Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Old Stomping Grounds: Back to "The Big Toe"

On Thursday morning I left Cuenca to head up to Quito for the End of Service conference from my program. This was the first time I was heading back to the capital city since I left after orientation in September, and I was excited to see how things had changed, if they had. One of the reasons I'd never been back is because it's so far away--about 10 hours by bus. This time around, however, we were flying up.

It's now Sunday, and I still really can't get over how amazing that flight up is. In 30 minutes of flying you do what takes 10 hours on a bus. The trip winds up taking +9 hours and 30 minutes. Within 15 minutes of flying we'd reached the volcano Chimborazo, which takes at least 6 hours to get to from Cuenca. It almost felt like a slap in the face of how long transportation takes here, but it was a rush to go through so quickly. I was really excited to see the volcanoes on the way up after hearing you could see them over the clouds, and I wasn't disappointed. With a tiny sandwich and juice, every minute of the flight was savored.

I've created the little nickname of "The Big Toe" for Quito. The reason being that it's the big capital city, and it's Quito. With your help, I hope it catches on. It was good to be back, even though I quickly felt out of place and could see that living there would get to me very easily. Back in September I had to choose whether or not I wanted to stay in Quito or move to Cuenca, and I was quickly reassured that I made the right decision. Even though Quito has more options and friends near by, it's more dangerous and can be very stressful. After one night in the Mariscal, or Gringolandia, a spot popular for bars, clubs, and gringos, I was ready to get out.

But being back in the capital was also good because I was able to see old friends, some of whom are leaving Ecuador for good soon. One volunteer already left today. The volunteers from my departure group will start to leave this country this month and continue through July and into August. So this was the last chance for all of us to be together. We made the most of our time, going out to meals and grabbing drinks at night. The whole weekend was exciting and if I had to leave now, I know I'd be leaving on a high note.

Towards the end of the conference we went out for a great dinner and gave toasts for every volunteer. After, the male volunteers all joined in Cuban cigars. Since we had cigars at the end of orientation, it was now full circle. People started to leave on Saturday afternoon after the conference ended, but some also stayed in Quito for a 15k road race this morning.

I stayed to run, so on Saturday afternoon I went with my two old roommates to our old host family's house for lunch. Back in September the baby in the family had just turned 1. Every day we tried to teach her to give us a high 5. When we walked in we saw that she'd grown a lot and was walking and talking. She looked at us confused for a minute, and then said high 5. That's probably the best thing I've done all year. I helped to teach a baby speak in English.

The lunch was great and after my face started to hurt from smiling and laughing so much, I remembered what it was like living there for 3 weeks. After, I went back into the city to meet up with the volunteers who stayed, and about 13 of us go together to go bowling. It was another great time out, and though we played on teams, we were all cheering for each other.

Eventually of course, the night had to end, and we had to go home to rest up for the race. We said our goodbyes to those who weren't running, and moved on. Though Quito itself isn't my ideal destination, the weekend made the trip worth it. And there was still a 15k to be had on Sunday morning...

Above: Pictures of Chimborazo and Quito from the airplane

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