A crazy month!

My last post was about my New Year’s celebration…and it’s been non-stop work and travel since then! At first, traveling around the country sounds like a great prospect. In reality, however, it becomes pretty tiring to be away from home. This month I’ve had a 5-day trip to Loja (which is the southernmost site that WorldTeach Ecuador has), a 4-day trip to Riobamba (about 4 hours south of Quito), and a 4-day trip to Mindo (an awesome little town about 2 hours northwest of Quito. The trips to Loja and RioB were site visits – a chance to check in with volunteers, observe their classes, visit with their host families, and see how they are adjusting to life at their placement sites. The short trip to Mindo, which happened this past weekend, was for a Mid-Service Conference. At that conference 10 volunteers who arrived in September gathered to reflect on the past 5 months, share about both positive and negative experiences, and exchange teaching ideas. A few highlights of my travels included:

– Buying LOTS of bulk coffee in Loja, which lies in a region of Ecuador very famous for their coffee. At $3 a pound, I came back to Quito stocked up with 6 pounds!

– Happening upon a political event in Loja that the president was attending! I didn’t even know it was going on, or that President Correa was going to be there, but I snapped a few photos of him nonetheless.

– Getting an incredible view of Chimborazo Volcano, which is located just north of Riobamba. I had a great vantage point from the roof of my hotel, where I snapped a few photos. Did you know that Chimborazo is the farthest point from the center of the Earth?? It seems like that should be Everest, but because of the equatorial bulge and Chimborazo’s proximity to the equator, Ecuador’s highest mountain actually holds that distinction.

– Eating some delicious hornado, a local speciatly, in the central market of Riobamba. Hornado is actually whole-roasted pig, which I tried to snap a picture of, but the women attending their stands wanted to charge me $1 to take a photograph. On principle I refused to pay, and I sarcastically thanked them for the hospitality that they so graciously offer to foreign tourists like myself.

– Having a delicious dinner at Caskaffesu, an awesome little restaurant and hotel in Mindo. It’s become a WorldTeach tradition to eat group dinners together at that restaurant; their fantastic food keeps us coming back.

– Staying an extra day in Mindo with Gaby. We had a blast going zip-lining and lazing around the pool, soaking up the equatorial sun – where I also had some fun playing around with my waterproof camera (see picture below).

Now that I’m back in Quito I’m back to the office for lots of projects, reports, and paperwork. A highlight of yesterday, though, was heading down to the Centro Histórico for a special event. On Sunday and Monday the World Cup trophy was in Quito, as part of a worldwide tour, that is, naturally, sponsored by Coca-Cola. They had the trophy on display at a local shopping center, and I was fully planning to go check in out and snap a photo of myself standing next to it and displaying my best cheesy smile and double thumbs-up. The problem, however, was that I found out that you couldn’t just buy a ticket. You had to find two specific Coca-Cola bottle caps, one that said “Tour” and another that said “del Trofeo.” Only by redeeming those two bottle caps could you acquire a ticket to the event and get a chance to see the trophy. Well, at first I thought I’d start looking, then I realized that I really didn’t want to go on some Charlie Bucket-esque quest to get my ticket, only to fork over my money to one of the world’s largest corporations.

Fortunately, on Sunday evening I was reading a news report about the trophy tour and heard that it would be at El Cambio de la Guardia, or the Changing of the Guard. El Cambio de la Guardia happens every Monday morning at the presidential palace on the Plaza Grande in downtown Quito. In about eight months of now living in Quito I haven’t been there to see the event, because normally there isn’t that much attracting me to it. However, yesterday, in addition to the pageantry and formality of the choreographed marching guards, the president and a variety of other political or soccer-related figures were present. After the changing of the guard happened (which by itself was pretty cool), President Correa was handed the trophy (I believe he was the only person in Ecuador who actually got to touch it), lifted it up triumphantly, and even kissed it. It was actually pretty cool to see and get a few pictures of, even if I didn’t get to take my double thumbs-up selfie next to the trophy.

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