Spirit Cultural Exchange offers individuals the opportunity to help with a variety of volunteer projects in Ecuador while immersing themselves in the local culture. Volunteer projects are available throughout the year for a minimum of one week and are offered in many different fields. We hope you enjoy reading the blogs of our summer 2016 scholarship winner Mackenzie H!
DAY 1 (7/32/16) :
Buenos Días from Quito, Ecuador! I have only been here for 2 full days, yet I have learned so much about this city (and of course taken tons of pictures). It all started with my two flights getting here; the first flight was around 2pm. I had one layover in Houston, Texas which wasn't much of a layover considering I had to RUN to the next flight as they were calling "Last Boarding." I was quaintly greeted at the airport by Jorge, a friendly worker at Fundación Simon Bolivar. By the time I got my luggage and we drove through Quito to my host family's house, it was about midnight (it's very nice that there is no time change from Minnesota to Quito).
DAY 2 (7/24/16) :
This was technically my first day here in Quito, but I'm going to start my journey with Day 1 as my travel day. Today I woke up and was able to talk to my host family a little bit more than I did the previous night. My host mom is a very kind and comical woman. She has two children only a couple years older than me. Because I arrived on a Saturday, on Sunday's most places are closed; today was a very relaxed day. My host mom was very willing to bring me around Quito and get me a little acquainted with the area. We walked everywhere! The first place we stopped was at a large "mercado" or market, similar to a farmer's market in the states, but on a larger scale and inside. After this market, we stopped at a supermarket where we bought groceries for the week. From there we took a taxi back to the house because of the multiple bags we would have had to carry.
After a little lunch back at the house --salad with tuna, avocado, and tomato; rice and potatoes-- the daughter, mom, and I went on another walk. This time we walked even longer to burn those calories. We explored the Parque La Carolina and 'man' did I love this park. It's a very large area where many families were picnicking, playing futbol, and flying kites. It made me very happy seeing so many families together and enjoying the gorgeous day. There are brand new futbol fields, basketball courts, and volleyball courts. I also noticed many people here in Quito ride bicycles! After we returned to the house, we ate a dinner consisting of an vegetable omelet. I wrote a bit --or a lot-- in my journal then hit the hay.
DAY 3 (7/25/16) :
Today was the day I finally met more people. Beforehand, I was worried I wasn't going to meet anyone and that I would have to travel alone. With that being said, there are many volunteers and students at the school where I am taking a couple of Spanish lessons. They also offer day and weekend trips in which I will be partaking later in the week. :) This morning I woke up and met the German guy who is also living with the same host family as me. He only has one week left, but fortunately he speaks English. When I arrived at the school for my orientation, I met another German girl who arrived the night before me. She and I had our orientation/walk around the city with Jorge to learn about the taxis and buses here. The taxis cost on average $2 and the buses only $0.25! (Oh, Ecuador takes US dollars). We learned that the only taxis to take here are the yellow ones with green licenses in the windows, otherwise you will more than likely get ripped off and have to pay $5; I suppose minor detail, those taxis are also not legal.
After this orientation, Jorge took me to another orientation at the clinic where I'll be working. It's called Fundacion Medica Mosquera. It is a clinic/hospital owned by a family. This hospital is mostly for people with not sufficient incomes. At other hospitals it may cost $60 to even see a doctor where here it is either free or possibly up to $5. I met the doctor who I'll be working with and start the job tomorrow. I am very excited to start volunteering tomorrow and see what I'm going to be doing. (It's a lot easier volunteering because I don't have to pass an interview, especially in Spanish!)
And finally after all of that walking, it was time for my first Spanish lesson. Here I thought I'd be sitting the entire time. However, it ended up we went on an even LONGER walk towards the South of Quito. My professor and I just talked because conversation is the key to learning another language. We ended up walking to the Centro Cultural Itchimbía which is a hill in the middle of the city. There were gorgeous views and a very quiet place to be in the middle of this busy city. It contained multiple playgrounds and trails to walk along. This is the point in the day that I noticed the altitude. After climbing up and down tons of stairs to get there, I was short of breath. After a long walk back to the school, I was done for the day and very exhausted. My phone calculated a total of 24,000+ steps.
After my long day of walking, orientating, and now barely being able to talk and think both Spanish and English, it's time to rest and then off to bed. A 9am start to my first day of work. Let's see what's in store for tomorrow. Next blog is coming on Wednesday!
Love from Ecuador, Mackenzie