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.
This morning, Johanne and I decided to go to el Teleferico, which is a cable car that takes you up one of the mountains in Quito. We went with another volunteer we met from Florida, and it was amazing! Getting there, we paid less than $4 total for a taxi ride that was a little more than 15 minutes. We had to double check that it had a meter, cameras, license plates, and a number on the side of the car so that we knew it was safe. Once we got up there, we got in a cable car and rode up the mountain; the view was beautiful! We could basically see all of Quito because there weren’t any clouds. Coming home, we had a bit of trouble finding a taxi that looked safe, but I was able to practice my Spanish a bit with all of the different drivers we talked to. Finally, we found a taxi and went to el Mercado Artesanal. The market was beautiful, but it did seem to be geared towards tourists. I am, however, definitely going to go back there to buy gifts because we only had a few minutes before we had to walk to the school for Spanish lessons.
My second day of Spanish lessons seemed to go by faster than yesterday, and my teacher and I had a lot of interesting conversations. We talked about the culture in Quito, and I told her about the United States. She taught me a few slang words like, “chevere” and “vacan”, which both mean cool. Also, we talked about the politics of both countries, and I found that it was very hard to communicate my thoughts properly since I don’t yet have the vocabulary to do so.
After my Spanish lessons, I went to my first Salsa class! I love dancing, and so I was very interested to see what this class would be like. We went to a studio near the school, and it had murals all over the walls, which I loved. Our teacher was very kind, and we partnered up to learn the basics. It was all girls except for one, so I learned the part of the guy. Our teacher taught in Spanish, and it was fun to put my vocabulary (like directions-- derecha, izquierda) to good use. I am going to try to learn as much as I can about Salsa while I’m here.
Today, my Spanish class was switched to the morning session, so I got to the school at 9:30 and ended at 1:30. We followed the same grammar and conversation format today, and I found that I am starting to learn to conjugate faster in my head. I had to be back there at 5:00 for my first cooking lesson, so I just went back to my house to eat lunch and do some research about weekend trips. The school has a variety of weekend trips that I want to go on, but right now I’m seeing what I can do on weekdays after I volunteer, so that I can potentially go to the Amazon for the weekend with some friends. I’m not sure if it’s going to work out yet, but I know that whatever I end up doing will be amazing.
I came back for my first cooking class, which was taught by my host mom. There were way more people in class than usual, and so I mainly watched while other people prepared the food, but I had fun getting to know the other volunteers! It was a great experience when we ate our meal, too, because everyone sat at one long table and talked for a while even after we finished eating.
This morning, Johanne and I went to our orientation tour for our volunteer project. It’s in the old part of the city, and so we have to take two buses to get there each morning. Luckily, there is another volunteer who has been here for a week taking the same buses, so we will have someone to help us make sure we know where we’re going. As soon as we entered the school, two girls, probably six or seven, ran up to me, hugged my legs, and said, “Hi hi hi hi hi hi” a bunch of times before running away. They made my day. It was the sweetest gesture, and it immediately made me more excited to volunteer there. We were able to see all of the children as they went to lunch, and all of them (1-3 years) smiled and said “Hola” to us as they passed. I know it will be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to taking care of these adorable children.
We returned to the school, and I had Spanish lessons again. We started watching a movie from Argentina without subtitles, and I could keep up with the general plot fairly well. After my class, I went to the salsa lesson, and I had even more fun! I had to learn the part of the guy again, but it was still fun to pick up where we left off and add onto the dance.