Friday, November 16, 2012

The Galapagos

I know this post has been long awaited (or at least my mom has been bugging me about it), but I am finally dedicating an entry about my fall break in the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Islands are especially famous from Charles Darwin's research on island Finches.  It is one of the strangest places I have ever been.  The wildlife is fantastic, there are so many tropical fish, sharks, turtles, whales, manta rays and sea lions that you can swim in the water with. On land, there are thousands of varies of birds, including Blue Footed Boobies, who actually do have bright blue feet.  There are land iguanas everywhere, and all of these animals (though they're not domesticated), you can essentially just walk right up to them and take a photo with them.  Though it's discouraged to get too close.

Unfortunately, with all of the tourism, a lot of the natural habitats have been destroyed, or are being damaged.  My guide book even informed me that just with the introduction of goats, about 8 species has gone extinct.  I can only imagine the number of species we've lost with all of the livestock, people, rats, cats and dogs that have been introduced.  Though, people are pretty strict about what you can and cannot bring into the Galapagos.  I first realized how serious they were when we were on the airplane.  We had just landed, and I heard a voice on the intercom say:

"Excuse us, as we will now spray down the cabin and all of the luggage with pesticides."

I was pretty surprised by this, and I was wondering how long it would take to spray the cabin with pesticides.  I wasn't sure how long I could hold my breath.

Needless to say, the flight attended came around with a single spray can and just sprayed the bags.  It was definitely an interesting experience.

My second impression was a reaction to the scenery. When you first arrive, it looks kind of like a desert, with lots of cacti and brown, dusty plains.

After we went through the customs, we had to take a boat to the main part of the island.  The water was the most blue/green color I have ever seen.  Later that day we went to a Giant Tortoise Reserve.  We also explored a little cave near by.  Then we went into the town of Santa Cruz and went to the fish market.  It was really cool to see the fishermen pull up in the boats, unload their fresh catches, and then see the butchers clean and flillet the fish right there.  They attracted a lot of birds, too.

The next day we went snorkeling with colorful fish, sharks, manta rays, sea lions and turtles.  Afterwards, we went to Tortuga Bay, which is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.  The sand was the whitest and softest sand in the Pacific Ocean.  It certainly beats all of the Oregon beaches.

The third day we went to Floreana Island.  It's the only island in the Galapagos with natural fresh water.  We hiked around, learned about it's history and went snorkeling again.

The fourth day was a relaxed day.  Sam and I went shopping and planned the rest of our trip.  On the fourth day, most of the group we came with left, but it was definitely worth staying a few extra days. We planned our trip to Seymore Norte, which was definitely the most beautiful of the islands. We went snorkeling again, but the water was much bluer and warmer on this island.  We also got to walk around and see all of the baby blue footed boobies and baby sea lions.  I have never been so close to sea lions before.  The last day we didn't have much time, except to have a nice breakfast and catch our flight to Guayquil.  But it was definitely a trip that I'll never forget.

I'll post pictures in a few shorter separate blogs, as every time I do it with this blog, there's too many and it freezes.  But pictures are on their way!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sometime I forget I'm in Ecuador: el 11 de Octubre

So it's been a while since my last post. These past few weeks I have been reminded of why I'm in Ecuador in the first place: I'm studying here.  And with that, that means tests, essay, quizzes, all of which I've been a little buried in lately.

Which is not to say that I haven't been traveling or going out.  On the contrary, I seem to find something to do with myself each weekend.  So I'm just going to do a grand overview of everything I've been up to.

A few weeks ago, I went to Mindo, Ecuador.  It's this little town in the Norte-Oriente, "cloud rainforest."  While I was there, I jammed packed my weekend with lots of activities.  The first day I went Ziplining through the forest.  This was probably my favorite of the things I did this weekend.  Since there was only two of us that went, the guides showed us some cool "poses" that we could do while ziplining. I also went on a chocolate tour, which took us through the process that chocolate is made.

The next day, I visited the Mariposario (butterfly farm), which is famous in Mindo.  I'm not a huge fan of bugs crawling on me, even butterflies.  But I got a few cool shots.  After, I went tubing down the river, and then on a hike to see the waterfalls in the area.  Over all, it was a fun little weekend.

This pose is called "Marisposario" or "Butterfly."

Chocolate lover's heaven.

With the butterflies.

Tubing down the river.

At the edge of the waterfall.

I also spent a weekend at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station.  This is a research center affiliated with my school.  Essentially, researchers go to Tiputini for several months at a time, where they can observe animals deep in the undisturbed Amazon Rain Forest.  It took 8+ hours just to get to the station, starting with a flight from Quito to Coca, then a 2 hour boat ride down the river.  Then we took a chiva bus (essentially and open aired bus) for a few hours followed by another 3 hour boat ride to the station.

I spent the weekend hiking through the forest, observing tons of medicinal plants, insects, reptiles, birds and monkeys.  My guide, Meyer, pointed out tons of little creatures that I would have never noticed, including a tree used to cure arthritis (he had personally used it), poison dart frogs, parots, monkeys and various insects.

Arriving at the station.

"Mono" or Monkey

Close up with this scruffy little guy.

Tiputini River.

Hiking through the forest. They turned a fallen tree into a natural bridge.

While I was at Tiputini, we also climbed up a few different towers into the canopy.  This is the best place to see monkeys traveling through the forest, and varieties of birds.

The canopy.
However, while we were on the ground, we experiences some other treats:

This was in one of the cabins.  Wouldn't want to wake up to this guy.   

Non-Venomous Viper.

We saw caimans, and later that day, we went swimming.  No joke.          

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I love Wednesdays: El 12 de Septiembre

My first class was cancelled today, so I don't have class until 2:30pm.  I can't really complain about lounging around all day.  I'm definitely spoiled over here.  I've never consistently slept so much in my life.  Not to mention how much I eat.  I eat everything.  Even when I'm full I can't seem to turn down the food, because it's so delicious.  There's been a few days, where I've had miscommunications with my family and end up eating two lunches.  And before I continue, I need to explain how the meals work down here:

Breakfast consists of:
1 cup of coffee
1 glass of fresh juice
1 soft boiled egg
1 soft roll

Lunch is the biggest meal. It consists of:
1 glass of fresh juice
1 large bowl of soup
1 full plate consisting of rice, salad and the main entre.

1 cup of coffee
1 roll

It doesn't seem like much compared to our normal American breakfasts and dinners, but I'm not much of a breakfast person anyways.  So considering I usually skip breakfast at home, I do pretty well here.  Lunch is the main meal of the day.  And it may not sound like much, but I usually struggle to finish it everyday, because the servings are so big.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Last week, my friend Jillian and I found the Beatles themed bar, Strawberry Fields Forever.
Apparently, it's one of three bars in Quito, so I'm planning to go to all of them and check them out.

I was drinking a "Revolution"

All of the drinks were named after a different song.  Needless to say, I know where I'm going to spend my 21st birthday.

Afterwards, we wandered around and found a little cafe with incredible desserts.  (Did I mention that I eat way too much here?)

I should be the Vanna White of desserts.

Saturday, I visited a dairy farm with the students in my vet class.  We were practicing artificially inseminating cattle.

Practicing my Spanish and veterinary medicine at the same time.

The dairy is located just north of Quito.  Apparently, it's the farm of one of the founders of the vet program at USFQ.
I wouldn't mind having a hobby farm out here.
And for those of you that are interested, the parlor was a side opening parlor.   It's one of the most high tech farms in Quito.

Side Opening Parlor

 This weekend, I'm planning to go to the Equator and Otavalo, a little indigenous town famous for their market.  I'll post more pictures from that trip.  In the mean time, here's a picture with some of the graffiti in town.  In every neighborhood, the walls are filled with some really talented paintings!

We match because neither of us have feet. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

I'm Officially Legal: El 7 de Septiembre

I have a lot to catch up on.  But before I do, let me just comment on how flattering it is to live here.  I finished registering my visa, so that I can legally live here.  This process is the equivalent to waiting at the DMV; however, Ecuadorians show up and hour or two before the place opens in order to get a good spot in line.  Having woken up late this morning, I rolled out of bed and ran to the office.  It's very much a "hurry up and wait" kind of place.

After waiting 2 hours, I received my Certificado de Empadronamiento!  On my walk home, two men confessed their love to me, and a third reminded me of my beauty. Having not showered or had my coffee at that point, I'd say Ecuador is not short on ego-boosting. 

Note: This is only valid for one year, so don't try to copy it for personal use after July 2013.

Last weekend, I went to Papallacta Hot Springs for the day.  It was nice to finally get outside of Quito.  The scenery looks like something off of a postcard.  Saturday, some of the other Vet students invited me to "practice" with them.  Turns out, we were assisting in various surgeries!  I was actually amazed at how relaxed the vet clinic was.  Some of the vets were on their cell phones when not in surgery.  At one point, gum was passed around for everybody, and some of the "attire" looked like they were going to go out dancing afterwards. Some of my professors in the states would be horrified.

The hot springs.

 This past week has just consisted of classes and running errands.  I found a cool little restaurant in Quito called La Naranjilla Mec├ínica.  It was a quirky little art gallery/ restaurant/ bar.  

This picture kind of sums of the restaurant.  But each room was different.

Today, I'm going to try to get a ticket for the Ecuador vs. Bolivia soccer game.  This is one of the qualifying rounds to the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
I even bought a knock off Jersey for $6!   

 There are more pictures on my facebook, if you're interested in seeing more of my trip.Here is the link!  
You will have to be a friend in order to see my profile, though.  Also, it was brought to my attention that has a confusing set up.  If you'd like to leave me comments, the link is below each post. It will say how many comments have been written about this post.  (For example, it might say "No Comments."  You can click on that to leave a comment!)