Location: Quito

Day 1 was just a travel day so that I won’t spend much time on it. We all met at our gate in the Miami International Airport (everyone but Michael, who flew alone from Houston), got to know each other a little bit, and flew off to Ecuador. The only noteworthy events were 1) waiting in line forever at immigration with our messy immigration forms, and 2) trying to board our bus swiftly among the heavy crowds.

Today (Day 2) dawned bright and beautiful. The air was cool, and the mountains glowed blue in the distance against a vivid, blue sky. Our little hotel, the Yacu Anu Hotel, looked infinitely more beautiful and quaint in the gold of 8 am sunlight. We all rose with circles under our eyes, the consequence of Day 1’s late night. We ate our lovingly prepared, continental-style breakfast in the cute little kitchen with its lime green walls, colorful paintings, and pearl-embroidered curtains. We explored the hotel’s yard and gardens, played with its adorable cat (we named her Selva – “jungle” in Spanish), and marveled at the Andes rising around us before we hopped on our bus to head to Quito for a day of touring. Our day in Quito was incredible! We started in a park with a great view of the city and its huge guardian – a giant statue of the Virgin Mary perched upon a hill overlooking the city. We played games and took pictures before walking down into the streets in search of lunch. The way that we got our lunch is a story straight out of a movie (Sky says that cinema would call it a “meet cute”). We were wandering through the steep streets in search of the┬ámercado central, where Devin and Sky had planned for us to have lunch. When we couldn’t find it, Devin asked a kid walking down the street where we could find the market to no avail. Just as Sky told him that it would be best to ask an adult, a man in a chef’s uniform walked out of a door across the street from us carrying two trophies in his arms. Devin and Sky asked him about the market, and he told them that he actually worked there and the two trophies carried were actually for the awards that his restaurant had just won. In disbelief at our luck, we followed him to the market where he insisted on serving us all an amazing lunch of fried fish with potatoes and lime, popcorn with salsa, rice, and three different juices (tamarind, coconut, and alfalfa orange, which was much better than it sounds). It’s not every day that someone you meet by chance on the street insists on serving you lunch. Other than that, we bought copious amounts of exotic fruits to try, almost bought suits for $30 just for fun, and went to church three times. We climbed to dizzying heights up the towers in the first church (the Basilica), marveled at the gold covering every surface of the second (la Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus), and attended five minutes of a service at the third (San Francisco), the oldest church in Quito and maybe even in Ecuador. By the end of the day, we were all twice as exhausted as we were at its dawning but also twice as excited. If this is what our first day in Ecuador is like, we can’t wait to see what the next few weeks hold for us. It’s going to be incredible.