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 2014 scholarship winner Danielle S.
As everyone has patiently been awaiting this blog post, I have been searching my brain for all the right words after this beautifully, interesting and complicated first days in Quito, Ecuador. I guess this story begins after my flight from Atlanta, GA landed in Quito. We landed a little late at about 10:30pm and I was a bit anxious to get off the plane after contorting my body to try to be “comfortable” for five hours in an airplane seat. I immediately sat up, grabbed my items and headed off the plane. This was it. I had finally arrived in Quito! I must have looked really excited because when I went through customs, the man who looked at my passport stared at me for a few long moments with a very interested face. I knew that after baggage claim there would be a man (probably as tired as I was) holding a sign with my name. I stood in line waiting for baggage and made conversation with nearby travelers. The long day of travel had finally hit me and I was relieved when my bright red bag came tumbling down the shoot onto the luggage belt. I grabbed it and headed straight for the door!
I found the man (who looked as tired as I was J) and we headed to the car. As soon as I got into the back seat, I begin to relax and let the new sites around me sink in (including culture shock! I even had a scare when I glanced at the drivers speedometer at it read 110. OOPS! Forgot about that whole kilometer and metric system I would have to transition to!). Leaving the airport there were many billboards, just like at home, which was somewhat comforting, but as we got further into our ride to my host family, the billboards began to disappear and the world of Quito that I had seen in pictures began to appear. The city features I was accustomed to began to fade away and mountains, like I had never seen before, appeared and seemed to float over us as we drove. Small homes and apartment buildings and modest settings continued to emerge. I was so tranquil that I began falling in and out of consciousness in the hour drive to my host family. I felt really safe and secure in this place that I had never experienced before, which was a complete relief.
When I finally arrived to my host family, I was welcomed into a modest apartment building by a sweet woman, who immediately helped me with my bags and escorted me to her fourth floor apartment. We silently came into the house and I was shown my room (which is perfect by the way!). Her husband and daughter were fast asleep due to the late hour and she showed me around and said goodnight. I was finally here and I was ready to sleep! I threw my suitcase on the ground, opened it up, and out popped the head of a small white polar bear stuffed animal…I took a gasp and just about collapsed. I didn’t pack a stuffed animal, or these strange colored sweaters, or those child sized soccer shin pads...I begged aloud that it was just a dream and I did not grab the wrong luggage…I checked the tags. Elisa… From Florida….