¿Soy fan de fútbol?

Before yesterday, I had never been to a professional fútbol (soccer) game before, so naturally, as I’m currently in a Latin American country, going to a fútbol game was on my Ecuador bucket list. As someone uncultured in the world of fútbol, I’m more of an U.S. football and basketball person, I looked at teams, in Quito, and picked the best one, La Liga, so my title was accurate I am a proud bandwagoner and ‘fake fan’ of the one of the best teams in the country.

The game I went to was La Liga v. El Nacional, both teams are from Quito, and of course La Liga won with a score of 1-0, but we underestimated fútbol traffic, so unfortunately we missed the first, and only goal of the game. ¡Qué triste! It’s okay though, we already decided we would be going back for another game, so honestly it’s really no problem.

Pjeezy y yo nos gusta fútbol
It’s ya girls Pjeezy and Jen

So, let me give you a price breakdown, from a U.S. college student perspective, on how affordable it was to go to this game. We arrive, yes it’s was a bit chaotic outside, but in a tolerable way, we walk up to the ticket booth, there are still plenty of tickets available, and we paid $12 to sit in Tribuna Occidental, which was not the rowdy caged in section, that area is a little to ‘extra’ for me. Then, as the supportive newfound fan that I am, I had to purchase some paraphernalia to show my support. I bought a knock-off jersey for $6, honestly that price still shocks me, reflect on the price of overpriced band t-shirts, it’s wild the differences in prices, very pleased aquí. Inside concessions were cheap, cerveza was $2.50 (this is Pilsener country), hotdogs for $1.50, and similar prices for other items.  Why can’t professional games be this affordable in the states, plus ubers here are pretty cheap as well we got to the game for about $6.35. Basically, the moral of the story is if you have time while traveling in Latin America, go to a fútbol game, it’s fun, affordable, and a great cultural experience.

Sports enthusiast,

Jenna

La simplicidad de nada

Isn’t it interesting what we notice, when we take a moment to slow down and take a look at what’s around us? Something, as simple as taking a stroll could show you your new favorite restaurant, coffee shop, book store, or who knows what else. It’s crazy how by slowing down we can embrace what is around us. For the first month and a half, I would go on weekend trips con mis amigas to different parts of Ecuador (perks of not having Friday classes). However, since during the week we were mainly in class and doing homework, and then on the weekends we were exploring different cities, and towns, I really didn’t know what Quito had to offer, besides what anyone could find on a TripAdvisor page, or the like.

After, Spring Break, or La Semana Santa aquí, most of us were a little traveled out, and also broke, r.i.p to our bank accounts, after not working for the entire semester. So for about four consecutive weekends, we have all been in Quito just chilling, and exploring. My primary weekend exploring companion has been one of my new friends here, Erica, who similarly to me loves a good meal, and a stroll around town. I know that description made us sound like two old ladies with two much time on our hands, but honestly that’s not an inaccurate assumption.

In, our few weekends home, I’ve become a pro at using the Ecovia (a primary bus line), where it only costs $.25 to take a ride, so why not? I’ve gone to el mercado artesenal near Parque Ejido just because, I’ve discovered that their is indeed a Quiznon’s in Quito, a fantastic churro spot, delicious Venezuelan arepas, a gelato hangout, and several coffee shops, one of which I am utilizing now to write this post. Sometimes, I have to go out of my way to explore, but that’s one of the beauties of study abroad, or just travel in general, exploring getting lost, and just enjoying oneself. It also helps, that I don’t mind exploring on my own, I know this makes some people nervous, but I’m just exploring my city not actually traveling alone. This has allowed me, to do things that maybe my group of friends wouldn’t have wanted to do, or fills my time instead of me sitting at home watching Netflix.

Comparable to how I was, originally, some people tend to spend so much time traveling to other countries or cities, instead of enjoying what they have at ‘home’ or at least around them. So whether or not you’re studying, traveling, or just living your day to day life, I want to challenge you to explore and create an experience in your own backyard. I do not doubt that you’ll be amazed by how much more you enjoy, and appreciate where you are when you take a step back and just live a bit.

Just take a walk,

Jenna

Let’s Chat…

This is going to be pretty brief post, but I wanted to write a very honest piece for you all. It’s common that when people are studying abroad, we, the audience, the outsiders, only get to see the beautiful, intellectual, cultural moments. However, as someone currently studying abroad I can tell you study abroad is not a one dimensional entity. Therefore, I am going to share a very real experience with you all- getting sick.

I’ve been battling a sickness for about a month now, originally I thought it was food poisoning, then when I got sick a few weeks later, I thought it was due to the higher elevation in Cusco, Peru. But, when I got sick again for a third time, and my normal medicines weren’t working I realized something really wasn’t right. Turns out I had a parasite, it’s kind of comical (not really, truly an awful experience). Luckily, you can pretty much buy anything, without a prescription at an Ecuadorian pharmacy and I was able to pick the appropriate medicine, after asking a friend who had also suffered the same fate.

I plan those dang chocolate covered strawberries I bought from a vendor in Baños, which made me sick. I’m usually really good about not eating street food, but ya girl was stuck on the bus and chocolate is my weakness, plus they were only $1. Do you know the kind of terror you encounter, when you have to take a a 3.5 hour bus ride home, and you are praying that the anti-diarrheal pills work (they did thankfully)!? I can say I have experienced it all now, and sorry this post is a little TMI, but the people need to know it isn’t always butterflies and rainbows.

The point of this post is to remind you 1) listen to your body, especially when you aren’t in your typical environment and 2) just because you don’t see a picture of my dying because I’m suffering from my illness doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Studying abroad is magical experience, but even magic can have its dark side, so don’t disregard the real-life, sometimes uncomfortable aspects, that can come with the experience.

 

Signed,

A finally recovered and reflective Jenna

P.S. Still had a really great time in Baños, in spite of what occurred.

Papallacta Mountain Range: Una Nueva Elevación

Despite what my Facebook photos may imply, I am not as outdoorsy a person as it may appear. However, I am all for new experiences and well I’m in Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, so while I’m here I plan on taking advantage of this.

Papallacta
Peace. Love. Papallacta.

During my third weekend here, I took a day trip to the Papallacta (papa-yak-ta) Mountain range, followed by a trip to the nearby baños termales (thermal baths). This was not one of the trips my friends and I organized, it was organized by an unofficial University liaison. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to do any planning, even though I have found myself becoming a bit of an Ecuadorian travel agent. First, things first, let’s talk about the elevation, man oh man was it steep, at our highest point we were at about 14,000ft, which, I felt, with a nice throbbing headache. At this point my body was still acclimating to the higher elevation of Quito, about 9,350ft, if I were to do this climb now I think my body would be better prepared.

The path was simple and clear, but the wind was whipping through us, and it was a lot colder than most of us expected. Luckily, I dressed in layers, and packed some additional as well. Just for reference, I wore a tank top, an athletic turtleneck long sleeve, an athletic high-neck half zip, and my rain jacket. One the bottom, I had on thick athletic leggings, my rain boots, and was equipped with some lightly lined gloves, and a beanie (as shown on my featured photo). The higher we got the more the intense the wind was, and it took about an hour and a half for us to ascend. The day was rather clear and the views were incredible, that is until we got to the very top, then it was cloudy, hence the name cloud forest, where we only got brief glimpses of the beautiful landscape.

 

Lago de Papallaca
Lago de Papallaca
Papallacta Waterfall
Papallacta Waterfall

 

Thankfully, the descent down was a lot easier, and much faster then our climb up. It was very apparent we were ‘ones with nature’ , because our guide, Pancho, told us “la tierra es nuestro cuarto de baño”, and yes we used it as such (sorry if that’s tmi). When we finished, we drove for a bit to another location, where the trail was a lot shorter, taking us about thirty minutes to see a waterfall, which was reminiscent of a fairy tale. We stopped in a small town to get lunch, I ordered la trucha (trout), which was delicious, and then we were on our way to soak our aching bodies in the thermal baths. There were several baths of varying degrees, and we worked our way up to the hotter ones, than regressed to the moderate temperature, and even took quick dips into the colder water- they say it’s good for the bodies circulation.

La trucha
La trucha

All in all, Papallacta, was fun, beautiful, and challenging, I would highly recommend it to anyway who happened to find themselves in Ecuador, especially if you are close to Quito.

The bad days….

This is the first of many of my Ecuador blogs, and I just wanted to start by saying sorry some of these posts will be out of order. I haven’t been diligent about getting my posts up on time, so I am going to focus on improving, in this area.

Well let’s not delay any further and get into the meat of this blog post dealing with the bad days, more specifically the bad, and/or difficult days you many experience while abroad. I would just like to start off by stating that while I am a sentimental person, I am not one who tends to get homesick. This does not mean that I don’t love my family or the people in my life, but I can deal with being on my own fairly well, and I accredit this to the fact that I am an only child. I am simply mentioning this, because for me the bad days aren’t necessarily about missing particular people in my life, so if you’re looking for a blog about how to deal with homesickness this is not the proper post.

For me, the bad days are when you question why you even decided to study abroad for a whole semester, when you feel like you’re missing out at home; when you think you may haven chosen the wrong country, or when your language skills are making you want to pull your hair and scream (I haven’t done it yet, but it’s been considered). To begin, I am currently in Quito, Ecuador a Spanish speaking country, and while I have been taking Spanish for a while and have intermediate communication skills, boy can it be difficult sometimes. It’s hard when you are speaking another language, and it’s obvious it’s not your native tongue, it’s hard when people don’t want to work with you and write you off as some incompetent Gringa, because you cannot fully express yourself, and it’s hard when you aren’t progressing at the level you want to. I’m a Type A, sometime-y perfectionist, and I am especially impatient with myself– I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy knowing things, more than I do the process of learning.

The thing about studying abroad is that you don’t have full control, you can plan your trip and set your goals, and these are all great things to do, but at the end of the day your environment and your experiences are often, going to be out of your control. I’m continuously learning and growing here, and I am learning to breath and let it be. It’s a lot easier to focus on everything that is going wrong, to discourage yourself, however it is much more rewarding, to remind yourself of the progress you have made, and to reflect on everything you have learned. Sure it’s frustrating when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, and you aren’t fully understanding what they are trying to communicate with you, but in these times I try and remind myself “hey, you just took two new buses and navigated yourself to a museum in a part of town you had never been to before”, these reminders can be helpful and much needed.

There is no clear cut method to overcoming the bad days, because everyone is different, and processes their emotions differently. Personally, I have found it beneficial to allow myself to feel my frustrations, and then move on, get out of the house and try something new. I’ll go get my nails done, walk to the farmacia and order medicine (in Spanish, may I add), or try out a new restaurant. The important thing is to keep moving, keep trying and experiencing new things, and don’t let yourself mope and be discouraged. Remember, studying abroad is fun, adventurous, and rewarding, but it is also filled with hurdles, complications, and miscommunications, if studying abroad was easy, if it was comfortable more students would be willing to give it a try. Pat yourself on the back and keep it moving, because you did it, you took the leap of faith and challenged yourself, and with time you will become so much better because of it.

Embrace the bad days, the lonely days, the sad days, because it makes the GREAT ones so much better!