Ecuador has been such a different abroad experience than the rest of my travels. For starters, I am currently living with a host family in Quito, and I have a work schedule. My host family is really great and they feed me three times a day. More often than not it is a bowl of soup, a piece of meat, and a pile of rice, but I don’t mind that at all.

The neighborhood is slightly terrifying for someone who grew up in the suburbs of Cape Coral, Florida. We are not allowed to walk around after 9 at night, even if I am going to visit friends in the volunteer house three blocks away. We have to take a cab. According to Wikipedia, I am living in the “working class neighborhood.” I can’t even begin to recall the number of men peeing on the sides of streets I have seen, fires burning on street corners, people shouting “GRINGO!” at me as I walk to catch the bus. On the other hand, my house has an amazing hot shower, there are delicious bakeries and fruit stands all over the place, and the lunches here are $1.50.

What am I doing here in Quito for 6 weeks?

Some of my students at the Catholic school

I do different things on different days, but for the most part I teach English to little girls at a school here in the mornings, and work with child laborers in the local markets in the afternoons. The kids amaze me! I have never been fond of small children, so coming down here this summer to volunteer with them was a big stretch for me. It is incredible how all these little kids want is a few minutes of your attention and affection. Pat them on the back, the kids get really happy, give them a hug, the kids feel like the top of the world, pick them up for a minute or two, the kids are ecstatic! At first it was hard because we are working with very impoverished kids and sometimes they are absolutely filthy, but you have to just smile at them and pretend not to notice their brown rotting teeth or stained and ripped clothing. The kids are so happy for an afternoon away from their parent’s booth in the market.

One of the volunteers who worked here before me made this video:

Crazy tube-rafting in Mindo, Ecuador

We do have the weekend off to travel. This weekend I went with four of the other volunteers to Mindo, Ecuador. It is a bizarre little jungle town because it is nothing but hotels and tour agencies. Although it is famous for being one of the best bird-watching spots in the world, the volunteers frequent the town because of its dirt cheap adventure sports. We went ziplining (ten bucks), propelled down a waterfall (fifteen bucks) and tubing (five bucks) in the course of our weekend there.

We stayed at a really cool hostel for seven bucks a night. Yesterday, we made it to the hot springs in Papallata. I have been to thermal springs in Santorini and in Peru and I have to say, the ones in Ecuador put all other thermal springs to shame. It is amazing how they can take some natural hot springs in a deep valley, add pretty blue tiles to the natural pools, and create a bizarre oasis in the middle of nowhere.

Hot springs, Papallacta

I will update more on Ecuador later!


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