Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Daniel Bryan is very serious about experiencing Quito, learning about the history and meeting new people. This is why he is our director. It has to take so much time planning and organizing to be able to provide our little BCA group with such great experiences. A few weekends ago, he had planned a Saturday and a Sunday day-trip for us.

Saturday was our trip back to El Centro Histórico but this time, it was a tour at night. Before we were all to meet, a few of my friends decided to get together and plan our Baños trip (that weekend's post to come soon!). It turns out that we should have left from planning earlier than we did because we were just getting off of the bus when it was time to be there. Once we finally found what road we needed to follow, we started sprinting uphill to make it to the center where everyone was to meet. When I saw uphill, I mean uphill; we were about to fall over as we were weaving in and out of all the people trying to sell us lottery tickets and candy. Daniel told us that if we weren't there on time, we would miss the first whole half of the tour so we were praying that they didn't leave yet. Luckily, we made it in time with a few minutes left to catch our breath.  

Two tour guides met us and at the center and told us to follow them. We walked toward a huge church, and just as we were about to enter through the doors, a small woman dressed in a purple and black laced dress with a black veil, holding a broom, walked in in front of us. We ended up following her to the courtyard where she stopped and stood in front of a big fountain with her back to us. She started singing some type of song and we started wondering if we should leave and let her do her thing but we didn't. It wasn't until she turned around with her clown mask on and started talking to us that we realized she was there to give us the tour. Yikes!

Everyone followed her through the archways to a room covered in gold with creepy paintings involving Jesus, angels and demons. She started talking about how this was the room where they signed their declaration of independence from Spain. It turns out that those who signed it were killed and buried under where we were standing. I'm pretty sure she said there were some 300 bodies. I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but I did sneak one and that is why the picture below is blurry. You can see the wooden gate in the ground that covers up the tunnel where the bodies are buried.

After the scary stories, we continued to the museum section where many paintings and sculptures were of Jesus and Mary. Some of them were disturbing including the room that was dedicated to one life-size sculpture of Jesus laying on a chair after he had the nails through his hands and was beaten. It was a little graphic for my liking, but we all were to sit around it, leaving me no other choice but to stare at it. Honestly, I can't remember paying very close attention to this part of the tour very well and I regret that now. I think the story was something about how years ago there were people in that room and something spooky happened - like a ghost story - but I don't know. :x

There was one more tour that we were led to and getting there was rather interesting to say the least. First of all, our gringo mob walked through the street like this, drawing even more attention to ourselves...

We stopped in the very center to play a few games and it was a lot of fun; eventually we accumulated a crowd of Ecuadorians who probably wanted to join, but they just watched instead. That's when I noticed that we had a few police officers watching us too who I guess were walking with us? I felt like I was famous with the bodyguards. Anyways, before walking to our final tour the witch lady (tried) to teach us this chant about being in purgatory... I mean we tried but it was a little long and it just sounded like a bunch of mumbling except for a few random words. She then told us to keep chanting it as we walked through streets. Please picture this in your mind: a witch leading a herd of people through the dark streets chanting/mumbling about being in purgatory. Never have I had so many stares in my entire life, but I can't blame them.  

 While we were down there, a bunch of us decided to go explore on our own a bit and we were able to see this:
And then we ate this enormous cheese empanada that tasted like funnel cake:
That concludes the night tour at El Centro Histórico.
Sunday was our trip to South Quito.

Usually people don't really enjoy going to South Quito because "there isn't anything to see", it's were the poorer population generally lives with unfinished houses and buildings, and as I was told, it is more dangerous. Daniel, however, has connections for everything and so he arranged our little trip to show us that South Quito really isn't that bad. He actually use to live there for a few years so he knows people and had them set up a play date for us. We went down there to meet a bunch of other people our age.

Initially we all sat in one big, open room staring at each other trying to figure out what we were going to do for an entire morning/afternoon with all of these strangers. Once the awkward ice breakers started, there was no possible way to be shy around each other anymore.

After lunch we went to a park that was just a minute walk from where we were that morning. There was a soccer game going on that we could watch but instead we all decided to play a few rounds of duck duck goose and cat and rat or something like that, hah. We all became one big happy family.

Daniel had to tell us that we could only stay for five more minutes and we were all pretty bummed about it. The good news is that we are all friends on Facebook and we actually make plans to get together still. I would say it was a successful day in South Quito. :)

Siempre amigos! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I have a new sister! Actually, I have for a few weeks now. Her name is Nicole Marks and she actually goes to Juniata too. She was originally with a different host family but after some switching around and agreeing to only speak Spanish to each other when we are home, she now lives with me!
Many people think that we are twins or are at least related, but the truth is that we actually didn't really even talk much until we got here in Ecuador. We have mutual friends at Juniata but that's probably the only reason we have ever talked. Now it's funny because some of the people in our BCA group thought that we were best friends.

Even freshman year I remember people telling me that they confuse us two. I think that even more people here think we look similar because someone brings it up or asks us about it nearly three times a week. Now we can say we are sisters. Hah, here is a conversation from just the other day with one of the other girls from BCA who tagged me instead of Nicole in one of hr pictures on Facebook:

Kara Hagerich hah, thats nicole!
Louisa Pitney Wait, are you sure?
Louisa Pitney No, don't answer that

When everything was confirmed that she was going to move in, Mama Paty and Papa Galo were excited to be able to say that they were going to have twin girls or gemelas. We don't really see it, but I'm curious on all of your thoughts. With that being said, here are a few pictures for comparison:


South Quito



We have gotten pretty close since we have been here and it is a lot of fun with her living with me. Both of us have our own room so we do go our separate ways sometimes. Actually, we have even started picking on each other like sisters might and our family thinks its amusing. We are very different but both like to do the same things so it's working out really well. Here's to you, mi gemela!(y gracias a nuestra familia por su paciencia con nosotros). ;)

Twins at heart <3

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


If you have already read part 1, I'm sure you realize that our wonderful coordinators like to pack in as much as humanly possible. Get ready for part 2:

Our huge group was divided into two groups for this day so that we could all get to be less rushed and crowded at our various stops. My group was the one who got to wake up a half hour later but it didn´t really matter because I was in the room with Hilary and Nicole who were in the earlier group. We went down to breakfast where we were reminded about the power going out because of our candle-light breakfast. The breakfast was delicious, as always, and included pancakes with fresh strawberry's, cantaloupe and bananas on top. 

Stop #1: Indigenous house of musical instruments
The first stop of the day was to an indigenous man´s  home where he makes and sells musical instruments. We all sat down and he did a demonstration of how he cuts and ties bamboo to make really awesome flutes. He also makes other instruments that i have no idea what they´re called, but they sound so cool. Mom, you would love it. After putting together his small flute, I believe it was his two daughters that came out to join him. They sang and played different instruments for us...I could have listened to it all day. 

After the musical demonstration, we were able to look around, try out the instruments and then buy some if we wanted. The man made it all look so easy to play them but really it is a skill. A lot of us had a lot of trouble with the long horn instruments but it was hilarious trying. I did end up buying one of the flutes and I´m hoping Dad can play it since he knows how to play the harmonica. :)
Stop #2: Indigenous house of wool and weaving
There was another indigenous couple that we visited next, but this couple did weaving. Again, we all sat down and watched their demonstration. They each sat in front of a huge bag of wool on the cement ground with a wooden tools that had wire attached like a brush. The man would comb out the wool in between the two brushes until it formed a soft rectangle of material. he then would pass it to his wife who would follow the same process but formed the sheet into a thin strip. When two of the girls from our group went up to try, they struggled trying to pull the brushes in the same way.

The next part of the demonstration was turning these little strips into yarn. What? I still don´t understand how it all works but it did. The man walked over to his spinning wheel where he would rub two ends of the strips together and have it be pulled tight from the rotating wheels. The strips instantly turned into yarn that was being rolled up on the spindle. Somehow it´s that simple. He then showed us how he would weave the yarn to make huge blankets, fuzzy sweaters and beautiful tapestries for on the walls. You would be surprised how much work it all takes. I was worn out just for watching. Today, there are easier ways of doing this but he and his wife decided to continue doing what they know how to do. I think they are they only people who still do it this way around here actually.

If that didn´t surprise me enough already, I decided to ask the man a few questions and his answers amazed me. This man is 83 years old. He has been doing this business his entire life and doesn´t seem to be planning on stopping anytime soon. He actually told me that he has been doing this EVERYDAY since he was only 7. I can´t even imagine. The sad part is that they don´t have any sons so there isn´t anyone who is going to continue when he can´t anymore. However, they do have at least one daughter and granddaughters. The granddaughters were playing with some kittens in the room next door, aww.

Stop #3: Waterfall

Ahh! My favorite part of the whole weekend. This waterfall is important to the indigenous people because it is el agua de vida y energía or the water of life and energy. We had to walk a little ways through the woods to get there but it was worth it. When we arrived at the waterfall, we saw a man walking up the river right towards it. When he stopped and lifted his hands, I realized that he was there for spiritual reasons. We all watched for some 5 minutes as he stood there like a statue. When he was finished, he washed off his face with the river water and left. 


Now it was our turn. Okay, maybe not like that but we were able to go to a smaller waterfall that was above that one. Daniel gave us two options to get there: one, walk on a trail or two, climb up a muddy and steep slope. Up we went.

When we made it to the top, we had to walk upstream through the stream to get to the waterfall. At that point, it was chilly out with no sun and we all were reconsidering our thoughts of going under this little waterfall but we continued. Everything there was so pretty and clean. The rock walls on both sides of the stream were so high it was like we were in a cave. The water was cold but one by one we walked ourselves under the stronger-than-expected waterfall.

It was time to move on to our next stop and so some of us wanted to change into dry clothes. Daniel Bryan said he'd go be on the look-out if we wanted to just change where we were. He and the guys left and us girls started changing and were in the middle of changing when Daniel warned us that there were little boys trying to get back to where we were to go the the waterfall. Before we knew it, three boys were standing there asking us questions while we were just pulling our shirts on. Good job with the look out, Daniel.

Stop #4: Condor Park
Did you know Ecuador's bird is a condor? Me either until this day. There was a beautiful park set up for SO many different birds and we were even able to see a bird show. One of the birds took off, flying around the audience and out over the ledge into the valley...I don't really think that was part of the plan but he eventually came back. A celebrity lives at this park actually. Hedwig, the owl from the Harry Potter movies, lives there. (Well, one of the many that were used.)

Hedwig himself

Stop #5: Volcanic Lake
The final stop of the day and of the trip was to this volcanic lake that formed. We just sat there looking at the clouds move in, reflecting on our weekend adventure. It reminded me that I am in an area where volcanoes are everywhere, dormant and active volcanoes that formed Ecuador into what it is today.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


This post is a little late but there is SO much to say about my awesome birthday weekend. Our BCA group went on a little trip to a city known as Otavalo. Here is what all this trip consisted of:

STOP #1: Cayambe
While traveling to our first real destination, our buses made a stop at a viewing site. From where we stopped, we could see way down into a valley and we could see Cayambe, the only snow-capped volcano in Ecuador. The strange part of it is that the equator runs through the valley that you see in the one picture below, and the volcano is right on the equator. There are many strange phenomenons like this one that are usually explained simply because of the fact that it is "on the equator".

Team Juniata: Brian, Nicole, Ally, (me), Michelle


STOP #2: Pre-Incan pyramids de Cochasqui/ Llama visit
Our next stop was to the ancient pyramids. These pyramids have been covered over with soil and grass so we aren't able to see exactly how big they really are. Unfortunately, it would take way too long and be really expensive for them to uncover these 20 some pyramids, but it was still really cool to see. Some are really big, some are smaller, but they are everywhere.
Model of all of the pyramids

Uncovered section of the top of one of the pyramids
Looking down into the top of one of the pyramids
This is the biggest pyramid there. Unfortunately, it is starting to collapse.
We were also able to take a short walk behind the pyramids to old Mayan huts. It amazes me that people were able to build such sturdy huts out of such basic materials. I want one for my back yard.


Not only were there pyramids, but there were at least 100 alpacas/llamas running around there. The entire herd of them came up to our group at one time, sometimes running, and everyone stood there more excited than ever with these strange creatures. I mean come on, it's not every day that you get to see an alpaca ;). Our directors were giving out handfuls of salt to everyone to feed the animals so everyone was able to get up close and personal.


STOP #3: The equator!
Yes! I've been to the equator and it was just as hot as you are probably thinking (despite the fact I was wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans). Here, the sun shines down perpendicularly and it SO strong. Even with sunscreen on I can get burnt after being outside for half an hour.There was a stone line there for us all to marvel at and take pictures. Some of the pictures were creative and some were goofy, but all of them gave us something to show off to everyone looking at them.                                                



Our whole BCA group on the equator

The monument is a giant sun-dial!

STOP #4: The market (what Otavalo is known for)
Well, I spent a lot of money here. The market is HUGE and takes up so much of street. Every day, the indigenous people living here wake up in the mornings, set up their table and sell the things they make all day until they need to take everything down. As soon as we walked to the market our money was out and we were ready to buy everything from jewelry to scarves, dolls to tapestry and instruments to backpacks. They have EVERYTHING and it all was so pretty and colorful. We were told that we should barter because they knew we were more likely to pay more than others who live there since we don't really know how much it should cost even though the prices seemed reasonable as it was.

Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have of the market. This place is also very known for pick-pocketers so we didn't want to bring out our cameras once we were more focused on what to buy next.

We were so hungry after shopping at the market. Daniel had promised us that we would go out for pizza at a little restaurant a few blocks from our hostel so we patiently waited for everyone to finish up at the market. We walked to the little restaurant where we all sat down together, filling up nearly half of the restaurant, and ordered our numerous pizzas. A group of three men came in with their guitars and drum and set up their own little stage right beside our tables. They started playing and singing and we couldn't help but move along to the beautiful and up-beat music of our Ecuadorian performers. Even though the pizza took fffoorreeeveerrr to come out, we were at least entertained.

After we had finished eating the very tasty pizza, we continued sitting there a while to listen to our live entertainment. Listening soon turned into head-bobbing and toe-tappin' which turned into free-style dancing which somehow turned into doing the train around our tables. I'm not sure how the other customers felt about it, but I know we had a blast and the trio thoroughly enjoyed our participation. I liked it so much I even bought a CD.

STOP #6: Another (beautiful) hostel
The evening ended at yet another hostel. If you ever come down here, don't be afraid to get a hostel for the night. They are cheap (I think this one was $8 a night) and they can be beautiful like this one. Some are sketchy but that is usually for the $5 a night ones. At this hostel, the rooms were all brightly colored, there were hammocks, and there was a complimentary breakfast.

When we returned from our pizza party, a group of us went down to the opening by the hammocks and sat around the fire. At first it was just easy-going conversation but then it quickly turned into ghost stories including Japanese legends about creepy women crawling across the floor and real-life stories about, well I won't say the real life ones because I want to save you from a sleepless night. Any who... for those of you who don't know me, I do not handle these things very well. I was originally supposed to share a room with Michelle, but since she was already asleep in the dark room, I was a little freaked out and was afraid of finding a man hiding under my bed with a knife (seriously, they were the freakiest stories ever). Instead, I slept in Nicole, Hilary and Elizabeth's room, with Nicole in her single bed on the top bunk. She was freaked out too so it was fine. Not only that but we decided to sleep with the little lamp on. After talking about happy thing for an hour or so, we finally went to bed. I think we were all just about asleep when one of our phones beeped and woke everyone up...the lamp was off. Ugh, so the panic continued. It turns out that the power for the whole hostel went out for whatever reason. In the end, we all survived the night.

We all had to wake up early the next morning for another jam-packed day of activities and visits, but I am going to stop here for now. Until next time...
I have to say that none of these pictures are mine. I actually forgot to take my battery out of my charger and didn't have my camera all weekend. With that said, thank you to everyone who took these pictures and I hope you don't mind that I stole them.