Enough has happened in the last week to write several blogs, but since there isn’t enough time and probably not enough interest to read through it all, this is just going to be a recap of what’s been keeping me occupied in Quito these last few days. Continuing with the practice teaching, lectures, and Spanish classes, every day was long and tiring. On Thursday we did receive a break from the monotony of orientation with a trip to the Guayasamin Museum located in a northeastern neighborhood of Quito.
Guayasamin is one of, if not the most popular and well known Ecuadorian artists. A man who expressed his desperation in his work, he was close friends with Pablo Picasso and Fidel Castro. A walk around the museum showed the different struggles in and around South and Central America, as well as within Ecuador. With cubist paintings, the characters often showed turmoil and pain in various stages.
Friday marked the end of practice teaching and Spanish classes, which meant a celebration was in order. Everyone was so happy that practice teaching was over that it was overlooked that we’ll still have to be making lesson plans and teaching for a year. 3 days was nothing. After our last class our students took us out for some coffee, which wound up becoming a feast. The students ordered us a huge plate of appetizers, and we wound up late to our next meeting which seems to happen a lot.
For our last Spanish class we bought our professor beers and cookies and shared them throughout class before heading back to SECAP for a 2 hour party with a talent show and dancing. By far the best part of the night was watching my fellow volunteer Cordaro do magic tricks. Somehow he managed to fill up an empty beer can and reseal it, then open it up again and serve cold beer. Oh, and he levetaded. After the long week I was too tired to party too hard, so called it a night after 12:30 a.m.
On Saturday the whole group of volunteers went to Papallacta, a small area in the east close to the Amazon. Some of us went on a nature hike for an hour and then grabbed some amazing trout. The town is known for its trout, and we werne’t disappointed. For $3.50 we got a big plate of fried trout with rice, fries, and veggies. After dinner we headed back to the grounds to dip in the natural hot springs. From hot spas we jumped into the freezing cold river, then into boiling hot spas, and back into the hot spa. It was incredibly relaxing and perfect after two long weeks.
Today was a very long day. We woke up early to play basketball, and after a couple of hours of playing at high altitude, we were all ready to head home. We played last weekend too, and for the first couple of games it was a true struggle. Doing anything at high altitude requires more energy, and after 1 minute of running around we were huffing and puffing. This week we were more adjusted, but still sucking wind. After lunch we headed to the TeleferiQo, the tourist attraction at the top of Pichincha, the mountain in Quito.
At the bottom of the TeleferiQo is a small amusement park, but we skipped it and went straight for the gondolas to the top. At about 13,000 feet, walking 3 steps uphill makes you tired. I was worse off than anyone else, but we were all struggling for air. You walk uphill and just can’t breath; there simply isn’t any air available. When you’re at sea level you can take deep breaths and get something, but up this high when you take a deep breath, there’s just nothing getting in. Your heart beats rapidly and you start to sweat even though it’s cold, all while the chest feels like it’s caving in. But the view is amazing, so you press on.
High above the clouds and the city of Quito, the TeleferiQo is not a very safe place. There are constant attacks and robberies, and we’ve heard plenty of horror stories that aren’t worth getting into now, but needless to say, when you go off the trail or beyond the boundaries, you take your own risks. We went slightly further than the barbed wire boundary where some horses were available for a half hour. I chose not to, but three others did and rode them for a half hour while the rest of us climbed further.
I was really struggling with the altitude, and even one step made me feel like I’d just run a mile. Eventually I made it to the top of the plateau, and though there was still a long way to go to the top, we’d reached the point of far enough. Heading back down into Quito just before it got dark, we worked our way over to a free outdoor concert where we heard a band from Mexico play. They were good, and one of their songs had the lyrics, “Me so horny, me love you long time” had us all laughing.
Finally the week is over, and a new one is about to start. Orientation will officially be over on Wednesday, and unless something changes, I’ll head to Cuenca on Friday and have to start teaching next Monday, even though the classes have already started with a substitute. It is then that the real work will begin.
Top: Top of TeleferiQo
Third: From Museo Guayasamin, “I cried because I didn’t have shoes until I saw a child who didn’t have feet”
Bottom: Painting by Guayasamin