August 6, 2018
It is Sunday afternoon and I leave for the airport in an hour. Finally, my time in Quito has come to an end. I feel like my experience here was much too short, and there is still so much I want to do, but this gives me so much reason to come back! Since my last blog on Wednesday, I have done quite a bit. I have crammed many things into my last few days and have made the best out of my time.
On Thursday, the Spanish school had its birthday party, with food and games for all of the students, followed by a chiva, otherwise known as a party bus! For two hours, we chatted and danced as the bus took us all around Quito. The bus is open-aired, so people walking down the sidewalk could hear the music blaring and they would dance a bit and wave to us; it was a great time!
Friday was my last day at the hospital. In addition, two of the medical students were also leaving endoscopy that day as well, so there were many goodbyes to be had. We had juice and empanadas and took lots of pictures!
There are always small things that sometimes go unnoticed. During my time at the hospital, I often went down the street during my breaks to buy a little snack from a particular bread shop. I knew the stuff there was good, but I always just got a random pastry until one day, a medical student bought me a llorona. A llorona is this bread that is filled with panela- sugar cane. While baking, the panela drips out of the bread and looks like tear drops, which give the bread its name-llorona, similar to the verb “llorar” which means to cry.
I came to adore the owner of the bread shop, a kind old man who always tried to speak English to me with a huge smile on his face. On my last day, I came in for my last llorona. When he learned that I was leaving, he ended up giving me two lloronas, and refused to let me pay. I insisted I would not miss the mere 40 cents it cost to eat a llorona, but he was persistent. Stories like this make it so hard for me to say goodbye. His kindness is perfectly representative of the Ecuadorian people, and hope that I can follow his example as I move throughout my life.
After we said our last goodbyes to the hospital, we ventured out to try another famous Ecuadorian food: encebollado. It is pretty much a fish soup with onions (cebollas), yuka (cassava), tomato, cilantro, and other various ingredients. We went to a restaurant that was recommended by a local, and it was delicious! It was definitely nothing like any of the soups in America, but I see why it is so popular here in Ecuador.
Yesterday was my last full day and I filled it with activities. First, my friend and I decided to go to the teleferico, a cable car that runs high into the mountains. There were many people with hiking shoes, mountain bikes, and camping gear. After a scenic ride to the top, we were greeted by beautiful views of the city and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. We hiked around and took lots of pictures, so make sure to check those out! After that, we grabbed some food at a local restaurant and headed to the Basilica of the National Vow, a giant gothic church in the middle of the city.
We got to climb up some rickety ladders to one of the towers which gave us yet another beautiful view of the city. Then after that, we went to the artisanal markets again to get some last-minute souvenirs, and then headed to a restaurant to eat a special, typical Ecuadorian dish: cuy. Cuy is a guinea pig, and I definitely ate it. To be honest, it was nothing spectacular, but at the same time, the meat didn’t really taste particularly different. The skin was super crispy and crunchy, and there wasn’t a lot of meat to actually eat. Nevertheless, it was good! Despite our jokes about eating a household pet, we were able to finish it all. It was definitely a unique experience!
And now, I am about to leave Quito! This morning we ate some arepas, a typical Columbian dish which can best be described as corn flour tortillas/bread, and then we went to the local park with my host family and helped my host mom buy some fruits for the week from the street vendors. It was a calm morning, and now I am ready to go!
I want to give a huge thank you to Spirit Exchange for selecting me for this scholarship and giving me this amazing opportunity. It has truly changed my life. I have discovered more about myself, exchanged my culture with a completely different one, learned so much about Ecuador and the Spanish language, gained a unique hospital experience, formed friendships that will last a lifetime, and so many more things that cannot be put into words. I am so grateful and lucky to have had this enriching experience, and I hope that this blog inspires other people to volunteer, travel, and jump out of their comfort zones. Thank you for reading and sticking with the blog posts until the very end! Ciao everyone!
A Message from Monika to Her Host Mom:
Gracias por todo: por la ayuda, las buenas conversaciones, las sonrisas, la comida increíble, las experiencias nuevas y todo más. Tú sabes cómo crear un hogar de bienvenida y tienes un cálido Corazón y acoges a todo el mundo con los brazos abiertos. Tengo mucha suerte y estoy muy agradecida y espero que nos veamos muy pronto. Gracias a ti, tengo una nueva familia en Ecuador y doy gracias por haberte conocido. Debes sentirte orgullosa de quien eres y espero que logres todo que quieres. Nos vemos pronto! Gracias otra vez!
Special thanks to Monika for sharing her experience in Ecuador and the lovely photos that go with her stories! You can start from the very beginning and read her first post right here: Week 1: Part 1 - Hola Everyone!