Forty days ago, I said goodbye to the only life I’ve known as I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life. I can’t lie and say that this journey has always been easy and I won’t fool myself by thinking it will get any easier. What I do know is that this is all so worth it.
Delayed flights, being stranded in an airport, lost luggage, altitude sickness, food poisoning and cultural differences would be some of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to face since I left my small secluded hometown of Dowling. Living in a city with a population of roughly 2.6 million is a new exciting experience every day.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is breathtaking. It’s the second highest capital in the world, sitting at roughly 3,000 meters above sea level in a valley hemmed in by mountains. Quito is also situated exactly on the equator in the center of the world, which means the sun is beaming every day, and my pale white skin has suffered the consequences.
My first week here, I climbed a portion of the highest active volcano in the world.The Cotopaxi Volcano is a snow-covered volcano located about two hours north of Quito. I will forever be mesmerized by the view climbing the volcano.
The next day I headed to the Coast of Ecuador to a beautiful place called Mompiche, where I stayed in an all-inclusive resort for four days with fellow Rotary Youth Exchange students for our first orientation and Spanish language camp. I met the most wonderful people from all over the world and the beginning of some lifelong friendships blossomed.
After two exciting weeks in Ecuador, my first day of school arrived. School here is very different than in Canada. I go to a small private high school where I study all the regular subjects. The teachers rotate classrooms rather than the students and the teachers are always late for class. This is completely normal. Ecuadorians are always late, sometimes by up to two hours or more.
My favourite thing about this amazing culture is probably the food. The main meal of the day is lunch, which is usually served around 2 p.m. A typical Ecuadorian meal is started off with a large bowl of soup, followed by rice, potatoes and a type of meat. My host mom makes a pure jug of natural fruit juice every day and always with a different fruit. I can’t begin to explain how delicious the fresh fruit is here.
My biggest pet peeve of living in the big city would have to be the traffic. Quito has the worst traffic you could imagine. Ecuadorians are crazy drivers and wearing your seatbelt is very uncommon. It can take you three times longer or more to get to your desired destination due to traffic. The last number on the license plates here determines what days of the week you can drive during rush hour.
I still can’t believe I’ve been here for more than a month. October arrived before I even had the chance to fully wrap my head around the fact that I will be in this beautiful, exciting country for the next year.
One thing is for sure, I will really miss Halloween since it is not celebrated here.
My life here is never dull and I can truly say my heart is in Ecuador. Quito already feels like home.
Courtney Mullally is a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Sudbury who is spending the year in Ecuador.