What even is rest? I swear it’s been pretty absent from my semester. Honestly, this was the chillest week so far for me. I’m realizing that sometimes you need chill weeks in the midst of the weeks filled with adventure and travel. As someone who hates not having plans and hates sitting around, this has been an important lesson for the semester.
After getting back from Perú at 3:30am on Tuesday morning, it obviously made having a chill week very understandable. Classes are picking up as far as presentations, papers, and final exams go (yes, believe it or not, study abroad is actually true to the STUDY part of the title). I’ve been writing papers in Spanish that are longer than any Spanish paper I’ve ever written and it feels good to know that I’m competent enough in my language skills to write a 10 page paper in Spanish.
Thursday was my last day at the daycare, which was honestly really sad. I worked over 80 hours with these kids during the semester, and have really bonded with them and with the teachers there. I learned so much about life and love through the niños and the teachers and I will really truly never forget my time in the guardería. These precious kids will stay in my heart and mind forever.
On Thursday night, my friends Adrien and Daniel co-hosted a barbecue on the rooftop of Daniel’s apartment building. It was so fun- great views of the city, delicious food, good conversation, and friends who absolutely kill me with laughter. I’m going to miss these people so much!
On Friday I headed back to Otavalo with Frank, Becca, Caylee, and Maria. Otavalo is a huge indigenous artisanal market located 2 hours north of Quito. IES took us here during week 1 for orientation, but at that point we hadn’t really been ready to buy things, so we decided it was time to make the trip back. Spent the morning and afternoon bargaining with the artisans and making some cool purchases. Definitely way more confident in my Spanish skills now than I was in January, so it was fun to talk with vendors there. After a quick lunch in Otavalo, we grabbed the bus back to Quito. During most Ecuadorian bus rides, a movie is played. Usually some sort of Jackie Chan movie or other heavy action film (#classicmachismo). On this bus, they played Hacksaw Ridge, which is a Mel Gibson directed WWII movie that came out in the fall. I didn’t expect to get so emotionally involved, especially with a movie in Spanish, but I did. When we arrived in Quito and they shut off the movie with 10 minutes left, Frank and I almost lost our minds. Would highly recommend this movie- very bloody (because war) but is a powerful and true story!
After this, Frank, Becca, and I decided to check out an ice cream place in our barrio (El Inca for life!). This place serves an Ecuadorian special: helado de paila, which is ice cream made without milk in a giant bowl. My friend Andreina at the daycare has been recommending this to me all semester, so I was so excited to try it. Helado de paila did NOT disappoint. So good and I’m sad I didn’t utilize this ice cream shop before now!
The rest of the weekend has included baking a cake with Frank’s host mom (lol), watching New Girl, finishing Hacksaw Ridge (luckily it’s on Netflix here so I could find out how it ends), chatting with my host mom, and attempting to work on some essays.
One thing I’ve become more aware of in the past week or so is the amount of child labor I have seen this semester. While child labor is technically illegal in Ecuador, it remains very common. I’ve seen kids selling things in markets, kids collecting money on buses, and kids walking in and out of cafes and restaurants begging. Usually the kids collecting money on buses are only present on the weekends and I’ve made the connection that they are usually the children of the bus driver. While I do not condone children working at all, this instance has more of a “bring your kid to work day” vibe. What has really been breaking my heart is the child beggars. Sweet and Coffee is the coffee shop where the crew usually hangs and does homework. I’ve spent a significant amount of time there this week and the amount of children who walk in and out asking for money has really been getting to me. Yesterday, two girls who were probably four years old walked in asking for money, which was the youngest I had seen. The kids ask every table for money, where they are usually ignored by people. A new child probably comes in every 10 minutes or so. This is really often, so part of me is becoming desensitized to it, whereas another part of me wants to cry every time a kid walks in. This has been one of the hardest things to see this semester and I don’t really have any answers or profound thoughts on this other than it’s sad and I wish they didn’t have to work. Poverty sucks.
Officially have a week and a half left in Quito! What a ride it has been!