Cuenca: first month

Ok, I’m very sorry about how overdue this post is. I’ve just been so busy between lots of classwork and trying to see as much of this country as possible in the short time I’m here, so sitting for hours editing photos (which takes forever on this computer) and writing up little things has just plummeted on my priority list. Also this post is going to be a lot less detailed than the past ones and from now on they will probably be less detailed like this one, since many of my days are essentially the same… 3 hours of class in the morning, going home for lunch in the middle of the day and then afternoon class (either Biodiversity or Culture) every Monday-Thursday, and then a big pile of homework and studying in the evening.

To start off with, I got wifi finally! I’ve had it for a couple weeks now and its so convenient. You never know how much you’ll miss something until you no longer have it. Also, I just want to reiterate again how much I love my study abroad group, everyone is just the best.

 Oh also, this is going to probably be kindof out of order chronologically, but oh well.

Ok so since my last post, i’ve had 4 different volunteer shifts at the zoo. The first week we just followed the zookeepers around and watched them feed animals so that we would know how to do it. It wasn’t the most exciting thing honestly, but it was still kindof cool.

hungryandeanbear

The second shift was much more eventful. We got there and chopped up all the fruit for all of the fruit eating animals (its a lot of fruit). Then we got to play with the tapirs because the tapirs are in an enclosure right next to zookeeper/nutrition area, so they’re essentially like little zoo pets because we can go in their cage and play with them. It was really fun and they’re super sweet animals. When you rub their bellies they roll over like a doggy…but i got covered in tapir snot and slobber.Then we split into groups to feed the animals in different areas of the zoo. My partner and I got to feed all of the monkeys, some of the macaws, and the turtles. It was really fun because we got to go into all of the cages and the monkeys were so sweet and interactive. The third day of our volunteering was when we cleaned cages. It was a little gross, not going to lie. We had to go into the fox cage, while the foxes were still in there and pick up all of the rotten meat that they don’t eat. These foxes are really picky eaters, so there was TONS of rotten meat from months ago. All the meat was covered in weird beetles and maggots, oh and I had to pick up a full dead cat that they refused to eat. It was still cool to be inside of the fox cage with the foxes running around us. Then we had to scrub out all of the duck ponds and the pond in the llama cage, but it was worth it because we got to play with a little deer.

 Today was our 4th volunteer shift. It was disgusting. We cleaned out the pond in the alligator cage (with the alligators crawling around the cage). Then we washed and chopped up rotten fish and horse for the carnivorous animals. There were blood and guts everywhere… It was so gross.

So awhile ago, the first weekend after my last post, was really great. We went to Baños de Cuenca, the same area that I had previously gone to with my host family, but we paid $3 each and got to spend the whole day by pools. They had 2 different hot spring pools that were different temperatures and then one cold pool that had 2 water slides going into it. So we played around on the waterslides for the day and soaked in the sulfurous but very warm water.

 banosslide

Then Sunday, I went to the countryside with my family again, but this time we went to a different countryside, where they have a house right by a little town, and their son has a horse. It was really nice and tranquil. Then in the evening, I went with my host mom to her sisters house where they were having a big family gathering/family bingo night (which they do once a month). It was super fun, particularly since one of the other students is living with one of my host moms sisters, so she was there too. I even won a little necklace in the bingo games.

 leoniebingo

A couple weeks ago was alright. We had to cook a traditional ecuadorian dish that we were assigned to. I got assigned Bolones con verde y queso (which is balls of ground up cheese and green plantains fried) and Aji (basically Ecuadorian salsa). The aji turned out delicious, but the bolones were very dry. It was fun though because everyone brought food and there was even Cuy (guinea pig), which I actually tried and its wasn’t too terrible.

 foodpartay

mayrawithcuy

On Wednesday night, we went to a salsa club at a discoteca and salsa danced a bit. That was fun.

We also got to go into the Quarantine area at the zoo with our biology class. It was really amazing because there were lions inside, as one of the females recently has a baby. So she, the dad, and the cub were inside the quarantine area. The cages here are much more intimate and the lions were literally right against the gate so we got to touch the mane of the daddy lion through the cage and play with the baby through the cage for a little bit. It was crazy to be so close to a lion.

cubondaddysback ciarralion

The weekend then was pretty chill and relaxed. We intended to go to Cajas, but that didn’t work out. So instead we climbed to the top of the bell tower on the main cathedral in Cuenca and saw all of Cuenca. Then we went to the river and relaxed along the river next to this group of  (very portland-like) youngsters who had a slackline and aerial silks and one of my classmates played around on the aerial silks.

aerialciarra2

Last week I was pretty stressed because I had to finish an entire spanish novel, write a paper about it in spanish, and I had my first spanish exam. So we didn’t really do much until Thursday and then we just went out to a pretty nice but cheap bar in the center.

Last Friday evening, we went to the opening night of a brand new discoteca. It really felt like a discoteca from the movies. You entered through a fancied up airplane that had bars and low seating inside, and then once you were past that, you got to these two huge dance floors that were different heights, but one looked down on the other. The ground was also lit up in different colors and the music was quite good.

Last Saturday was probably one of the best days yet. I went with 4 other students to Cajas National Park. We had tried going the previous weekend but it ended up being a disaster because we hadn’t quite planned it early enough and our guide was not being helpful, and none of the buses wanted to stop in Cajas because the buses that go to Cajas actually go to Guayaquil and you just get off in the middle, but they make a quarter of the amount of money. So we didn’t make it the previous week. But for some reason, last Saturday it was super easy to get on a bus and get to Cajas. Then we spent the day hiking among gorgeous native grasslands and lakes and a forest of paper trees (which look just like more papery manzanitas). It was so so beautiful, and so peaceful and fun.

 cajaslake papertreeforest emchristiancajas cajaspanorama

Last Sunday, we went to a Deportiva Cuenca soccer game. Cuenca tied Olmedo 1-1, but it was still super fun. People at soccer games here are quite vocal, so there was lots of yelling of malas palabras. I have a new celeb crush, as one of the players on the Cuenca team was pretty attractive and a good sport. I think they should also be getting better as currently they’re missing players since a few of their players got switched to other teams and new players from other countries are arriving soon.

soccerfield groupsoccergame

Wednesday we went on a very long walk all over the city for our Spanish class, which was exhausting but interesting because we got to see a lot of historical and cultural sites within the city. In the afternoon, we also went out to a museum for my culture class. I wish we could have gone through the museum a little more slowly, but it was still interesting. It was also one of my classmate, Christian’s, 21’st birthday. So we kindof went all out and spent the whole day celebrating. At lunch we went back to the Panama hat factory so he could buy a panama hat. Then, after class finished, we celebrated with a nice guitar shaped piñata.

 christianguitarbday

Then we had happy hour and dinner at our favorite restaurant, La Cigale. It was super fun but/and the drinks were incredibly strong, which I guess was appropriate since it was his 21st bday (even though it was already legal here for all of us to drink). Then we went to another bar that we knew had a very fancy massive cocktail that we all pitched in to get for Christian. Then we ended the evening at salsa dancing night at the same discoteca as before, where we put our salsa dancing skills to the test (because we’ve been taking a weekly salsa class).

Yesterday we woke up exhausted because of the festivities the night before. My group had a very long presentation during spanish class that I think we did pretty well on and the entire spanish school celebrated Christian’s birthday again. In the afternoon, we went back to the zoo for our Thursday bio class and began designing the refuges (enclosures) for our endangered species at the zoo, since thats a major part of our final project. I’m actually pretty excited about my groups refuge. Our endangered Marsupial Frogs are going to have the nicest little home.

Now, I’m just packing up stuff and washing clothes because we’re leaving tomorrow super early to go to the rainforest (actually we’re going to a cloud forest, but its right by the Amazon area). Lots to do before heading off..

Oh and happy valentines day to anyone who reads this 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Cuenca: first month

  1. Hi Terra,
    We savored every word you wrote. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy-fun experience to share it with all of us. It sounds amazing. What wonderful experiences — especially at the zoo – being close to the animals.

  2. No words…all of the animals are so cute. the acrobatic show looks beautiful and that water slide looks RIDICULOUSLY FUN

    miss you lots lady! glad you are having fun ❤

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