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Journals from Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador

2010-01-08 First week craziness!

Hola chicos! Welcome to the spring 2010 journals for Quito, Ecuador. Since you are going to hear a lot about me in these journals, let me introduce myself. Im Rachel or Raquel or gringita (a term of endearment for gringas studying in Ecuador!) Im a junior at Linfield, majoring in creative writing and business. Im also minoring in Spanish, which is why Im here, in the beautiful city of Quito. There are three of us here from Linfield: me, Scott Pinske, and Josh Ness. There are two other girls from Linfield going to the Galapagos in two weeks, Kelsi Kruger and Claire Steele. And there are also two girls here for the whole year, Sarah Johnson and Katherine Arns. If you can count, that brings us to a total of 8... Whoops. A total of 7. (Thats why Im not a math major!) The first week has been hectic. Let me give you a taste of how Ive felt. These words come straight from my journal: Saturday, on the airplane: Were landing! Im SO nervous. I dont know what to say when I meet my family- its nice to meet you? Thanks for picking me up? I have to speak Spanish- what if I mess up and offend them? Aagh! Sunday, free day with our families: Wow. Thats all I can say. They told me it would be different, butI didnt quite understand. I think my head is going to explode! There is a huge difference between studying Spanish for a few hours each week and speaking it/hearing it ALL DAY LONG! Monday, orientation at La Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, USFQ. Or as everyone here calls it, la San Francisco: My first day at la San Francisco- crazy! It has been such a busy day, but a kind of boring one too. Dont worry; I made it exciting. Guess what I managed to do first thing today? Get lost. Granted, the school is four times the size of Linfield. But stillso much for a womans sense of direction. One interesting part of the day was a speech about Ecuadorian politics. Apparently, theyve had 11 presidents in 8 years! La gente (the people) elected presidents and then decided after a few months/years/days that they werent suitable. So la gente kicked them out. The current president, Correo, has been in there for a few years, and most people like him. But as the speaker said, Ecuadorians get bored easily. So who knows? A few months from now, it could be time for la gente! Tuesday, a free day: My feet hurt! It has been a day full of walking. First, I went with my host mom, Rosa, my friend Raquel (also a study abroad student from Oregon but not Linfield) and her mma, Magi to el Centro (you guessed it. Thats the center of Quito!). We walked around for four hours and looked at beautiful architecture and streets full of shops. When we got back, my host dad, Marco, took me for a walk to show me the bank and the Internet cafs. Then Raquel and I walked to the same area again to buy her a cell phone and to go to the SuperMaxi, the supermarket. Like I said, I spent a lot of time on my feet today! Wednesday, first day of classes: My first day at la San Francisco and Im exhausted! (The word in Spanish for exhausted is agotada, which literally means without a drop of energy. Cool, huh?) Im always exhausted lately, and I dont know why. The altitude? Thats a good excuse. May not be true, though. I was able to walk/run in the park today without a problem I dont know. Anyway, today was like any first day of classes: chaotic and rather stressful. Guess how many times I got lost? About 20. Guess how many times I was late for class? Four. Guess how many classes I had today? 4. Great odds, right? My classes were actually easier than I expected. Theres a lot of talk at Linfield about how hard this program is, but so far the schoolwork doesnt seem to be as scary as they made it out to be. Most of my professors spoke pretty slowly, and I was able to understand them without a problem. If it keeps up like this, it shouldnt be too tough. However its only the first day. Thursday, second day of classes: I rode the bus by myself today. It was a little scary! Raquel and I live next to each other, so we are able to travel together during the hour-long ride to school. We have to take three different buses, so we definitely enjoy both the company and the extra brain to remember streets and landmarks. (Yesterday, we got off the bus about a half mile too early on the way to school. The good news? Both of us now know that the creepy looking burger place is our cue to bajarse from el bus!) Today, Raquel had class until 7:30 pm, so I rode home alone around 2:30. I made it ok, but it took me nearly an hour and a half. Got lost twice. Went past my stop once. Had to catch a bus back in the opposite direction once. Had to ask three bus drivers if I was on the right bus. (I wasat least for two of them!) This is why I dont live in a city. Classes here are going to be interesting. I wont talk about them much at this point, because this is getting long. But I just finalized my schedule, and Im excited. I have classes Monday-Friday, which is a little annoying. (On Fridays, I spend twice as long on the bus as I do in class) But it means that I can take lots of interesting classes. I have: Spanish Conversation, Spanish Grammar, Topics in Latin America (a political science class), Bilingual Education, Volcanology, Soccer, Guitar, and Andinismo- a class that is all about climbing in the Andes! Its pretty cool. The best part, so far, about my classes? The books. I bought most of my books today, and they cost only $25! I have one more to buy, but it shouldnt be that expensive. At la San Francisco, many professors use compilations for the textbooks: they pick articles and chapters from many different sources and put them together into one spiral bound book. The students buy one book (mine was only $6!) instead of eight. Its pretty sweet. Well, I think thats enough for this week! Im sure Ill have lots more to tell next week; I am going to a town called Mindo, about 2 hours north of Quito, with friends this weekend. Mindo is famous for its butterfly farms and hiking trails, and I heard some rumors about a cheap zip lineIll keep you informed. No worries! As they say in Quito, ciao! Rachel

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