After a hectic week of mid-term exams and papers, Spring Break was a well-deserved treat. Not only was it nice weather, but there was very little homework to do and a lot of time to enjoy the country. I anxiously awaited the arrival of my boyfriend – he decided to come down during Semana Santa (Holy Week, aka Spring Break) to visit me.
I got to start my vacation off with a trip to the new Quito airport. I had been very curious about the new airport, as it was located about an hour outside of Quito in the town of Tumbaco. It had been under construction for about two years, so I hoped that it would be worth it. Thus far, I had noticed the benefits of less traffic near the old airport and less noise (no large cargo airplanes landing at four o’clock in the morning). I picked my boyfriend up and we headed to Cafecito, a hostel in La Mariscal. We spent the night, and headed out early the next morning for a full day of classes (he came in on Wednesday). It was nice to be able to show him around the university and take him to the restaurants that I had been talking about for six months.
The next day we went to the Mercado Artesenal (Artesian Market), where we picked up some souvenirs. We also met up with my host family to drop off some of the things that Gilbert had brought and my school backpack, which I would not need for the rest of our trip.
The following day we went to El Museo de Guyasamin, the house/museum of one of the most famous Ecuadorian artists. Not only was it a beautiful view of the city, but also a chance to see the original works of some incredible paintings! Unfortunately, I had been sick since before my boyfriend arrived, and I got so sick on Saturday, that he ended up taking me to the hospital. Luckily, he is a native Spanish speaker, so he was able to help me to navigate everything in the hospital. I realized that when you do not feel well, no matter the level of your second language, you naturally want to revert to your native tongue. Further, I realized that there is some very important vocabulary that is never taught in class that is critical for seeing a doctor (such as suero, which is an IV). Luckily, after two bags of IV fluid and a prescription for antibiotics, I was sent home, with the diagnosis of a bad bacterial infection in my intestines.
My illness did not slow us down for long. After a day of much needed rest and relaxation for me, we headed off to the beach. This would be my second time at the Ecuadorian coast, but I would be heading to a different province: Manabí. My host parents had told me that Manabí is beautiful and has the best food (that is spicy, too). We decided to go to a small town called Puerto López. After two hours of bus rides in Quito, an hour flight, and then a two hour taxi ride, we arrived in Puerto López hungry and tired. We went out and found a cabaña, better known as a beachside hut/cabin, where we grabbed lunch. After a rest, we headed out for a walk on the beach.
That night we ended up finding the cabaña where we would spend a lot of time visiting over the next few days. We arrived hungry, and quickly made friends with our waitress Maritza who brought us the best tostados (grilled cheese) in the town. We made friends with the owner, her husband, and son as well.
The next day, we headed out to Los Frailes, a National Park located on the beach. It was the cleanest beach that I saw in Ecuador (excluding the Galapagos), and it was not crowded. It felt like an Oregon beach, only with warm water and hot, sunny weather. After relaxing on the beach for a few hours, we decided to hike up to one of the points so we could see the rest of the park. The view was breathtaking, and I realized why people would spend the two or three hours hiking into the secluded beaches. When we reached the top, there was a little hut where we enjoyed the view. Then we sat down and read Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate, a saying in Spanish that means “clear as mud”). I was nervous to read aloud, since I am still learning Spanish, but I decided to anyway. After a few minutes of reading, I realized that everyone in the hut was listening to the story that I was reading. I was happy that I had the opportunity to share the story with others!
The following day we decided to go to Agua Blanca, which is a site that contains archeological ruins. I was excited to have the opportunity to visit another set of Ecuadorian ruins. Unfortunately, we did not see as many ruins as we had thought we would, but we still had a good time.
That evening, back at the cabaña, we ran into some friends that I knew from the university that I attend. We hung out, chatted, and danced that evening. It was amazing to me that even though there are so many places and beaches to see, I would still run into someone that I knew. Also that night, I had my first close-to-heart experience with Ecuadorian poverty. We noticed that one of the bar tenders at the cabañas that we visited was wearing the same clothes a couple days in a row. As in all beach towns of Ecuador, there were little stands selling clothing nearby, so we decided to buy her a dress. We asked her boss (the owner) if we could take her for a few minutes, and she said of course. What we didn’t realize is that the bartender was from a large family in another province and had ended up staying in Puerto López to work. She only made $10 a day and was using her tip money to save up to buy a bathing suit. Further, she had never owned a dress in her life! She looked so beautiful with her new dress on and wore it the next day. It felt good to be able to help her, but at the same time, it made me realize how truly fortunate I am when I make almost $10 per hour at the majority of my jobs.
The next day we had to head back to Quito. We arrived safely, although the overnight bus driver was scary. Before my boyfriend left, we decided to stay in Hotel Quito, one of the fanciest hotels in Quito. It overlooks most of the city (you can see the historic center, Guapulo, a neighborhood that is known for its cafes, and Cumbayá, where USFQ is located). It was nice to get to see another part of Quito. We had a nice lunch in Guapulo one day at a café that had vegetarian food (a rarity in Ecuador)! The following day after changing hotels (we only stayed at Hotel Quito one night), we went to the Guayasamin museum. Guayasamin was a famous painter in Ecuador who is known for his unique style. His house has been turned into a museum of artifacts, and the museum with his paintings is located on his property.
It was a bittersweet goodbye when my boyfriend left because I knew I would be home soon, but I didn’t want him to leave. It also finally hit me that I do not have much time left in Ecuador before I head back to the states.