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Immersing myself in Ecuador

Finding the way in Banos, Ecuador.

ECUADOR | Saturday, 26 January 2013 | Views [924]

I have spent the last week in a new and totally different environment from Montanita.  Banos is like an island.  Standing in the middle of town you can turn 360 degrees and see only mountains on all sides.  Lush green surrounds the town and the scenery is so magnificent I feel as though I am on a very elaborate movie set.  Everything is larger than life and seems to be so far away; yet anything you need or want to see is within a 30 minute stroll.  I've replaced the oppressive heat of the sun and refreshing ocean breeze with the gentle warmth of that same sun and fresh mountain air that revitalizes me.  I'm torn.  I absolutely love the water and the lifestyle of being at the beach but I've felt so clean and refreshed here.  


I have officially fallen in love with Ecuador.  I know I haven't experienced any other country on this voyage yet but I will have difficulty when it's time to leave.  I have also realized that if I were to settle and try to have a "real life" here it would not be living the way I am now.  I am catered to constantly.  I have not had to cook or clean for myself in 4 weeks.  Even my bed is made for me.  I am paying for all of this of course, if I were to have my own place and have to work for money it would be an entirely different perspective of life in South America.  Until then though, I am going to just go with it and love the life that I have afforded myself for now.


I left Montanita on a Sunday morning at 4:45 am via bus.  The bus brought me to Guayaquil and to the major transit station there.  I was supposed to buy a direct ticket to Banos but for some reason the ticket window for Banos was closed (of course).  I gave in and let one of the men who peddle to help lost foreigners find their way for a tip assist me in finding a window that would issue me a ticket.  The route I was assigned was not a direct one but it left right away, no sitting around in the bus station for hours waiting.  I tipped the man and got myself situated in a window seat with my pillows and light blanket.  I slept for most of the trip.  At every stop vendors selling food and drink would get on the bus and try to sell their goods.  As we left the city the people's clothing changed drastically from Aeropostle to the clothing of the indigenous people of that area.  The landscape also changed from the brown low hills of the coast to the high winding mountains.  


10 hours into my trip I had a moment of anxiety.  I had read that there was a scam with the buses where they would make you switch buses suddenly and the other bus would take you somewhere else or make you pay again for a route you had already paid for.  We were one stop away from Banos in the city of Ambato and they suddenly said anyone going to Banos had to get off and get on another bus heading there.  Fortunately a group of guys that had traveled the whole way with me from Guayaquil were just as suspicious and voiced all the questions I had.  We all got our luggage and transferred to the bus and ended up in Banos without problem.  


I was exhausted, felt dirty and very hungry.  I walked to the school where I was to start lessons the following Monday morning.  Unfortunately they were not expecting me until 7:00pm and I arrived at 4:30pm.  No one was there and I was too tired to try and find a phone and contact anyone.  There is a hostal a few doors down and I procured a room for the night.  Big bed.  HOT water for a shower.  WiFi.  TV.  Quiet and clean.  For $10.  They even had a travel shampoo for me to use.  The next morning the lovely lady who owns the place would not let me leave until I had guzzled down the fresh tomato juice she had just made.  I was a new woman when I arrived at the school that morning.


The Banos Spanish Center (http://www.spanishcenterschool.com) is run by a lovely woman named Liz.  Her home stay program is in her home and she shares breakfast and lunch with us in the house.  She forces the Spanish to come out of me and I have slowly lost the paralysis that my brain was suffering from before.  I still understand WAY more than I can communicate.  Everyone assures me that this is normal and I will soon be able to hold a conversation with fluent speakers about more than the weather, my name, and where I'm from.  I hope so. I am not surrounded by English speaking people here and therefore it is absolutely necessary to use my Spanish constantly.  I have no comfort zone to fall into and while it is mentally fatiguing I can actually feel my comprehension and ability to speak become stronger with the practice.


I suffered my first bout of illness this week.  Most miserable and lonely night ever.  Woke from a nap and felt feverish and ill.  I took an antibiotic and some tylenol but suffered an allergic reaction to the antibiotic and my fever became so high and unbearable I could barely move.  I piled the bed with comforters from the closet and suffered rigors so strong that the blankets kept shaking off the bed.  So horrible.  Hours of this left me so exhausted I could not even get up and tell my house mother Liz that I needed some attention.  Luckily, the fever broke in the middle of the night and I passed out until the morning.  I was able to go to school but 4 hours of lessons left me so tired I came home and wasted yet another day in bed.  I feel like I wasted 2 days and decided to extend my stay in Banos another week so that I can take advantage of all of the adventure opportunities here.  Jungle tours, volcano tours, massage and spas, weekend markets and indigenous food are too exciting to pass up.  


On Thursday night I experienced my first earthquake.  Strong enough to shake the house but nothing was damaged.  Liz ran downstairs and turned on the radio to make sure the volcano wasn't erupting.  She told us to go back to bed and if we needed to evacuate we would be leaving with her and her family.  Yikes.  


Last night I made a trip to the famous hot spring pools.  Las piscinas are filled with the murky yellow water that is not dirty but made up of minerals and is mixed with the cold water of the adjacent cascading waterfall.  I chose a horrible time to go.  I was told that the water is changed at 6pm and people like to go then.  I was also told to go at 5am and beat the crowds but being alone and not knowing the process I wanted to go and watch what other people do.  For $3 you are admitted and can change in the changing rooms provided and your items are kept in lockers with an attendant.  The one pool that is regulated to a comfortable temperature was filled with about 50 people.  Not exactly relaxing but I enjoyed sitting there and trying to understand everyone's conversations around me.  A nice man and his young son spoke with me very slowly and were encouraging with my attempt at conversation.  Other people starting smiling and listening to my faulty wording but they weren't malicious about it, I felt as though they were rooting for me.  After a while my brain was on overload from the heat of the pool and the constant translation that has to occur in my head to hold a baby sized conversation and I returned home.  


Well, this is one long blog and I haven't even done any of the normal touristy adventure tours yet!!  I suppose next week will be an update on those experiences.  I hope this finds everyone happy, healthy, safe and warm!!!


Here is a link to my pics on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151412781411900.527423.602156899&type=1&l=606dfc5079



Tags: banos, hot springs, illness, spanish school


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