I made a list of 13 goals before I moved to Ecuador. Let’s check my progress, shall we?
- Really improve my Spanish. Fail. I mean, it IS better than when I first arrived (when I had a jumble of Turkish, French, and Indonesian tumbling out of my mouth). My fluency, vocabulary, and grammar have improved, and I’ve picked up some Ecuadorian features of Spanish. But honestly, I haven’t studied or practiced as much as I should have. For my job, I almost always use English since I work with English teachers. And most of my friends, including the Ecuadorians, speak English. Obviously I get by, but my Spanish can still use a lot of improvement. Que bestia.
- Learn a few words of Quechua. Technically I guess I accomplished this – I know 4 words:
guagua = baby
chuchaqui = hungover
yaguar = blood
cocha = lake
Why these 4? Because they’re commonly used among Spanish speakers or for location names. I had been thinking more along the lines of “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” etc. Oh well.
- Become a better salsa dancer. I’m proud of this one. HUUUUUGE win! I took classes at a dance school for 2 months, then hired a private instructor for my remaining 8 months. I usually went out dancing at least once a week (sometimes more). In fact, I’ve become a regular at TWO salsatecas! I LOVE that the bouncers greet me and let me in free now. I LOVE that I can show up at any salsa club and know or at least recognize other regulars. I LOVE when a new guy asks me to dance, assuming I’ll be bad like most gringas, and then realizes I know what I’m doing and starts doing more complicated figures with me (and says something like “You dance well!”). I LOVE when I’m dancing really well with a partner and a little crowd watches us (cuz that has happened – more than once!). I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that I have worked myself into the salsa community.
- Visit the Galapagos Islands. Did I ever! I spent 2 weeks on the islands (visiting 6 of them) – partly for work and partly for fun. This was a life goal – accomplished.
- Take more people pictures. A work in progress…
- Go snorkeling. Did this in the Galapagos.
- Go hiking. I went on a few hikes around Quito, and in Mindo and Cajas National Park. But I’d like to do more hiking in the future.
- Eat lots of Ecuadorian food. Check, definitely. This one was easy because I like most Ecuadorian dishes I’ve tried. I’ve eaten several bowls of locro de papas (cream of potato soup). I’ve enjoyed more batidos (fruit shakes) than I can possibly count. I’ve had all sorts of ceviche (it’s much better on the coast than in the highlands). And I ate cuy (guinea pig) twice. I know a ton of traditional dishes, have learned about many exotic fruits that don’t even have English names, and recognize most offerings on restaurant menus. I know my way around Ecuadorian food.
- Learn to cook some Ecuadorian dishes. Check. I took an empanada cooking class, and I got an Ecuadorian cookbook when I attended a second cooking class organized by the Embassy.
- Visit local markets. Yep. Went to the big one in Otavalo twice. And went to local markets in Quito several times.
- Travel to Cuenca. Double check. I spent a weekend there for fun, and later spent a week there for work.
- Not get malaria. Not a problem living at 9000 feet, but I also managed not to contract any tropical diseases when I went to the coast or Amazon regions. Whew.
- Have some gosh-darn visitors. Señor Adam visited for a month, and Señorita Maura joined us for 2 weeks. And mi hermana Carolyn came for 2 weeks. Win, win, win!
Inspired by a post some Peace Corps Volunteers in Ecuador wrote, here are a few other statistics to recap my first 10 months in Ecuador:
Workshops given: 57
Volcanoes seen: 11.5
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Ruminahui, Tungurahua, Illiniza Norte, Illiniza Sur, El Corazon, El Altar, Cayambe, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotocachi (well, part of it)
Provinces visited: 13/24
(Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Pichincha, Manabi, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Bolivar, Guayas, Santa Elena, Galapagos, Azuay, Napo). Granted, some of the provinces I didn’t visit are kind of off-limits to Americans due to FARC activity, drug trafficking, and other not-so-pleasant border issues. But I hope to visit more provinces in my second year.
Dance clubs visited in Quito: 15ish (there was a lot of dancing these past 10 months)
Hearing loss sustained from all that dance club time: What?
Illnesses: 5 or 6 head colds plus some sort of upper respiratory thing that had me coughing for a month (this is way more than usual for me. I suspect Quito’s pollution and the custom of greeting people with a kiss on the cheek were contributing factors). A few cases of upset tummy (about normal when traveling/living abroad).
Earthquakes felt: 3 (one in February, and two in October)
Number of men seen urinating in public: Unfortunately, this is a weekly occurrence – I lost count way back in February.
Crime victimizations: 2 cell phones pick-pocketed on the bus (one in May and one in October) and 1 jacket stolen at a dance club (although I was stupid to set it down on a speaker instead of using the coat check). I guess this would also be the appropriate place to note my friend Adam’s “comically non-violent” mugging when he visited, although I wasn’t with him at the time.
Cost of pirated DVDs: $1.25 – $1.50
Average taxi ride cost: $1.50 – $2.00 during the day (when taxi meters are in use), about $3 at night (when I have to negotiate with the driver)
Cost of a local bus ride: $0.25
Average high temperature in Quito: about 68 degrees F, year-round!
Average low temperature in Quito: about 50 degrees F, year-round!
Blog posts written about Ecuador: 27 counting this one
Number of times I felt lucky to live and work in Ecuador: nearly every day!