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Quito: the biggest city I had never heard of

The first real week. I feel like so much has happened already! But now it’s really going to start. I’m so excited for all of it. Here you can read how the first week went. The host family in Quito was the first location of the traveling classroom, a trip of four weeks.

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Monday: Spanish lessons and drinks

On Monday we started with the first class of Spanish in Quito. It lasts from 8.30 until 12.30. I expected an introduction or word of welcome, but nope: straight into Spanish grammar. It was fine though; the teacher is really nice. There are five students in the class, myself included: R, M and A, and then L, a Swiss girl. We met her at the school.

The class actually went quite well, although fast. I didn’t mind though, I really need the Spanish to have some sort of communication with my family. However, the more I am around them and hear Spanish, the more I start to understand. Now that I’m learning actual words, it gets even better.

plane in the park of Quito

We had the afternoon off, so all of us went to the shopping mall to get something to eat. Another Dutch girl, F, also went with us. She is doing the same trip, but takes different classes because her Spanish is already pretty good. After lunch I had to get back to the apartment, because I had to work.

Work only lasted about an hour or so, and after that I went to a park with R and M. We walked around for a little bit and talked. We got to know each other a little better. With the rest of the students, we have a groups chat. A and F were getting drinks in a cafe, and we decided to join them.

The drinks were great, we talked some more, and then we went home again, all to our own host families. I had dinner with my host mom and her son and grandson. Her son spoke a little English, but more importantly: he spoke Spanish a little slowly to me so I could make out the words. We had a conversation, and he asked for how long I had been studying Spanish. I told him it was my first day, and he didn’t believe it at first!

After dinner, my host mom and I went upstairs to the host family of R and M, to play the card game again. Now that I understand it I actually like it, but it takes a couple hours of playing. I won though! Accidentally.

Tuesday: the old town in Quito

On Tuesday, we had Spanish lessons again from 8.30 until 12.30. After that, we had one hour off to get some lunch, and then we went back to the school. Our teacher took us on a trip to the old part of Quito, which was very nice.

We went to the cathedral in Quito old town, in the historic center, that R and I saw on Sunday, and we actually climbed it! The view was breathtaking, but the climb was exhausting. The stairs were so narrow that I was scared I would fall. However, the cathedral was beautiful. Our teacher told us that instead of angels and demons as decoration, this cathedral had animals from the Galapagos Islands, which are famous Islands of Ecuador.

We also walked around the city a little and went up to the statue Virgen del Panecillo. This is a huge statue on top of a hill, in the middle of the city. You can see it from multiple other locations in the city, but to see it up close was a different thing. It was very impressive.

The last stop was a church, which was also beautiful to see. It had amazing paintings, that I was not allowed to take photos off. After that the tour was done, and our teacher brought us back to the school. We all decided to go for drinks – again – and got to know each other even better.

It’s weird to realise that I didn’t know any of these people last week. We seem so close now, probably because we only know each other and we see each other all day. Everyone is really nice, and we all have kind of the same mindset because they all love traveling and exploring. We have all been to different places, so it’s interesting to hear the ins and outs of certain cities and countries.

Virgen del Panecillo in Quito

In the evening, R, M and I (and our families) played the card game again. I didn’t win this time.

Wednesday: Mitad del Mundo & Secret Garden Rooftop Bar

The day started early, because I had a meeting at 06.30 with one of my clients. The meeting didn’t take very long though, so after that I was able to work for a little while before taking a shower and having breakfast.

Just like the days before, we started our day with a couple of hours learning Spanish. In stead of going for lunch with the other students, we attended cooking lessons from the school. We learned how to make “llapingachos”, a dish with potato with feta, meat, tomato, onion and egg. It was delicious!

Mitad del Mundo near Quito

In the afternoon we visited Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the world. Definitely go there if you are ever in Quito. First, we took a tour through the visitor park, and we listened to information about the Ecuadorian locals and the nature. The guide also explained some things about the equator, and what it means for Ecuador to be on the equator.

We did some funny experiments, like trying to balance an egg on a nail on the equator, because that should be easier. Trying to walk a straight line on the equator with your eyes closed is supposed to be harder. We also saw how the water flows clockwise on one side of the equator, and counter-clockwise on the other one.

After that, we went to the monument of Mitad de Mundo, with a museum. Here, we got even more information, in Spanish this time, about the nature and different tribes in Ecuador. Of course, we also had to take a picture on the middle of the world.

At night we went to Secret Garden Quito, a hostel with a rooftop bar, where they organized a “Ladies Night”. This meant that all girls got free drinks from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The drink in question was blue and it tasted a little chemical… But free drinks are free drinks.

The view over Quito from the rooftop bar was amazing. You could see the lights from all over the city The night was very nice, we played some card games. Around 11 p.m., we went home with an Uber.

Secret Garden Hostel Quito Cotopaxi

Thursday: Salsa & Soccer in Quito

Thursday seemed to be all about sports. We started with Spanish lessons of course, and in the afternoon, we learned how to dance the Salsa. I was really glad that I took some lessons in Salsa last year, because it was very difficult!

It was nice to see how everyone tried their best to do the steps as good as possible. The fact that I already took lessons before, was not visible. I still wasn’t any good at it. But: we laughed, and that’s important!

At 4 p.m., the soccer match Ecuador – Brazil started. We wanted to watch in the stadium in Quito, but eventually decided against it. First, there were no supporters allowed. Then, there were, but the tickets were so expensive that most of us didn’t want to go.

Eventually, we decided to watch the game with the whole group in a restaurant. It was a bar with a rooftop again, with a nice view of Quito. The game was enjoyable, not in the least because of the fanatic Ecuadorian supporters across from us. One of the guys really stood in front of the television with his chair in his hands.

I haven’t seen much of the game: there was a collection of red cards, but that’s about it. The final score was 1-1. Most of us stayed in the restaurant after the game, and we ate dinner there together. After that, we ordered some drinks.

M, R and I wanted to go home early though. Last night, we came home a little after 11 p.m., but we think we woke up our host families. They were very nice about it and didn’t say anything about it, but we still felt a little guilty. That is why we didn’t want to stay out late.

Friday: El Teleferico in Quito

On Friday, we had our final Spanish lessons at the school, because next week we are going to another location. That is why we contributed to the tradition of the school, by painting our hands in the color of our flags and putting them on the wall. Our names are also on there!

El Teleferico Quito

After school, it was time for El Teleferico. This is a card cable that takes you from the center up high. Keep in mind: the location of the start of the cable car is already at a height of 3317 meters. From there, it only goes up. I don’t feel altitude sickness in the city anymore, but up there…

First, I though I was just anxious because of the height, and that was why I felt off. I’m not afraid of heights – I loved the view from the cable car – but the higher we got, I felt a little nauseas.

Only when L, sitting across from me, asked me if I was feeling the altitude sickness too, I realised that that must be it. Breathing was very difficult being that high in the mountains. The cable car goes to a height of 3945 meters, and from there you can hike to the view.

The hike was difficult, not just for me, but for everybody. All the other students were in some way affected by the height, I think. The path we took to the viewpoint would normally not be a challenge, but now I had to really concentrate to keep breathing.

It is all worth it… You would think. But it was incredibly cloudy, so we didn’t see anything. Clouds, clouds, and more clouds. During our hike back to the cable car, it started raining. Everyone who is back in the Netherlands and thinks that I am on this warm, dry, tropical vacation: not the case.

I was so happy when we got back to “just” 3117 meters, and I could breathe again. After El Teleferico we went to a market, where we could buy some souvenirs. Some of us stayed there for a while, walking around, while others just went home.

El Teleferico Swing

At home, late in the afternoon, M, R and I made pizza with the family. A and Andrea were eating with us too. R, M and I had a lot of fun in the kitchen while cooking. And now we know how to make pizza!

Saturday: Cotopaxi National Park

The day started early, because we had to be at a certain cafe at 7 a.m. Today, we went to Cotopaxi National Park. From the cafe, it was a 2-hour drive, of which the last part was through the park itself. The bus shook so bad during this part!

The starting point of the hike was already above 4000 meters, and I felt that it was a little harder to breathe. And then we had to hike up… Fortunately, I bought some candies in the store before the hike, and those help against altitude sickness.

Cotopaxi National Park Refugio José Rivas

The hike was tough, but I made it! It took us about an hour. Could I enjoy the amazing view from the top? No. It was really cloudy again. However, it was cool to be that high – at 4864 meters! In the restaurant, we got some hot drinks.

Then, the hike down started. This went a lot faster. From the parking lot, we drove with the bus for a couple of minutes, and then we could mountainbike the rest of the way. I had never done it before, but it was really fun!

In the first part of the ride, we didn’t have to do anything, since we were going down the mountain. We rode to a lake, and there were walked around for a little bit. It was beautiful. The bus then brought us to a restaurant, were we ate lunch.

Cotopaxi National Park mountainbike

At night, R, M, A, Andrea and I went to have a drink in a part of Quito that we hadn’t been to before. This was a cool part of the city, where a lot of young people went out. There was a live band in the cafe we were at. We went home pretty soon though, because we had to get up early again on Sunday.

Sunday: Travel Day

The week in Quito is over. On Sunday, we had to be at the school at 8 a.m., we said goodbye to our families, and we began our journey to our next destination: the Amazon Rainforest!

Just the journey itself was beautiful. We saw nature that you would not see in The Netherlands – or Europe, for that matter. The last part of our car ride was actually through the Amazon.

The accommodation we are staying in has a kitchen and living space, and separate rooms to sleep in. It lies in the middle of the jungle, so there are no other houses or stores around. This means that we will have to enjoy ourselves while we are here. I don’t think that is a problem, because we are having a lot of fun!

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