December 11, 2008

Happily in Quito, Healthy, and Almost Home!!!

Welcome to my very first attempt at a blog!
Please check back later for videos - I haven't figured that bit out yet.

The skinny: Healthy, Happy, and almost Home!

Below are answers to your FAQs (I've been asked some of these a hundred times. Literally.) This letter is more my journal than anything, so I give no apologies for content or wordiness.

The FAQ answer sheet

How are you? Where are you? What time is it there? How was your flight?

I am SUPERBIEN AMAZING! I'm in Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador is in the northwest corner of South America, directly south of Miami. Our time here is Eastern Standard Time, or three hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Map of Quito:,-95.677068&sspn=27.699934,44.912109&ie=UTF8&ll=-0.111237,-78.52478&spn=8.18881,11.228027&t=h&z=6

My trip was wonderful albeit exhausting. I left my home in Salem, Oregon on Tuesday at 6 pm PST. I arrived at my hosts' home in Quito at 1 am EST on Thursday. That's 28 hours of travel! I was blessed to be seen off by my family and friends. And while eating my mum's homemade chocolate chip cookies. Portland to Houston (four hours) was red eye – and felt obnoxiously long as I couldn't manage to fall asleep.

I had a 12 hour layover in Houston. Don't ask. I actually love airports, so I didn't mind much. Except that I needed to sleep. I spent four hours on the hard airport floor sleeping (sort of.) An employee wandered my way and graciously gave me four blankets; I was shivering and too cold to sleep. I was immensely grateful. Grandma gave me money specifically for food in the airport so I warmed up with peppermint hot cocoa and read about Ecuador in my new guide book.

The flight to Quito (five hours) was lovely. We sat on the tarmac for an hour. Talk about anti climatic! I watched the snowflakes slowly fall. Yes, it was snowing in Houston. When we taxied down the runway, I smiled a huge smile – and cheerfully cried when we lifted off. This moment was immensely symbolic; I finally left the US, concretely, and now it is time for MY adventure! My eyes have tears in them while I type these words.

Somewhere in the air over the Pacific -

I cried when the plane lifted off from Houston.

I laughed hard at the same time.

I smiled.

My dream is now reality.

On the flight I met Karolina, a lovely MBA student, and Pablo, a 40-something photographer. The three of us spoke for the last hour of our flight while standing in the isle of the plane. Turns out Karolina is a Quiteña, back for a month in Quito from studying in Texas. She wanted to take me in, and invited me to her Evangelic church on Sunday. I've decided to stay in Quito to attend church with her. What a sweetheart!

After chatting for 20 minutes, the gentleman said that he works for National Geographic. His name is Pablo Corral Vega. Karolina laughed – She just purchased his recent book on Tango (the dance.) Her facebook profile photo was one that he took. This moment certainly validated his story! His website is, and there you may find a link to his work with National Geographic.

He and I having lunch together tomorrow (Friday.) He asked what types of food I like. Everything but, you know, tongue. He laughed and said we would get along fine.

At midnight we finally made it off the plane and were greeted with a 40 minute line to immigration. I was so exhausted I began to fall over a few times. But... I still cheered up everyone around me by handing out... Mum's cookies! I broke out the bag of crumbled cookies, and all kinds of people dipped in. I had about 10 new friends in no time. Mom, just so you know, you made everyone super happy! I think we were all grateful for a homemade treat.

I arrived to my host's home at 1 am - 28 hours of travel. But well done!

Where are you? Who are you staying with?

I am still in Quito and will be until Sunday. I am staying with hosts from

My profile: Don't worry about safety – check out the safety measures on the site. Que chevere.

My host's profile:

How lovely to be with these girls! I am living in a neighborhood of shabby small businesses and homes. I arrived last night in a taxi and was surprised at just how run down this area is – more so than anywhere I lived in Mexico. The great thing: I immediately felt home. This atmosphere, the people, the lifestyle, speak to my heart. Everyone here is super amable, super friendly.

I am on the fourth floor of a building in the north end of town.

Helen and Niki

The view from my current home - Both photo and video:

The girls' rent is $165 for a two bedroom place. Mind you – no hot water. And the walls are far from airtight. My hosts:

The girls I stay with are complete hippies. Incense, “Capitalism is Boring” photograph, woven cloth bags, and natural soap. The place hardly feels Quiteño. The girls are lovely. A flat bleached mohawk! And dreads!

Helen and Niki

What are you up to?

Today I rested. I ate fresh papaya for breakfast. As I pressed my tongue to the roof of my mouth, it actually melted. I went to a small lunch cafe (eight tables.) They were full. Do I just sit at an empty seat? I asked. Yes. Ok. I sat down with a decently dressed guy and started to look at the menu. I asked him what people usually eat. He looked at me funny and said Almuerzo. Lunch. I was confused. I was bleary-eyed and squinting at the menu when I was served a giant bowl of delicious chicken noodle soup with a white chunk in it, and a opaque glass of sweet juice. Turns out that the soup had jucca root in it, and the juice was guanaba. Ok, I guess this is lunch! I asked if it comes with every meal – he replied that of course it did. The waitress walked by with a huge bowl of rice with meats and goodies in it. I asked him how much it costs. It's lunch! He said. Turns out that you go to the cafe, and you eat lunch. Soup, juice, and rice. $1.50. I was shocked – I was full after my soup, and the rice was a meal in itself! I paid for the whole bit, and the waitress agreed I could return in an hour to eat the delicious rice.

I spent three hours in the internet cafe. I had a lot of unfinished details for my future travels, and for the many things back home that I left undone. And now I sit in the apartment, flute music playing, hot herbal tea next to me, and I'm rather exhausted. Shortly I'll catch a taxi to downtown and meet my new host,

He is a Political Science professor who I have been exchanging emails with for the last three months. And... we're going SALSA DANCING! I don't know how much I can take – I'm pretty exhausted. But why waste a good night out with new friends?!?

A photo later taken of Felipe eating my Mum's cookies -

Where will you live? Who will you live with?

I will settle in Manta, Ecuador. It is on the beach, annual low of 70, annual high of 85. My kind of weather.

Check out Manta: (Yes, I know you can barely tell what it is. Dad and I literally spent several hours looking for a map. I've not found a good one online.),+Ecuador&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=28.749334,43.505859&ie=UTF8&ll=-0.921439,-80.716209&spn=0.141431,0.169945&t=h&z=12&g=Manta,+Ecuador&iwloc=addr

I will fly there on Sunday after church. 30 minute flight for $70, or 8 hour bus ride for $10... I choose to fly! I've been traveling too long :)

I will staying with couchsurfers until I find an apartment. I think I would like to find a family or girl to live with. It will help immerse me in the community and I'll feel much less alone.

Much more on these details later.

How is your Spanish?

Good enough. I understand nine of ten sentences easily. Frankly I'm surprised at how well I'm doing, but, then, I've barely begun interacting with the locals. I'm walking around with my sister Chrissy's little electronic dictionary. I look up as many unrecognized words as possible. I ought to be much more comfortable in a week.

Well... Time for me to take my giant packpack, small backpack, and self to downtown to meet Felipe.

(( Note added later: Felipe was awesome. I went to one of his trendy cafes that he owns, he took me to La Virgin, and

Love you so much.

In peace and happiness,


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