(Featured Image is not by me – please help us with our Christmas campaign – GoFundMe)
The last time I volunteered for an extended time was in 2012, at Christopherus Orphanage (Semarang, Indonesia). Unfortunately I can’t seem to find my online blog of this experience. Christopherus orphanage is a female orphanage which facilitates orphans from kindergarten age until university age. They are from Semarang and the neighbour cities of Semarang in Indonesia. I was volunteering at the orphanage for five weeks to inspire and be inspired. My responsibilities were assisting the children in getting ready for school, their daily chores, preparing meals, cleaning and assisting them with their homeworks. I also had the opportunity to teach them basic English, build relationships, share stories and hopefully I have inspired them in some small way.
It was an experience that changed me, the way I live, and the trajectory of my life.
Thoughts and reflections before I start my eight weeks volunteering in Quito, Ecuador.
A few months ago when life was going well (or so I thought) something raised up to the surface, I felt the rat-race of Sydney was suffocating me, but at the time I had Canberra as my temporary escape every so often. I thought my career has reached a point of comfort and happiness, but then I thought what am I doing? Then a personal attack on me at work became the final nail on that coffin.
Things that happened many months ago were leading me to this path, things continue to fall into place like they all meant to be, confirmations after confirmations, this is what I need to do – everything has a purpose or a lesson.
Why not volunteering with children again? I have done it and I’ve learned what I needed to learn. Furthermore, in 2016’s TEDxSydney, I had the opportunity to listen to Tara Winkler passionately shared “Why we need to end the era of orphanages” (must watch: TEDxSydney). While not all orphanages are as described, this is the majority, we must end voluntourism! Use the kindness of your heart by supporting and donating to organisations that focus on improving the quality of families, micro-finances, and ultimately ending poverty.
In Quito, I will be volunteering my time in an NGO’s office of UBECI Foundation; I am hoping to understand the inner-working of NGOs, and learn whatever I can. I will also attend a Spanish class hoping to improve my broken Spanish.
Sunday 29th October 2017. The 5am miracle started with only two hours sleep, not responding to four set of alarms, woke up only because of the honking downstairs – it was my airport pick-up. Finished packing, brushed my teeth, and ran downstairs – all in less than 10 minutes.
Arrived at the airport at 6am half-asleep, perhaps still intoxicated from the night before (two Austrians and one Australian walked into a bar to celebrate our last night in Peru), and somehow I managed to waltzed through the priority check-in.
I thought I was having 13 soles breakfast then realised everything in Lima’s international airport is in U$. Thirty minutes free WI-FI to tell my loved ones I’m alive and on the way to Ecuador.
Arrived in Quito feeling exhausted, saw my name at the arrival hall, about 45 mins drive to my host family with another South American’s race-car diver (they go about 25km above the speed-limit) and the lack of GPS means that we got lost. Pro-tip: tell the drivers a landmark relative to where you need to be; in Lima, my taxi driver didn’t even know where Lima’s biggest art museum was.
My host-mother, Marlene, is friendly and kind, showed me my room and I retired for the afternoon. I woke up shivering and before I can snuggle under ten layers of blankets I thought I should take a shower; I was shocked by the freezing cold water in the shower! Before I break down and cry, I whipped out my baby wipes and tried to clean myself as much as possible. I slept for a few more hours then it was time for dinner. I met the rest of my host-family, the father Orlando, the daughter Anita and the son Nico. The daughter is studying journalism and we had a good chat in English. The younger son showed me his superheroes collection, and my Spanish was good enough for him.
Good news – the water is not normally freezing cold (it is normally just cold) the hot water system was broken and it should be fixed within 24 hours. In Ecuador, they use electrical hot water systems, and I will need to learn the art of express shower. I will need to find a hairdresser to wash my hair once a week – I know you are judging me right now but have you seen the thickness and length of my hair – it’s usually a laborious hour of effort to wash and dry.
I thought I was escaping Sydney’s extended winter spell but I have thrown myself into additional weeks of coldness, and without the luxury of a heather.
I’m slowly adjusting; “despacio” on the road means “go faster” in Peru & Ecuador (totally being sarcastic here – I’m sure Justin Bieber have told you what “despacio” means) so similarly, I will have to go faster in adjusting to the lifestyle here.
Monday 30th October 2017. Today was the orientation day with two other volunteers; one girl will be teaching English for two weeks and one guy will be doing NGO support for six weeks. Our day ended with a tour of the local neighbourhood, there is no map as this is the suburban area (good luck to me!); North of Quito is the business district also known as the gringo district as that’s where most of the tourists and foreigners are, Old Town Quito is the touristic area (a map is available), and South Quito is the family area (this is where I’m staying and volunteering).
Tuesday 31st October 2017. Before we start our volunteering time in the office, we were exposed to one day at the market where all the hard work is. I am volunteering for UBECI Foundation (website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn), the only NGO in South Quito working with underprivileged children; the organisation focuses on providing education, health supports, and play time for children aged 1 to 17.
It was an exhausting day; we carried the equipment (including toys, books and tents) on the bus for about 45 minutes, set it up in the car-park of the market (it’s a different market everyday), and kids were running to the teachers and volunteers with the biggest smiles on their faces. The day started with a bit of education then followed by games. The afternoon group is bigger than the morning group because there are kids that do have the privilege to attend schools in the morning. They are taught hygiene by washing their hands and faces before study and play. They are taught to be tolerant to each other by sharing toys, there are arts and crafts, ball games, and most importantly they are taught to be kids.
Wednesday 1st November 2017. Today is the first day of what my days will be like for the next eight weeks. Two hours of a Spanish class in the morning, WiFi time (there is none at home), lunch then 4 hours of administrative tasks; Tuesday to Friday. The weekends are for exploring Quito and surrounding towns and mountains.
Thursday 2nd November 2017. Today is a public holiday in Ecuador to celebrate All Souls’ Day when all cemeteries are open for the day. I spent the day having one of the most delicious BBQ and choclo con queso (corn cobs with cheese) to celebrate Geo’s uncle’s birthday.
Then I found out that “no hot water in Quito” is a lie! Thank you to Geo’s generous family, I had a good hot shower, and I managed to wash my hair too.
Friday 3rd November 2017. Today is also a public holiday in Ecuador to celebrate Independence of Cuenca. We spent the morning in La Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), lots of scientifically fun things to do that made my heart flipped and cartwheeled. We cracked an egg that was meant to stand on a nail – this is scientifically possible because gravity is the strongest on the equator line than any other place on Earth.
For lunch, I learned to suck a small juicy mango – it’s very fibrous so it’s not for eating. Then we ate bananas only 5 seconds after they were plucked from the tree.
I was standing on both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere; someone actually figured out this line before any modern technology. We can be in two places at once – I can be a person of balance, both introvert and extrovert, both nerdy and cray cray, I can love both quietness and parties, I’m a hurricane and a sunshine; I’m one who can’t be stereotyped.
As much as I want to settle down, I don’t. “I don’t want to settle down with you. I want to take off with you – to far-away countries, foreign landscapes…” – a quote from a book I was recently reading.
A bit more from that chapter from Heidi Priebe’s book, “…When I strap on a backpack and head to the airport, I want you to be boarding that plane with me. You’re the person I want to get lost with, set up camp with, stumble through dark streets with at 5am after a long, rambunctious night in a city that we can’t pronounce the name of.”
Oh and I videotaped how water flushes differently on different side of the world; Australia and Ecuador.
Saturday 4th November 2017. Being away from home, without the usual comforts, I’ve come to realised what’s the most important to me. It’s not a comfortable bed or bedroom because I’m currently living in a bedroom of two bunk beds and I wake-up with sore neck but not physio-sore yet. It’s not about fancy restaurants because I’m really craving for the street food people are not letting me buy. It’s not about make-up because I’m on moisturiser and sunscreen only; my eyebrows need a bit of attention though. It’s not about expensive cars because I just rode in the back of a ute with 8 other adults & children. The most important thing to me is a long hot shower where I can scrub my whole body and thoroughly clean my hair – that’s about the extent of my must-have comfort.
One of the many benefits of being adopted by a local family (thanks Geo for lending me your family) is being able to swim under a waterfall that is within a private property, and finally able to eat on the side of the road in a tent restaurant.
I’m enjoying Pedro Vicente Maldonado, the place where you put both sunscreen and mosquito repellent regularly – lots of mosquito repellent at night!
Enjoying the sunset from a rooftop; not a rooftop balcony or bar, we literally climbed onto the house’s rooftop. The view is just breathtaking.
Sunday 5th November 2017. Lazy day Sunday. We missed the church service my host family (for the weekend) usually attend. Instead, I’m practicing my Spanish, the family is so gracious by using simple words, speaking slowly, letting me use single words and not sentences, and correcting my Spanish graciously.
Monday 6th November 2017. After a few days of hot showers, I’m back to cold showers at the host-family’s house. I started the day with trying to sort out my local SIM card for some internet at home so I can Facetime my adorable nephew. Then I ventured out to North Quito by catching a trole; a trole is a long bus attached to cables like a tram with specific stops like a train. On the way home, I realised I didn’t see the destination so I got off after one stop but unfortunately the next one was extremely full, and the next one too – squashed like sardines.
Tuesday 7th November 2017. Back to the routine; Spanish class in the morning, lunch, then work, work, work.
At some point I may have to give up on finding an Australian organisation/foundation that may provide aids/grants to a Latin America NGO. Most of the ones I have found are based in U.S. and U.K.
Wednesday 8th November 2017. Spanish class is getting tougher with four pages of homework. Today was proven to be exhausting with a terrible sleep last night – I managed to have a dream within a dream, being strangled and nothing less, and I was trying to wake myself. My roommates woke up but didn’t wake me up but patiently listened to my screaming/crying – I have told them to wake me up next time – I thought I was going to die.
In the office, one of the other volunteers told me the meaning of dying in a dream – interesting.
I cleaned the spreadsheet for aids/grants previously investigated, contacted or applied for, and not surprisingly my inner-process-manager took over and created a workflow for the spreadsheet. I created a process for following-up on organisations and foundations previously contacted – it is challenging to maintain contacts when on average the volunteers are only here for 4 weeks.
Thursday 9th November 2017. Four hours of work doesn’t go a long way when there is plenty to read; we need to determine whether or not a grant is suitable for UBECI, moreover whether or not our values and goals are aligned to those values and goals held by the foundation we are applying the grant from.
Friday 10th November 2017. Applied for another grant today; I think my rate of applying grants is one per week.
After work, a bunch of us went to La Ronda which is a street of restaurants and bars,
Salsa and Latino music – Descpacito and Bonita. The girls felt like a session of karaoke and somehow we impressed a table to leave; it’s not a private karaoke room like in Sydney but rather a room with tables, we ordered songs on a piece of paper, the lyrics come on against a video on climate change (…I know!) , one huge speaker, one microphone and a bunch of screaming girls.
Saturday 11th November 2017. Pass on the knowledge and experience – learn how to get bus tickets and catch the bus. That’s one of the benefits of volunteering for young people traveling alone; the volunteers who have been here longer showing the ropes.
Armed with three other volunteers, I ventured out on 3hr bus ride to Baños. During the bus ride, my thoughts were:
- How will I do a 10hr bus ride to Cali, Colombia? I need another person to look after my bags while I visit the bathroom
- How do they charge U$4.50 for a 3hr comfortable bus ride? It was a coach with WiFi & a toilet.
It’s all relative, right? If both breakfast and 3hr bus ride cost the same as it is in Ecuador, Sydney to Canberra bus ride should cost about $10, and not over $40.
Sunday 12th November 2017. Our first day in Baños was a massage and a visit to Casa del Arbol. Now, second day is much more exciting. After a morning of a quite rushed tour of waterfalls in Baños (the highlight was Cascada Manto de la Novia and Cascada del Diablo), we did a 2hr white-water rafting.
I have written this before, my fear of height have disappeared, and today I realised my fear of drowning have disappeared too. We were rafting from 10am until 12pm, I remember holding tight to a rope on my first rafting trip, and with similar fear on my 2nd & 3rd. On this trip, I figured if I’d go overboard, there’s a whole boat of people who will try to rescue me, including the guide, and another guy on a kayak; everyone with ropes. Heck, I’m wearing a life vest! Float with your feet up and facing the water-flow.
I’ll be fine.
The girl in front of me fell half-way-overboard, I grabbed her life vest and we are all good. I thought that’s it for the trip – there has to be at least one from every boat, from every trip. Hold and behold, 3mins before we reach our finish line, grade 5 rapids (although our guide trying to tell us it was a grade 7… I think it was more of a grade 4 or 4+) and the boat was tipping over to the left and everyone was ready to just accept that we are flipping over. The lesson here is don’t just accept it, the people on the right-handside were meant to put extra weight to the right. Fortunately it was just me. One tip before you try rescue someone, make sure your hands are free (store away your tools and weapons); slightly bruised nose – nothing is broken. Other damages include sore butt from smacking a rock on a slide across a river and sore arms from the “…más fuerte!” paddling. Our guide screamed that for the whole trip.
Staying another right for a bigger bed, my own bathroom and listening to my own voice. Strong hot water to wash my hair. I have no energy for 3hr bus today after yesterday’s I’m-almost-sick bus ride.
Monday 13th November 2017. Slept-in, had a complete breakfast (omelette, empanada, latte & juice) at a local cafe near the market for U$6 while the cafe near the hostel charged us U$5 for tea and cookies.
People watching and listening to locals – my ears need lots of practice! Most of the non-locals I’ve met in the last 3 days spoke a good Spanish in the short-time they have been in Ecuador.
Since I’m staying in a hostel (a private room & bathroom – life’s little luxury), the people I’ve met are young and have been traveling for a while or about to embark on a long journey (pun intended). There was a couple who met here in Baños, joined by their love of alcohol and other things; they did Finance and Management then realised they need the year off to realise what they want.
Tuesday 14th November 2017. Making some progress with grant applications, I have applied for two grants, each took almost a week lapse-time because some of the information required are not available in one place or I had to recreate the numbers in a format that is required. Before any applying activities, I must research and research – lots of reading.
Wednesday 15th November 2017. Planning for my time in Colombia, after Christmas, is proving to be challenging. The Colombian cities are far apart, my options are plane (expensive) or bus (10-20 hours), where are the trains?
At work, I created a one-page of “How Can I Help?” for ex-volunteers; mostly simple activities via social media platforms.
Thursday 16th November 2017. Spanish class feels a little long today, maybe because I haven’t had enough time to practice (a.k.a. do my homework). The key challenge is the lack of WiFi at home because one crazy bureaucracy where the volunteer organisation won’t allow the family to give us access/password with the excuse of “domestic internet”; it doesn’t stop some people from obtaining access though. For the record, domestic internet’s speed is sufficient. The dangerous part is that after dinner, in the dark, some volunteers would head to the mall to use the free internet.
The craziest part is that WiFi was advertised as a feature for the accomodations.
I have been missing out on my daily Duolingo session, as well as the YouTube video homework from the Spanish teacher – my listening skill is horrendous.
At work, I’m working on creating roles for volunteers; clarity is needed for both UBECI and the volunteers. At the moment, admin volunteers would come in, look at a list of activities and do as they wish day-to-day, the chosen activities may or may not be the most urgent for the organisation. The same activities may be done by multiple people, and the least sexy activities done by no one. The roles will be based on social media, grant research and application, university liaison, businesses liaison, and finance reports; and UBECI Director will let the incoming volunteers know which role is most urgent, and the subsequent roles.
Friday 17th November 2017. As we are approaching Christmas, it means that more volunteers are finishing up their time at UBECI, to return to their families. Last Friday we said goodbye to Chloe and Amy, and today we are saying goodbye to Robert and Carter; it’s another night in La Ronda.
Saturday 18th November 2017. This weekend was an experience of painful ears and struggling to suck-in oxygen, it was an experience of Cotopaxi. I wanted to give up every three minutes but then I remembered what one of my diving instructors said, go up one metre and acclimatised for two minutes so I stopped after every 10 metres. I did eventually arrived at the refuge centre – at 4823m high!
Before Cotopaxi happened, we caught the wrong trole (it’s like a tram and a bus), had to back track a little, arrived at the correct bus interchange, caught a bus, got drop-off in the middle of a highway near the entrance – even though Cotopaxi is a popular destination, there isn’t a bus going there directly. It was about another 10 mins walk to the entrance so we accepted a ride from who we thought was a tour guide; we eventually figured out that he wasn’t a proper guide so we pretty much paid too much for essentially a driver. After the climb, we got drop-off in the middle of the highway again, stopped a bus, arrived at another bus interchange, caught a bus to Quilotoa and we were told it’s one town away from our accommodation in Chugchilan and we would be able to catch a taxi for $10. The bus actually stopped one town before Quilotoa therefore our taxi will be $20, but we managed to bargained it down to $12.
After all the challenges, we arrived at the Hostal Cloud Forest and were in time for the 7pm communal dinner – it is such a good idea to connect travellers.
Sunday 19th November 2017. We were told that Quilotoa is still an active volcano, it last erupted on 1218, and now the crater is filled with water. The hike down to the crater was steep and challenging. We got there eventually, enjoyed a rather expensive chicken BBQ (for Ecuador) then a 30-min kayak around the lake – or as far as you can paddle. It was lots of fun with a tiny bit of fear as the wind gained speed.
On the way back up, we rode a horse. I am not trying to prove my strength or the lack of – even the horses were struggling, they were panting and sweating. The horses were whipped with a tree branch every few minutes, it breaks my heart a little, and I finally figured out that if I make small noises, my horse would move before the guide whip her backside.
Monday 20th November 2017. After the 6am bus from Chugchilan to Latacunga then another bus from Latacunga to Quitumbe, then trole from Quitumbe to Recreo – we are home!
Got my nails done with pretty designs for U$5 (including manicure). Then I got my eyebrows threaded for U$8. I finally feel a bit more feminine especially since I did wash my hair yesterday during a rare 30min HOT shower.
Tuesday 21st November 2017. Two of us got into trouble for carefully reading the volunteer agreement. The Director asked why we were not at the 8:30am Tuesday meeting, we said that we were told by the volunteer coordinator that it was required for our first week, and we haven’t attended the subsequent Tuesdays. Our volunteer agreement says that if we wanted to go to the markets and work with the children, we must attend the 8:30am Tuesday meeting – well… we have not been going to the markets. The intention of that particular line was actually that all volunteers must attend the meeting, and the additional consequence for market volunteers is that they won’t be able to go to the markets if they don’t attend.
Guess what I had to do today… I had to re-write the agreement with additional clarity; also to remove the niceness in which the agreement was written. I have made it more succinct and clear. The original intention or meaning were lost when 100 words were used instead of 10 words that could had clearly articulated the intention.
Today’s joke was that the agreement was originally written by a Canadian; I was told by a Canadian that everything is “nice” in Canada.
Wednesday 22nd November 2017. Today was my first day without a Spanish class; I worked in the morning and then free time after 12:30pm. I head out to the city to get lost. But first, I was hungry and Mercado Central was just the perfect place. Is it me or is it everything here is either very salty or very sweet?
After randomly turning into streets and alleys, I stumbled upon the Carondelet Palace (Presidential Palace), and there was a tour starting in 10 minutes. It was very interesting to learn about the past and present presidents, the constitution, the usual gifts received from other countries, and to experience the podium where the president would address the public.
Recreated the Absence Request Form today.
Edited the Volunteer Handbook to ensure consistent language, consistent format, and added clarity. This is one of the many challenges within the administrative team – consistency across the volunteers that are here for a week or a month.
Thursday 23rd November 2017. We had an interesting discussion in the office today; we were asked to create another paper form for admin volunteers to complete on their last day. This manual paper form is in addition to the spreadsheet we already complete with tasks we completed on daily basis.
We concluded that some of the challenges are:
- Admin volunteers without any administrative experiences
- Admin volunteers not completing the spreadsheet and therefore the director has no visibility of tasks completed or outstanding
- The organisation’s comfort zone is within paper forms
- Lack of volunteers for administrative tasks (I will be by myself for 2 weeks then it doesn’t look like there is anyone after me, after Christmas)
Tomorrow is the last day for two of my roommates, Reagan and Camille, so instead of a Friday night visit at La Ronda, we spent our last night together at Pim’s Panecillo. The restaurant is fancy with a great view of Quito’s lights and eventually fogs.
Friday 24th November 2017. Instead of going to Esmeraldas this weekend, I will be heading to Otovalo. I was initially not interested in Otavalo as it is another town of markets, another town of souvenirs but I guess I can do another hike, another volcano and another crater. The alternative was the complexity of going to Esmeraldas: buy a bus ticket in advance by going to the bus stop (30mins away), bring my own bedsheets as we were staying at a friend’s apartment, then 12 hours bus ride – all that for a beach that is not more beautiful than Bondi. Or Galapagos.
Trying to revamp the volunteers’s exit interview/survey; my first question is what are we getting out of these questions?
Saturday 25th November 2017. By now I should know that a “plaza” means a square instead of thinking of an actual building. Our question of where the Plaza de Ponchos is was met with laughters as we are IN IT. Plaza de Ponchos in Otavalo is a sure-way to be overwhelmed by ponchos; ponchos are everywhere, turn right and left and right to be lost in a sea of ponchos. Saturday is the biggest market day. Street food tempting our stomachs at every corners.
The sun was still up so we ventured out to Cascadas de Peguche, a small waterfall near Otavalo town, 5mins by taxi or less than an hour walk. Wind and water equals soaking wet, with the dilemma of no change of clothes; packing light means the jeans I’m wearing is the only pants I have for the weekend. By some sun-miracle, my jeans dried up by the time we head back to town. No guides, blogs or humans told me to bring mosquito-repellent so I was their dinner tonight.
Sunday 26th November 2017. This morning was an 8am be still, quiet and know.
Water flowing gently. Birds singing a song. Clouds briskly walking over the mountains. We were too early for the 9am boat ride around the crater, Laguna Cuicocha; another active volcano but with last eruption over 3000 years ago.
A bus from Otavalo to Quiroga ($0.25) then a taxi ride to Laguna Cuicocha ($3-5 depending on your negotiation skills).
You may or may not believe that everything happens for a reason but I’m one of those strong believers – everything happens for a reason or a lesson. We needed 10pax for the boat ride to start; there was 2 of us then a lady came, then before 9:30am, a group of 7 people came – the perfect 10!
The lady we met earlier did the “Wild Women” in Galapagos which included a 3-day kayaking in the ocean! Another superb inspiration of what my living younger will be like.
Monday 27th November 2017. I woke up early enough to say “hola” to sunrise and with the realisation of how much I really enjoy traveling solo. I have been more than blessed to do my weekend travels with other volunteers; I was always looking for someone to travel with. But being on the other side is when one realises that the grass is not greener on the other side. My craving to be alone is at its greatest at this point; it has been 4 weeks of being with people every single day.
Today is my visit the churches day. I started with a quiet reflection and prayer in a small peaceful chapel inside Santo Domingo.
A tour of Convento de San Francisco brought peace and awe, it has the same design and vibe as Convento de San Francisco in Lima. I enjoy sitting here in the quietness of its courtyard, just me. The courtyard boasts a variety of plants and birds as a reminder of life itself.
Compañía de Jesús is one beautiful church with a very rich history, ask for a tour (both in English and Spanish). It originally had 50kg worth of gold leaves/plating. The parts with shiny gold are restored parts, after the 1996 fire, and the dull parts are originals; it was interesting that they kept one of the 12 angels on the main ceiling darken with ashes as a reminder of the fire.
So it happened to be the start of the change of guards outside the church which is on the same street as the Carondelet Palace (Presidential Palace) . It’s every Monday and it’s an event! Lots of people in the park and I secured a seat in Fabiolita for a lunch of lamb stew and a glass of narajilla juice. Managed to hear the presidential address from the same podium and balcony I took photos from last week; I stood there imagining what it would had been like to address the masses.
Tuesday 28th November 2017. I want to practice my Spanish but with English-speakers in the office and at home, I’m borderline deciding to forego what I’ve paid for food and accommodation for the next 4 weeks, and move in with Geo’s family; simply so that I can practice my Spanish speaking and listening.
It is a difficult decision for me but I know exactly what FC would say I should do.
Currently reading AFR’s Philanthropy 50, researching for more Australian foundations that may provide funding/grants overseas, especially to South America.
In my effort to be alone, I went to Plaza Foch and spent a few hours reading at Republica del Cacao; it was recommended to me as the place to be (i.e. where cool people hang) but it was quiet and peaceful enough for me to finally finish We by Yevgeny Zamyatin.
Wednesday 29th November 2017. I did what I absolutely love – take photos! I went to the market this morning and took photos of the children and their market activities; for future usage of the website and social media platforms
Thursday 30th November 2017.
Friday 1st December 2017.
Saturday 2nd December 2017. Telefrico. City.
Sunday 3rd December 2017. Churches. Museums
Monday 4th December 2017.
Tuesday 5th December 2017
Wednesday 6th December 2017. Saying hola Galapagos.
Thursday 7th December 2017. Galapagos.
Friday 8th December 2017. Galapagos.
Saturday 9th December 2017. Galapagos.
Sunday 10th December 2017. Galapagos.
Monday 11th December 2017. Galapagos.
Tuesday 12th December 2017. Saying adios to Galapagos.
Wednesday 13th December 2017.
Thursday 14th December 2017.
Friday 15th December 2017.
Saturday 16th December 2017.
Sunday 17th December 2017.
Monday 18th December 2017.
Tuesday 19th December 2017. Last week in UBECI.
Wednesday 20th December 2017.
Thursday 21st December 2017.
Friday 22nd December 2017. Saying adios to UBECI.
Saturday 23rd December 2017.
Sunday 24th December 2017. Merry Christmas to my Australian and Indonesian friends and families who are one day ahead.
Monday 25th December 2017. Merry Christmas to my friends on this side of the world.
Tuesday 26th December 2017.
Wednesday 27th December 2017. Hola Colombia!
Places to eat:
- There wasn’t any favourite in South of Quito
- Las Corvinas de Don Jimmy (TripAdvisor) on the first floor of Mercado Central near one of the exits – for $5, fried Corvina fish, potatoes, and prawn ceviche
- Pim’s Panecillo (TripAdvisor)
- Cafeteria Fabiolita (TripAdvisor) – lamb stew
Places to visit:
- Pedro Vicente Maldonado – 3hr bus ride from Quito
- Cotopaxi – a 1hr bus ride from Quitumbe station (Quito) to the park entrance ($1.50) – the bus’s final destination is Latacunga
- Quilotoa – a 3hr bus ride from Quito ($4) or 2hr bus ride from Latacunga ($2.5)
- Chugchillan – another 30min taxi ride from Quilotoa ($10); there isn’t much to do in town but the hostel is the best one around – Hostal Cloud Forest
- Otavalo – a 2hr bus ride from Quito ($2.50)
- Laguna Cuicocha – a 20min bus from Otavalo to Quiroga ($0.25) then a taxi ride to Laguna Cuicocha ($3-5 depending on your negotiation skills).
- Cascadas de Peguche – a 10min taxi ride from Otavalo ($2.00)
- Mercado Central – a market in the city for food, fruits, vegetables and meat
- Carondelet Palace (Presidential Palace) – a good insight of past and present presidents, and a good experience to stand on the podium where the president would address the public
- Iglesias de Santo Domingo – free entrance
- Convento de San Francisco – $2.50 entry fee with a tour guide or you can wander alone
- Iglesias de San Francisco – free entrance
- Compañía de Jesús – $5.00 entry fee (plus $20.00 for the catacombs or all for $5 if you visit at night)
- Chugchilan/Quilotoa – Hostal Cloud Forest (TripAdvisor) – breakfasts and dinners were included, they were healthy (not fried) delicious food, both breakfast and dinners were three courses. Exceptional services to explain the hiking route, or by knowing that we will be catching a 6am bus, the staff made an effort to pack our breakfast, and searched and found us in the game room.