A move, local festivities, and, as always, bike riding…

Wow, the past two weeks have passed super quickly! I guess they’ve passed quickly because of been really busy, thus I naturally have several things to write about. So, here are a few updates:

The biggest thing that has happened over the past couple of weeks is that I moved to a new house! After finishing up the conference that happened over Thanksgiving weekend, I immediately started packing up my things and on the following Wednesday I moved into my new digs. After things changed a bit at work, and I was left as the lone Field Director in the WorldTeach office, things started getting solitary – I was spending a lot of time solo, both at the office and at home. So, as the 6-month lease on my old apartment was ending after November, I started to look around at possibilities of sharing a house. I wound up finding something on Craigslist, which really isn’t used too much here in Ecuador. I wasn’t sure at first about finding housemates in that somewhat random way, but after visiting the house a couple of times and meeting the guys who live there, I was confident that it would be a nice place to live.

I’ve moved from the west side of the city to the east, and am now living in the Bellavista neighborhood, which is fantastic. It’s still pretty close to my work, and my house is sandwiched between Parques Metropolitano and Carolina, two of the biggest parks in the city. I’m really happy because the house is just way bigger than the place I had before. And, I’m sharing this space with a couple of great guys, one from Peru and the other from Argentina. They also have a black lab, Lola, and a little cat, 3D, so it’s great to have a couple of animals around the house. I don’t have many pictures of the house yet, but I’m sure I’ll take and post more in the future.

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Another highlight of the past couple of weeks was the celebration of 6 de Diciembre. December 6th marks the foundation of Quito, which occurred in 1534. So, this year Quiteños celebrated their city’s 479th birthday the anyone would, with a week-long party. Naturally, the city was basically shut down on the 6th, which fell nicely on a Friday this year. But there were festivities all throughout the week leading up to that day, with everything from concerts, to parades, to traditional wooden car races (basically Quito’s version of soap box derby racing, but way less safe). On Thursday the 5th, I had a blast participating in an AlleyCat bike race, and then checking out some concerts at Parque Bicentenario (which is located on the site of the old airport). Unfortunately I only have a picture from the beginning of the bike race, but basically it was an urban scavenger hunt, that included about a dozen tasks all throughout the city – from singing the Hymn of Guayaquil in a public plaza (which was like blasphemy during this holiday) to getting a piece of grilled intestine from a street food vendor (which is delicious by the way!). These races are done in pairs, and Dave and I proudly arrived in 6th place, out of 21 total teams.

The other popular way to celebrate 6 de Diciembre is by riding on a “chiva,” which is basically an open-air party bus. There are some chivas in Quito year-round, but at the beginning of December basically all the chivas in Ecuador come to the capital and are rented out by groups. Throughout the week leading up the 6th, I saw chivas rolling around town starting at about noon every day – apparently companies will rent them out for staff parties, which occur in the afternoons. I went out on a chiva on Friday night with a group of friends, which was a blast. We enjoyed some “canelazo,” a hot, spiced drink made with sugarcane alcohol and fruit juice, tried to keep our balance while dancing in a moving vehicle, and stayed mostly dry as rain fell outside.

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Finally, another highlight of late was an awesome bike trip that I took yesterday. I went with one of my housemates, his girlfriend, and one of her friends, and we rode a great route that was over 50 km in total. From Quito we went east and descended past the beautiful Guápulo Church and into the valleys where several Quito suburbs are. From there we hopped onto the Chaquiñan Trail, which is a 20km trail designed for bike and pedestrian use. It’s basically a rails-to-trails project, so throughout the ride we saw old railroad tracks and went through a few really cool tunnels. There was plenty of elevation gain and loss, so it was definitely challenging, but it was also a blast. And, it just felt great to get out of the city and ride in an area where the air is much cleaner. Enjoy some photos from the ride below:

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