It’s official. I made it through Week One of my co-op and it was fantastic! I want to first off apologize for taking so much time in between posts. I’ve been so overwhelmed trying to get settled in my apartment and in Quito, and then adjusting to a new work environment. But all in all, everything is so great.
Before I get into what exactly I’m doing, I want to share some of my pictures and experiences in the city from earlier in the week. Monday was MLK Day in the US, which meant that the Embassy was closed (perk of Embassy life – twice as many holidays!). My boss had recommended I go on the Quito Tour Bus, one of those buses where you can hop on and hop off all day to see the sights of the city. Totally worth it. For $12 USD I was able to see all of Quito and really get a feel for the city.
The first stop I got off on was La Basílica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest neo-Gothic cathedrals in the Americas. The beautiful facades can be seen all over the Old Town in Quito and being there in person was breathtaking. I had heard it was possible to climb all the way to the top, so on Day 2 at altitude I made the trek up stairwell after stairwell, watching as the buildings below got smaller, the stairs became more rickety and I felt myself getting more and more out of breath. The views from the top were spectacular and totally worth the climb in the heat. The architecture is absolutely beautiful and the story goes that the Basilica remains technically unfinished because if it ever were to become complete, the world would come to an end.
The next stop I visited was La Compaña church and I wish I had been able to take pictures inside. Every centimeter of the church is covered in 24-carat gold and there is no way not to lose your breath when you gaze around the church. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It was completed in 1765 and it is amazing that it has survived so intact for so long.
The last part I want to talk about was my visit to El Panecillo , where Quito’s famous statue of the Virgin Mary sits. She sits atop a little hill (panecillo means “small bread roll,” which is exactly what her hill looks like) and you can see it on a clear day from all over the city. We made it up to the top of the hill right as the rain hit, which meant the view wasn’t as good as it would be on a clear day. A rainstorm couldn’t stop me from climbing up the inside of the statue to make it to the lookout point at the base of the Virgin. Even with the fog and clouds, the view was stunning. I definitely want to go back on a sunny day to see that 360-degree view again.
One of the things that struck me most about the full day I spent traversing the city was the kindness of strangers. People would come up to me and after talking for a few minutes, invite me to come visit them on the coast or invite me for free Spanish lessons. Obviously in any situation where you stand out as a foreigner, especially as a young woman, you have to be careful, but I think that when you’re traveling alone people are more willing to come up to you and just talk with no bad intentions. I’ve so enjoyed the conversations I’ve been able to have with local Quiteños and they always make the adventure more interesting.
I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’m going to stop here. Tomorrow I promise I’ll post about how Embassy life and work is going (spoiler alert: it’s fantastic). Thank you for reading! Miss you all lots!