Thursday, June 7, 2012

Actually in Ecuador Now Episode I: Notes From The Owl's Nest

You know, when I got into the Ecuador program, I thought it'd be all hikes, bikes, bellas, and food. I was by no means prepared for having things like responsibilities and assignments. But it turns out that since I'm getting school credit for being here, I have to make it look like I'm working from time to time. So to that end, this week I'm cross-posting my contribution to the program's blog. My apologies for the lack of scathing commentary and the complete absence of the Valyrian Steel Greatsword of Inscrutable Truth, academic regulations you know. Hope you enjoy!

[Originally posted in SIS Summer Abroad 2012: Ecuador...]

"Come Pick Me Up, I've Landed"

Welcome, one and all, to the Inaugural Post of SIS Ecuador Summer 2012 Blogtacular! I’m pleased to report that all participants are here in Quito and in excellent health, thanks in no small part to our wonderful hosts, Consuelo and Patricio of The Owl's Inn. Minus some intermittent issues adjusting to the elevation, I’d say we all did extraordinarily well.

Our introduction to the city was nothing short of fantastic. Many thanks to Julio Rivas, our intrepid guide, for the impassioned and knowledgeable tours of La Mitad del Mundo (the point where the Equator crosses Quito):

...and the city's old quarter:

Where we had a chance to sample some of Quito’s marvelous culinary traditions and enjoy some great views of the city after nightfall (which, by the way, happens super early.) It wasn’t until the next morning that things got serious. Having recovered from varying degrees of altitude sickness, we struck out for the U.S. Embassy for a security briefing. We traded our passports for “Visitor” badges and met some of the fine Department of State employees representing the USA in Ecuador. 
  • Highlights! No one got detained, and they were very friendly folks. 
  • Lowlights! Let’s just say QuiteƱos have come up with a number of… unconventional… substances to use as distractions if they want to grab your stuff.  

All in all, it was a fittingly varied entree (the 2nd definition, that doesn't mean food- though we've certainly had plenty of that) into a seminar that will have us learning about the impossibly multifaceted topic of diversity in the Andes region. We’ve begun our classes at la Universidad de las Americas in earnest, and I think it’s fair to say that issues of diversity, development, and sustainability in this part of the world are far more complex than any of us could have anticipated. That’s really saying something, considering that SIS courses give us just about all the complexity we can handle as it is. But the enormous challenges faced by our generation demand scholars and practitioners who know how to tackle tough issues from multiple directions. With Professor Donoso-Clark’s guidance and the behind-the-wheel stylings of Edwin, who gets us from place to place with a level of finesse that, frankly, shouldn’t be possible in our gigantic yellow van, I’m thinking we have a real shot at doing some big things based on what we learn here. 

From left to right, we've got Edwin "El Chauffeur", Adam, Professor Donoso-Clark,
Heather, Amanda, Faye, Nobuyuki, and Jonathan. Takin' on the world,
one museum dinner at a time.

We’ll be updating regularly as the program continues, so check back often for impassioned missives on Ecuador’s constitution and social policy, environmental protection, and much more. Nos vamos!