December 2012 – January 2013
Although I did not go home for “winter” (70°F weather just doesn’t feel like winter to me) break, my mom and my younger brother came down to visit me, which was even better. I was excited to have my two worlds meet, but mostly having my families meet.
My host parents came with me to the airport to pick up my mom and brother. I had shown them a few pictures of mom and Spencer so they knew who was coming, but it is always different in person. The Quito airport was really crowded (like always, which is why they are in the process of building a new one), so we went upstairs so we could see more easily when they arrived. I remember my dad saying “Buscamos un rubio alto y una igualita a la Nea” which means “We are looking for a tall blonde and a woman who looks just like Nea” (my nickname since Linnaea is too difficult to pronounce down here – it becomes ‘línea’ or line). When I saw my mom and my brother, I ran downstairs to get their attention and to say hi. I was so happy to see them. I never realized how long four months could be without seeing your family. After a long day of traveling, my mom and brother were ready to head to the hotel to get some sleep. My host parents drove us to the hotel where we were staying (I decided to stay with my mom and brother since it had been so long since I’d seen them). One thing that I didn’t think about before my family arrived was the language barrier. I am the only person in my family that speaks a second language. So, I ended up being the translator, which is much harder than I thought it would be. The good thing was that my mom and brother understood most of what my host family said, so I just had to translate their responses.
The next day we took it easy because my mom and brother got altitude sickness. The next day we spent the morning at Mitad del Mundo, visit the equator. That afternoon, my host mom had us over, and we had a homemade lunch/dinner. My host mom made a traditional Ecuadorian dish called ‘llapingachos.’ This consists of sausage, potato patties, avocado, and a fried egg. Since my host mom and I are vegetarian, we had everything but the sausage. We had the main course after a soup made of green plantains (or verdes as we call them in Ecuador, which means green). After that we all hung out and chatted. It was such an amazing feeling being with my two families at the same time. My host mom assured my mom that I was being well taken care of (which I am!).
The next day, the next leg of our journey started – my mom, brother, and I were headed out for a ten day cruise to the Galapagos Islands. It was a longer trip than I thought to get to the islands, but that is probably due to the fact that the plane stopped in Guayaquil before heading out to the islands. We landed in Baltra, and after gathering our luggage, took a bus to the dock where we caught dinghies to get onto the boat. The boat quickly set sail so that we could get a glimpse of some of the wildlife before it got dark. We went to an island called North Seymore, which is quite small, but offered a great start to our trip in Galapagos. We saw Great Frigate Birds (see link for pictures), which were quite a sight. The males have a thin layer of skin that they can puff out to attract female attention. This pouch is bright red and huge. The color comes from the blood that is running through the thin layer of skin. After that, we saw a few land iguanas, some finches, and some native plants. The other highlight of North Seymore was the sea lions. When we got to the last bit of our walk, we passed sea lion pups playing on the beach. There were about four of them playing and barking. They are very curious and their on-land eyesight is poor, so they kept trying to get closer to us. We had be careful, though, because if a human touches a sea lion pup, the mother sea lion will stop feeding it, and eventually the sea lion dies of starvation (another mother will not nurse a pup that is not hers). Then we headed back to the boat to eat dinner and start to settle in.
I will make a list of the other islands that we visited and the highlights (otherwise the post will take you days to read)
· Red footed boobies (see below for a link to pictures)
· Night heron
· Sea lions – one was sleeping in the path that we were supposed to walk on, so we had to quickly, quietly, and daintily walk past her!
· Cactus finch
· Lava gulls – we saw the nest, and a new hatchling
· James Bay
· Dinghy ride/kayaking
· Monk rock
· Sierra Negra Volcano
· Vermillion Flycatcher – we went to see this when Sierra Negra was clouded in
· Flightless Cormorants
· Land tortises
I learned a lot during the time that I was in the Galapagos. By visiting so many islands, I was able to see all four types of mockingbirds (which is how Darwin figured out his theory of evolution). I also learned about the two different types of sea lions in the Galapagos: Fur Seals and California/Galapagos Sea Lions. It was an incredible trip, and even though I didn’t take my camera with me everywhere (since my mom and brother were also taking pictures), I have over 800 pictures!
When we got back into Quito, my mom and brother changed hotels so they would be closer to me (only 4 blocks away, instead of a 20 minute taxi ride). We got in New Years Eve, so we got to see the viudas (‘widows’), who are men dressed as women asking for money in the streets. We had a goodbye dinner at the first hotel, where we all hung out and chatted. After the dinner, we headed back to the hotel, and my brother and I went out to celebrate the New Year with my host family. My grandma, aunts, uncles, and all the dogs (six in total) were all there. We burned the Año Viejo (old year), and hopped over the coals/ashes to bring in good luck for the New Year. I am glad that I was with my host family so that I could experience what the New Year’s traditions are here in Ecuador.
We spent one morning in the Historic Center of Quito, which was fun. It was nice to be able to show them around some of the places that I already knew. We visited La Basilica, and climbed up to the towers. We had such a lovely view of Quito.
I had a wonderful visit with my family, but overall, it went so fast. The new semester is coming, new students are arriving, and now I will be the one being able to share information from experience, rather than being the newbie.