Determined to prove my host mother wrong about me being a social recluse, I decided I had to make an effort to get out of the house this weekend. There hasn’t been anything too adventurous quite yet, but I loved seeing new parts of the city.
On Friday night, I went to a good-bye party for two of the Austrian volunteers at Cenit. Even though I’ve only been there for a couple of weeks, it was a great way to get to know some of the other volunteers while working on my Spanish, since they come from Germany, Austria, Italy, the US and a few other places. Since most of us are close in age, and we are all volunteering abroad (whether in school or not), it really was a fantastic way to start the weekend. I also took my first taxi alone and didn’t get attacked/kidnapped/robbed! Always a plus.
Saturday I went to Otavalo with a group of 8 USFQ students. With another solid taxi ride (only costing $3), we took a $2 bus about two hours away to the picturesque little city of Otavala. Within the city limits is an artisan market every Saturday, with jewelry, art, textiles, clothing and basically everything you could imagine, some targeted towards international tourists, others focused on more general things. With beautiful colors and incredible designs, many of the items are handmade by the sellers or the families of the sellers, which means that the cost drops significantly in the absence of the intermediary. I ended up buying a lightweight woven sweatshirt-equivalent item that I can wear around the house, and then I gave into my vice and purchased two rings, pictured below.
I love markets, and my only defense is to limit the money I bring so that I don’t purchase everything. (My parents can attest to my ability to boost the local economy with market purchases, like when I returned from Guatemala with three hammocks…) After purchasing some delicious chocolate bread from the local bakery, we headed back to Quito.
|Bus terminal, with volcano in background|
Sunday, I was going to do homework, but that can always be delayed when other opportunities arise! I accompanied my host mother to the home of a leather artisan, who makes beautiful leather purses with Italian leather. His work is incredible, and my host mother custom ordered a black leather purse, for only $85, which is considerably less than any similar purse would be in the States. She first met this artisan thirty years ago and has kept his contact information for the rare occasion that she is in need of a new one. I am seriously pondering my need for a good purse, particularly one where I have met the artisan. We shall see.
After that, we went to a local shopping center and got a pizza. Let’s just say that pizza might not be the strong suit of Ecuador, given the limited cheese options, but it was a nice change of pace.
In the afternoon, we made our way north to la Mitad del Mundo! In case you didn’t make the connection ECUADOR lies on the EQUATOR. Cool, huh? In any case, we drove to the middle of the world, where the latitude measures 0 0’ 0”. (Nearby is an inactive volcano, where you can actually go into the crater, but that’s for another day.) Although we weren’t able to stay for long, I officially saw the equator. Atop the structure, there is a globe on its side, showing the position of the Earth in comparison to the line upon which we stood. My host family informed me that my time in Quito limbo had passed, as I had officially arrived in Quito upon visiting la mitdad del mundo. And so, my adventure really starts!
|Standing on the Equator (facing east)|
|Standing on the Equator (facing west)|
|The flags of the provinces of Ecuador|
|The Northern Hemisphere|
|Patricia and I (my host mama)|
|My host mama and I|
|Music and ice cream|
|Flags of the provinces and the sierra|
|The busts of famous Ecuadorians|
|La mitad del mundo|
|The mountain ranges at the Equator|
|La mitad del mundo|