Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ecuador Adventure Guest Blog Series 1/8

Sternberg Museum of Natural History Education Director, David Levering, lead a spring break study abroad trip of seven Fort Hays State University undergraduate students to mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  The students documented their adventures and explorations during the trip, and these travelogues will be featured here through a series of eight posts (with a finally reflection from David). Enjoy!

Day 1: Exploring Quito
Location: Quito, Ecuador
By: Jessica Johnson

This morning all was quiet in our hostel. We were all exhausted from the full day of driving and flying, but the excitement for our upcoming journey was in the air. Personally, it still hadn’t hit me that I was in a foreign country thousands of miles away from home. I mean I’m only 19 years old! I’m practically still a child, and I was exploring places grown adults only dream about.

Breakfast at the Quito hostel.

After my morning prepping routine, I meandered down to the breakfast nook to meet up with the rest of our group to eat breakfast. A few unique things happened: we were introduced to the cultural cuisine of eggs, toast, coffee, hot chocolate, and a fruit blend drink which was personally prepared and served to us by the owner of the hostel, and we finally interacted with native Ecuadorian people that spoke no English. I could tell that the language barrier was going to effect me greatly, and I was going to have to use my communication major skills. After our group was showered, rested, and reenergized we took off to explore the city of Quito.  

The first place that we walked to was a formal park in the middle of the city. It seemed like this park was more for the natives of Quito because there were no other people walking around with cameras and fanny packs. It was exciting to see something that was so authentic to the people from Quito. I was worried that all we’d get to see was the glamorous parts of the city and not what Ecuador was really about. During our visit to this park, we also got our first glimpses of Quito’s plant and animal life.

The first stop and first park of our day exploring Quito.
The next spot we walked towards was De Voto Nacional, a cathedral of grand architecture that
The inside of De Voto National. 
allowed us a look at Catholicism in Quito. This. Was. Phenomenal. It was humbling to see one of the only places in Quito where tourism was not the main focus. Although this church was thousands of miles away from my home, their customs still mirrored the Catholic Church that I attended in my small, western hometown. This was special to me because even though our cultures and living styles were so different, we still have something in common.

De Voto National from the outside.

Pulled into the park comedy show. 
By this time of the day we were tired and hungry, so we stopped for some Ecuadorian fast food, then made our way to another park. I was not expecting to be pulled into the comedy show that was entertaining a group of around 30 natives, but Connor, Sami, and I were pulled into the spotlight. THAT. WAS. CRAZY.

The two comedians were throwing props at us speaking in fast Spanish to the crowd. Although I was completely clueless, Connor could pick out a few broken Spanish phrases that still left us confused, a little uncomfortable, and out of our comfort zone. Apparently we were pretty funny though because the crowd was cackling and doubling over in laughter.

Although it was all in good fun, this made an impact on me, being a communication major, because I have never been unable to understand what was being said. I felt awkward and nervous trying to read body language and trying to remember some of the theories that I had learned in my numerous communication classes. I never realized just how important my major was and what I did was so useful. I decided right then and there that I wanted to learn Spanish.
The group in the second park. 

After our standup comedy fun, we spent a good portion of the afternoon looking at trinkets and admiring some of the work that the locals made. It was incredible that so many people’s livelihood depended on selling their crafts and wares. I ended up buying a turquoise wrapped ring for my sister and a black and green stone bracelet for my boyfriend’s mother. After our shopping, we were ready to head back to the hostel and to grab some food. I was exhausted and still in disbelief that I was in Ecuador.
Exploring Quito on Day 1

To continue the adventure, read about Day 2: Bike Trip
Watch a video with highlights from the Ecuador/Galapagos adventure!

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