Sara Sees the World’s Essential Spanish Guide

Spanish Guide

So you wanna travel south of the border. You wanna experience new cultures, beautiful beaches, and incredibly delicious food. But you’ve got one problem… you don’t speak a speck of Spanish. Fortunately many of the people you’ll encounter (especially in bigger or more touristed cities) will speak some level of English. However, you will find that English speakers can be sparse in more rural areas.

It’s always good to freshen up on a language before you travel somewhere, or if the language is completely new to you, learn some basic phrases. The locals will appreciate your effort and it’ll be helpful in situations where you can’t find any English speakers.

So here it is! Sara Sees the World’s Essential Spanish Guide!

Essential Conversation:

Hello: Hola, buenos días

Goodbye: Adios, ciao

Thank you: Gracias

You’re Welcome: De nada

Please: Por favor

Sorry: Lo siento

I don’t understand: No comprendo

Do you speak English?: Habla inglés?

I’m from…: Soy de…

Excuse me: Disculpe

I’m looking for…: Busco…

Essential Questions:

Where is…?: Dónde está…?

What is…?: Qué es…?

At what time…?: A qué hora…?

How much?: Cuanto cuesta?

Essential Places and Objects:

Bathroom: baño

Restaurant: restaurante

Check: la cuenta (in Ecuador we always had to ask for the check, or else they wouldn’t give it to us)

Taxi: taxi

Bus: bus

Train: tren

Hotel room: habitación

Essential Food:

This really depends on the region you’re visiting as different locations have vastly different food options. Although many touristy restaurants in cities will have menus in both Spanish and English, smaller restaurants will be all Spanish. If you want to know what you’re eating, read up on your Spanish food vocabulary before you leave.

Bottled water: agua en botella (in Ecuador, we had to specify sin gaz to get regular water. Otherwise it was con gaz, or sparkling water)

Coffee: café

Milk: leche

Tea: té

Beer: cerveza

Wine: vino

Juice: jugo

Orange: naranja

Apple: manzana

Tomato: tomate

Eggs: huevos

Cheese: queso

Butter: mantequilla

Beans: frijoles

Bacon: tocino

Ham: jamón

Chicken: pollo

Meat/beef: carne

Pork: cerdo

Hot dog: salchicha

Fish: pescado

Seafood: mariscos

Garlic: ajo

Rice: arroz

Peanut: cacahuate

Onion: cebolla

Mushroom: champiñones

Lettuce: lechuga

Salad: ensalada

Corn: maíz

Burger: hamburguesa

Potato: papa

French fries: papas fritas

Carrot: zanahoria

Cake: pastel/torta

Cookie: galleta

Ice cream: helado

Salt: sal

Pepper: pimiento

Without: sin

As a vegetarian it was super important for me to look out for meat words on the menu. Our friend Mido couldn’t eat pork because of his religion and when he ordered a burger containing both bacon and ham, we stopped his ordering right away and pointed out the words tocino and jamón on the menu.

This list contains everything I feel is necessary to get along in a Spanish-speaking country. What do you think? Did I miss any phrases you can’t travel without?

What to watch tonight: The Wonder List

Cnn.com

Need a quick fix for your wanderlusting heart while you’re stuck at home? I’ve got one for ya.

The last 6 weeks Bill Weir, a journalist who has seen a lot in his travels, has taken me on a journey all around the world to disappearing places. Sunday nights at 10pm I’ve religiously tuned in to CNN to see where he’d take me that week. First it was Vanuatu to see one of the last unspoiled paradises on earth, then to the Galapagos to look at the efforts being made to save the endangered species of these special islands. Bill Weir has also taken his viewers to Ikaria, Greece (where the life expectancy is incredibly high), India, the Dead Sea, and Venice.

What I love about this show is that it looks at the real issues these places face. Is tourism damaging the Galapagos? Is the Dead Sea really shrinking? What will become of Venice when it eventually floods? Are the people of Vanuatu open to tourism, or will it harm their way of life?

Tonight’s 2-hour season finale will look at the Alps and the Everglades. I know I’ll be tuning in at 9pm! Will you?

You can catch up on episodes and clips here: http://www.cnn.com/shows/wonder-list

This is one of the first travel shows I’ve really gotten into. Any suggestions for my next Netflix travel show binge? Let me know!

A layover in Ukraine? Sure!

I’m always checking flights for my Eurotrip this summer and today I came across a great deal… $341 from Paris to New York. Not quite as great as the $280 I got for my flight to Europe, but still a good deal. The only “problem” is a long layover in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Am I crazy for considering a 16-hour layover in Kiev? I don’t think so. But Ukraine hasn’t had the best press (at least in the US) in the last year. With the plane crash of Malaysia Airlines’ MH17 and Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for it, tensions are high between these two countries. Russian forces are occupying Crimea and the US Government has issued warnings against traveling to the eastern parts of the country.

I could also pay $10 more to have just a 1-hour layover in Kiev. So why choose an overnight one in this “dangerous” country?

Well, one big reason is the 1-hour layover flight starts at 5:50am and I’m no morning person. But I also want to show my friends and family that Kiev is safe. The capital is actually 600km from the “danger zone.” (Not to mention Kiev is dirt cheap! $5 for a private room in a hostel!)

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The real question is why wouldn’t I want to go to Ukraine? I want to be a traveller, not a tourist. I want to see and experience places not everyone goes to. I want to take chances and leave my comfort zone (I have zero knowledge of the Cyrillic writing system, so street signs will be a pain to figure out!).

So for 16 hours, I’m going to leave my comfort zone (and the airport) and explore Kiev. And I’m really, really excited about it!

Monkeys and Rain (and more rain) in Puyo

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After two days in Baños, Emily and I decided to take a day-trip to Puyo, a small Amazon town which is actually the capital of Pastaza province. We took the short hour-long bus ride to this town for one thing, really: monkeys. Ever since reading about the Monkey Rescue Center in Puyo I was determined to get there on my Ecuador trip. But that’s all we ended up doing there, and to be honest it was a little disappointing.

I didn’t love Puyo. I hate admitting that so much. Maybe if the weather was better and we had more activities planned, I would’ve liked it more. But when we got there we couldn’t even find a place to eat. The downtown was dirtier than the other towns we’d visited in Ecuador and the buildings were not picture-worthy. When we finally found a cafe to sit down at, the two girls running the restaurant didn’t know they had smoothies on the menu and looked baffled trying to make Emily’s sandwich. It was weird.

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It also rained on us the whole time. I should’ve expected this though… I mean, we were technically in a rainforest town. But oh, how I hate the rain.

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We took a taxi through the downpour to the monkey sanctuary, which is a few miles out of town. We were the only visitors at the time we were there. There are a few monkeys that roam around the sanctuary that I’ve read like to greet tourists, so I was really hoping one would come sit on my shoulder and we’d become BFFs forever and ever. But that didn’t happen 😦 The monkeys we saw out of cages stayed up high and never came down to greet us.

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So Emily and I roamed around the grounds for a while taking a peek at all the monkeys, turtles, and birds they had. I couldn’t help but get a little close to some of them. I didn’t see the “no touching the monkeys” sign until we left… oops.

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They had a line of cages with smaller animals like snakes and guinea pigs. There was a rotting guinea pig in one of the cages. Decomposing. It was awful and something I wish I’d never seen.

I got a weird vibe from this place. It was weirdly deserted the whole time we were there and the guinea pig thing really threw me off. Emily and I jumped on the next bus back to Baños and never looked back. I’m sure there are a ton of adventures to be had in Puyo, we just didn’t find them that day.

Adventures in Baños

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Baños has taken the crown as my favorite spot thus far in Ecuador. I loved it there so much! I had heard that the town was touristy, but I really didn’t mind. I loved that it was such a small town you could walk from one end to another in 20 minutes. The roads were narrow and cars went slow so you could cross the street without facing near-death like you would in Quito. I mean, yeah, on every street there were about four tour agencies trying to grab your attention, but that meant there was plenty to do (and you could ask around to find the best bargains)!

Baños is a small town about 3 hours from Quito where the Andes meet the jungle. It’s surrounded by more than 60 waterfalls and is at the base of an active volcano, Tungurahua. There’s so much to do there… you can go hiking, relax at one of the many thermal baths, go biking, go canopying, go zip lining, go rafting, or even get an hour long massage for only $20! The possibilities are endless.

Day 1

Emily, Mido, and I set right off on our first morning in Baños to Casa del Árbol, a treehouse up in the mountains. The treehouse is becoming well-known for its two swings that let you soar over the valley below and catch a glimpse of Tungurahua Volcano. You’re only held in the swing by two ropes, one in the front and one in back of you. But in Ecuador, todo es posible, nada seguro.

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The swing was exhilarating and made for some great photos.

There was also a guestbook for visitors to sign, full of languages I couldn’t decipher. Mido translated one that was in Arabic for me though!

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Our taxi driver was the nicest guy ever. He stopped on our way down the mountain to show us views of Baños and some waterfalls.

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A nice view of Baños

That afternoon we decided to check out the Ecozoologico, or the zoo. It was alright, nothing special in my eyes. There were a lot of stairs. And I got to see the elusive, exotic deer… not like I see any of those at home!

While waiting for the bus back to town from the zoo, we wandered around and found a zip lining place. For $5 a person, we decided to go for it and before we knew it we were on a cable car going across a river to where we’d be zip lining from. It was fun! And a lot cheaper than the other options we came across in town.

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Day 2

After breakfast a nice French toast breakfast we had to say goodbye to Mido as he returned to Quito 😦 One of my favorite things about this trip (and traveling in general) was meeting new friends from around the world. I loved learning about their cultures and just getting to know them. I now have friends from Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and of course, Ecuador. I can’t wait to make more connections on my future trips!

Anyway, Emily and I decided to bike the Ruta de Cascadas next, a 17km “downhill,” “easy” ride to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador. Everyone we talked to and every blog I read told me this was a beginner’s level bike ride, all downhill. Yeah, right. As a lazy college student I don’t exercise, like, at all, so maybe this ride was harder for me than it was for others… but it was hard! It was definitely not all downhill. For the most part, yeah, but there were some points where I had to walk my bike up the hills. Also, the road we were biking on is the main road between Baños and Puyo. AKA, it was busy!!! Being the terrible biker I am, there were times when I thought I was about to get run over, panicked, and jumped off my bike to the side of the road. I honestly didn’t feel safe… the cars were driving way too close to us bikers, especially the big buses and trucks. No me gusta.

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BUT! I’d actually recommend this experience to everyone. For only $6 to rent a bike for an entire day, it’s definitely worth the money. And the final waterfall is absolutely amazing. Seriously though, pictures and videos don’t do it justice.IMG_5661

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El Pailon del Diablo is a 328 foot tall waterfall on the Pastaza River that impresses everyone who visits it. I’ve never seen so much water fall so hard from such a height… and be so close to it! There are two entrances to the different sides of the waterfall and I recommend trying out both. They both go right up to the falls and offer incredible views. Both sides cost about a dollar to get into, and they’re both insanely long (but worth it) trails. SO MANY STAIRS! You will sweat.

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If you have to choose a side though, go with the one that leads to the Grieta del Cielo. This is at the end of the trail and to get to it you have to climb through a TINY uphill cave (awesome, scary, dangerous, worth it). Once you exit the crawlspace you’re RIGHT THERE at the waterfall. Like, you’re getting splashed. It’s awesome.

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And if you’re not up for biking the treacherous 17km from Baños to see the waterfall, bus tours are making trips there constantly.

To catch a ride back to Baños (no way was I biking back!!) Emily and I paid 2 dollars to ride in the back of a camioneta, along 10 other people and their bikes. Didn’t seem like the safest option, but hey, this is Ecuador!

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I don’t know how, but a few people fell asleep on the 30 minute bumpy ride. I was too busy watching the bikes to make sure they didn’t fly off the truck or into us.

IN CONCLUSION

Baños won me over big time. You never run out of things to do there… and every day’s an adventure. Bottom line: visit if you get the chance! You won’t regret it!

A Jam-Packed Week in Quito

Our last week in Quito Emily and I had a long list of things to do, especially since we’d already missed out on so much from me being sick the first week and her being sick the next. (If you go rafting, don’t swallow any water. Just don’t.) Monday we explored the Centro Historico with David and Mido. We saw some incredible churches and Emily went inside the Iglesia de la Compania which is an all-gold church. You had to pay a few bucks to enter so I didn’t, because I’m super duper cheap now and I wasn’t all that interested.

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Honestly there wasn’t much for us to do in the Historical Center besides shop for trinkets similar to those we found at Otavalo. The buildings were super pretty though, and more like what I’d expected Quito to look like.

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Tourist shot at the Plaza San Francisco

Tourist shot at the Plaza San Francisco

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On our way back Emily had her change purse stolen out of her purse on the Ecovia bus. We’re lucky it was only change though, and that that’s all we had stolen during our time in Ecuador. I really felt safe the whole time there. Except for when we were looking for a used bookstore and some guys across the street were yelling “3 dollars!” at us. I thought they were selling food or something. But then a nice man who spoke very good English pulled up to us in his car and said, “Ladies, it’s not safe here. Those men are dealing drugs, you need to leave this corner.” So we left. Quickly. (When we found the bookstore though, I bought two books… in French. One was a book called Ecuador about a Frenchman who explored the country in the 1930s and the other was Embarrassments in French and How to Avoid them. I was excited about my finds!)

Tuesday Emily and I did the TeleferiQo, the gondola lift at the edge of Quito to the side of Pichincha Volcano. It took us from Quito’s regular altitude of 10,000 feet to the very high 12,943 feet. It was hard to breathe. I felt like I did when I first arrived in Ecuador. But the view was definitely worth it, and worth the pricey $8 ticket up there. There’s a trail from the lift to the top of the volcano that takes a few hours but we just weren’t up for it…

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"Traveling, life is richer"

“Traveling, life is richer”

Wednesday we went to a free salsa class our school put on. Later that night we practiced our moves at Ladies’ Night in the Mariscal. Everyone we talked to kept saying there’s free drinks for ladies on Ladies’ Night all over Gringolandia from 8 to 10 so Emily and I went earlier than the rest of our group to see what was going on. Well, we couldn’t find free drinks anywhere. We finally gave up and bought a 2-for-1 special that our waitress recommended and UGH!!! Worst drink I’ve ever had! (Although that’s not saying much… I’ve only ever had a few.) It literally tasted and looked like Pepto Bismol. So yeah. But finally at 9:30 our friends from the school showed up and brought us to the discoteca where the free drinks were, Bungalow. From 8-10 there they have girls enter in one door and guys from the other, and separate them until 10:00 when they can start to mingle. It was interesting.

Thursday we went with David to Mitad del Mundo, the equator monument. The huge monument there isn’t actually where the real equator is though. They built it before GPS and technology stuff could find where the line exactly is. So we took a few pictures with the monument, shopped around at the many shops selling Otavalo-like souvenirs, and set off the find the real equator line.

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I saw online that there was another nearby museum on the real equator so we searched for that. It was only about 200m away on the main road and then onto a hidden dirt road. They should really make it easier to find. Well, this museum was 100x better than the “official” monument because there were experiments set up, guides actually showing you around, and shrunken heads. Gross, but I thought they were really cool to see. Our guide explained the whole process to us, how they take out the skull and put rocks in to keep some of the shape… They also had a sloth shrunken head there… I don’t know why.

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Cabezas reducidas

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David balancing an egg on the equator

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As a geography freak I was soooo thrilled to stand on the actual equator. The experiments our guide showed us were pretty cool, too. They had a tub full of water and when they drained it on the equator, the water fell straight down the drain. When they moved it to the north, the water funneled down one way and on the south it funneled the other way. Pretty neat.

That was my busy week of after-school activities in Quito. For our last long weekend in Ecuador Emily and I headed to Baños, my favorite town in the country. More on that next…

Otavalo

Saturday morning Emily and I headed 2 hours north of Quito to the small town of Otavalo, known mostly for its Saturday Market (the biggest in South America). The bus ride there was short and sweet, with some nice views, as seen below!

Once we got there we dove right into the market. It was huge and so easy to get lost in – but I didn’t mind. I love shopping.

I loved seeing the Otavalan people in their traditional clothing. They’re apparently the most properous indigenous group in South America though!

There was a LOT of llama stuff. I’m sad though because I haven’t even seen a llama here yet!

I got some pretty good deals using my previously non-existant haggling skills. I did research online ahead of time and saw that, especially if you’re a foreigner like me, they’ll up the price to twice as much as usual so you have to bargain. So my rule of thumb was to ask for half of what they quoted and work my way to a deal. Most of the stuff was pretty cheap, but I did ask about this one tiny, tiny elephant that was made out of opal (my birthstone) and it was $55. What?! The silver jewelry was about $15 a necklace, scarves could be bought for under $5, and little knick knacks could be haggled down to a dollar. I won’t post what I bought here because most of it is gifts for family and friends who read this, but I did get a buddha necklace (super random but really cute!) for $3 for myself, along with some Otavalan dolls ($2 each) and shakers made out of gourds for my future classroom ($3 each).

For lunch we went to a pizzeria and I got a Pizza Blanca for $3.50 (steal!!!). It was so good. It had onions and garlic and oh my I was in heaven. For dinner that night we went to another Italian place (I know, I need to broaden my dining choices) and I got the same exact kind of pizza. Delicious again. This restaurant happened to be playing the Patriots-Ravens football game. In the middle of the Andes. In a little indigenous town. American football. But the Pats won! Woo!!

Our hostel for the night, Hosteria Rose Cottage, was amazing. It was a 3km taxi ride from the town center but it was so worth it… It was on the top of a hill overlooking the mountains and valleys and pictures just don’t do its surroundings justice.

The owner was very nice (and very British), there were animals on the property (yayyy!), and breakfast was included. What more could you ask for? Oh, and there were hammocks everywhere.

Emily and I booked two single rooms and had a whole little cottage to ourselves! We checked in after lunch, headed back to the market for a little while and to eat dinner, and came back around 6. I brought back my pizza bones for the three dogs at the hostel. They were so cute and so sweet but so skinny! I had to fatten them up. We also gave them Emily’s leftover pasta. And I gave them pretty much every scrap piece of food I could find.

That’s my babygirl Chincha. She was the sweetest little thing. I really wanted to take her back with me (sorry Dad).

One of my other puppies giving me kisses. Mis perritos queridos.

“Santa’s Little Helper” enjoying the view.

Here’s me giving kisses to the hostel’s donkey…

…and Exibit A of the owner’s Britishness:

I found this gem in the reception office. Haha!

One of the coolest things at the hostel (to me, at least) was this map of where people who have stayed there are from.

I put my pushpin in little ole Western Maryland, which I thought was in the middle of nowhere until I came to Ecuador and saw some places that reallyare in the middle of nowhere.

Emily and I spent the evening playing cards by the fire in the hostel’s restaurant. She won.

The next morning (this morning) we ate breakfast at 8 and set out on a hike to find the waterfall, Cascada Taxopamba, that was only an hour’s walk from the hostel. It was quite the hike, but definitely worth it. I’d never been that close to a waterfall that big!

I’m so tiny!!!

So that was my Otavalo trip. Now I’m starting my last week in Quito (wahhh) and planning next weekend’s trip to Banos. I don’t want to leave Ecuador!

Into the jungle…

Last week our teacher asked Emily and I if we wanted to ir a la selva para ver los monos and of course we said YES!! So we went to the Megamaxi to wait for him so we could travel to Tena together on New Years afternoon and we waited… and waited… and finally gave up. That night we figured out it was a big miscommunication on timing. He had left at 10 that morning. Woops. So the next morning we set off to Tena on our own with two of our classmates, David from Germany and Mido from Egypt. We left our house at 4:30am, walked a good mile or two to our first bus stop, took that bus to the big bus terminal in Quito, Quitumbe, and hopped on the 8:00 bus to Tena. But not without trouble, of course! Emily and I were supposed to meet Mido outside his house to walk with him but we couldn’t find him so we left without him. Around 6 we got a text saying he’s coming, so we helped him as best we could with directions. The thing is, Mido speaks almost no Spanish. So it was literally a miracle that he got to Quitumbe for the 8:00 bus. He said “all of Quito” helped him, haha!

What’s nice about Ecuador is that buses here cost about $1 per hour. This one was $6 for a 5 hour ride.

And what a ride it was… I was in awe of the landscape and afraid for my life at the same time, the whole 5 hours. We swerved through crazy mountains and passed some small waterfalls. But we also drove on roads that were definitely not done construction. Apparently we came at a good time though, because in the rainy season you can’t even get to Tena because of mudslides.

So we made it to Tena safe and sound and a little bus-sick. We ate at the first restaurant we could find, a little Peruvian place next to the bus station. I’m a super picky eater (I’m trying to change that I promise!!) so I asked for just rice, solo arroz, but they brought me a plate full of rice, refried beans and a salad. But hey, for $3, not bad.

Next we found our hostel, Hostal Limoncocha, which I looooved. We had a private room with 4 beds for 2 nights for $8 a night, and you could get breakfast each morning for $2.50. There were hammocks on the balconies overlooking Tena and the hostel itself wasn’t far from everything, but it was removed enough to be quiet at night.

That afternoon we had no idea what to do so we asked the hostel owner for suggestions. We ended up taking a 30 minute bus (60 cents) to Misahualli, which was a very good decision. It’s a tiny port town on a river and there’s a little carnival for kids right before you enter the beach. And guess what!!! The first thing I saw on the beach was a monkey! I saw a group of people looking at a tree and then they all jumped back because the monkey hopped out of the tree and ran to one close to me. I was so happy.

As we were walking along the small beach area a lady asked us if we wanted to do a little boat ride for una horita for only $3. We said sure and hopped aboard the lancha. It took us down the river a little and back the other way to a village-like area.

I say village-like area because it was supposed to be like an indigenous village but was really obviously commercialized. You could buy souvenirs, visit a shaman, pay to go inside and see an indigenous dance with indigenous music, buy natural medicines, and hold snakes or caimans for a dollar. Of course I saw the snake and paid the dollar right away. BUT…

Once I was holding the snake I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I was supported this snake’s captivity for tourism and that just wasn’t right. The poor thing can’t live its life like it should in the wild. So my mistake… I won’t do it again.

Anyway, we got bored quickly with the village and set off on our own adventure. We found a trail and followed it to other little villages until our hour was up and we had to get back to our boat. It was a nice little stroll…

So then we headed back to the port and looked for something else to do.

We crossed a bridge and kept walking to where there were really no more tourists. There were signs about a lagoon and monkeys so we looked for that… a few hundred meters later we were alone at this lagoon with an empty canoe in front of us. Being the crazy kids we are, we were about to just hop in and explore, but an older gentleman showed up and guided us in the canoe. We did a figure-eight around these two islands in the middle of the lagoon. It was completely silent except for the exotic birds chirping and branches creaking from… MONKEYS!!! There were so many on the one island. To see them jump from tree to tree and just chill out in the wid was so incredibly awesome. Our guide would sometimes call for them “monkey, monkey, monkey, venga, venga!” The ride was so peaceful and I was so happy to be in the Ecuadorian amazon, surrounded by monkeys and tranquility. I was sad when we came ashore an hour later. The gentleman asked for $3 each, which was yet another incredible bargain.

After our canoe ride it was getting dark, so we caught the 7:00 bus back to Tena.

The next morning I woke up a little late. Emily and Mido were eating breakfast downstairs so I went to find them. A guy had asked them if we wanted to go rafting with them. So rafting we went! I was pretty nervous. I’m honestly not that adventurous and one thing I told my group was not to tip over because I did not want to get wet. Well one of the first things our guide, Eduardo, had us do once in the raft was jump out. Greattttt. But the water wasn’t that bad and I got splashed the entire rest of the trip anyway. I had a lot of fun, except when we got caught in a washing machine effect thingy. That was no bueno. And then near the end, of course we tipped. But I really, really did have a blast!

We went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner that night. Yep, I ate Italian in the jungle. I really missed familiar foods.

The next day we all slept in late, exhausted from our rafting adventure. We strolled around town and explored a little until we were ready to head back to Quito.

We went at 2:00 to the bus station to get our tickets back to Quito… they were sold out until 7pm. Apparently everyone goes back home on Sunday. So we were stranded in Tena for the rest of the afternoon with nothing to do. Luckily we made friends rafting with our tour guides Eduardo and Avatar (that’s his nickname… I don’t know what his real name is…) and we went out for drinks with them by the river until it was time to catch the bus.

I didn’t buy anything in Tena but I did come back with some souvenirs. Note to self: always wear sunscreen. Always. I got a massive sunburn on my legs while rafting and it wasn’t even sunny out! But I guess at the equator clouds don’t protect you like they do up north. I also came back with some nice mosquito bites on my legs. Ick. My insect repellent washed off in the water I guess.

Despite this I had a great time though! I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went rafting, saw some monkeys, and really connected with nature. The amazon is such a beautifiul place.

Basically I loved Tena.

El Año Nuevo!

I’ve survived my first week in another country!!!

The first few days were rough… I’m not gonna lie. Mostly because I was still sick and on top of that, I had (still have) altitude sickness. I literally can’t walk up a flight of stairs without being completely out of breath.

But things are better now. Aside from a few ups and downs… Monday afternoon Emily and I got to the UIO airport and took a taxi to our host family’s house (which is super nice, btw). Our taxi driver was really nice but could not find the address we were looking for… After going up and down the street a few times she told us she didn’t think the address existed, so we tried calling the number that’s supposed to reach our host family and it was a bad number. Great. By this point I’m freaking out. I mean I already had the flu and I was carsick because these Ecuadorians drive CRAZY and I was not having it. Finally she drove a little further down the street and found it. Thank goodness.

Here’s the view from our host family’s house. It’s wayyy uphill from everything but it makes for a nice view.

Emily and I are taking Spanish classes at Academica Columbus, which is a quick two-minute walk from our host family’s house. I’m really enjoying classes so far. The classes are very individualized and we get a lot of one-on-one attention. In Quito I haven’t done much yet… I’ve gone to the MegaMaxi which is like their Walmart and I’ve taken buses around town but other than that, after classes I’ve been taking siestas. The flu has seriously wiped me out. I’m feeling a lot better now though so I’m excited to get to do more these coming weeks!

Wednesday was New Year’s Eve and we were invited out with some friends from school: David and Stephan from Germany and Mido from Egypt. We went to a cute little restaurant in the Mariscal District (Gringolandia as the locals call it) and then went out for drinks. I had hot chocolate but the others had lots of cerveza (beer). We had a lot of time to kill before midnight so we went to a small discoteca where they played some American music for us, haha!

In Ecuador it’s a New Year’s tradition to burn paper mache dolls of cartoon characters to “get rid of the past year.” It was a little weird to see flaming cartoon characters on every street corner. The whole city smelled like burning paper.

Most of the characters were small but some were huge, like this Captain America with Spiderman hands…

Some were terrifying like this guy…. I don’t even know what it is…

Another tradition is for the men to dress up as women, dance around on the streets and ask for money, stuffed bras and all. And they do get money! It was hilarious to watch. One of my teachers said he dressed up for it… I wish I could’ve seen that.

Everyone in the Mariscal bought these sparkler things from street vendors. They’d hold them up in the air and shake them and sparks would fly out the top… It looked like something from Harry Potter, so I liked it!

We took a taxi home shortly after midnight and I slept unti 11 the next day  because I didn’t have class. I’m not one for going out but I had a good time that night and I’m glad I got to experience New Year’s in a new country!

This weekend I went to Tena, a small (to me) town in the middle of the jungle. I seriously had a blast there, but I’ll write about that when I have time tomorrow 🙂

Fears…

I leave tomorrow and arrive in Quito on Monday. And of course I’m sick as a dog. I either have the worst case of the flu ever or really bad side effects from my Typhoid vaccination pills 😦 So one of my travel fears has come true before my trip has even started: getting sick. I’ve already stocked up on every medicine I could think of for every possible malady out there so hopefully I’ll get over whatever illnesses I inevitably get quickly.

Anyway, I’m so excited yet still TERRIFIED to leave tomorrow! I know I’ll have a great time, but Quito isn’t exactly the safest place in the world.

I’m terrified of:

1. Getting sick, which has already happened

2. Getting mugged

3. Getting kidnapped (someone send Liam Neeson if this happens!)

4. Getting lost in translation, or lost in general

5. Having something stolen

6. Accidentally eating meat because I can’t read the menu well enough (silly, I know, but I’m being serious here)

7. Get really, really homesick. Especially for my dogs.

Despite these fears I know I’ll have the time of my life. Hopefully I’ll look back at this post and think how silly I was to be so scared of such an awesome journey. Right? Right.