Snow on the Equator (Week 12)

Things I didn’t expect to see up close and personal in Ecuador: snow.

Things I saw this week, up close and personal: snow.

Week 12 has been a really good one.  There are some weeks where I’m just filled with gratitude for this experience and can’t believe that this is truly my life, and this is one of them.  I laughed with the kiddos at the daycare, watched fútbol and ate hamburgers (shoutout to Inka Burger) with my amigos, had a movie night, enjoyed all-you-can-eat Papa John’s, and went to see Beauty and the Beast.

On Friday, a group of us decided to head to Cotopaxi, which is an active volcano about an hour away from Quito.  When it’s a clear day (very rare), I can actually see Cotopaxi from my apartment and have been wanting to check it out since I got here!  El Parque Nacional Cotopaxi is absolutely beautiful- wild horses roam open fields, lagunas sprinkle the land, and when it isn’t foggy, the snowy peak of Cotopaxi rises above it all.  We hiked about an hour, straight uphill, to a shelter about 16,000 feet above sea level called Refugio José Rivas.  This hike was pretty difficult- it was like hiking Sleeping Bear Dunes but at 16 times the altitude!  It was very foggy and halfway up, we got pelted by hail.  It was amazing though- the landscape is so different up there that it feels like a different world.

As we sat in the refugio and warmed up, it began to snow pretty hard.  SNOW.  In Ecuador.  Sometimes I think I’ve seen it all, and then life throws me snow on the equator.  I wasn’t mad about leaving the Michigan winter, but seeing snow here got me so excited!  As we hiked down, it was accumulating really quickly.  Running down the volcano surrounded by snow was absolutely exhilarating.  About halfway down we realized that it was perfect packing snow.  Obviously this meant that we had to have a snowball fight.  As we chucked snowballs back and forth, I couldn’t stop laughing: a snowball fight on an active volcano in Ecuador.  Honestly something I never pictured myself doing in my entire life, but I think the snowball fight on Cotopaxi is one of my favorite moments of the semester.  Absolutely surreal.

On Saturday, we took a field trip with my art class to two churches in the Historic Center of  Quito.  The first stop was La Basilica del Voto Nacional.  This church is huge, with stained glass, gargoyles in the shape of animals that are found in Ecuador, and many areas to explore.  We climbed up stairs (so steep they felt like a ladder) to one of the towers of the church, where we could see most of Quito.  Cool city, cool views.  Then we toured La Compañia de Jesus, which is a church that has an interior decorated with almost all gold.  Definitely very stunning.

After our field trip, we headed out into the country for a barbecue.  The host family of one of my friends has a quinta, or a country house/ranch.  They were generous enough to let a group of students travel outside of Quito to hang out here for the day!  It was such a beautiful home with great entertainment space.  We all worked together to prepare a delicious lunch and dinner (so. much. meat.), some played soccer, and we all spent time chatting about life with old and new friends while listening to good jams.  I almost forgot I was in Ecuador as I sat outside and ate BBQ with amigos- it had such a ‘summer Up North’ vibe!  We returned to Quito around 11pm and it was a great day.

Today (Sunday), I decided to check out a local church that someone at the daycare told me about.  My church community in the US has been such an important part of my life and something I’ve missed a lot since coming here.  It was such a wonderful experience- people welcomed me very warmly and I felt comfortable almost right away.  Before the service started, the pastor had people shout out where they were from, and it was incredible: over 15 countries were represented.  Ecuador, the United States, Canada, Ghana, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Taiwan, Finland, Sweden, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Mexico were just a few that people said (shoutout to the Global church!). So much diversity in such a small place!  I also met an Ecuadorian woman named Jeanette who had lived in Michigan for 6 years when she was younger.  We talked about Michigan and she gave me her contact info in case I need anything while I’m here.  Small world.  Doing this by myself was definitely outside of my comfort zone, but so dang worth it!

Week 12 was one for the books: so many good mems and highlights packed into just a few short days.  I now have less than 2 months until my return to the US and the goal is to soak it all in!  These are things that I don’t want to forget for as long as I live, and I’m so thankful for all of the good that this semester has brought into my life.

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