Wow. I can't believe we're halfway through July. So much has happened this summer and it's mind blowing that there's lots more to come.
Ecuador was incredible. I'm speechless as to how to describe my travels there, but just so happy and fortunate that I took the opportunity and went. I didn't really know what to expect, and surprisingly, wasn't very nervous, more so excited while a bit sad to be leaving a lot of old and new friends I had just made and wanted to spend more time with throughout the summer. But Ecuador, it was AMAZING. Michelle and I backpacked throughout the entire country, which looks tiny on the map but is huge and has so much to explore, the coast, mountains, city, and jungle, everything. And the people. I love Latin Americans. I love the fact that they are so friendly and welcoming of strangers with hugs and kisses. We flew into Guayaquil and walked the Malecón on our first day. I took a nap on the boardwalk and woke up to about 30 schoolchildren surrounding me and Michelle. They were so adorable and as entertained with us as we with them. They kept asking us questions and talking, almost all of them at once it was so overwhelming (especially because I was trying to keep up in Spanish) but the most enamoring experience. They were so cute, when we departed they asked for our cell phone numbers, including the teacher! Our couchsurfing friend, Mauricio the coolest host ever. He even traveled with us and off to Montañita we went!
A small beach town with hippies and surfboards. It was beautiful and very tranquil. And at the end of the night, everyone from town would come together for dancing and $2 margaritas. What more could you ask for? Michelle and I started a trend of dancing on the streets and getting passersby to dance with us, it was the most fun. That's also where we met Andrea, one of the most loving and free-spirited person I've met in my life. She's studying nursing at SD State and working in the jungle curing a number of health problems in Puyo. I might also add that she and Mauricio are destined to marry one day and Michelle and I will be at there wedding; I'm looking forward to where the magical destination will be. The four of us traveled up along the Pacific Coast to Esmeraldas, a cheesy Miami-like beach city and then Atacames, which has more trees and greenery and to Monpiche, another tiny local beach and fishing town. This was a huge highlight. The night we were there Ecuador was playing (fútbol) and so the whole town came together in this little run down construction building to watch the game. The locals were so kind and invited the four of us to sit in the front on chairs while they sat on mounds of dirt while one old man kept pouring beer into cups and passing it to us, another one even insisted that I take shots with him! Mauricio and I bought bought snacks and sweet bread to pass around and we all cheered for Ecuador. The sense of community was so strong it was such an unbelievable feeling, they had very little yet were so very generous, and to top it off the directTV cable kept cutting out, so we never found out who won. We'll assume Ecuador for kicks. After we departed to the country's capital, Quito, a very picturesque city with beautiful blue skies and white clouds and homes on huge hills. There was so much going on and compared to the small beach towns we inhabited, Quito was huge and unfortunately, hugely polluted. The air was tough to breathe with all the cars and diesel-run buses. Not wanting to spend another night in the city like tourists and pay for hostel, we went to a local cafe and got on couchsurfing.com, and were so fortunate to find Leo, this super friendly and sweet Ecuadorian who welcomed us and had a car so we got around town a lot faster. We went to Mitad del Mundo, a monument in the center of the word but not really. A group of anthropologists are present in the area working to protect the ruins and indigenous peoples in Ecuador and educate travelers about the misconceptions of the government. I learned a lot about Ecuador's astronomy and its symbolic meaning of equality. Our last night in Quito we all went dancing and had a blast. Following we bussed to Baños, a pretty but quite touristy town in the highlands known for its extreme sports like white-water rafting, mountain biking and skydiving. I hiked to the top of a mountain and this is what it looked like.
Michelle and I loved Montañita so much that we decided to go back. We did more lounging around the beach, some hiking and exploring outside of the little beach town. We found a church on the beach which had an amazing view, taught English to some locals, made more friends, and even got jobs one night as bartenders and learned how to make mojitos. Such a wonderful place with friendly and unique people from all over the world and so many fun and crazy memories. Then we went back down to Guayaquil, explored a little more of that city and hung out with some young locals.
It was such a life-defining trip, just being in a foreign country and immersed with a whole new culture. I loved it. I realized how much we have in America that we so easily take for granted like hot water, or running water at the least, roads with lanes, and that drivers have to follow, and laws and enforcement, not to mention, a waste-management system. It really disheartened me to see people throw their trash out the windows and without guilt! But it was the norm and there were countless roads full of waste. While there are developing nations without effective waste disposals, we, in America are consuming and wasting so much because we have that luxury. We have trash cans and recycling systems at our fingertips and still we pollute and waste so much. Little things like make huge differences. I'm very grateful for all that I have and the only logical thing to do is to help others obtain the same.