I remember wanting to study Spanish abroad since I was in 5th grade. During my first trip down south in Cuba with my family, I hated not being able to converse with the local children. I promised myself that one day, I’ll be able to speak their mother tong. Winning the Loran Scholarship last year meant that I had the chance to spend three summers (in between my university studies) doing either internships or volunteer projects. Spanish schools exits in thousands, so after narrowing down the Hispanic countries and searching on the Internet for days, I finally found a school in Ecuador offering Spanish classes and volunteer placements while having amazing reviews on Trip Adviser. Simon Bolivar Spanish School also offers opportunities to travel across Ecuador during the weekends and students can also take part in free cultural classes in the evening such as salsa, traditional Ecuadorian cooking and cocktail lessons. I signed up for 7 weeks of Spanish classes, 5 weeks of volunteering in a Day Care center and an extra week to travel somewhere else in South America.
During my landing in Quito on July 3rd, my first thought while gazing at the Andes through my airplane window was: how did the first inhabitants managed to migrate so far up? Quito is literally built on top of the earth, with most of the mountains (and some volcanoes) brushing the clouds throughout the day. I was waiting to pick up my luggage when I first felt the power of the altitude on my body. At 2850 m (9350 feet) above sea level, Quito is the highest official capital city in the world. I felt short of breath just by standing still but luckily, I didn’t have to endure any other symptom of altitude sickness.
With mountains come valleys, so the ride up to my host family’s house felt like a roller coaster! The funny thing about Quito, like most cities in South America I assume, is that even though it’s a totally different world from North America, both share a lot of similarities. It’s the small details that make you realizes that ″you’re not in Kansas anymore″. For example, the cars are the same, but it’s totally normal in Quito to see children playing in the back of the truck while the dad is driving at 70km/h in a tiny one-way road. Or it’s common for parents to bring their newborn baby to the salsa club and make him enjoy the rhythmic music (I suspect that’s one of the main reasons why everyone in Ecuador are talented salsa dancers…)! It’s these differences that make traveling so culturally interesting!