It’s been almost 2 months now since I’ve arrived in Quito–and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. In a couple weeks, I’ll be at the halfway point of my time here, which is even crazier to think about. While the adjustment was hard, I am so thankful to be able to say that I finally feel settled in my life here, after making a few more Ecuadorean friends and, starting my internship at a photo and design studio, and getting hooked up with people from a really cool organization that does social work here in Quito, but also in other parts of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru (www.incalink.org)

I thought a lot about how I didn't exactly fall in love with Ecuador right away, how the first month or so I really didn't understand why I was here and struggled with homesickness. It felt like I would not find the kind of life I wanted in the city. But slowly and steadily, I have fallen in love with Ecuador. I knew it would happen at some point, I just thought it would be a lot sooner--a love at first sight kind of deal. I am no expert by any means, but I think this just shows our misconception of love, that it has to be a fall hard, fall fast, or never at all type of romance. But that's just not how it has been. I can't speak in terms of romance, but I can tell you that in the slow, steady way that God has slowly revealed Ecuador, its people, its beauty, and treasures, he reveals himself slowly to us--I never quite understood the metaphor Christians love to use about romance and marriage and the bride for God, and I don't think I will for a while, but I understand love, not in the romantic sense, but in the sense that you have to choose to let something permeate your heart, and that it takes a long time. It's deeper, it's meaningful, but most importantly, it's real.

One of the most surprisingly gifts that I’ve found in my time here is my host family. I have heard people rave about their host families in the past, but didn’t think I would actually feel like I have a family here. They have been my saving grace, source of laughter and crazy stories, support, and advice for the past two months. My parents are older, late 50s and early 60s, but are so full of life. My mom, Ana Maria, is the best cook and motherly figure. My dad, Francisco, is 60 years old but probably more active than a lot of people my age. It’s been a great fit, because he loves to go biking, hiking, exploring, camping, and trekking, so we have gone on several adventures already, almost every weekend.

He’s also an avid beekeeper.

Last week, we harvested the honey, processed it, and sold it, quite a lengthy process, but rewarding and I was fascinated by the complexity and otherwise unknown secret life of bees. With the earnings, we took a family camping trip to Oyacachi, a tiiiiny pueblito about 3 hours north of Quito, tucked away in a valley near Cayambe volcano. No tourists, and even most Ecuadoreans, know about this place, so it felt like I was getting filled in on a hidden gem of Ecuador. My host dad grew up in Cayambe, and has been going to Oyacachi since he was little. We left early Saturday morning, and enjoyed the views of a cloudless sky (rare this time of year) and clear shots of Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Antisana, and other volcanoes that are usually hidden by haze or clouds. Even my family excitedly exclaimed as we passed these landscapes–they had lived here their whole lives and had never seen the taitas, Quichua for “father”, like this before.

After arriving, we set up camp near some pools of thermal waters, and I tagged along with the boys to the river to fish. I’ve never caught a fish in my life, but hey, first time for everything, right? I ended up not getting a chance to cast a line though, because a local boy who my dad knew ended up lending me his family’s horse for the afternoon, and I explored the Andean landscape and countryside on horseback, galloping over bridges and racing around cows, without a saddle and only an old rope for a bridle. I have always dreamed of doing something like this--whisking away on horseback on a great escape from reality. Another  dream come true. You can’t plan these sort of adventures.

The rest of the trip was spent getting acquainted with the extremely friendly locals,  sleeping under the stars, relaxing in the thermal waters, exploring and enjoying the quiet outside of the city. I accidentally tried cuy (guinea pig) when I bought a pincha, or skewered meat, from a lady; I thought it was chicken. It was the best street side meat I’ve ever had.

An excerpt from my journal the morning we left:

"Here in Oyacachi, we are at 0 degrees North, 0 degrees South, in the middle of the world technically. And while I literally am in the middle of the world here, I have never felt more outside of it. In a foreign country, new place, disconnected but more connected within than from without. It's a weird sensation, to crave human connection but to also want to run from it, to escape. I am in the middle of the world, and I am outside of it, not from here, not of this world. I am a stranger, in a strange land, and am reminded that on ths earth, I am just passing through. This is the closest I have ever seen the stars--all different here. Because of our orientation, I have no way of knowing which way is North. I feel so small, I am lost. But also, here underneath this expanse of stars, beneath volcanic giants, speeding on horseback over rivers and through forest, waking up to your sunrise, falling asleep under your stars and heavens, I am found. "

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Harvest moon on the day of the harvest
Harvest moon on the day of the harvest
Espejo--not a cloud in the sky
Espejo--not a cloud in the sky
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Host bro and yo
Host bro and yo
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Cayambe volcano
Cayambe volcano
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Riding through the Andes, on a horse with no name.
Riding through the Andes, on a horse with no name.
Fishing with the boys
Fishing with the boys
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Accidentally ate cuy. Thought it was chicken.
Accidentally ate cuy. Thought it was chicken.
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