Ecuadorian food

Since food is an important part of culture (and I enjoy food), I think it is work devoting a post to Ecuadorian food. When I mention Ecuadorian food right now, I am referring to the food of the sierra (mountain highlands) where Quito is located. The food at the coast is very different. 

In my house, I eat three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served after I wake up. It usually consists of apple and banana in yogurt, a pastry with cheese, cream cheese or jam, and a cup of hot chocolate. Lunch is usually served on the slightly later side, often times around 2 PM. Dinner is also served late at around 8 PM. Lunch is considered the big meal of the day usually. However, my lunches and dinners have been about the same size. A traditional meal consists of a soup to start and then a main plate with a little bit of meat (usually some kind of stew), rice and/or potatoes, and fruit juice. It is very common to have two starches on the same plate. 

Many people would believe that Ecuadorian food would be spicy, like Mexican food. This is definitely not the case! Salt is the spice of Ecuadorian food. As served, the food is usually seasoned well to the high end of American standards. Most of the time I see my host sisters adding more salt to the food. Today I had pasta at the school cafeteria, and it was tasty but very salty.

My favorite aspect of the cuisine would have to be the soups. There are so many different kinds. My favorite soup so far had lots of different kinds of beans, potatoes, and corn. Most of the ingredients used in the food wouldn’t be considered “exotic,” but I did eat some tripe (cow’s stomach) and am planning on trying Cuye (guinea pig) at some point. 

My brief summary of the Ecuadorian food I have sampled would say this: Ecuadorian food is tasty but simple and not a global cuisine like Italian, Mexican or Thai food. 

The soup course, consisting of a creamy asparagus soup today. Juice of the day is passion fruit.

The soup course, consisting of a creamy asparagus soup today. Juice of the day is passion fruit.

This is what a main plate looks like. Today there was a piece of stewed chicken with potatoes and rice.

This is what a main plate looks like. Today there was a piece of stewed chicken with potatoes and rice.

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A college student once again

Today was one long day. I went early to meet with a professor about the research I will be doing on dental implants. It sounds very interesting. Next was business such as getting my cell phone, paying for a picnic on Saturday and fixing an issue with the online system. Finding my way around campus is more difficult at USFQ, because the buildings all have walkways that wind around, and often times, multiple buildings are connected together and there is only a little sign when you enter another one. It’s getting better as time goes on.

Fortunately I had a little break before classes to take photos of the campus. The sun was out, making the campus even more beautiful. Some of the quads look almost like mini Spanish town squares (based upon photos I have seen). 

Next I had four and a half hours of class pretty much back to back classes–in Spanish! My classes seemed interesting. However, I needed every ounce of focus to really pay attention. My Ecuadorian Culture class is mostly conversation based, and we will be doing little activities to analyze the culture, such as visiting a museum and writing a short reflection. The Modern Latin American Art class sounded pretty interesting but very demanding with its workload (a presentation, 10-15 page paper, two exams, and lots of reading). I will probably drop that class since I’m not fluent in Spanish and don’t want a crazy workload. Next was my Andean Anthropology class. This should be a very interesting class where we get to learn about the indigenous cultures of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and how they have been integrated into modern society here. 

After my long day, I was pretty tired and almost wanted a break from Spanish. I went with Chris and Adrian to Chris’ house and then to Parque Carolina, a huge park in Quito with a botanical garden, a lagoon, a skateboard park and lots of places for children to play. Then I returned home and had to get ready for my first homework by printing out a 7 page reading for one of my classes.

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Touring the city

After two days, it was finally time to tour the city. I began by taking the bus with Dani (on her way to school) to La Mariscal, one of the popular tourist areas of the city. The plan was to meet my friends at a bus stop before we went touring around. 

People were packed like sardines in the bus today. I’ve heard theft is common on the buses, and I think I witnessed someone who may have wanted to steal from me. He kept eyeing my backpack, which I was wearing in front. I made sure that I kept an eye on him and secured my valuables so I was virtually pickpocket proof. 

Once I arrived at my bus stop, I had to walk a few blocks to meet my friends since their stop is on another bus line. My friends and I walked through Parque el Ejjido (a famous park), looked at a few shops and got lunch. For $2.50, I was able to have a lunch complete with soup, fruit juice, steak with rice and slaw, and a piece of watermelon at a pretty nice restaurant. Afterwards, we checked out the mall and supermarket. Our last stop before returning home was a bakery and cafe, I bought a little pastry that looked like a cinnamon roll with candied fruit for $0.50. It tasted like a cross between two other sweets I have had at home: cardamom bread (popular in Nordic countries) and Stollen, a German sweet bread with candied fruit. Very delicious. 

I was tired after our long stroll and returned home to rest. That evening was the first time that I felt like everyone in my host family gathered together for dinner. Everyone always seems so busy. Hopefully they will have time again in the future. 

College orientation…again (deja vu)

Today was my first day on campus at USFQ. Early in the morning, I took the bus with my host mother to the university. The views were beautiful during the drive. We could see Cotopaxi, one of the large volcanoes, valleys and rivers. Since the buses are crowded and theft is a major issue, it was recommended that I put my backpack in front instead of on my back, something that will take some getting used to. 

The university’s campus is extremely beautiful but small in comparison to a campus in the United States. I thought it was even smaller than some of the small liberal arts colleges I have visited in the US. The views certainly aren’t small. From the university one can see mountains, valleys, and the city of Quito. 

Orientation was very long, and it felt like I was a freshman again. Everything was in English but it was still an information overload. Just living here and taking things one at a time is enough. We went over health and safety, activities, the Ecuabuddies program where I can meet domestic students, and  more. 

Once I got home, I was tired but also felt like there was a lot of planning to do. Luckily I am not as busy as my host sisters, though. They attend a different university that has already started. Classes are every day and many days are 6 hours or more, in addition to homework! This means that they don’t have much time to do anything else. I had more time even during my challenging spring term last year!

My group on the campus tour with our tour guide, Maisa.

My group on the campus tour with our tour guide, Maisa.

A view of Quito from campus.

A view of Quito from campus.

The iconic view of USFQ, looking from the sports fields at the tower. Probably equivalent to the Weatherford Arch at OSU.

The iconic view of USFQ, looking from the sports fields at the tower. Probably equivalent to the Weatherford Arch at OSU.

 

I’ve finally arrived

Note: this post refers more to yesterday than today. The journey was long, but I have finally arrived. Fortunately my trip went without incident, unless you consider hardly sleeping during the overnight flight incident. Now I know that I do not sleep well on airplanes. Having travel companions made the trip a lot better. What got me though the last leg of our journey were the beautiful views of the Andes from the Lima to Quito flight. Numerous clusters of snow-capped peaks were visible. As we came in for the descent, mountains, farms and forests were visible. The land was beautiful in a way that reminded me a bit of Oregon.

It felt great getting off of the last flight. The Hinkles, Tatiana and I went through immigration to get our passports stamped and trudged our baggage through the exit. Tons of people were waiting behind a metal fence for loved ones. The host families were holding signs, which helped me cut through the chaos a bit. My host mother, Gaby, recognized me immediately, before I even saw the sign. Gaby and her daughter Dani helped me with my baggage, much to my delight since hauling two large bags, a carry-on, and a backpack is not an enjoyable task. 

Traffic was bad on the way back from the airport. Luckily it did buy me the ability to see street vendors walking between lanes in the traffic selling fruit and CDs. Gaby bought some tangerines and apples from said vendors. She seemed to be pleased with my ability to communicate in Spanish, which was excellent because I didn’t know what to expect at first. 

The house I am living in is nice but definitely different from a house in the United States, The furniture and just the general appearance give it a different feeling, as you can see from the pictures. My room has a view of some mountains, including Pichincha volcano. 

I got to try a bit of the food since the family had not eaten before picking me up. It was simple but tasty, consisting of a soup with potatoes, rice, an egg, and fried potato cakes with cheese. It was probably a good thing that I was so tired from traveling because it took a bit of the edge off. Otherwise I would’ve been super excited and a bit nervous. Instead I was pretty laid back. 

The rest of the evening was primarily just getting settled. I woke up very early this morning feeling excited about what is to come. Luckily this bought me some time to get ready and write this entry. One thing I learned is that tubes of sunscreen and toothpaste are not designed for 9,000 feet. When I opened the tubes, a bunch oozed out creating a mess. Hopefully I will find a way around that when I open my other tubes. 

Now that was a long blow-by-blow of everything up to now. I probably won’t write this long every day but just had to express the experience of arriving here.

The view from my room

The view from my room

My bedroom

My bedroom

Looking in to the living/dining room

Looking in to the living/dining room

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Preparations

I’ve never taken a trip this long or far away before. The 1-2 week road trip or the 11 day Hawaii trip is the maximum I’ve done. This makes the adventure that much more exciting (and nerve inducing). I’m looking forward to all of the adventures I will have and people I will meet.

In advance, I would like to thank my host family for taking me in. Providing housing and food to a student is a pretty big task. The experience of living with a family will be the greatest way for me to experience the language and culture, so I greatly appreciate it. 

Packing preparations

Packing preparations