Can you believe that on my very last night at my volunteer placement two new volunteers arrived? Just my luck. But it’s time to look forward, for now that my volunteer work has come to an end for this trip, the rest of the vacation begins. This is another thing that is different about this trip—normally, my trips end with volunteer work. Beginning with volunteer work definitely has a different feel to it.
After my volunteer work, David arrived (yay!) and we spent our time exploring Old Town Quito, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its restored colonial architecture that dates back to the 1500s. Afterward, we headed to a nearby town called Otavalo, which is about two hours outside of Quito. It was nice to see the countryside and spend time in a less hectic environment—it was also a treat to avail ourselves of what the Otavalenians are most known for: their handicrafts (particularly their weavings). It is because of their skills that the Otavelenians are able to maintain a higher standard of living than all other indigenous people in the country.
So far, much of what I’ve seen of Ecuador reminds me strongly of Peru for obvious reasons (Ecuador borders Peru), but also for less obvious reasons. For example, I didn’t realize how closely the histories of the two countries were intermingled. In fact, Quito was an Incan stronghold until the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 1500s and subsequently conquered the Incas. After that, Ecuador was considered a “province” of Peru and ruled by the Spaniards from a governing body in Lima. It wasn’t until several centuries later (and after switching hands from Peru to Columbia) that Ecuador was finally liberated from Spanish rule. In addition to the Incan connection, Ecuador and Peru share indigenous roots with Quechuan (which is spelled Quichua in Ecuador), making up the vast majority of the indigenous population in both countries.
Suffice it to say that being in Ecuador feels a lot like deja vu. It reminds me so strongly of my time teaching English in Pumamarca—the little mountain village outside of Cuzco—that It feels like the five years that has passed since my Peruvian adventure was only five minutes, and being in Quito is just a continuation of a long thread.
Off to Manta in the morning for some sun, ocean, and maybe even some sightings of the famed blue-footed booby…