So, I've lived in Ecuador for a little over a month already (it's so crazy to think about.) I can't believe that it's been a month already, and at the same time I can't believe it's only been a month. Ecuador has been amazing to me and I couldn't be happier! To start I boarded my first plane on August 24th from Orlando to the Miami International Airport then from there to Aeropuerto Internacional José Joaquín De Olmedo in Guayaquil. In the beginning the Orlando to Miami flight it was a bit stressful because I was almost late for my flight, but lucky enough one of the ladies at the kiosk recognized my Rotary blazer and helped me bypass an almost 1-hour wait which was such a relief. After that, I said bye to my family and was on my way which was kinda scary only because the Orlando airport is so big and I have no sense of direction and get lost very easily. But after I found my terminal (with 5 minutes to spare) I relaxed and soon enough I was on my way to Miami.
When I got to the Miami airport I was shocked because the Miami international airport is like 3 times bigger than the Orlando airport, but luckily I had a 4-hour layover so I figured if I got lost at least I would have four hours to find my way to the right terminal haha. When I finally reached my terminal I was lucky enough to meet two other exchange students also going to Ecuador, and it was so cool cause we had seats next to each other on the plane so we were able to talk and get to know each other on the flight. I also found out one of the students was going to the same city and the same school as I so it was cool to know I had a friend before I even got there.
When we finally reached Guayaquil I was so nervous but excited. Honestly, my mind couldn't comprehend it all and it felt like a dream or like it wasn't happening. Soon my new found friends and I stepped off the plane and went to baggage claim which wasn't as bad as I thought because the journals that I read of the other students that went to Ecuador said that baggage claim was absolutely crazy. It was probably because we got there at like 9:30 at night, but I like to think I was on a lucky streak. After I located my bags I headed towards the main lobby where I knew my new family awaited me. I was so nervous because you can't redo first impressions. When I walked through the door there I saw my host family holding a sign for me and waving excitedly at me. I walked up to them and they welcomed me with open arms and each one of them gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek. Let's just say it was an easy first impression because as I would come to know Ecuadorians are very friendly, warm and welcoming so I felt comfortable right away.
Soon we left the airport and they took me to eat at one of the plazas in Ecuador. The food tasted so good and it was all so cheap and I couldn't believe it, because a meal like the one I got would easily be $10 in the United States and here it was only $3.50. After the meal, we walked around the plaza and then soon went to the hotel where we stayed for the night. The next morning we woke up and started our drive to Portoviejo where I would be living in for the next 10 months. The drive took a bit but it was a good opportunity to see lots of things like the beautiful mountains that they have here in Ecuador and lots of the different communities that are here. When I reached my new home I got settled and unpacked my things, and then went to spend time with my new family. And that's when I found that I would be starting school on Monday and I would be going to get my uniform the next day, so you could say that I was a bit nervous.
The next day I got my uniforms and then prepared for my first day of school. I woke up early for school because here it starts at 7 A.M then I was on my way. I was so nervous because I wanted to make a good impression on my classmates. I walked into my first class which was theater. When I walked into class I saw that there was another exchange student in the class as well, so I got so excited. I learned that she is from Germany, and now she is one of my closest friends here. As the day went on a lot of my school mates came up to me and introduced themselves, and asked my name and where I was from. It was surprisingly easy to talk to new people and it was very common for other students to invite me into their friend group and start conversations with me. So, all in all, I can say my first day of school was a success.
As the days went on I established a routine where I would wake up around 6:20, go to school, get home around 2, eat lunch, spend time with my family and eat dinner around 8:30 and then get ready for the next day, but eventually on September 5th my family took me on my first trip. We went to Cuenca and it was an experience that I will never forget. We left in the early afternoon and it was a 6 and a half-hour drive but every second was worth it. I got to see a new side of Ecuador that was full of huge rice and plantain farms and there was a lot of livestock and culture. One thing that I noticed though was that they don't keep their livestock in gates and some were just on the side of the road and if I rolled down the window I probably could have touched one of the cows (I didn't do it but I did think about it a few times haha.) Eventually, we started to drive towards mountain territory and it was interesting because in Florida it's flat so driving through mountains was new for me. But the best part was as it got later and the sun began to set the colors of the sky started to dance and it put me in such awe. I thought Florida sunsets were beautiful but nothing compared to watching the sunset in the mountains just below the clouds. We finally reached Cuenca and it was kind of late so we found a place to eat dinner and then we retired to our hotel and got ready for the next day.
The next day we woke up pretty early and got ready. I learned that we would be going on a tour of Incan Ruins. When we got there, it was so cold because we were in the mountains, but as we went on with the tour it was so amazing. I could only understand some of what the tour guide was saying but either way, it was so interesting. After the tour, we returned to the city and went on a bus tour of Cuenca. It was on a double-decker bus, so it was really cool because I had never been on one before, and I understood the lady speaking to us so I was able to learn a bit about the history of Cuenca while seeing some really cool places in the city. We left Cuenca on Sunday afternoon and then I returned to my routine.
A week later on September 23rd my first Rotary event arrived and I was excited to meet all the other exchange students. We spent 5 days and 4 nights in the Royal Decameron Mompiche in Esmeraldas and it was such an amazing experience. I got to meet and get to know a lot of the Rotary members and the other inbounds and the whole experience was full of bonding and learning, and other inbounds and I celebrated our one month since arriving. All in all, being here in Ecuador, learning about the culture, meeting new people and making bonds that I wouldn't have made without coming here has been unquestionably amazing and I cannot wait to see what else is in store for me in the months to come, so until then Chao!
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