Archive for the ‘Chelsea in Ecuador’ Category


Chelsea: Why is everyone speaking English?

December 20, 2011

I am officially back at home in Illinois!

Last week my parents came to visit me in Ecuador – and despite some major problems with flights, we had a great week!

After finally picking them up at the airport, we headed back to stay with my host family in Quito! On Saturday, we went with my mom & brother around to different sites in Quito – we visited Mitad del Mundo (the Equator), the Basilica, and the historic center and on Sunday headed 2 hours north to Otavalo to visit the artisan market and the impressive waterfalls in Peguche. I had a great few days showing them my daily life in Quito and translating the conversations between my two families! We also visited my school on Monday and went up the mountain in a cable car. 

On Tuesday, we left for the Galápagos Islands to take a 4-day boat tour of a few of the northern islands. We had a fantastic trip! We visited a few islands, but got to see sea lions, giant tortoises, lizards, iguanas, crabs, and penguins and snorkel with sea lions, tropical fish, jelly fish, and sharks! An amazing experience with beautiful scenery and playful animals. We stayed on a small boat with only 5 other people and had a great time getting to know our boat-mates from Canada and Germany!

When we got back on Friday, we spent a final night with my family in Quito and went to La Ronda in the historic center to walk around, listen to some music, and drink some warm wine to celebrate my dad’s birthday!

Unfortunately on Saturday, we got delayed leaving Quito over 6 hours which caused us to miss our connection in Miami. After much time spent in the airport, we finally flew out (luckily) early Sunday morning and got home at about 4:00am…our bags got home over 30 hours later. But, despite the travel headaches, it was a fantastic last week in Ecuador and it feels good to be home! It’s weird hearing only English, throwing toilet paper in the toilet, and not eating rice everyday…but overall, it’s great to be home with a tiny bit of snow & I’m excited for the holidays! 


Chelsea: Thanksgiving in Quito

November 27, 2011

I spent this weekend at “home” in Quito with my family – all in all, it was a fantastic weekend and just what I needed 🙂

On Thursday, our school held a Thanksgiving celebration for all of the students here. It wasn’t quite the same – but it was a nice thought and a great time to reunite with friends. It was held in a nice banquet room and everyone brought a dish to share! I attempted to make apple crisp, and despite a few different ingredients, it surprisingly turned out better than expected! Right after eating a lot (mashed potatoes and turkey!!! …and some not-so-traditional Thanksgiving food), the music started and I was grabbed to dance as I was still chewing dessert! Quite the change from the sweatpants and football game. So, we danced the night away and had a lot of fun!

The Thanksgiving feast!

My family definitely rocking the dance floor 🙂

The next morning there was a band competition between the neighborhoods here, that of course started at 5am right behind my house! A little later, at a normal hour, I went with my aunts and the kids from the daycare to go watch! It was a lot of fun, especially dancing with the little kids – adorable 🙂 And, our band won so we were even on the news that afternoon!

Also, later that night around 8:00, there was an Earthquake in Quito! It happened about 45 minutes from us and was magnitude 4…and I definitely felt it! My whole house shook for almost a minute – such a weird feeling!

Yesterday, I attended a “school program” for my brother Pablo. I was expecting a meeting at the school…and that was definitely wrong. We went to one of the students’ houses and basically had a party! We all danced (even the YMCA), played some intense musical chairs (where you eliminate chairs, but just sit on other people), tug of war (with a pool in the middle), and more dancing! So much for just the afternoon – we were there for about 7 hours (1 of which was the actual “meeting” of the parents between dances)

…musical chairs 🙂

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend here at home in Quito. Now, I’m heading back to Latacunga for my last week of my internship and on Friday, I’ll be back in Quito for my last week of the program! I absolutely cannot believe I will be home in just 3 weeks – this semester has flown by so fast! I’m excited to see family & friends and be home for the holidays…but I’m definitely not ready to leave Ecuador nor return to reality…


Chelsea: Internship in Latacunga

November 24, 2011

Hello to all and a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the past few weeks I have been living in Latacunga and doing an internship at a cooperative that works in microfinance. Unfortunately, there isn’t internet in my house there and I haven’t had very many chances to use the internet! It’s a nice break from technology, but at the same time is driving me nuts being so disconnected from the world!!

For the last few weeks, I’ve been observing my co-workers in the office and learning about micro finances as well as visiting some clients in surrounding communities that are applying for loans. It’s been a great experience thus far and I can’t believe I only have one more week of work left! I’ve really enjoyed leaving the office and being able to visit a few local communities. Without fail, we always receive some type of food from clients – everything from cheese to guinea pig to milk straight from the cow to a coconut with two straws….oh, el campo.

Other than that, I’ve been spending time with my family in Latacunga and was able to meet my mom & sister that return on the weekends from Quito. Mostly, we eat. I’ve had the chance to try any and every type of food available…empanadas, giant meat kabobs, cow intestines…ya know, the usual.

Currently, I’m back in Quito for the rest of the week! We had a few lectures today and tomorrow have a Thanksgiving celebration for all of the students here! It definitely won’t be the same, but I’m looking forward to it none-the-less. I can’t say how good it feels to be back in Quito. It definitely felt strange walking to class today for the first time in nearly a month…but honestly, it felt like coming home.

On Sunday I’ll go back to Latacunga to finish up my internship, and then it’s back to Quito next Friday for my last week here! There are huge celebrations that week in Quito, so I’m looking forward to a fun week….and of course finishing my 25-page final paper. Yikes. Wish me luck.


Chelsea: Surviving without internet

October 28, 2011

On Monday, I moved to Latacunga, a smaller city about 2 hours south of Quito. I have been working at an organization called Codesarrollo that works with small communities and cooperatives to offer loans and credit to people in rural areas or community groups. This week I was just observing different people in the office, but I hope to be visiting some communities in the next few weeks!

With this move also came a new host family! I am living with the director of Codesarrollo and her family! She isn’t home much since she has meetings a lot at night, but I’ve spent a lot of time with my host dad this week! He used to be a body guard for a few Ecuadorian presidents and has lots of pictures with famous people, so he’s pretty legit. I have yet to meet my host mom since she spent the week in Quito, but am excited to meet her when I return! My host dad here is a lot of fun – he took me around to try a lot of new foods this week and has enjoyed educating me on the greatness of the Barcelona soccer team here. We also had a random dance night last night in the middle of the living room, so that was a lot of fun! You definitely haven’t lived until you have seen a 70-year old man dance to a reggaton song/imitate young people dancing to pop music – let´s just say he knows how to drop it down low. Hilarious.

Anyway, off to the airport I go! Sorry no photos this week as I don’t have internet at my new house (BOO) and didn’t bring my laptop with me! I surprised my family in Quito this morning and spent the afternoon with them here! SO good to be back ¨home¨ again! Here’s to a great trip in Peru. Off to explore Lima, Nazca, and Cuzco and climb Machu Picchu!!


Chelsea: Bye Bye Quito

October 24, 2011

his is the first blog post I write with tear-filled eyes…

Unfortunately, I leave Quito tomorrow morning…and with that I also leave behind many friends and a wonderful family. Although I will be back throughout the next couple weeks, it’s starting to set in how little time I have left here and I can already feel my heart breaking!!

…here’s a recap of the weekend:
On Friday, I finished my last day of class with an essay and presentation! After classes I was able to finalize all of the details for my trip to Peru (which I leave for this Friday, ahh!) and spend time with some friends! That night, I went with two friends to La Ronda, a more historic part of Quito which is beautiful at night! We ordered hot chocolate and huge empanadas (that are incredibly delicious) that we couldn’t even eat half of – definitely should have shared. Afterwards, we walked around the streets a little bit, went into a few shops, and just enjoyed the beautiful night!!

On Saturday, my brother had classes all day to make up for a vacation day next week (how horrible) and my parents had to work in the morning. But, afterwards we made chocolate chip cookies – unfortunately they turned out a little bit flat, but I still managed to sneak a bit of cookie dough to eat. I spent the afternoon with my family and then went out (at 4:00, haha) with my friend Liz and a few of her Ecuadorian cousins here. After getting a little lost (I was glad to know that Ecuadorians too got lost here!!), we arrived at a high school dance…no joke. But, it was actually a lot of fun! Here, you can buy alcohol and smoke inside – so it was a little different atmosphere, and it wasn’t all high school kids – it was mostly people our age! Overall, it was a lot of fun and many many hours of dancing!

Today was a great last day with my family! I went with my mom to her job a little over an hour away. Besides running her own daycare, one day a week she works as a psychologist for a school/daycare and today she was holding a conference for parents at the school. It was really interesting and I’m glad I got to attend! Afterwards, we went to a restaurant with the family and I willingly (I even asked!) to try fried sheep’s blood. I know, what has gotten into me? Don’t worry, I’m still freaked out by vegetables on my sandwich. But, surprisingly it was actually pretty good – it just tasted like a spice!!

Afterwards, on the way home, my brother fell asleep on me – it was adorable, and I finally feel like I now have a younger sibling! Then, we came back home and my mom and I fell asleep on her bed watching Finding Nemo…totally precious. As we were making dinner, my mom and I were talking…and this turned into crying. My mom has such a big heart and really considers me her child! It was super sad to realize that I’m actually leaving tomorrow, but luckily I’ll get to come back! Later, I watched a little bit of Willy Wonka with my brother and he read me a Franklin the turtle book, which definitely took me back! 

…now, I’m avoiding packing! It’s hard to pack up again, not knowing what to expect. Although it will be hard to be totally by myself and not see my friends anymore and to move in with a new family, I know that it will be an equally interesting / fun experience! So, here’s to starting a new chapter of my life here in Ecuador, that is if I ever get packed…


Chelsea: Cuenca & Quito

October 20, 2011

I’ve had a great past week here in Ecuador! After classes last Friday I flew with two friends to Cuenca, a city about 6 hours south of Quito. After a quick flight (35 minutes in the air!), we landed in Cuenca and had the night to walk around the beautiful city! It seemed a lot like Europe to me and was so much cleaner and youthful than Quito!

An incredible sunset from the airplane – definitely a sign of a fantastic trip to come!

The beautiful city of Cuenca!

Overall, a fantastic weekend in Cuenca! We ate at a few good restaurants, walked around the city (it felt so good to finally be able to walk again, because we rarely get the chance in Quito), visit an incredible art market (Cuenca is known for its art, ceramics, and jewelry), and go out dancing with some Cuencanos that we met on Saturday! Unfortunately on Sunday, we had to leave. I definitely want to return – it was such a beautiful city and a fun weekend with friends!

This week is my last week of classes in Quito! I had a final exam in Spanish on Monday and my last essay due tomorrow…but luckily, we had yesterday and today off to write our essay! …and of course, that means time to explore Quito! Yesterday, I went with some friends to walk around Quito a bit. In the afternoon, we went to the Historic Center of Quito and went inside the Basilica! It was absolutely gorgeous and we climbed all the way to the top of the bell tower and steeples…there were a few really scary ladders and steps we had to climb, but we did it and it was a great view!

…off to adventure a little bit more this afternoon before actually writing our essay for tomorrow!

All in all, I can’t believe this is my last weekend in Quito! I’ve become so comfortable with my daily life here and it’ll definitely be hard to leave my family here – they’re already making me sad every time they talk about it! But, it should be a great last weekend here and then I leave Monday for Latacunga (about 2 hours south) to start my internship in micro finances for the next 5 or so weeks! Time is flying by – I can’t believe my time here is already halfway over!


Chelsea: Ants=yummy

October 11, 2011

Last week was just a normal week in Quito! We had a full week of classes, with some time off to write our essay…that’s what I love about school here. With all of our 3 essays (yes, I have to remind myself this is the equivalent of a semester at home) we have time off during the week to work on it (aka explore Quito). So, last week I went to the market and out to lunch a few times!

This weekend was the most adventure-filled, by far! I, along with 9 other girls, went 6 hours to the East of Quito, into the Amazon for the weekend! On Friday, we luckily had the day off from classes, so we had time to travel during the day and see a little bit of the town of Tena at night, which was right on the river and was a peaceful, but lively place!

On Saturday, we set out a little deeper into the Amazon. Our group took an all-day canoe trip that was filled with many amazing experiences! We visited a small museum and animal reserve (with a lot of loose monkeys!!), but my favorite part by far was the walk into the “selva” (rain forest). With rented boots (that saved me), we walked for a few hours around the rain forest with our faces painted with the crushed seeds of a flower that a few communities use to paint their faces / hair. 

The walk was definitely muddy / steep at parts, but with one guide named Panther and the other with a machete, I didn’t feel the least bit in danger! We got to swing on a vine, learn about medicinal plants, chew natural anesthesia that numbed my tongue, snort a liquid from a plant to clear the sinuses (which it did!), and eat ants (picture below). Yes, I ate live ants, that tasted exactly like lemon….and I had seconds. At the time, all of these things seemed quite normal and I did all of them without hesitation, but now looking back, I realize they’re not an everyday thing for most of us!

Later, we ate lunch (a mix of rice and sausage inside a leaf) and had the chance to swim in the Napo River (which connects to the Amazon River). So, after the guide so gracefully jumped into the river from the zipline, I was super excited to try it! Attempt 1 = complete failure. I pushed off (which I found out later I shouldn’t have done), and therefore, my hands slipped and I fell before getting to the river. Luckily, I landed in the one place between rocks and trees that there was soft sand 🙂 (don’t worry, there is a video. definitely AFV-potential) But, I’m happy to report attempt 2 was much more successful – and a lot of fun, just a bit of a shock once you land in the river with such a strong current!

After our long day, we ate at a delicious Italian restaurant that had 2 sloths just crawling around the walls 🙂 The next morning, we headed a few minutes north and explored some caves! We got to walk through these caverns (and through some tight passages that made me glad to be “fun-sized”) and swim in the lagoon & waterfall within the caves – definitely a surreal experience!

Well, off to classes! This is my last full week of classes, since we have another essay due next week. Next week is my last week in Quito before leaving for my internship in Latacunga, 2 hours south. Can’t believe I’ve already been here so long! But, I’m excited for my last 2 weeks in Quito, to start my internship, and for some exciting trips I have planned.


Chelsea: Guinea Pig Revenge

October 3, 2011

This past week was a lot of fun, but exhausting at the same time!

Monday & Tuesday, I had classes as normal. We went to an art museum for our Spanish class on Tuesday, which was a nice break from the classroom! Afterwards, I went to see the movie “El nombre de la hija”, an Ecuadorian film, with some friends, which was a lot of fun & I really enjoyed the movie!

Wednesday morning, I left bright and early with a group of 10 girls for our class trip a few hours south of Quito. We set out to see microfinance and social services/development in action in local communities! Wednesday and Thursday were spent on the bus, eating, and touring local farms/communities and learning about cooperatives. All in all, it was a fun trip and a great break from Quito! We met a lot of people along the way, had time to bond as a group, and saw some beautiful sights!

Here is a waterfall we walked to in one of the communities! Definitely the biggest waterfall I’ve seen here and absolutely beautiful 🙂

This week was full of great food, also! I had a delicious piece of fresh trout, and despite some apprehension, ate guinea pig (which is a specialty here) – which, surprisingly enough, actually was pretty good! To me, it tasted like a mix of fish and chicken – yum!

Unfortunately, on Friday, we cut our trip short and headed back to Quito because 4 out of the 10 girls on the trip got sick (myself included). Friday was a rough day – definitely the revenge of the great food the day before, but glad to say I feel much better now.


Chelsea: It’s 5 a.m., let’s pray!

September 27, 2011

Good morning to all!

I can’t believe it’s already Tuesday. It was a great weekend, but went by way too fast .

This weekend I stayed at home for the fiestas in my neighborhood, San Isidro del Inca. From my understanding, each neighborhood here has its own weekend of festivals in celebration of their “virgin”. This weekend my neighborhood was celebrating La Virgen Mercedes, which basically means 3 days of non-stop activities, music, and dancing! I’m glad I stayed in Quito for it, it was a lot of fun and interesting to see some unique traditions! 

The week before the festival, there is a special prayer service of the rosary every morning…at 5:00am. I went with my family on Friday and Saturday morning, and I’m glad I did! It was a little dark/chilly, but a very different experience! Everyone meets at the church, holding candles, and a big crowd walks the streets of the neighborhood praying/singing the rosary for about an hour. The steep streets and darkness make it a little more interesting, but I really enjoyed it!

I live right across the street from the church, which is where everything took place – so it’s safe to say I was right in the middle of the action. From Friday – Sunday, there were people selling arts & crafts, all types of food and drink, and bands and dancers everywhere! I loved seeing representations of native dances and hearing all of the great local bands play! It was a mixture of rain and sun this weekend, but that didn’t stop any of the festivities!

On Saturday and Sunday, I watched a lot of traditional dances and tried some new foods/drinks, including a few drinks made from varieties of corn! I watched a lot of the concerts and of course danced a lot myself! The traditional Ecuadorian dance is more of a side-to-side shuffle, so it wasn’t hard to learn…and after a few hours of the same dance to different songs, I think I’ve got it covered! 

Above is a picture from Saturday night from the fireworks! This is in the middle of the church plaza, where there is a circle of “yumbos” (representing the Amazon region) dancing around the firework structure. They brought in probably 5 different structures – a plane, cow, etc. and lit off fireworks….right in the middle of all of the people. Let’s just say it probably wasn’t the safest thing since people had to duck from all of the sparks – but…apparently that’s nothing new! I was alertly watching for an umbrella, a tree, or a person to spontaneously combust into flames, but from what I saw, it didn’t happen! 

Overall, a fun weekend!

For this week, I only have classes Monday & Tuesday and have a class trip Wednesday – Friday! I don’t exactly know where we’re going, but it’s somewhere to the South of Quito to visit local communities and see development and microfinance in action! 🙂


Chelsea: Family = love

September 22, 2011

So, just have to make a special post dedicated to my Ecuadorian family. Today was definitely one of my favorite days here, simply because of time spent with them!

I made breakfast this morning for my family: pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs! They loved the pancakes & syrup I brought as a gift, but I’m not quite sure they understood how to eat them. They ate them with their hands and would pour a little bit of maple syrup (that they called ma-play) on the pancake before taking a bite. I was too amused to correct them.

Today was also my brother Pablo’s 8th birthday! In celebration, a bunch of family members came over to celebrate. It was similar to a US birthday party—with a ton of sweets, blowing out candles on the cake, piñata, etc. So much fun! After everyone left and we cleaned up a confetti explosion, my family helped my brother with his homework in sonicspeed and then proceeded to play games around the house. 

I’m pretty sure we were all majorly wound up on sugar, but it was such a fun night! We played the don’t-let-the-balloon-touch-the-floor game for at least 20 minutes with my dad screaming out things like “now only with your head…now your nose…you foot”, then musical chairs, followed by 20 rounds of hide-and-seek in the dark. I think tonight was definitely the most I’ve laughed since being here! 

Now, looking forward to 2 short days of school (with time off to work on a presentation) and another birthday party on Friday for my brothers’ friends! Bring on the dulces!!

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