I got into Ecuador really late on the Thursday night. My flight landed around 11, then I had to go through customs, then collect baggage, and have my baggage screened... Anyways, by the time I finally met up with my host family, it was about 12:30 a.m. I felt really bad, but it was great to meet all of them. They made sure I had all my baggage, which I did. I later learned that the previous American exchange student they hosted lost all his baggage. His luggage didn't arrive in Quito for five days! Anyways, me introduced ourselves, and then jumped in Miguel's (my host dad) 1986 Toyota, which has the distinct smell of gasoline on the interior.
We drove through Quito to get to where my host family lives, in one of the southern suburbs of Quito. Miguel didn't feel the need to stop for red lights, so we made it home pretty quickly. Still, by the time we were going to bed, it was about 1:30 a.m. I was completely exhausted, and fell asleep immediately.
Since my first day, I've been getting used to life in Ecuador. I struggle to compare the climate to Texas, but to me it seems kind of like one of our very warm days in December. The sun rises around 6, and then it sets at 6 p.m. When the sun is out, it can be quite warm, but without the sun, it gets quite chilly. I'm in a valley surrounded by mountains, and we're at an elevation of around 8,000 feet.
My host mom, Dori, isn't happy unless I'm eating everything, and then asking for seconds. It's sometimes a tall order, but somehow I manage. The food is bland, but full of fruits (papaya and orange are favorites for juices). Each meal contains either a white rice, potato, or plantain; sometimes all of the above. The biggest meal of the day is eaten around 2 or 3; with a nice breakfast in the morning, and sometimes just tea for dinner. Dori's convinced that Americans are fat because they eat their biggest meal in the evening; rather than in the day.
Alexis, my host brother, has been really nice about including me in activities, and speaking slowly to me in Spanish. I brought a soccer ball and pump to Ecuador, so we've been playing a lot of soccer. For the second time in a row, my team lost. I'm beginning to think that I'm the problem.
I'm beginning to get more comfortable in Spanish. I can now hold a conversation without stumbling, and my mistakes are fewer. This gives me great opportunities to talk with the host family about all sorts of things. They're curious about a lot of things American. Veronica, my host sister, studied and worked in the US for four months, and yesterday we were looking at her complete collection of the US quarters for all the states and territories. Both Dori and Miguel have family members who work in the US, and they're both interested in being able to point out on a map where their family members live.
I feel totally welcome in Ecuador. On Sunday, Dori hosted a birthday party for her niece and sister at our house. When they realized my birthday is coming up, they included me in the celebrations (see photos).
Tomorrow, all the exchange students (three Americans and five Germans) are meeting in Quito to have our orientation. Thursday, I'm going to my school for the first time, but it's just so that I can register and buy my uniform. Friday is my first day of classes.
It's been a crazy few days. It's hard to comprehend that just last week I was still packing for this trip. I miss family and friends a lot, but it feels good to know I have a secondary family in Ecuador.
First night: From left Miguel, Dori, me, Alexis, Veronica, host mom of Micah (other American), and Micah