“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been”

You may have seen this quotation before, its something that photographer Diane Arbus said. I have this quote written in lots of difference places to remind me to reach for new discoveries because there is always something further out there. I like to think that this whirlwind of an adventure that I am on is partially due to my curious spirit and partially due to my impulsiveness (my second most copied quote: Now is the time). Anyways, my sense of wanderlust has now guided me to Quito, Ecuador and I absolutely love it here.

For some reason, about a week before I moved here, I discovered a bunch of blogs that made Quito sound like the most dangerous city in South America, and I believed them. I’m not sure why I believed them, seeing as I just moved from one of the most dangerous and unstable countries in the world, but I did. After a wonderful getaway in Curacao, I felt slightly unsatisfied with having chose Quito as my new home. Thankfully, Quito has turned out to be everything I wanted in a new home and more. Although I don’t make good first impressions, I think I generally judge people and places pretty hard by theirs, and Quito did not disappoint. The new airport just opened this year and impressed me with their recycling bins, pure drinking water, and organization, which is often hard to come by in Latin America (please refer to my last Venezuela post for more on that). The new airport is farther out of town than the old airport because it needed to be at a lower altitude for bigger planes to land. So, a company here has organized a shuttle bus with wifi to the old airport which is pretty close to town. Wifi in a bus… in South America? Very impressive.

The kind and helpful gestures haven’t stopped pouring in since. My new roommate, Janne, met me at the old airport and we returned to her house via taxi and met her dog Loki, my new running partner. We run in the amazing Parque Carolina, just two blocks from the apartment. I like to refer to it as the Central Park of Quito because it has everything: sports, a botanical garden, food carts, running paths, a bike/skate park, a concert stage, grassy areas and probably more things that I haven’t discovered yet. Just across the park is my new workplace: EF Education First (www.ef.com), which I am beyond happy to now be working for. They are the largest private educational institution in the world and are incredibly organized and effective at language programs. I teach some classes on-site and others at an oil company called Repsol. You may know a little bit about Ecuador and oil – specifically, the controversy about drilling in the Yasuni National Park, but thankfully, from what I’ve read, Repsol has a pretty good reputation in regards to environmental standards.

When I’m not working or running in the park, I like to see new parts of the city, such as La Floresta, which I discovered today. La Floresta is just up the street from Repsol and is home to lots of international restaurants, a bike café, an independent movie theater, a film school, more parks, etc. It is the artsy part of the city and I am considering moving there sometime next year. I found my current place through AirBnB and it is exactly what I needed after Venezuela. Janne is such a welcoming person; she is studying Economics at UDLA (Universidad de las Américas) nearby and we often have thoughtful discussions about different nations’ economies. She speaks a few languages but prefers Spanish which is excellent for my progress with that language.
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She also knows all of the best lunch places in town and I have tried some amazing things such as llapingachos (potato-cheese pancakes), secos y locros (soups), and encebollado (an oniony soup with fish and yucca). Ecuadorians favor lunch as their biggest meal of the day, which is a tradition that I am very eager to adapt. I like all meals of course but I like how they value lunch because you need more fuel to get you through the rest of the day. People here also love seafood, which is deliciously prepared in all forms, and soups, which I also love. To sum up my food experience so far: I haven’t tasted anything that I haven’t liked. I even had a delicious fresh-pressed apple-carrot-ginger juice at a little juice café and my first chai in South America (which was slightly underwhelming, definitely not spicy enough, but still somewhat satisfying).

To further embark on my food journey, I attended my company’s holiday party at a well-known Ecuadorian restaurant, Patria, in the neighboring town of Cumbayá. It was nice to meet more of the teachers as well as the sales and market staff and some people from the EF office in Guayaquil.

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The food at this restaurant lacked a bit of flavor but its presentation was divine. The following night (last Saturday), I joined a fellow EF coworker at the South American Explorers’ Clubhouse for an American Thanksgiving dinner. We were both quite sad on Thanksgiving Thursday and decided we needed a cure: pumpkin pie. While most of the food was standard for the holiday, since canned pumpkin isn’t an option here, I think people use fresh pumpkin, even though it is a different variety. Needless to say, the pie was quite tasty even if it didn’t have the distinct pumpkin pie flavor.
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Now I am going into my second week at EF and in Quito. This Friday, December 6th is the day that the town celebrates the founding of Quito and Fiestas de Quito has been going on all week. Many (youngish) people like to rent chivas, which seem to be South American style party buses, and everyone participates in cultural events around the city. LIfe here is such a welcome rush. Chau!

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