I’m not a big city girl. Have I mentioned that before? I’m clearly out of my comfort zone in places where it takes more than 10 minutes to escape to something that resembles countryside. But I think I have something to learn from cities, about how people live en masse. With a net increase of about 200,000 people on this planet every day, living in cities is becoming difficult to avoid. This year, it was time to give Quito another chance.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is the theme of the first in our series of student blog posts on about our trip to Ecuador. UNCO meteorology student, Emily Ireland, explores this idea as she writes about her experiences in the Amazon. You can find her post on our Earth & Atmospheric Science blog site.
The Amazon is certainly a physical challenge for me, but I always feel at home in a forest – whichever forest that might be. Cities, however, have a way of getting to me like fingernails dragging along a chalkboard. Maybe they don’t so much push the edges of my comfort zone as rub raw the nerves that line the edge of that comfort zone.
The rooftops of Quito blanket the slopes of Volcán Pinchincha. View from El Panecillo, the bread-loaf shaped hill in the middle of the city, looking north over the colonial center.
I’ve been craving humitas lately – those soft, cheesy, sweet cornmeal cakes steamed in a corn husk. I miss eating popcorn and tostado (corn nuts) with my soup. The popcorn here in the States – even the stuff I buy at the Farmer’s Market – just can’t compare with Ecuadorian popcorn. And I’d love to have a chirimoya. I saw them in Whole Foods market one day, shipped from somewhere in the tropics. I would have to shell out about $8 for a taste – as it should be – you pay for every bit of petroleum used to get that thing up here, to a place where no one has heard of a chirimoya. I wonder if Whole Foods made any profit on those. (Aren’t you tempted to google ‘chirimoya’ now?)
It’s been nearly two years since I returned home from Ecuador. Maybe it’s time for a visit?
Humita, wrapped in a corn husk, and an Ecuadorian tamale – usually served with coffee or hot chocolate.
Happy day: After an hour-long wait, I got my passport back from the immigration office (not sure why it was necessary to hang on to it…but that’s just how it goes for everyone) and then I hopped on the Quito Tour Bus. Yes, it’s as cheesy as it sounds. But in the end, it helped me discover my favorite place in the city.
The Quito Tour Bus – In all it’s glory!
I’ve spent my first three days in Quito mainly going from one appointment to the next, learning to negotiate taxis and buses, trying to figure out where to eat, or resting my aching feet. But I’ve also gathered a few random insights I thought I’d share here – like how to cross the street, how to get a big meal, and how much fun it is to sit around and chat with people (sorry, still no touristy photos – just a foodie photo!)
A late night arrival in a new country means some major disorientation on Day 1. Combine that with the fact that shadows point south, not north, and my head starts to spin. After one day in Quito, I’m happy to spend an evening hibernating in my room and processing what I know is a little bit of culture shock.
Morning sunlight in the courtyard outside the bedroom at my Quito B&B.
And if you’re wondering why I have only one photo to show you after a full day in the city…well, one of my ways of adjusting is to leave the camera at the B&B in order to keep a low profile until I get a better feel for a place. It’s bad enough that I occasionally have to stop and look at the map I keep folded in my pocket. I can’t help looking like a foreigner. But I can avoid looking like a clueless foreigner.