Quito, Ecuador – A Very Modern City

Brad Wise ’14 – On a Sunday night, I spent my first night in Ecuador. I woke up the next morning at 5:30 am to bright sunshine and car horns blaring. Quito is a very modern city, much like New York and Chicago.

So far I have spent a whole week in Quito, and I am not going to lie, this city is buzzing with life. Coming from a small quiet town in Georgia, this was definitely a big jump from my norm. But I like it. The buses are crowded, and the laws of traffic are insignificant here. One time I was getting off the bus as it stopped. I had one foot out, and it seriously booked it about 20 mph before I could get off completely. I narrowly avoided hitting the concrete!

It has been quite a ride to say the least (pun intended haha). We have visited many museums in Quito and sites including El Panecillo and La Mitad Del Mundo (the center of the world – smack dab on the Equator). We have also talked to many teachers and natives about culture of Ecuador, including a native Quichua from a famous area north of Quito called Otavalo. Otavalo is one of the biggest markets in South America. Tomorrow, I will be travelling there with Patrick, Larry and Dr. Hardy. It´s going to be awesome!

Suffice it to say that right now, Ecuador has been quite a challenge in terms of learning Spanish, but it has been awesome learning about how the country works. Ecuador is only one of two official plurinational states in the world (Bolivia is the second one), so I can´t wait to explore more of the cultures!

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Altitude and Climbing Ecuadorian Volcano

The group stopped for a photo before the final hike to the summit.

The Wabash students had a physical challenge and lesson in chemistry, altitude, geography and more earlier this week when they climbed to the summit of a volcano. The students, accompanied by Modern Langauge Professor Dan Rogers and Chemistry Professor Lon Porter, climbed Guagua Pichincha Volcano.

Media Services Specialist Adam Bowen is along on the trip this week and video taped the group’s ascent up the mountain. Check out his video and Anton Crepinsek’s description of the climb.

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A Day in Quito Mueseum

Anton Crepinsek ’13 - On Wednesday we went to the Yaku water museum in Quito. The one thing that our professors kept reminding us was we should not drink water in Quito unless it was bottled. There is just a much higher risk of getting sick if we were to drink water our of, say, the faucet. The Yaku museum explains how water gets to Quito, and how it is purified and readied for use.

I guess I need to tell you exactly what I told my host mother. “Ese museo es más para los niños ” or that museum is more for children. I wasn’t quite sure what to think as we walked into the museum and there were cartoon kids with dialog boxes talking about water everywhere you looked. Our guide told us that we were going to take the same journey that the water takes to reach Quito. We started by climbing to the top of Cotopaxi, a volcano near Quito.

Then, all seven of us 20-something guys (and Dr. Hardy as well) slid down a slide to Quito. We were purified, and then took a series of tunnels (McDonald’s play place type haha) and slides to reach the houses of Quito.

After our journey as water from el  volcán Cotopaxi to las casa de Quito, we went through several rooms where we learned about the properties of water. This is where my most memorable part of the day happened. Our guide started talking about the surface tension property of water. He asked who could explain it. Jimmy and I are the only two chemistry majors on the trip, and somehow everyone seemed to look at me, and they told me to explain it. It truly was humbling as I struggled to find the Spanish vocabulary to explain it. This one event reminded me how much work I still have as I seek to master the Spanish language.

The rest of the tour was really fun. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but i think we all enjoyed our time at the museum for as grown-up as we think we are! We made and touched clouds; we stood in the middle of a hurricane; and we used giant paint brushes to paint designs on a wall! All in all, nos divertimos mucho (we had so much fun) at Yaku museo del agua!

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Hanging out in Quito, Host Family

Fabian Villanueva ’ 13 - Today we got the day off school! Since Tuesday was a national holiday in Quito, instead of giving the people of Quito Tuesday off, they gave Friday off so that they could have a three-day weekend. The morning started off with some breakfast my host mom had prepared for me. Then I was off to go with the guys to the park and to the mall.

I met up with Anton, John, Jimmy, and Matt at El Parque Carolina. The guys told me they wanted to go the mall and see a movie, Hall Pass. So Matt bought a soccer ball and we walked around the park. The park was full of Ecuadorians for they were enjoying their day off work. Most of them were playing soccer, even in the basketball courts. That is when we decided to go to eat and to the mall to see the movie.

Villanueva with his Ecuadorian host family

We stopped at McDonalds. We wanted to try the Mac Chicken. I got a Mac Chicken with some fries and soda. The guys got a Mac Chicken too. The Mac Chicken was good: two chicken patties instead of meat, not a bad taste. It was something new. We wondered if they had them in the United States as well. After that we went to the mall to see Hall Pass or in Spanish Pase Libre. The mall has the movie theater on the lower level of the mall.

The mall did not seem full, but there were several people there. The movie was okay, I could not complain because it was funny. After the movie we walked around the mall. I left after some time for I was tired and wanted to be home on time to celebrate my host dad´s birthday.

Once I got home I went up to my room to get some rest. After some time, around eight-thirty, I went down for dinner. My host mom had made a special dinner for my host father for it was his birthday today. She baked cake out of potato and chicken (something like a pot pie) with lettuce on the side. For dessert she had canned peaches and an amazing chocolate cake. We sang happy birthday in Spanish and then my host mom cut the cake. The cake was all chocolate it was really good. We ate the cake with tea. After we talked among ourselves and then it was off to bed to get some rest.

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Straddling the Equator

John Jurkas ’12 – Today we took an amazing trip to where the Equator is actually located, Latitude 00°00’00.”  The place we went is actually a newer location that is about 500 meters away from the famous “Mitad del Mundo” Monument, which we learned is actually not located on the Equator.  Not only was there an indicator of where this historical figure lies on the earth, and not only was it extremely hot at this location, but there were also numerous activities that visitors could participate in to show that this truly was the famous line we learn about from elementary geography.

Jimmy Beasley doing an experiment at the Equator

While there, our guides led us through a number of entertaining experiments. It was a great learning experience for everyone and it was also an extremely fun time.  These were by no means optical illusions or magic tricks used on audiences, these were in fact very primitive scientific experiments at the most outer part of the earth.

I must say though to mine, and other students satisfaction, that we actually got to “see” the Mitad Del Mundo Monument, which is supposed to be where the Equator is located, but was actually built in an incorrect location.  Not only was this amusing to see such a famous monument in the wrong spot, but I think it made some students enjoy the experience more because Matt Paul and Anton Crepinsek wanted to go to the famous site, even though it was in an inaccurate location, and it was just out of reach but still visible so they got to see the monument after all but not take a prized photo.

Walking on the Equator is an experience I never dreamed of doing and I don’t think any of the other students thought they would have this accomplishment in life either.  Until next time CIAO!

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A short trip to El Mercado

Matthew Paul ’13 - The first thing I notice as we enter el mercado, the market, is the incredible number of things crammed into such a small space. While we had walked by the opening to the mercado a couple of days before, it is impossible to tell the depth while simply observing from outside. What initially looks like a bunch of small openings similar to the entrances to tiendas all across the city turns out to be a corridor over 50 yards long but no more than three yards wide. Every ten yards or so one stall ends and a new one begins, each literally crammed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of merchandise.

Venders sit in literal caves made up of mounds upon mounds of products. Scarves, hats, t-shirts, flutes, wooden boxes, carved statues, bracelets and much, much more surround me as I move deeper into the mercado isle. All kinds of sounds surround me; the sound of venders trying to attract buyers attention, the tune of a violin playing from one of the stalls, the more coaxing melody of a venders voice trying to cajole an interested buyer into a purchase, the occasional “Perdón” as customers have no choice but to brush their neighbors in the crowded passageway.

At first it is a little overwhelming, but after a while the chaos seems to have an order. I walk up to a stall where a vendor is selling scarves. His merchandise literally stretches from floor to ceiling. I begin to look and find that the selection includes many soccer scarves representing teams from not only Quito, but from all across Ecuador and the world. The extended visit to his stall prompts the vendor to pay me special attention. The mercado may be the one place in Quito outside of my host family or classroom where my broken Spanish is not only accepted but also encouraged. As long as I am interested in buying he’ll listen to it all day. As we talk, he begins to not only facilitate but suggest possible items. While I continue to look at the visible items on top, he uses an almost magical knowledge of his pile of scarves to pull different possibilities from every which direction.

While encouraged by our resident expert on bartering, Dr. Hardy, to look disinterested in order to get the best deal, it is hard to keep an impressed expression off my face when this man shows me the knowledge of his trade. I pick out a white scarf of one of the local Club teams in Quito and he offers it for $7. Resisting an urge to take a deal that would be great in the states I act skeptical and suggest $5. He accepts immediately. We’re both happy with the deal.

I continue through the mercado and find another stall where I cannot pass up a gift for my mother and a soccer jersey for myself. Again I am able to talk the price down, a very lucky occurrence because the two items cost me literally every cent I have. I walk outside finally, on the far side of the isle of shops. I am extremely happy but also completely broke. Ready to go home, I look down la calle de Jorge Washington (yes, that’s the name of the street) and see what I hadn’t noticed before; that there is row after row of similar corridors to the one that I had only just made it out of. With no more money to spend and a dinner to get to I turn away and head home. As I begin the mile walk back to my house I consider the next days schedule and when I can make the necessary trip back to this wonderful place.

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One Day in Quito Offers A Lot

Jimmy Beasley ’12 – The 22nd of May, a Sunday, showed me how much of a great ppportunity the Ecuador Program can be if a student makes it. I woke up at a normal time of 8:00 am which may seem early in the United States, but here in Ecuador by this time during the week the seven students of this year’s Ecuador Program are well on there way to the day’s set of classes and lectures.

Waking up slowly to the pleasant sun of the equator I decided to rest in bed while listening to my audio MCAT exam prep lectures on my iPod Touch. After this had proceeded to a satisfactory time I walked into the hall of my host house and was welcomed to a breakfast customarily made by my kind host mom. The day’s plans were set by the two phone calls that were necessary to communicate with John Jurkash and Anton Crepinsek that it was a nice enough day to go to La Carolina, a park that we soon realized was leisurely populated with Ecuadorian families seeking a day of sports and relaxation after the morning mass.

We set there for an hour and a half only discussing our hopes for the future and what we would like to do as Wabash grads while watching men reliving the glory days of soccer, basketball, and volleyball while their families stood by watching amiably with the children playing with a newly acquired puppy. This was the greatest glimpse of the Ecuadorian culture and family that we had seen all week. At the high altitude of Quito, not only was family important, but it was also important that children as well as parents get out of the house and exercise.

After La Carolina we made our way across the street to a quaint little mall with levels built under ground to conserve area while still providing all the stores of an American mall. The three of us shortly found our way to the multiplex theatre two floors below ground level where we were able to enjoy Piratas del Caribe 4 for only $4.60 a person. A piece of home reached us with a McDonalds meal with fresher ingredients than 90 percent of the double arched restaurants found in the states. We even witnessed the creation of the Chicken Mac not yet seen by our American eyes.

Walking the streets home laughing, enjoying the break in rain that would resume once we got back to our respective houses, we looked back at how well the day had past while getting a greater glimpse of Quito and its families. At home I was able to read some of Catch 22, eat a dinner with my host parents with Frank Sinatra in the background, and watch a little bit of Chicago vs. Miami.

In one day I was able to study, relax with the Ecuadorians, get entertained by Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, have a leisurely walk through Quito, and enjoy my first Chicken Mac. All in a day in Ecuador.

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