¡Bienvenidos a Quito!

6 Jun

Only two days into my 6 week trip to Quito, Ecuador, I feel like I´ve been here forever. My Spanish is improving, I´ve completely moved in, and I have had quite a few…adventures. Because of these, I decided to begin a list of lessons and advice. While most of these are embarrassing, they fairly adequately show the culture differences and what it has been like for me to adjust to being in a completely foreign place. I know this is only the start, because there´s no way Quito has already shown me all of her cards…

1. Make friends on the airplanes–an Ecuadorian woman walked me through the masses of people, to the right line for customs, helped me find my bag at baggage claim (it had been put in a different pile for some reason?), and led me to the place I was to meet my host family. The other girl I am staying with, Virginia, didn´t have the same help, and it took her twice the time to meet us.

2. Don´t ever expect cars to stop for you as a pedestrian, even if their light is red–The number one cause of death in Quito is automobile accidents, and on the drive home from the airport, it was really clear why: lanes don´t exist, lights are a suggestion, it is always rush hour, and pedestrians seem to be some sort of target practice. Even after making eye contact with a driver, indicating I would like to cross, and beginning to step off of the curb, the wind blew my hair in my face as her car sped past me, missing my foot by mere inches.

3. Turn both knobs on the shower both ways before starting to bathe–I woke up, rushed to the shower, and fought with the knobs before submitting to the fact that while the hot water knob was all the way on, the shower felt like the Arctic Ocean in February. Still feeling gross from the 14 hours of travel, not showering was not an option. So, I tried to shower as quickly, and as quietly, as possible, but it was one of the most unenjoyable things I´ve ever experienced. I rushed to turn off the water, and realized my error: yes, the hot water was all the way on, but so was the cold. When I thought I had turned the cold water off (lefty loosey righty tighty, right?) I had actually turned it on! Immediately after turning the cold water off, the shower heated up. Good to know…

4. Check which time zone your alarm is set to–After taking way longer in the shower than I anticipated because it wouldn´t warm up, I rushed to get ready and to run downstairs for breakfast. Hair dripping, shoes half on my feet, and makeup obviously done in the dark, I found my homestay-mom reading the paper and drinking coffee. She was clearly surprised to see me, but I wasn´t sure if it was because of my appearance or not. Quickly she asked me if everything was okay, and when I looked confused, she pointed to the clock on the wall. It was an hour before breakfast was to be served. She made a comment about how my alarm must have been set to Californian time, but it turns out that my phone thought I was somewhere in the Carribbean…I laughed, said I´d be back in an hour, and ran upstairs. Clearly, the start of an interesting day.

5. Always carry a map–After way too many hours of orientation, and a tour around the hospitals, we were told to go home for dinner. One woman who works for the program offered to drive some of us home, and we gladly accepted because it would have been more than a 15 block walk plus a ride on el trolleybus. I gave her my address, and she dropped me off in front of a house, and drove away. I quickly realize that the only time I´ve ever seen my house was at 11:45 last night, in total darkness. Thinking she must have taken me to the right place, I tried my set of 6 keys on the door. None of them worked, so I rang the doorbell. No one came, so I moved on to the next door. 4 houses, a conversation with a man who was angry that I made him open the door, and about 20 minutes later, I frantically called my host-mom and told her I thought I was outside of the house, but that my keys weren´t working. She said she´d come let me in, but after waiting for 5 minutes, I realize I´m definitely on the wrong street. I go to look for street signs, but they´re hard to find, and I definitely didn´t see one with my street name on it. So, I headed back to the main road in an attempt to find my street. I was getting nervous, because it was starting to get dark, it was raining, and the only people on the street were men who were alone. Quito isn´t the safest place in the world, and we were told that girls should never walk alone…eventually, I found a woman with a baby to ask where my street is. She pointed up a huge hill and told me it was 4 blocks up. I started walking, glad to have some direction, and a little red car drove up, honking at me. My host-mom had come to find me! This realization was both relieving and incredibly embarrassing. I was so flustered that when she asked me about the weather, I could barely answer. She looked at me and asked if I even knew what the word lluvia means. Of course I do, la lluvia was my second freezing shower of the day. Home at last, I walked inside the house, where the family was anxiously awaiting my arrival (even more embarrassing). Soaking wet, I ran upstairs, changed my clothes, and took a siesta before dinner.

6. When buying a gift to bring for your homestay, coose a postcard, magnets, or tshirt instead of candy or cookies–Turns out there is a huge population of diabetics in Ecuador. I found this out after dinner, when my host-dad was drinking coffee. He picked up what looked like eyedrops and put them in his mug. Noticing our confused faces, he explained that it´s a sugar substitute that is safe for diabetics. Virginia and I looked at each other, then at our bag of gifts on the floor…full of two pounds of See´s Candies, Salt Water Taffy, and cookies. Needless to say, we decided not to tempt him with our gifts. We still haven´t come up with a graceful solution to this issue, because we don´t want to seem like we didn´t try! I´m pretty sure we´ll just tell them what happened, and hope they give the sweets away?

So, I´m beginning to make my way around this crazy city, one adventure at a time. I can´t wait to learn more and see more, and of course, to share it with you! Stay posted, I´ll try to update again tomorrow–it´s my last full day of language classes, and then I start clinic rotations on Wednesday morning! This week I´m working at a Maternal Health hospital that is completely free. Its services are paid for by the government, and, from what I´ve seen of it, it has quite a surplus of patients and cases.  I´m working under Dr. Leonardo Marquez in La Sala de Partes–the labor and delivery clinic. I´m cramming all sorts of medical Spanish phrases and vocabulary into my brain, and I´ve been told that they only respond to the proactive and confident students. So, I´m going to have to try to remember to speak Spanish confidently, and to ask a lot of questions. I have to just throw myself into it, and hope for the best! I´m very excited for my rotations,  and I´m certain that adventures on el trolleybus to the hospital, being called la gringita, and working in a public hospital will only add more to my list. Wish me luck! Hasta lluego!

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4 Responses to “¡Bienvenidos a Quito!”

  1. David Kehlet June 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Looks like it is all working out! Sorry for the bad tip with the see’s candy.

  2. Patricia June 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    Que aventuras! but I know God is helping you and the best is to come. Be positive, be bold, it is great that you are ready to ask questions and I know you’ll be a great blessing at the hospital. This is an amazing opportunity not just because you are in a very different place but because you are going to learn to overcome those differences! Dios te bendiga, un abrazo con amor,
    Patricia

  3. Jess June 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    oh my goodness how crazy! you are so rocking it dani 🙂 you go girl!!! keep living it up! what an adventure….

  4. Tess Parkhouse June 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Great tips, love! I have found most of the same things to be true here, even though we are a world apart. Miss you and can’t wait to swap stories!

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