The Wonders of a Bucket List

After completing my reflective post about being halfway through the program last week, I started to get inspired and excited to do all of those things. It was bucket list time. So I started a note on my phone with all the exciting things that remain yet un-done, un-tasted, un-felt for me in this vibrant country. This basically re-affirmed for me the power of words, which I have long believed strongly in, because as soon as I wrote down the things I wanted to to it upped the pressure for me to actually do them all, and made me excited for them. The highlights include: climb Pichincha the (inactive) volcano for which this province is named, explore the adorable parks, coffee shops and international movie theaters in the neighborhood, and broad things like try all the typically Ecuadorian food I have not yet tasted that isn't meat (we shall see how that goes-this place has an astounding variety of foods) and visit all the nearby attractions I have not yet seen.

Tuesday, Sarah and I checked off one of the things when we met for chai at one of the aforementioned cute coffee shops in the afternoon. We are thinking of making it a routine.

The rest of the week was rather uneventful. We watched a movie called "El cartero de Neruda" in Spanish class on Wednesday (I think it was) about the Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's political exile in Italy and the friendship that developed between him and his post boy. As part of the weekly quiz on Friday we had to write a review of it and either recommend it (or not) to our friends, so here goes: it was a well done drama that "vale la pena verla" which is a wonderful Spanish saying that literally means: "it's worth the pain to see it" which despite how odd and extreme it sounds when you translate it to English, is a widely used saying meaning more logically translated: "its worth it"

Friday we went as a class to "El Museo de la Ciudad" where we went through well put together exhibits depicting Ecuadorian history through the ages. Afterwards, I stayed to do some research about the mural that I have to write 2000 words about by this Wednesday with the compañero with whom I went to see the soggy mural last week. I found one frustratingly general paragraph that actually talked about the mural in the four large books I consulted. Alas alas. I had no trouble finding my way back to school this time though, because I didn't even try to mess with the buses, and just got straight into a taxi. I was worried about arriving 10 minutes late to Rodolfo's class, but when I met him in the elevator going up, I was less worried!

The floor of the Museo de la Ciudad
The floor of the "Museo de la Ciudad" that looks like a colonial city
The view from the museum's balcony
The view from the museum's balcony

We (Sarah, Tyler, James and I) were planning on going on the all-volunteer groups camping trip that weekend. We had very little information, but we heard mural painting and camping, so we were in. We had heard we were leaving at 5 pm (we later found out that Rodolfo misread 15:00 as 5:00…) so my plan was to run home and grab my stuff after class, then embark from there. We got a message at about 3:20 that the bus was leaving at 3:30. We were in the middle of getting all the information about our upcoming trip to Yasuní scientific research station in the Amazonian rainforest, so we couldn't really leave early, plus I didn't have my stuff…At 4 I dashed home, shoved my remaining things in a bag, and took a taxi back by 4:30ish, but the bus had already left. So I went with some other late comers in the coordinator's truck (slightly scary, since he was in a HURRY. There were definitely moments when we were passing several cars at once, speeding by them all in the wrong lane…) but even though we stopped to buy some butter, we still arrived before the buses. We showed up to a semicircle of 13 traditional A shaped tents. There were 120 of us. I was placed in "carpa numero tres" with a leader and 5 other girls, which was a tight squeeze, let me tell you! I think we might all have been able to lie on our backs and have room for all those shoulders, if we were touching, the guys who had 9 to a tent on the other hand were certainly not as lucky.

The weekend as a whole pretty much felt like a strange mix of New Student Orientation at college, and my beloved Kamp Kenwood, except volunteering style…Friday night was a lot of goofy get-acquainted with your tent games, then some very solemn announcements about how important the work we were about to do was, and how we were the people who were going to save the world. Tyler and I decided, it was a BIT over-dramatized, but anyway. We met some cool people, and had some nice guitar circle sing-alongs to songs that none of us from the states knew, and did some dancing and performing of silly skits (I told you it was like camp!) I did have a pretty good translation mix up somewhere along the way too. I was translating the story of a fellow exchange student from another university who got robbed near school by two guys with big knives who jumped out of a taxi in broad daylight…except in my version of the story they pulled out two huge SPOONS, instead of knives (cuchara=spoon while cuchillo=knife…now I won't forget anymore!) providing a mental image to my listeners that was rather more comical than menacing…

Camping selfie
Silly camping selfie with our new friend Carol when we realized we randomly had internet in the middle of the campsite.

We rose early on Saturday, did some wake-up exercises, then got some breakfast, did an activity about social justice/responsibility and volunteerism, then headed to the buses that took us to the school where we began painting. I was assigned green. And then blue-nothing fancy, or artsy, but that was alright with me, got to chat with some new people as we methodically and meditatively re-colored the peeling cinder block walls with fresh springy colors.

Painting the school wall (1)
See all that green? I helped paint all that
Painting the school wall (2)
And allll that…

Sunday was a day of pomp and circumstance about how wonderful it was that we were volunteering (seriously, you would have thought that we had all dedicated a year of our lives to curing cancer or something, from the way they kept going on about it!) after breaking up into group discussions about the Jesuit social responsibility (like the day before) we this time made posters, and allllll 13 tents presented (whilst I sunburned my face watching them all) but eventually we piled back into the buses and returned to Quito. I had a lovely chat with Carol about her art and her life, and Quito's culture, as Sarah and Tyler napped away behind us.

Upon arrival Sarah, Tyler and I left our sleeping bags in the volunteer coordinator's office, and took our filthy selves and large bags to get chinese food, then ice cream-a lovely post camping re-integration into city life. We then we split ways for some much needed bathing and relaxing before diving into another week.