I've been in Quito for almost five days now and am beginning to feel quite at home.
My Spanish and My Lessons
I really wasn't sure how my Spanish would fare here. I've been to Mexico to visit family who only speak Spanish, but they sort of have an obligation to love me no matter how well I spoke. However, to my happy surprise, my Spanish rocks.
My first morning here, I sat in the garden with my host mom, Mónika, and we spoke in Spanish about social issues like racism and poverty, comparing both the United States and Ecuador, as well as other Latin countries. It seemed foolish that I was so afraid I'd have nothing to talk about more than my favorite color or where the bathroom was located. I would later hear her in the kitchen boasting about how excellent my Spanish is, which I have to admit... felt good.
Monday was the start of my Spanish lessons. They're four hours long and one-on-one with the instructor, which is exactly as terrifying as it sounds. However, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a class more.
My instructor, Julio, and I just sit down, often outside in the garden, and we just talk. He and I have discussed politics, religion, morality, poverty, racism, passions, our stories, our families, and countless other topics, simply getting to know one another. Whenever I make a mistake, we start a lesson, and he caters to exactly what I need to focus on. You know in school when you think 'when am I ever going to use this?' Well I don't have that problem because he's teaching me how to speak better with exactly what I'm using.
He's also said that my Spanish is good, even incredible, which again... feels good.
Trivia at an Irish Bar in Quito
One of the volunteer projects in Quito hosts trivia in English at FinnMcCool's, a bar just three blocks from my apartment. I figured paying $2 to a non-profit would be worth the humility of my own ignorance. What I did not expect was that my friends and I would meet a random group of teachers from The United States and Ireland. We sat down with them, and we all decided to form the trivia team "McMediocres" which would be pronounced by the German DJ as "MC Medic Ogres" or something like that, which is probably an improvement. We chatted away and once trivia began, it was game time.
Long story short, we end up winning! I'd like to brag for a moment that one of the points we vitally needed to escape second place was earned by me. It was a music round and the song The Tide is High came on, which everyone knew. However, I was the only one to know the author, Blondie, because I downloaded every version of the song when I was younger after watching The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Thanks, Lizzie, for always having my back.
It was really fun to just continue networking with people from all around the world. I'm a social butterfly so to know that I can go so many places in this city and meet people from almost anywhere, well, that's so exciting to me.
Once a month, the language school hosts a cocktail night wherein you can learn how to make alcoholic drinks commonly consumed in Ecuador. It's basically a meet and greet with social lubricant to grease the wheels of friendship. The drinks were really fun to make and actually delicious! There was rum and coke with lime juice, which sounds simple, because it is. Then there were mojitos, which I had never had, and those consisted of crushed limed, sugar, yerba, rum, and Sprite. Finally, there was canelazo, which we didn't actually make; we just drank it. It's a warm cider traditionally drank in the Andes, and it hides the taste of alcohol completely, so be careful.
It was actually here that I met Donella, who attended college in Oregon just 15 minutes from where I grew up. After her time at Oregon State University, she moved to Portland to work on her Masters degree. We discussed Oregon things, like rain and... well, whatever else there is in Oregon.
She and I even had one mutual Facebook friend, which we thought was crazy. Who would have thought that I'd meet someone who's lived so close to me over 4,000 miles away, on another continent. It's a reminder that the world really is a small place.
I need to learn to own up to my Spanish speaking abilities. Realizing that I can actually communicate decently with others really furthers my drive to see as much of Latin America as possible. Sometimes you just have to be confident and say 'hey, I know what I'm doing, dang it!' I feel really passionate about Spanish now, more than I ever have before, and I will pursue that passion until the day I die.
Additionally, friends can be made anywhere. Whether it's the trivia pals, people over cocktails, or the locals I went to the discoteca with last night, I've met some really great people! If I had stayed completely in my comfort zone or if I had decided to stay in, I would miss out on people who are a really interesting and powerful part of this incredible story.
What to Look Forward to
Tomorrow will be a really exciting day! In the morning, I will be going with my Spanish teacher and some friends outside the city to go buy and eat cuy, a South American delicacy. Keep posted on what exactly that is. Afterward, I will be hiking Teleférico, a mountain peak on the Andes just to the west of the city.