I think first impressions are important. Often in that first split second you will get a feeling, a gut-reaction that can be extremely telling, even if you don’t know exactly where it is coming from. A sense of suspicion when you first meet someone. An unsettled feeling when you walk into a room. That flip in your stomach when you lock eyes with a perfect stranger. These moments have meaning, and should never be ignored.
That being said. There is only so much that you can know about a person or a place from the first initial introduction
I chose Ecuador as a destination because circumstances made it the most convenient and affordable place for me to shake things up a little. Not to mention the rather loud voice inside of me insisting that should I leave Canada, I had damn well better go to a place with sun.
Sun there is. My slightly crispy shoulders will attest to that fact.
I arrived in Quito with a cold. It had started developing the night before in Calgary and by the time the plane landed in Ecuador my ability to breathe, or eat without embarrassing myself had diminished almost completely.
When I arrived I was tired, my face felt like it was the size of an elephant and I was unprepared to enter a completely new world. My initial feeling was more akin to dread than excitement. I was afraid. Afraid I had made a mistake in signing the next six months of my life over to this new country. I was overwhelmed. The language was unfamiliar, I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying around me and it seemed like I was in a completely different world.
I didn’t actually enter the city of Quito, so if you’re hoping for a run-down of the big cities you’re not going to get it yet. The airport is on the outskirts and since we arrived in the middle of the night we immediately went to our hotel in a small area called Tababela. (I’m not 100% certain the first hotel we stayed in was actually IN Tababela, though it was certainly nearby).
The first morning I awoke to the sound of birds. Beautiful birds with their delicate voices raised in song… and the rather forceful cock-a-doodle-do of the resident rooster. I don’t mind the roosters, they make me giggle a little every time I hear them. I will say this though: The idea that they only crow at dawn….. absurd. If he sees sunshine, a tasty bug, a pretty chicken he wants to make his own… you know, any of the things that are going to make your average rooster happy, he’s going to be doing a little cock-a-doodling. Love him for it. At least you know he’s enjoying life.
The hotel was really a collection of buildings, each with a few rooms and washrooms as well as a central building for eating. The whole area was enclosed in a compound of sorts, and filled with all manner of lush trees and flowers. Edible fruits were growing on trees that had barely grown to hip height, they don’t bother waiting for maturity to begin producing. It’s incredible. Flowers of every color and size lured me in and occupied both me and my camera for a great deal of time. This, my first real sight in Ecuador, was a veritable garden of Eden.
And yet I wasn’t happy. I let my initial fears and uncertainty govern my reactions and didn’t let myself move beyond that initial impression.
The first three days we stayed just on the outskirts of Quito and didn’t do much beyond explore the small town center of Tababela. I found the combination of my cold and the altitude rather exhausting. I was passed out by 6 every night; there was no way I could keep my eyes open for another second.
But. An hour long flight from Quito to Guayaquil and a 3.5 hour bus ride from Guayaquil to Olon, and everything began to change.
I should never have let my first impression color my opinion of Ecuador. It is one thing to take that first feeling, that gut-reaction into consideration. But it is entirely another to hold on to it when the reality before you is so obviously different.
There is poverty here, without a doubt. The people live differently and yes, when they realize you are a tourist there are some that will try to take advantage of you. No where on this earth is perfect, and it never will be so long as humans remain imperfect. Such is life. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of the people here aren’t beautiful, kind and open. They greet each other on the street, they smile and they mean it, and it’s perfectly normal to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.
So I’m taking Spanish lessons; I’m going to learn enough that I can communicate with the beautiful people here. I’m going to eat the amazing food, see the incredible sights and do my best to fully experience what this country has to offer.
See you soon chicos!