Friday, July 13th
Today we arrived at Sinamune and loaded up the buses to go to who knows where! I immediately fell asleep, which was impressive, because one of the students in the seat right behind me yelled for the entire bus ride. When I woke up, we were arriving at a place called Cuicocha. It was a beautiful location in the mountains with a gorgeous lagoon. We each had two students that we were assigned to keep track of during the excursion. My students were L and A, both adults with Down’s Syndrome. They were both easygoing. When we got to Cuicocha, everybody shared some salchichas and papas fritas (hot dogs and french fries). Then the teachers and volunteers helped everybody get into life jackets, because we would be taking a little trip around the lake in a small boat called a “lancha.” My group was in the first lancha. It was a bit of a wild ride, because the boat went fast and cold water was splashing on everyone. Poor A started crying because she was scared and she wanted me to hold her hand and hug her the whole time. I held onto her and assured her that she was safe. Poor thing!
The lancha took us through a tiny little passageway that was a tunnel made out of tall reeds. On the other side, we found ourselves in an even more beautiful part of the lake with mountains stretching to the sky all around us. I only got a few pictures because I was holding onto A, but the pictures don’t even begin to capture the beauty of the lake and mountains.
After Cuicocha, we got back on the bus and drove some more. I fell asleep again. This time, when I woke up, we were in a small town called Ibarra. We went to a restaurant for lunch, and ascended to the second floor, where there was a private party room set up for us! (There were about sixty of us total.) In the banquet room they also had a DJ and a singer! We ate a delicious typical Ecuadorian lunch, starting with soup and a glass of fresh juice, followed by a main plate with meat, rice, and vegetables, with ice cream and fruits for dessert. As people finished eating, they started to get up and dance. Eventually everyone was up dancing and singing, and some of the students would try to lean into the singer’s microphone and sing, and she would hold it out for them to do it. Then they would yell “Te quiero!” to her. It was so funny! We all had a wonderful time. As far as unexpected adventures go, it was a very good one.
After lunch, we boarded the bus and rode three hours back to Sinamune. And here is where my bus luck runs out. We got back about 6:30, so it was already getting dark. This would be the first time I took the bus from Sinamune back to my house, and I knew I needed to take the Catar bus. Meghan, who had lived in my house for a week, told me that I needed to go to the stop further down the road in front of the blue wall, and get on a Catar bus that turned from the left, not one that went straight. I went and waited by the wall for 20 minutes, by which point three Catar buses had come by straight. At that point, I thought maybe they just didn’t turn this time of night, so I got on the next one, because I thought it said the things it was supposed to say in the front (Carcelén Amazonas – but apparently it didn’t say Amazonas – I was tired). I kept an eye on my map during the ride, and it seemed to be going the right way, until about fifteen minutes later when the bus abruptly pulled into a large bus terminal. My bus on the way to Sinamune had never stopped at a bus terminal, but I thought maybe it was just different on the way back. Until the bus stopped and EVERYONE got off. Uh oh. I waited a couple minutes, but there was no one else getting on the bus and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Finally, I went to ask the bus drive if he could help me figure out which bus to take, but he didn’t know any of the landmarks or streets near my house that I told him. Or maybe he did’t understand me. Finally, I thought to show him on the map, and then he told me I could take such and such bus and pointed toward it. I didn’t quite understand him, but I got off the bus and headed in the direction he pointed. I found a map with some bus routes on it but it didn’t’ make any sense and didn’t have any stops I recognized. I was starting to get a little worried, because the terminal was busy and loud and dark, I didn’t know where I was going, and I had been warned about how common theft is in buses and terminals. I also didn’t want to accidentally get on the wrong bus and end up somewhere I didn’t want to be at night. I walked toward the bus I thought I needed, and found a nice looking lady to ask if it went where I thought it did. I showed her my house on the map on my phone, and she assured me I was in the right place. She made sure I got on the right bus, same as her, and then wished me luck.
Thank goodness for Maps.Me! I just watched the map until the bus got as close as I thought it would get to my house. My house was still several blocks east, but it was definitely walkable. I walked about a mile until I got close, and then I discovered a place called Petit Crepe right around the corner from my house! I felt like Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods discovering the unexpected gingerbread house! (Except fortunately there was no villain inside the crepe place.)
I went in and got a strawberry nutella crepe and a fresh strawberry smoothie. It felt like I was at home at The Perch in Nashville! A sign on the wall said “Al mal tiempo buenos crepes” which basically translates as if you’re having a bad time, the best thing to do is eat crepes. Never has that been more true!
After that, I walked the one block home safely and went straight to bed. Better bus luck next time!
Saturday, July 14th
Even though I went to bed at 9 pm last night, I still slept until 12:00 noon today! I was so tired, but I felt much better after all that rest.
I needed to buy a few things I forgot to bring, namely sunglasses and a coat, so I asked Katie if she wanted to go to the mall with me. She did, so we took the bus (successfully!) to Quicentro, the biggest shopping mall in Quito.
Wow! It was even bigger and fancier than The Mall at Green Hills in Nashville if you can believe that! There was a Sweet and Coffee inside, so we got coffee, and wandered around for a couple hours. I found an excellent warm blue coat that was on sale for a great price! I also found a cheap pair of sunglasses. The mall also had an entire grocery store in it, which was convenient because we needed to buy a few things.
Overall, it was a nice relaxing day, but I also got a good bit accomplished.
Sunday, July 15th
This morning I went to mass with my host parents. We went at 7:30 am to their church, which is called La Iglesia de la Inmaculada. Of course, the content and sequence of the mass was just the same as in the US or anywhere, but there were some cultural differences that I noticed. In the United States, during the congregation’s responses, everyone says it together and usually not very enthusiastically. In this church, everyone says it at their own pace, some slow and some fast, but all very loudly and enthusiastically. Also, every single person sings the hymns, even though there are no hymnbooks. They also don’t have missals, but there is a small printout with the readings and responses for the day. Also, there are kneelers, but some people remain standing instead of kneeling when it is time to kneel. When it was time to receive Communion, there was no sort of organized method, pew by pew. Everyone just sort of rushed forward in a clump. Partly this was because only half the church received Communion, apparently because they take the Eucharist very seriously and will not receive it if they have not been to Confession the past week or recently. It was a relatively small church; it probably held about 150 people, and it was simple yet beautiful. My host parents said we will go to a different church next week so that I can experience some different churches and masses in Quito.
After mass, we had a delicious breakfast of fruit and scrambled eggs with ham. Then I took a short nap and then did some laundry. They have a washing machine, but they also have a clothesline where you hang everything to dry! My host mother thinks it’s ridiculous that I am excited about a clothesline, but that’s where we’re at.
I had a nice restful day and I am as prepared as I’ll ever be for another week of confusion and new adventures.
Well, if you made it this far, congratulations, and thanks for reading my lengthy blogs! There are just so many wonderful things to tell about and I don’t want to leave a single detail out!