Coming into the Quito airport I was beyond excited. Not only had I just stepped foot onto the South American continent for the first time, but there was no Pittsburgh cold weather. We were surrounded by palm trees, a sparkling city, and new faces.
Following the flight, we went over to the mall across the street to grab some food before heading to the hotel. I realized at that moment, that English would not be beneficial to me during the trip. For some reason, I thought that in the airport employees would still speak English, but when I tried to order food, I realized my mistake. Since that experience I always kept someone who knew Spanish close around me, just in case an emergency presented itself. Despite the language barrier, locals were incredibly kind and patient. Smiles were always shared, and time was given to make conversation effective.
One thing that surprised me driving into the city of Quito, was the number of stray dogs on the streets. The odd thing however, was not their presence, but rather their condition. They all looked healthy, fed, and happy. Even more surprising was that they would not approach you aggressively, they would just wait until someone approached them.
The city of Quito, was beautiful. Even though I had studied the city before arriving, I did not expect to see such strong Spanish influence in the architecture. It was truly a new experience. The buildings were all bright varying colors, with flower pots blooming off of the Juliet balconies. Underneath people filled the streets, many of whom were vendors. Quito was also home to the first authentic churro that I had, and it did not disappoint.
After going to the city, we traveled to the Amazon Field School, where we were given sleeping quarters similar to those of camp and coming from someone who loved going to camp, I was very pleased. We stayed on the Napo River, which had a beach that we did yoga on.
The trip overall, was relaxing while at the same time incredibly educational. We went on nature hikes, to a hummingbird lodge, visited surrounding cities, and so much more. If someone were to tell me that they were unsure whether or not they wanted to participate in the program, I would without hesitation encourage them to. It’s hot and there are bugs, but the experiences you have and the people that you meet will make any small inconvenience that you have insignificant. The trip has become one of my favorite memories from college so far, and I look forward to being able to visit again one day in the future.