Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Visa Drama

These past few days have been a bit hectic on my end but I am glad things got resolved pretty quick. Remember I had applied for a tourist visa extension (12X) to get back into Ecuador after my initial 90 day stay? with the extension I was allowed to stay for another 90 days making it a total of 6 months. Tourists can only stay for a maximum of six months in Ecuador within a calendar year.

I assumed since my 12X visa expires in December I could just leave the country then come back in January and start afresh since it was a new year, wrong! I casually mentioned my plans to the folks I work with at the travel agency and they told me that it doesn't work that way. I would actually be allowed back to the country in December 2015 because immigration starts counting from the last day you left the country so if you max out your tourist stay here you will be allowed back a year later after departing Ecuador. I hope that explanation makes sense.

To say I was shocked is an understatement, I started panicking because this meant that all the plans we had made between my boyfriend and I would be totally messed up. I visited the immigration office and they confirmed that if I left Ecuador in December I would not be allowed back into the country until December 2015 so I would have to change my visa if I wanted to stay on for longer. The next best alternative as they advised would be to get a student visa.

I talked to the director of Cristobal Colon Spanish School  where I take my Spanish classes and he was very helpful since he has experience preparing paperwork for student visa applications and his school has a good track record with immigration. All he needed from me was a copy of my passport and my bank statement because I would need this as proof to immigration that I can support myself while living in Ecuador. He arranged all my paperwork and I was all set.

Today early in the morning I got all my stuff ready and headed to immigration feeling nervous as hell thinking if they reject my visa application I would have to come up with a back up plan pretty fast. I got there at 8:10 am and there was already a long line of people waiting to be tended to, the offices open at 8:00 am.

When I finally made it to the information desk so I could be assigned a number to be tended to, the lady at the desk looked at my paperwork and pushed them to the side saying I needed to be better prepared then called out the next person in line. Turns out I needed to stick my passport size photo on the corner of my paperwork and present everything in a binder folder. I looked around me and I swear there must have been more than 50 people waiting, I really didn't want to lose my spot on the line. Fortunately for me this one guard who was managing the lines offered to help me out. He used a glue stick that was at the reception desk to stick my photo on the corner of my paperwork and he directed me right outside the offices where there was a guy selling binder folders. Talk about enterprising folks! there were people selling folders, passport covers and there was even a guy who had set up a copy machine. I quickly bought a folder and the guard arranged everything for me before directing me to the front of the line so I would not lose my spot. I was so grateful to him, I finally got my assigned number and was sent to a different floor to see an immigration agent.

To cut a long story short, I presented my paperwork to the immigration agent who was training another guy so she was going over my paperwork keenly while explaining to him what documents they look for before accepting applications. When she came across the paperwork from my school she mentioned that it has a very good track record with immigration so they trust the documents but if it was another school that they were not familiar with then it might have been difficult to proof their validity. I paid $30 for the visa application at a cashier window located on the ground floor and after presenting my receipt to the immigration agent, everything was all set and she told me to come back on December 1st with my passport and $100 as payment for the student visa.

That's it folks, hopefully all goes well and I will have my student visa in place come December 1st. This visa will allow me 6 more months in Ecuador and I can travel back and forth if I so wish. 

Monday, November 24, 2014


If you want to have a very chill and relaxing time in Ecuador after doing quite a bit of site seeing and adventurous travel, Papallacta is the place to go. It is a small town that can easily be reached from Quito and although there really isn't much to do in the town, the various thermal baths and spas are the main attraction that pull crowds to Papallacta.

The travel agency I work for had a tour heading to Papallacta today so I decided to take advantage of the free travel opportunity and join in because I had never been to the town and I wanted to experience something new. The tour started early in the morning and before heading out of Quito we stopped by the area where the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellano started his expedition in search of the mythical city of El Dorado..........he ended up coming across the amazon river but that's another story for another day.

Anyway, the route to Papallacta is the route that Francisco Orellano took so that's why we stopped at the area where he started his expedition. My camera was acting up but I did manage to take a picture in front of a nearby church which was really pretty, I forgot the name of the church unfortunately.

When we got to Papallacta we made a stop at a view point to get an aerial view of Laguna Papallacta but there was such dense fog that we could barely see anything. It didn't seem like it was going to clear up anytime soon so we continued on to the thermal springs.

The area surrounding the thermal springs was very tranquil and pretty, it was drizzling and cold but that did not put a damper on anything. We took a short walk around learning about the local plants to be found and getting a little bit of history about the thermal springs which had been in use way before the Spanish arrived.

There were several organic farms around the area that supply produce to neighboring restaurants.

Entrance to the hot springs cost $8 for adults and you could stay inside for as long as you wanted. There were other cheaper neighboring hot springs that cost about $4 so you can chose where you want to spend your money.

The various pools had different temperatures and you could move around switching pools depending on your preference.

That's it folks, I am glad I was able to join this very chill tour. Since it was on a Monday the thermal springs were empty but I heard that over the weekends they get pretty full as people from Quito flood the area to relax in the pools. There were several spas around so if you really wanted to treat yourself you could indulge in some spa activities after enjoying the thermal springs. Indeed Papallacta is an ideal place to kick back and relax.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

It's one thing to visit a place and stay on for a short period of time as a tourist but living as a local, let's just say you get to notice and experience certain things that you never really paid attention to. Ecuador is beginning to leave a bitter taste for me.

I am experiencing extremely slow internet speed, I am just crossing my fingers that I get through this post without any drama.

I have gained a little weight thanks to all the cooking my boyfriend does. I met up with a friend this past weekend and she pointed out my weight gain, when I got back to the house I asked my boyfriend  if my body looked very different between now and when we first met. He looked at me with a sweet smile before taking a huge bite out of the sandwich he was eating, I know that strategy well so I laughed and told him I will be waiting for his answer after he is done chewing his food. Well, the answer was yes I have gained a little I really needed his confirmation, the things we do to ourselves. Anyway, after assuring me that I still looked good he offered to help me with my diet and this is the dinner he made for me. Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially on a diet.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Archaeological & Ecological Park Rumipamba

My Spanish teacher informed me that the school was planning an end of the week activity to a historical museum and asked me if I would be interested in coming along. To be honest with you, I am really not into museums so I was a bit hesitant to join in the excursion but I made up my mind to go ahead and join in when I heard her describing this so called historical museum. Her description sounded interesting so I figured why not.

Well, turns out it wasn't a brick and motor museum as I had assumed. We (other Spanish students and teachers) ended up at an archaeological site where excavations are still taking place up to this day but visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk around the area to see some of the findings and learn some history.

Rumipamaba park is located in what used to be a private hacienda in Quito. The archaeological site shows evidence of the existence of a civilization that was present way before and after christ, way before the Incas and during the Inca civilization. This gives you an idea of how old some of the findings really are and it is amazing that they even survived that long! there is definitely a lot of history to be found at this park. Unfortunately you will not learn all that history in this blog (feeling too lazy to go into too much historical detail) but you can enjoy the pictures and if you ever find yourself in Quito, you should definitely check out the place.

We got to learn about some of the flora and fauna that are to be found within the site.

We got to see some of the ruins that have been uncovered so far and got to learn a bit more about their historic significance. Not everything has been uncovered yet, it's still a work in progress.

An uncovered burial site with the remains left intact to give you an idea of how burial rituals and ceremonies were conducted back in those days. Is that skeleton spooky or what?

The area around the site was very tranquil and pretty, some parts looked like scenes from a fairy tale book, I am not kidding you. Pictures don't really do them justice.

We had a guide who was explaining stuff to us and he showed us what uses some of the plants in the area had. This particular plant he was describing was used to make shampoos, paste for cleaning teeth and was also used as a source of food. Talk about a multi tasking plant!

A replica of some of the houses that were used back in the day.

Inside one of the houses.

That's it folks, I am glad I got to join in on this excursion because the archaeological park turned out to be more interesting than I thought plus it was such a pretty area to walk around so that just enhanced the experience.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I was chatting with these ladies who work at the salon where I get my nails done and the topic of plastic surgery came up. I mentioned that I noticed plastic surgery seemed to be pretty big in Colombia as opposed to Ecuador and they all agreed. They were saying how a lot of Colombian women get plastic surgery to enhance their features and when they visit Ecuador the men go crazy over them, one of the ladies pointed at her butt and said, "you know most Ecuadorian women have no big butts so how can we compete with the beautiful Colombian women?" the other ladies nodded in agreement and said they would all get butt implants if they could afford it. I sat quietly and slightly wiggled my big old butt in it's appreciation, no implants needed on this end.

You know that courtship period between two people before the deal is sealed and they become a couple? well, in Spanish the word conquistar is used to describe courtship. In English I know it comes off really weird saying you are trying to conquer a girl. I was having a conversation with this other guy I work with and he was telling me how long it took him to woo his current girlfriend then he used the word conquistar, at first I was taken aback thinking, "huh? isn't that too strong a word to use in this case?" he explained to me how the word is used. By the way this dude introduces his girlfriend as his enamorada (the girl he is in love with). First time he introduced her to me and said that I was like, "huh? what century are we in?" but then again, what do I know? maybe it is common to introduce your significant other as such but I have never heard it before.

Sometimes you just have to wonder, if a policeman the man who's job is to protect and serve is looking at you in a leering manner, what chance do you really stand when it comes to reporting harassment? like really?

I can not tell you the number of stereotypes I have heard from Latinos about other Latinos from different Latin American countries, sometimes I am just left speechless. Apparently Colombians will kill you for $5 and are drug dealers, Ecuadorians are racist and very backward, Cuban men are gigolos, Dominican men are womanizers.........the list is endless, I usually chime in and say those are negative generalizations that can't be placed on everyone but some people are dead set on their opinions.

Speaking of stereotypes, it's amazing how certain bad habits are excused as "part of being Latino" what I'm I talking about? I have had conversations with local girls here and some will say things like, "Latino men cheat a lot but you know, Latinos are very passionate so that's why they can't help but sleep around." this one girl was telling me that her ex boyfriend used to openly ogle other women to the point of actually stopping in his tracks to check them out when they were out in public, she went ahead to make an excuse for that saying Latino men are by nature very hot blooded so it's hard for them to focus on one woman. Really??! Ooh! no honey, that's not part of being Latino that's just being disrespectful and uncouth. I think the macho culture is just so ingrained that men usually get away with a lot of bullshit because you know, that's just part of being "Latino." Yeah right!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Our First Hosting

Okay so I admit it, falling in love has not been so good for this blog because I have been consumed with other things and I have been staying put in one place so there goes my posts about different adventures in different places. Ooh! well, life happens. What can I say?

Don't worry, I will still be posting random stuff on here so I am not going to go totally MIA on you lovely folks that take time to stop by my blog to see what this crazy girl has been up to. Today I just felt like writing so here I am, it's 4 pm in Quito and it's raining cats and dogs outside while I am in the house feeling cozy and content after having had a very successful hosting. We are finally ready to start hosting people in our apartment so the first people we invited were my Ecuadorian host family, of course they had to be our first guests because they are like my second family in this country.

The boyfriend (Okay, I really have to come up with a better name for him) happens to love cooking so he decided he would be in charge of the menu and I would clean up and run little errands like dashing to the local tienda to buy certain ingredients he would need for cooking. Personally I don't like cooking so this arrangement served me just fine. Dude ended up making a feast without breaking a sweat and needless to say, my host family was awed and he earned major additional points. They loved the food and so did I!

The chow down.

Desert made from scratch, took care of my sweet tooth for sure!

That's it folks! it was a day well spent, we talked, laughed, the boyfriend was given a big stamp of approval and at the end of the day everyone had a good time. Later on after the guests had left and everything was cleaned up I realized I had forgotten to have my pictures taken with the crew, Aaargh! I had such a cute outfit on so it was a bummer but hey, there will be plenty more opportunities to have my picture taken.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Take Two - Otavalo Revisited

Thanks to my job/internship I get to take free trips once in a while just so I can familiarize myself with some of the tours we offer at the agency and be able to give in depth information to some of our clients on what to expect when taking certain tours.

I got to visit Otavalo a second time but this time around I saw more than I did when I first passed through the city on my way from Colombia. The first time I was in Otavalo the weather was a bit cold and rainy so I didn't have that much enthusiasm to explore more than the traditional market that's pretty famous with tourists and draws large crowds of people especially on Saturdays. 

I was glad I made a second trip to Otavalo because I got to see the surrounding areas and appreciate some of the sites I never got to see the first time around. As with most of our tours, this tour started in the morning and our first stop was at a view point in Lago San Pablo to take pictures of the lake below us. We did not get too close to the lake unfortunately but we could see it from a distant.

Okay, so I accidentally deleted the picture of the lake and ended up with another view next to it. I can't say the view of the lake was something to write home about so no worries, you are not missing much..........actually you are not missing anything.

Traffic was pretty bad because of road construction but we finally made it to Otavalo. It felt surreal being in the town a second time under very different circumstances.

Since it was on a Saturday the market was packed with people as you can see from the picture below.

The bread you see below was being sold in many stands and they looked so cute that I bought one to taste...........yeah, looks can be deceiving!

After visiting the market and having lunch we headed out to Peguche falls which is sacred to the local indigenous population. Cleansing ceremonies are usually held at the falls and the guide was telling me that if you get very close to the falls you can feel some energy but it all depends on how attune to nature you are.

The walk to the falls was very serene and pretty.

Later on we headed to Cotacachi which is like the place to get leather products on the cheap. There were so many shops selling leather products in the small town, any leather enthusiast would go crazy much to PETA's chagrin.

That's it folks, after Cotacachi we headed back to Quito. It was a full day tour and I am glad I was able to take part in it because I got to see new places that I hadn't seen before. I am enjoying these perks that come with my job, I wonder where my next trip will take me.

Monday, November 3, 2014

El Dia Del Muertos/Day of The Dead

The day of the dead is a holiday celebrated through out Latin America honoring the dead although the tradition is strongest in Mexico where it originated. This tradition of celebrating the dead dates back to the Aztecs who believed in life after death; therefore, viewed death as a continuation of another life other than the end of it all. Once a year they would celebrate the dead rather than mourn them, death wasn't seen as something to be scared of because of the belief in the afterworld.

When the Spanish came along and conquered the Aztecs they tried squashing their beliefs so they could adopt catholic beliefs. In short, the indigenous people merged some of their beliefs with catholic beliefs and the day of the dead was not extinguished but somewhat modified and is still celebrated to this day.

We ended up going to downtown Quito since I had read that there would be several festivities taking place and I really wanted to check them out. Downtown was super packed with people and the atmosphere was very festive with live performers on one of the main plazas. We walked around the city taking in the sites and enjoying some of the entertainment.

As luck would have it the cultural centre was having a free exhibition related to the day of the dead so we got to check it out. I loved all the bright colors!

That's it folks, it was an interesting Sunday and I got to learn and understand more about a different culture.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I am spotting so many signs for apartment rentals and I keep wondering where they were when we were desperately looking for apartments.

Sometimes I see very young looking girls in their school uniforms walking around with adult looking boyfriends and I can't help but wonder how big the age difference is between them because the sight actually looks very disturbing.

So our hot water runs on gas, as in the same gas cylinder we use for cooking is the same cylinder that heats up our water. Let me tell you, nothing sucks as jumping into the shower after a long day only to find out that the gas ran out and there is no hot water! Aaargh! I am not kidding when I tell you that the tap water in Quito is cold as ice.

We have to replace the cylinder after every 3 weeks.