sorry it has been awhile, this whole internet thing is a lot harder when you steal it. maybe i should just ask the neighbors to keep up on their payments for me? lol, i'm sure that would go over well. alright, first adventure to look back on: rock climbing in ecuador. let me tell ya, the fact that i can go to a huge outdoor climbing facility for only $2 for the entire day?, me gusta. they've got areas for bouldering (without harnesses), a huge wall for those more experienced climbers and an amazing/friendly staff. yep, i'll be going there A LOT while i'm here. great workout too. speaking of workouts, i've started running again. not as bad as i thought it'd be with the altitude. plus, i'm running in cumbaya where my school is and not in quito so the air quality is quite a bit better. that's one of the only downfalls of this city: the pollution. feels great to be working out again. our next adventure was to the market in otavalo, about a two hour bus ride from quito, where they sell... EVERYTHING. there's an animal market which we missed, the food market (raw meat hanging from shop window, welcome to ecuador), the 'necesites' market (clothes, shoes, movies) and the artisan market (aka: tourist market). everything was absolutely beautiful, so many different types of jewelry, art, bufandas, etc.... and the vendors were so friendly and entertaining to bargain with. started getting all my presents for everyone, and a couple for myself as well :) now i look like the crazy gringa who's trying to wear ecua clothes/accessories to fit in... doesn't work, but helps! we wandered around the market for awhile, my friend matt putting all the girls to shame with his shopping skills. after we had all exhausted our funds, we meandered back to our bus, but not before coming upon a panadería (bread/pastry shop) where we splurged a whole $6 on 4 pieces of chocolate cake and 5 drinks. not too bad, eh? hopped back on the bus and back to quito we were.... however we've already decided we have to return. more presents to buy and a beautiful lake just minutes away we need to visit. after all nothing better to recover from a full day of bartering than a swim in a lake next to a mountain. my next big adventure: the amazon with my anthropology class. preparing my bag with the essentials: sunblock, rainboots and bug spay i arrived at the bus ready to go. 5 hours of bonding later we arrived in puyo to our hostel where we all crashed, not ready to get up in a mere 5 hours to begin the second part of our trek. but alas, 5 hours later there we were in the yard of a local eating a delicious breakfast of eggs, potatoes, meat, pan (bread), fresh maracuya (juice) and coffee. yummmmmm, just what we needed too. another 4 hours later we arrived to the shuar community where we were led into the amazon through lots of mud and trees. luckily i've had lots of practice in the u.p. with walking through giant mud 'puddles', thanks dad :) we arrived to the community, and it was refreshing how modest it was. one hut for the tourists to share bunk beds, one meeting hut, one sleeping hut and one hut for eating. after unpacking what little stuff we had with us, we wandered down to the river (a tributary of the amazon, no idea what the name is) and climbed into some home-made canoes for a little trip. the guides took us to this little island that was next to an awesome rope swing where we spent some time relaxing, swimming and swinging. hiked back to our base where we then enjoyed a delicious lunch of fish, soup and veggies straight from the amazon. next it was time for a tour of the flora and fauna of the amazon. and we wandered through the woods, the guide taught us about all the plants, animals and people of the amazon. plants that taste exactly like rhubarb and you eat when you're low on water, flowers and bamboo traps used to catch birds, trees used for communication, leaves used to relieve pain, plant sap used to promote circulation in the knees of babies (so they walk sooner), fruit that just plain tastes good, etc.... After we got back, it was time for a short descansa (rest) and then dinner! Yum yum, carne, sopa, arroz. after dinner we got to enjoy the music and dance of their people and learn about their way of life. everyone crashed hard that night from such a long day, and we all were up early again to get the day started. time for an incredible breakfast of eggs with carne, fried platanos, humita (como cornbread) y a traditional vegetable that's a cross between squash and potatoes. leaving the jungle was sad, i've never been in such a peaceful place in my entire life. i'll never forget overlooking the river and falling asleep to the sound of frogs and river flowing by...... back to the bus, and off to macas. stopped at a river to relax and bask in the sun, and after we headed to a lovely little resturant/zoo where we encountered exotic animals and an enormous yet delicious lunch. all the animals were incredibly lively, especially the mono (monkey) that broke free and decided that he was in love with all the guys on our trip. poor boys, it was quite a fight to get away.... but very entertaining for the rest of us :) leaving the resturant we had another little adventure: our bus got stuck. too long and too steep of a drop for us to make it out. after struggling for awhile we called some taxis and stuffed about 14 people into two of the to get us to the city while they tried to figure out the bus situation. gotta love riding in the bed of a truck, don't worry, the drivers are VERY careful (ish). arrving in the town of macas we were able to explore, get some icecream, some pan and relax in the town square. off to our last sleeping place of the trip, and we were all quite pleased when we arrived at the house/farm of our teachers good friend. setting our stuff in the 'attic'/top floor of the house (30 people, one room, interesting) we headed outside for some dinner. all the food here is good, no joke. after dinner, off to a local bar with everyone, including our teacher and some of her friends. let me tell you, coolest bar i've ever been too. everything was constructed from wood/bamboo. had a two level seating area next to a pool, huge bar area inside.... not too shabby. plus, it was all locals, so we got to mingle and meet tons of new people, and practice our spanish! but now to the important part: the pool. it's 65 degrees out and no one is swimming. something wrong with this picture? yes. so my new friends steve, liz and i decided to be the crazy gringos. after asking the manager if we could jump in, he politely said maybe and told us it wasn't the best idea to because of all the chemicals... so i asked, what chemicals? his response? chlorine. alright, i can handle that. after prompting from a friend of our teacher, jose, and quite a few of the ecuadorians surrounding the pool, we decided we had to do it and jumped in, arising from the water with cheers from everyone around the pool and a not so happy look from one of the bar workers. whoops :) but, in true ecua style, and as jose said smiling at his new crazy gringo friends, 'no pasa nada'. the rest of the night turned out great, met some new friends (apparently being sopping wet doesn't matter here) and danced the rest of the night away. returned to the house, crashed, and the next morning arose before everyone else and decided to explore with another girl from my class. on our mini adventure we ran into the incredibly kind mother of the house who proceded to give us a tour of her land, the crops she grows, the trees/flowers/wildlife and the story of her household. ended up leaving with lots of fruit and some beautiful flowers for my room... the early bird does get the worm! breakfast and off to the bus for our lovely 8 hour bus ride, where we slept, watched movies and did some homework. stopped in the town of banos on the way home where some of ate at their central food market, aka: large cafeteria looking area with little stations where women made their food and we got to walk around and decide which looked most scrumptious. $2 for soup, huge plate of meat, potoatoes, salad, rice and a drink..... not too shabby. not just for the food, i'll being heading back their soon. lots to explore/do in banos. but alas, we only had an hour and back on the road again we were. arriving back in quito was bitter sweet, happy to be back home, but missing the amazon. just means i'll have to go back, right?
and http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=275634&id=501648712&l=4442499a56 (otavalo)
of course the weekend wasn't over, after all is was super bowl sunday, so i headed over to a friends house for american snacks and american football. quite the weekend. and i love it.
in other news:
school is, well school. better because everything is in spanish, but it's much harder to feel motivated in quito :) had my first exam, we shall see, but i felt good leaving so i think that's a good sign. it was for my literature class, so lots and lots of writing. i've been able to explore quito quite a bit. on sundays one of the biggest streets in the city is closed, so i was able to go on a longggggg bike ride to the center of the city where my 'guides' gave me the history of quito, showed me different historic sites, churches, fed me some delicious food and helped me learn my way around the city a little bit better. this may have to be a new sunday tradition. i've also gotten a chance to explore some of the parks that are in/surround the city. let me tell you, for such an enormous city, the two parks i've visited are incredible, and HUGE too. beautiful overlooks of the city, plenty of naturaleza/bosque (nature/forest), solitude and not a ton of people. will be returning to those as well. and now my hands need a rest, off to do some reading, some yoga on my patio and some planning for the next adventures. much love!