Audrey O'Connell is one of Spirit's 2017 Volunteer Abroad Ambassador Scholarship winners. She is volunteering at a child-care center in Quito, Ecuador for four weeks through our partner in Ecuador, Fundación Bolivar Education.
Since we went to bed so late last night, my host mom told me that I could sleep in a little bit without worrying about getting up for breakfast. When I woke up, I met the rest of my host family, and they told me all about the best things to do in Quito, the type of music people listen to, and all of the cultural staples here. They’re all very sweet, and I am grateful that they are making my transition so easy. My host mom made me a delicious breakfast of bread and jelly, eggs, bananas, apples, and tea. She was excited to hear that I liked fruit because apparently there are many Ecuadorian fruits that I need to try.
My host family took me to one of the Mercados, a typically open-air market. Ecuador uses the dollar, which was convenient for me when I was getting ready for the trip. In the markets, haggling is a common practice, and it was fun to hear my host mom going back and forth with the vendors about the food, even if I couldn’t keep up very well. As promised, there was a lot of fruit that I’d never seen before, and I’m looking forward to eating the fruit salad that my host mom said she was going to make. The market was pretty far away from the house, which was nice because I got a tour of (what felt like) the whole city on the way there and back.
After el Mercado, we went to el SuperMercado (just a grocery store!), where my host mom bought a lot of produce and meat because she said it was cleaner than the ones sold at los mercados. Looking at the prices, everything is very cheap compared to the United States. My host mom made a typical Ecuadorian meal for lunch, and then my roommate arrived!
After she settled in, our host mom took us on a little walking tour of Quito, and then we had a typical Ecuadorian meal for dinner. For dessert, my host mom bought Johanne and me each an Ecuadorian fruit, and it didn’t really taste like anything I’d ever eaten before. Johanne said it tasted like passionfruit, and we both enjoyed it! After dinner, we both went to bed early in preparation for our orientation and first day of Spanish classes.
Today I woke up around 6:30 so that Johanne and I could be ready to leave for the school at 8:15. My host mom made us a great breakfast with lots of fruit from el mercado and gave us each a sandwich for our lunch.
My host mom walked us to school, and it’s very convenient because we live about five minutes away. Everyone was very friendly at the school, saying “Buenos días” as we walked inside. The school is a great resource for people trying to learn Spanish because everyone is very welcoming and helpful. Johanne and I met some of the other volunteers who were waiting in the lobby, and we had an orientation tour. There were six of us, all Americans except for my roommate from Denmark and another woman from the UK. We all started talking immediately, and it was interesting to hear about how they heard about this program and what drew them to it. Our tour guide gave us a walking tour of the part of the city where we will be spending most of our time, and he gave us tips to remember while in Quito. He talked a lot about which restaurants we should and shouldn’t eat at due to the water. We can’t drink the tap water here because it isn’t as clean as it is in the United States, and that has been an adjustment for me. After our tour, the six of us walked around a little bit more in order to get ID pictures taken at a photo shop (there are a lot of those here!) for the school records.
Johanne and I ate lunch at the school while we waited for our Spanish lessons to start. I have four hour classes this whole week, and as much as I learned today, I still feel overwhelmed! My teacher is very kind, and we switched off working on grammar and conversation the whole time. Today we did a lot of preterite and imperfect, and by the fourth hour, I could barely even think about what I was saying. I’m excited to continue my lessons, though, because I definitely think that the combination of full immersion and grammar refreshers will help me closer to fluency.