo.

After going on my “walk,” I relaxed by listening to some music at the top of the hill and looking at gorgeous Chimborazo.

Several cute sheep hanging around the hostel.

There were several cute sheep that lived next to the hostel.

The incredible view from my room . . . for only $12/night.

The incredible view from my room for only $12/night.  Amazing.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met.  We all hiked together with our guides.

These are the two guys from Australia that I met, Garrick and Ron. We all hiked together with our guides.

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.  Note the Hershey bar that cost $1.50!  That was quite a splurge!

Here is the food I bought for dinner, breakfast and hiking.

This is the first refuge.  We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This is the first refuge. We ate downstairs and rested here for awhile before walking up to the second refuge.

This was the sunset from the second refuge.  Look at how cool it was that we were above the clouds!

This was the sunset from the second refuge.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

Ron, Garrick and I getting ready to embark on the journey up (part of) Chimborazo.

My wonderful guide, Fabian, who hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!

Here I am with my wonderful guide, Fabian.  He hikes Chimborazo 2 or 3 times each week!  Holy cow!

You wondered what crampons are?  They're the spiky things that are on my boots here.

You wondered what crampons look like?  They’re the spiky things that are on my boots.  Interesting, huh?

Here I am - looking a little chilly.  But, I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me - with the crampons on.  Yeesh!

Here I am – looking a little chilly.  I want you to notice that I was expected to walk through those rocks behind me – with the crampons. Yeesh!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

Here is the picture of me after I surrendered to the mountain and decided not to hike anymore.  At least I was still happy!

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike.  This picture is at about 6:30am, when the sun was coming up.  The moon is amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

We had a perfectly full moon during the hike. It was so bright, we didn’t have to use our headlamps.  This picture was taken at 6:30am.  The moon was still amazing and you can see how high we were since the clouds are all below us.

Yikes!!!

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Well . . . here I go!  Apparently, with only two weeks left in Ecuador, I felt the need to take on a challenge that is very likely I may not complete.  Ready to hear about it?  Let’s do it!

This weekend, I am attempting to summit Mount Chimborazo.  What is Chimborazo?  Well, actually, it’s the furthest point on earth from the center of the earth – higher than Mount Everest – and the closest point on earth to the sun.  If you don’t believe me, check this out.

So, here are the details:

  • Friday, June 21: I travel about 45 minutes to stay and sleep at a hostel, Casa Condor, for the afternoon and evening.  This hostel is about 1000 meters higher than Riobamba, at 2700 meters.  This will allow my body to begin to acclimate to a higher altitude in preparation for the hike.
  • Saturday, June 22: In the afternoon, I am picked up by my guide and we make our way toward Chimborazo. Around 5:00pm or so, we eat dinner and then head to the second refuge on Chimborazo, which is at 5000 meters.  We sleep there for about 5 hours (again, so our bodies can acclimate to the altitude) and begin our hike at 11:00pm.  (Yes, you read that correctly – at night.)  The reason we hike at night is because as the snow is warmed by the sun, avalanches are far more likely.  On top of this, any rock held in place by ice will start its gravity-induced downward journey once the sun has melted the cementing ice.  Nights and early mornings are generally clear, and clouds normally come in by midday, which is another reason to climb at night.  Also, the weather tends to be better during full moon . . .  and guess what?  Sunday is a full moon. 🙂
  • Sunday, June 23: We will be hiking from Saturday evening until early Sunday morning – hopefully.  The plan is to summit, but if I have to stop earlier because of altitude sickness, we will do so.  Optimistically, I will be back down from the summit by 10:00am on Sunday morning.  At that time, I get picked up by the guide company and driven back to Riobamba.

So, what can you do for me?  PRAY, PRAY . . . AND PRAY.  I am looking forward to the challenge – because I do like a challenge – and am excited about the possibility of making it all the way to the top.  Yay!  But also, I pray to have peace if I do not make it to the top.  I pray that I do not feel like a failure and can be happy with myself that I at least attempted the journey.  So . . . please pray for our safety, to enjoy both journeys – up and down, to feel peaceful regardless of the outcome, and to revel in the beauty of this majestic mountain.  I will be in touch next week and let you know the outcome.  Thank you in advance for your prayers. 🙂

Some other volunteers and I "visited" Chimborazo last December.  Little did I know that I'd be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

Some other volunteers and I “visited” Chimborazo last December. Little did I know that I’d be attempting to make it to the top several months later.

An interview with . . . ME! :)

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Hello friends!  As this Sunday, I have been in Ecuador for 12 weeks.  Muy interesante.  As I’ve mentioned previously, it doesn’t really feel like a long time, particularly since I started teaching English three weeks ago.

In this post, I have decided to write several questions and answers that you might be wondering about my 12-week-long Ecuadorian life.  So, I’m going to interview myself (ha, ha) and hope you enjoy learning some new information.

What has been your favorite thing to do so far during your time in Ecuador?  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to experience my first FUTBOL game in Ecuador.  My host sister, Gatita, and I watched her favorite team play on a Sunday afternoon.  I loved experiencing the excitement and energy in the stadium.  Latin Americans are by far, the most passionate sports fans I have ever seen.

What fun things are you hoping to do in the near future?  Just the other evening I found out that one of my students, Alejandro, is a nature guide.  This means that he can take groups of people hiking, which is very popular here because we are surrounded by mountains and volcanoes.  So, hopefully in the next week or so I’ll take a hiking adventure.  Fun!

What do you like to do to relax?  There are three things I enjoy doing to relax.  First, I enjoy going on walks to a nearby park called Parque Ecologico.  Check out the picture of the park.  Next, I enjoy reading and writing in my journal on the terrace of our house (that’s just a fancy way to say the concrete roof).  And finally, I enjoy watching movies.

Do you enjoy teaching English?  I do enjoy teaching English.  It is quite different than what I have done in the elementary school setting, however, it is new and exciting each day.  I am continually challenged by my students and have a good time learning English grammar alongside them.  I must admit that I never realized how little English grammar I knew.  Thankfully, I am now learning about many verb tenses and other components that make up our language.

Have you met your goal of integrating more speaking into your English classes?  I am still working on this but have gotten into a pattern of having specific parts of the class be “speaking” parts.  I like listening to the students and of course, they like trying out their English skills.

How do you get to and from class?  I walk to class each afternoon . . . and absolutely LOVE it!  One of my greatest joys these days is not driving anywhere – and walking everywhere.  Particularly since the weather is usually quite comfortable, I enjoy being outside on my way to class.  My classes end each evening at 9:00pm.  Since it is dark, the wisest way for me to get home each evening is via taxi.  Therefore, I hail a taxi and pay the $1.00 fee for a ride home.  Funny enough, each evening I seem to have the same conversation with a new taxi driver.  The driver always asks me where I am from and what I am doing in Riobamba.  I always tell him my story, while simultaneously explaning that I only speak a little bit of Spanish – hinting for him to speak slowly.  The ride home is only about 4 minutes, which is just about the time our conversation starts to come to a halt.

Are you taking Spanish lessons?  I am so glad you asked. 🙂  If you remember, when I was living in Quito for the first month, I decided that I  needed to continue taking Spanish lessons in Riobamba.  I did take lessons for four weeks when I arrived, but was not happy with my teacher.  This week, I began lessons with a new teacher and am really enjoying the lessons.  My teacher’s name is Cesar.  Just the other day, I explained to him that in the U.S. there is a salad with his same name.  He found that perplexing and a little  bit humorous.  I meet with Cesar every day for 2 hours in the afternoon.  It’s intense, but so far it has been rather helpful.

What has been your favorite meal to eat?  Our cook, Maria, is by far one of my favorite people here in Ecuador.  She has a HUGE heart.  She is also an amazing cook.  Each day, we have soup with lunch.  Therefore, I will tell you my two favorite soups.  I have enjoyed both a pumpkin soup (make from a real pumpkin – not a can!) and tomato soup with hard-boiled eggs.  I know those soups don’t sound very exciting, but trust me, they are delicious.

What has been your least favorite meal to eat?  I don’t feel like I am being completely honest here because I didn’t actually eat the meal.  However, the least favorite meal served at my house has been soup with tripe and sangre.  You might wonder what sangre is . . . because I did.  Well, it’s blood.  Yes, soup with sheep intestines and blood.  Gross.  I just couldn’t force myself to try it and felt really bad about being disrespectful toward my family and Maria.  Again, I have really enjoyed all of the other foods here – it’s just that one that caught me a bit off-guard.

So . . . what are you doing for Christmas?  Again, I am glad you asked.  I have decided to go to the U.S. over Chrsitmas and New Year’s.  I will be in Denver for Christmas and then in St. Louis for the rest of the time.  I am truly looking forward to being with family and friends and enjoying some of the comforts back home (for example, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – sad, but true).

What have you learned about yourself and about life so far?  Where do I begin?  Seriously.  Well, as some of you know . . . some parts of this journey have been difficult so far.  Not necessarily bad, just hard.  More specifically, some days have been challenging because I do not speak Spanish fluently.  I have found that there is often a huge gap with the potential in conversations and relationships with others when you don’t speak the same languge.  This lack of connection has been difficult and lonely for me.  With that being said, I am slowly working on this area in a few different ways.  For example, just recently, I met a new friend for coffee who speaks English.  It was really nice to connect with her . . . and speak in a language with ease.  Also,  I am hoping that starting new Spanish lessons will positively contribute to an increased depth in Spanish conversations with others.  Next, I continue to learn about how important it is to be flexible in a new culture.  With this, I learn that it is often not respectful or kind to frequently impart my culture onto others.   Therefore, I work on keeping an open mind and often remind myself that my culture is not always right.  Go figure.  Finally, I continue to learn about the importance of listening to my heart and who I truly am.  This might sound obvious to many, however, because I continue to meet new people on a frequent basis and am placed in new situations, I often need to remember to be true to myself and not sacrifice who I am at the core.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about my life in Ecuador during my “interview.”  Between now and my next post, feel free to comment and write any additional questions you are wondering about things here. As always, I look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

Unas de Ecuador

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Men . . . you might just want to delete this post now.  However, if you’re interested in hearing about some girly things in Ecuador . . . read on! 🙂

What the heck are unas?!?!  Unas is the Spanish word for nails.  And, as some of you know, I have enjoyed getting my nails done on two different occasions . . . so far.  I know that usually nails don’t seem very exciting, but in Ecuador it is quite an art.  Seriously.

When you go into a nail salon, there are usually some books for you to look at in order to decide which design you want painted on your nails.  This is very different than in the U.S. because all you choose is the color for your nails.  In Ecuador, the polish color is an afterthought . . . it’s the design that really matters.

It’s quite a process of how the nail artists obtain the finished product.  First, one woman puts on your base color of polish.  Next, another woman puts the art on your nails (this is whatever design you chose from the book). This is done with acrylic paint (yes, acrylic paint!) and stencils.  It’s really interesting actually.  They have some sort of “air gun” that they use to spray the paint onto your nails through the stencil.  It’s quite messy at this point because there is paint on both your nails and on your skin.  Finally, another woman completes the final touches for your nails.  She puts on any additional color polish that might be needed to complete the design, a top coat, and cleans off all of the color from your skin.  Amazing, huh?

So, I’ve decided I’ll try to have fun with getting different nail art while I’m here. I might as well play a little bit, right?  And, one of the best parts is that it only costs $2.  Crazy, huh?

Thanks for being interested in nail art in Ecuador.  I bet that is something you never thought you’d learn about today, huh?  🙂  Have a great day!

I’m a teacher again!

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Look at how hard this student is working! She must have a great teacher. 🙂

It’s official . . .  I’m an English teacher!  Weird, huh?  Currently, I am teaching two evening classes and one morning (reinforcement) class (two days/week) in Riobamba.   So far . . . it is great! 🙂

I don’t know exactly where to begin, so I guess I will start with Monday – the first day of classes.  At the beginning of each new cycle, all of the students and teachers met in the school theater.  In the theater, our director, Jim, welcomed everyone to a new session and had a student teach the others about the school rules.  He/She taught these in both English and Spanish.  (As a side note, the rules are a part of the acronym C.A.S.H.  This is for: no cell phones, attendance, no Spanish speaking, and homework.  Easy, huh?)  Next, the students were divided into their language level and sent off with their teacher.  By the time my students and I got to our classroom, we had a little over an hour left (classes are each two hours long).  There are 9 students in my first class and 12 in my second class.  The students’ ages range from about 16 to 30.  And, they are all amazingly engaged in their learning . . . I love it!  The first day of classes we talked about who I was, why they wanted to learn English, did a few speaking activities and then they got their homework.  (I know, homework on the first day!  I am a tough teacher, huh?)  Fortunately, the students in my classes are very proficient in English.  This helps me a lot when I am trying to explain a concept or activity because they actually understand the language!  Yay for Level 7 students!

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I got into a routine of planning for my night classes during the day.  Since my classes begin at 5:00pm, I can spend time in the morning and afternoon planning for the evening.  Around 3:45pm, I leave for the copy center at the school and print my lesson plan and copies for the class.  This is a completely different routine from what I am used to in the U.S., but so far, this routine has been successful.

During English class, the students do a variety of things.  They speak with one another, discuss grammar points, play grammar games, and complete sentences that pertain to specific grammar points.  My personal goal is to keep the students engaged by speaking, writing, and thinking in English during the entire class period.  This is important to me because I believe it is very likely that our class might be the only two hours in the day that the students work on their English communciation.  With that being said, I noticed last week that it was hard for me to create several opportunities for the students to speak for extended periods of time.  Therefore, this has become my personal goal: to work on developing more opportunties for the students to speak in English during class.  Feel free to hold me accountable with this and follow-up with me on how I’m doing on my goal. 🙂

Happy students on Banana Day!

During the last class session each week (we only have classes from Monday – Thursday), I want the students to celebrate their learning from the week.  This first week, we had a theme for the last day of the week: Banana Day.  Some of the students were festive and dressed in yellow to celebrate.  Yay!  But, whether their heart was in it or not, the students were forced by their teacher (me!) to take part in various banana activities such as: Hot Banana (i.e. Hot Potato), writing a creative piece about their banana as a person or animal, describing their banana, reading a story about the history of bananas, and more.  After our banana learning, the students discussed what they learned during the week and then celebrated with snacks.  It was a great way to end the week.

It is very eye-opening to have the opportunity to teach English.  Granted, I know how to speak the language, but teaching the grammar behind the language is a whole different ballgame.  This past week, I was impressed with the knowledge the students have about English grammar.  I understand that these students have learned the languagevery  differently from native speakers, but they can actually identify past participles and the present perfect tense.  Holy cow!  Therefore, teaching grammar points to such intelligent students will be a huge learning experience for me as well.

I am learning that English grammar is not the most exciting of topics for students.  Likewise, as I was writing this post, I was aware that it might not be particualarly exciting for you to read about grammer, class sizes, student activities and so on.  However, I hope I have piqued your interest in something pertaining to teaching English.  If so, please write a comment back to me answering the following questions.  Gracias!

  • What tips do you have for me to meet my goal to help students speak more in class?
  • What would you like to know more about related to teaching English to non-native speakers?
  • What would be the hardest part for you to teach English in Ecuador?

Let’s go to the beach!

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Last weekend, I visited the coast of Ecuador.  Another WorldTeach volunteer, Jessica, and I left on Friday morning and returned to Riobamba on Monday evening.  Long weekends are one of the blessings with having a late start date at our teaching site.  It took 8 hours to get to Manta by bus, but was worth the long ride to experience the beach and the warm weather that goes with it.  Also, I had an amazing day on Sunday, which I will tell you about shortly.  There are two other WorldTeach volunteers living in Manta, Bridget and Angelika.  Just like us, they are staying with host families.  So, we gratefully stayed at the homes of their host families while we were there.

I have to admit this is a picture from the internet, but I wanted you to see what I experienced!

On Saturday, we visited the beach and swam in the ocean.  For those of you who aren’t sure, it’s the Pacific Ocean. 🙂  (By the way, if you would have asked me a year ago what ocean was next to Ecuador, I probably would not have known.)  The beach was fun and I even got a coconut to drink . . . and eat.  Check out the picture.  After you buy a coconut, the vendor cuts the top off with a machete so you can drink the coconut water with a straw.  After you finish drinking, you take your coconut back to the vendor and he cuts it apart and gets out the “meat” for you to eat.  Mmm . . . it is tasty, I must admit.On Saturday afternoon, Bridget and I relaxed at the house of her host family.  In the early evening, we started talking about what activities we could do the next day.  A few hours later – after a trip to an internet cafe, the bus station, and an ATM – we had a day trip planned to Isla de la Plata.  Our plan was to leave Manta on a bus at 4:00AM, so we needed to head to bed early.

We arrived in Puerto Lopez bright and early on Sunday morning after our 2 1/2 hour bus ride.  Shortly thereafter, we found a tour company and bought tickets for our day trip to Isla de Plata leaving at 9:30AM.  You can click on the link to learn more about Isla de la Plata.  However, it is also known as “The Poor Man’s Galapagos Island.”  While the island was wonderful, I have to guess that The Galapagos Islands are much better.  Regardless, we had a super day.

We took an hour boat ride to the island, which was amazing.  I loved feeling the wind on my face and seeing the waves all around us.  Next, we went on hike around the island to see some beautiful and rare birds living there.  There were two species of birds present on the island:  Blue-Footed Boobys and Fragatas.  (As a side note, the name “Booby” is thought to originate from “Bobo” the Spanish word for clown.)  The Blue-Footed Boobys were all over the place!  As you can see from the pictures, the birds were always protecting their young . . . either eggs, day-old babies, or month-old babies.  Look closely at the pictures to find the baby boobys! 🙂

After our hike, we had lunch on the boat and saw some sea turtles.  This is the best picture I could get.  After that, we snorkeled in the ocean.  This was my favorite part by far!  The fish in the ocean were amazingly colorful and beautiful.  Here is a picture of some of the fish when they came to the surface.  Unfortunately, this just gives you a glimpse of the incredible sights I saw underwater.  If you’ve gone snorkeling before, you understand what I mean, I am sure.

Next, we took the boat ride back to Puerto Lopez and headed back to the bus station.  At the bus station we found a bus going back to Manta and embarked on our 2 1/2 hour journey back to Bridget’s house.

There is one last thing I feel you might like to know about some bus rides in Ecuador.  While on the bus, it is quite common for people to frequently get on and off the bus selling food and other items.  For example, I saw  people selling watermelon, pineapple, chicken, empanadas, bread, corn on the cob, water, juice, soda, and jewelery.  So, here is a picture of the corn on the cob I bought.  I figured that there aren’t enough opportunities in my life to buy corn on the cob on a bus, so I decided to take advantage.  Now it’s your turn to answer the following food question.

  • If you were on a bus ride in Ecuador, what favorite food would you most want people to sell  to you?  What would really hit the spot? (Reply to me in a comment please!)

As always, thanks for reading my blog and for being interested in this journey in Ecuador.  Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Banos Anyone?

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Here I am in Banos! My first trip in Ecuador!

No . . . it is not what you think!  Banos is a city in Ecuador . . . not the bathroom.  Well, it is that too, but not in this case. 🙂  Two weeks ago (13/10/12), two Riobamba volunteers – Sarah and Alicia – and I went on a day trip to Banos.

We left on a bus at 7:20AM.  It takes about two hours to get to Banos from Riobamba.  The bus was very clean and quite comfortable.  (I didn’t know what to expect for my first Ecuadorian bus ride.) There was a  television too!  I was excited when they started a movie, but then I realized that it was The Thing – a scary and gross movie, in my opinion.

This is the river running through Banos.

During the rest of the ride I tried not to watch the disgusting things going on in the movie, but sometimes I couldn’t help but to sneak a peek.

We arrived around 9:30AM and explored the city.  It was quite beautiful.  It was nice to wear a t-shirt and feel warmth all day long.  (This is not the case in Riobamba.  Usually it’s warm in the morning and early afternoon, cool in the late afternoon, and very cold at night.)  We walked around the bridge and river in Banos and then hiked up to a sculpture at the top of a mountain.  Let me tell you, I was exhausted.  The altitude was rough on my lungs! I made it though . . . with plenty of sweating.

This is one of my favorite photos so far! Amazing!

Next, we walked over to a waterfall in town.  It was breath-taking, as you can see.  After that, we went to a restaurant for lunch and then to a different restaurant for dessert.   We had to take advantage of being on “vacation” for the day and have dessert, right? 🙂  After that, we walked around town a little bit more and then headed back to the station to catch our bus back to Riobamba.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip.  As many of you know, one of the things I want to do while I am in Ecuador is to travel to many of the beautiful places in the country.  Banos was my first trip and I enjoyed it a lot.  I also loved learning how easy it is to travel by bus in Ecuador.  Plus, the bus is really inexpensive!  Our tickets were $2.00 each way – what a bargain, huh?

One final thing you may not know about me – I love public transportation!  I know I am in the minority with this one, but it is really fun and humbling being around other people experiencing the same things as me.  I don’t know how else to explain it . . . I just like it.  Even in St. Louis, I loved riding the MetroLink.  Go figure.

So . . . now I turn it over to you.  Here is a link to 10 places to visit in Ecuador.  Check it out (it’s brief!) and tell me:

  • Where do you think I should visit while I am here?  Why?
  • If you came to visit (which you could!), where would you want to travel?

Baking in Ecuador

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Well, well, well.  You would think that a family that lives in a country who is one of the top banana producers in the world would have had banana bread before.  Go figure . . . my host family had not.

So, I took it upon myself (with some help) to bake pan de banano (banana bread) for my family this past week.  It was a hit!  It was gone in a little over a day.

Making pan de banano ended up being quite an ordeal.   I needed help with both the measurements and with using the oven.  My host mom, Fanny, and our amazing empleada, Maria, were part of Team Pan de Banano.  You can see a picture of them enjoying the treat after it was cooked – Fanny is on the left and Maria is on the right.  Also, I must mention that there are several baking modifications that must be made when cooking at higher altitudes – for example 9,000 feet – that was interesting too!

As Fanny and I measured out the ingredients, Maria stood with a hand mixer and took charge of blending everything.  After mixing all of the ingredients, I tasted it and noticed that it was a bit buttery.  Hmph.  I reread the recipe and noticed that we added too much butter.  I was concerned that the recipe would not turn out correctly, however it ended up just fine.  And, I suppose if you are going to add too much of anything in a recipe, butter is one of the tastier options. 🙂

You may be wondering what I meant by needing help with using the oven.  First off, let me tell you that I know how to use an oven in the U.S.   What I don’t know is how to use a gas oven that needs to be hooked up and has no temperature gauge.  Check it out in the picture.  Also, the oven is located at my host grandmother’s house in a back room – not attached to the house.  This means we walked two blocks to the oven while carrying unbaked pan de banano over to grandmother’s house (should we sing that together?).  Thank goodness for Maria because she moved the gas tank over to the oven, attached it, and lit the oven.  Then we waited for 20 minutes for it to heat up.  Next, we put the pan in the oven and waited for 40 minutes for it to cook.  The time was just a guess, of course, because Maria had no idea what it was supposed to look like and I had no idea what temperature the oven was set on.  I must admit though, even though we sat in the little room for most of the 60 minutes, it was great to chat with Maria and get to know one another better.  Besides, I absolutely adore Maria!

Surprisingly, the treat turned out fabulous!  Yay!  We carried it home with newspaper hot hands (we had no oven mitts – so we used the next best thing) and brought it into the house as it was piping hot.  We cut into it right away!  Here’s a picture of our pan.

So, what is the moral of this post?  You decide.  Write a comment with your choice please. 🙂

  • Option 1: Enjoy the ease of baking in the U.S. and be glad that you can use an oven in your kitchen, with a temperature gauge!
  • Option 2: Savor the difficult times when you are baking with others because it can provide an opportunity to connect with one another.
  • Option 3: Eat pan de banano as much as possible because it’s not always easy to make.
  • Option 4: I think there’s a different moral to this post.  It is . . .

Firsts . . .

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During my time in Ecuador, for the first time ever I . . .

*hung my clothes on a clothesline.

*saw someone reading the Wall Street Journal in Spanish.

*used U.S. Sacagawea dollar coins daily.

*lived at an altitude of 9,350 feet.

*commuted to and from work on a city bus.

*missed my bus stop and had to walk back to where I should have gotten off.  Then . . .

*learned how to politely push my way through people on the bus to get off the bus faster at my stop.

*drank hot chocolate with cheese.

*regularly put my cell phone in my bra. (It’s what we’re supposed to do for safety!)

*gave people the “evil eye” to deter them from taking my stuff.

*took Spanish lessons in a group of 6 . . . and loved it!

*drank a sweet milk drink with corn in it . . . it’s delicious.

*saw someone riding a motorcycle and pushing a bike alongside them.

*visited beautiful Calle La Ronda at night.

*ate soup two times a day (lunch and dinner).

*accidentally called The Three Bears the Three Eyes in Spanish. (tres osos vs. tres ojos)

*accidentally said I had an “old” stomach instead of a “full” stomach. (estomago vecio vs. estomago vacio)

*drank tea two times a day (breakfast and dinner) and dipped bread in it.

*rode the trole.

*visited a museum displaying Mayan art.

*visited the market and saw a butcher cut a goat in half and begin pulling out the organs. (Gross!)

*took a salsa dancing lesson (this was mandatory from WorldTeach!).

What are you wondering about my time in Ecuador so far?  Is there anything else you are interested in hearing about up until this point?  If so, please comment and let me know your thoughts . . . instead of hearing mine all of the time! 🙂  Thanks for reading today!