Posts Tagged ‘horseback riding’

I made a list of 13 goals before I moved to Ecuador.  Let’s check my progress, shall we?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    This family speaks Quechua. I do not.

  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Take more people pictures.  A work in progress…
  6. Go snorkeling.  Did this in the Galapagos.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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. 
  10. Visit local markets. Yep.  Went to the big one in Otavalo twice.  And went to local markets in Quito several times. 
  11. Travel to Cuenca.  Double check.  I spent a weekend there for fun, and later spent a week there for work.
  12. 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.
  13. 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)

Chimborazo Volcano, the tallest in Ecuador

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?

Books read:  20
Morning runs in Parque Carolina: about 2-3 per week

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!

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(This blog post is brought to you by the letter H.)

Baños is a small, touristy town at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano in the Andean region of Ecuador.  My sister Carolyn and I spent a weekend there, which wasn’t nearly enough time to take advantage of all the activities it offers.  But we did partake in a few.

Hiking:  It’s a gorgeous mountainous area, so we walked around it a bit.

Hot stone massage:  The thermal baths sprouting from the surrounding volcanoes have given rise to a huge, dirt-cheap spa industry.  We had 80-minute massages with facials for $25.  Luxurious, without the luxury prices.

Horseback riding:  I was shocked to find out my sister had never ridden a horse before, so we went horseback riding in the mountains.  As expected, I was sore the next day, but it was well worth it.

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It just so happens that this year the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday fell on the same weekend as the Indonesian Eid al Adha holiday, so I ended up getting a long weekend, even though the reason was to sacrifice goats and cows for a Muslim tradition rather than turkey for an American one.  In any case, my friend Amber visited me in Semarang for the holiday weekend.  The highlight was a trip to the nearby town of Bandungan, where 9 Hindu temples are scattered on

My bule horse Lestari and my guide Adhi

the side of an inactive volcano.   You can hike the temples or tour them on horseback.  Being the adventurous types that we are, we were chomping at the bit to do the latter.  This was fun but a bit scary because, being located on the side of a mountain,the trails involved a lot of steep hills.    Going uphill on a narrow stony trail on horseback is a little bit scary, especially when the saddle doesn’t have a saddle horn and there isn’t a whole heck of a lot to hold onto to keep your balance.  Going downhill is even scarier (yes, I squealed a few times).  In fact, for the final two trails back to the base we opted to walk rather than ride our not-so-trusty steeds.    But visiting the temple ruins in the fresh mountain air and enjoying mist-shrouded views of the surrounding area was a perfect way to spend the holiday.    Plus, on our drive back to Semarang, we stopped for scenic photos of rice paddies, complete with two volcanoes as the backdrop.  Sometimes I am amazed at what a beautiful country I am living in.

Unfortunately, the lowlight of the visit was an upset tummy for me, something all too common in Indonesia.  Because I wasn’t up for horsing around showing off Semarang’s local attractions, we took it easy with $10 manis and pedis at a nice spa and a movie marathon at my house instead.  Still fun.

And my appetite was back just in time to end the holiday weekend with a traditional Thanksgiving meal with coworkers (cooked by my American coworker’s family).  We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberries, and even home-made pumpkin pie.  I ate like a horse (you saw that one coming, right?).  The only thing missing was some football, but I was too busy chatting with friends and explaining the proper application of gravy to really notice.  I appreciate that I can enjoy exotic surroundings and local culture along with a few comforts of home all in one place.

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I went on a horseback riding tour a few days ago near the El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico.  I had only gone horseback riding once before, and that was way back in middle school, so I was excited to try it again.  Here is an awkward picture of me on my pasofino horse:


Here’s a better picture of the horse, named Bambi:  bambi

I was sore for 4 or 5 days afterward but glad I tried it.


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