In other news, last night we went to dinner with an new Embassy employee that we're sponsoring. He's from California and he will be here for 2 years. He arrived last night and his girlfriend should be arriving in early 2008. We went out to dinner with him and on the way home I drove for the first time! I was a little nervous for 2 reasons. 1) the car is a much bigger than I'm used to and 2) the roads are filled with random potholes and you never know when someone is going to pull out or walk out in front of you. The streets were pretty dead since it was after 10 p.m., which is the only reason I agreed to give driving a try. I got us home in one piece and we had no problems. I think the worst part was trying to back the car into the tiny (well, it seemed tiny) parking space.
As many of you know, this Saturday was the FSU/UM game, which was played in Tallahassee. We had a few people over to watch the game and BBQ. It was a nice day until FSU lost. If you didn’t watch the game, up until about 1:15 left in the game, it looked like FSU might pull out a win. However, as in regular fashion of this rivalry, it came down to the wire and unfortunately Miami won. OUCH! The night before the game, Ronnie and I made a bet…whose ever team lost had to wear a shirt of their rivals the next day. And because I keep my bets, yesterday I had to wear this awful shirt. I believe this might fall under “I’m in an abusive marriage” category. Luckily, we were in the car most of the day and when we got to our final destination, I took off the shirt so I didn’t have to walk around town looking like a ‘Cane...whew! (More about this trip below.)
Saturday night a group of us went to Quicentro Mall to bowl. It was a good time and I enjoyed getting my frustrations from the game out on those pins. I scored a measly 103, while Ronnie didn’t bowl since his back has been bothering him.
Sunday morning we woke up early to meet some friends for a road trip to Otavalo, a small town about 2 hours north of Quito. They have a large square filled with street vendors selling all sorts of local crafts....pottery, woodwork, blankets and carpets, clothing, etc. It is all very colorful and CHEAP! We bought this beautiful bowl for $5.
Here are some more pictures from our day:
On our way back to Quito, we stopped at Cabanas del Lago, a resort off of Lago San Pablo, for lunch. One of the guys with us said it was recommended by a friend and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. The drive there was a little “off-road” and didn’t feel as if we were going to a place where we’d actually get a good meal. But once we were there, it was a different story. The place was a very nice and cozy and had lots to offer. The food was delicious!! Maybe one of the best meals I’ve had so far. When we finished lunch, the waitress brought a tray to our table holding a blue bottle and shot glasses. Not being sure what we were about to be served, we were a little skeptical. She poured the first shot and this brown, thick liquid filled the little glass. As we passed each filled glass down, we could suddenly smell the sweet scent of chocolate. As we each sipped our drink, the waitress explained that this was a chocolate liquor made locally at the resort. It was SO GOOD! We all tried to best describe the taste and we decided it was like a chocolate pudding. Ronnie mentioned it was like Bailey’s, but the waitress quickly told him that it was NOT Bailey’s, it was better than Bailey’s! I think she may have been right and just to make sure; we bought a bottle to bring home with us. Here are pictures from the resort:
I took this picture specifically for Sofia. I know Calla Lillies are her favorite flower and I had never seen Callas growing in the wild:
On our way to Otavalo, we could see the volcano, Cayambe, peaking out between clouds. Mt. Cayambe is the third tallest mountain in Ecuador and being that it lies right on the equator, its South slope is the highest point in the world crossed by the equator. During our drive you could see a bit of the snow-capped mountain, but for the most part, the clouds kept it hidden.
However, on our way back, we were treated to a beautiful view of the entire mountain. The clouds disappeared and the sun reflected off the snow, making the huge structure glow. It was gorgeous!
Sunday was still rainy, so we spent much of the day at home. We went to church in the morning where we were 2 of a total 15 people attending. It was a nice, quaint mass and everyone there was so great. Ronnie and I were asked to do the presentation of the gifts...a first for me. After church we went to a buffet breakfast at a nearby hotel. The buffet had lots to offer...made-to-order omelets, sausage, cheeses, fresh fruits and ceviche (a seafood salad which Ronnie loves, but I have yet to try). We came back to the apartment and relaxed the rest of the day. Lots of football and channel surfing. Sunday night was REALLY cold in the apartment (there's no central heat). I think we've realized that an electric blanket is on our list of "to buy" items in the near future.
Yesterday morning, we went to the Embassy to get myself checked in and begin the processing to get my ID card. I got a tour of the place and met lots of people. We stopped by the commissary where we bought some more "American" products like salsa in a jar, miracle whip, pickles and pumpkin pie filling and a pie crust. We figured it will sell out as the holidays get closer so we might as well stock up now. In the afternoon I went to the hotel where our friends Bridget and Santiago are staying. They have 3 boys--a 3 mo. old and 19 mo. old twins--and wanted to start looking at apartments. I stayed with the twins, Santi and Frankie while they went on their search. They were so cute and so much fun. The only downside was they are sick...so I OD'd on Vitamin C when we got back home!
This morning I'm at home. As I mentioned earlier, the weather has changed and it is a beautiful day! As I got my breakfast ready (Fruity Pebbles with boxed milk) I decided to take a picture so you guys can get a glimpse of what our view is like. Aren't you jealous?? :)
I have officially been in Quito for just under 24 hours. Yesterday was a day of last minute errands and bittersweet goodbyes. Sofia came over to my parent's house at about 12:30 p.m. Mom treated us to one last batch of her "famous" grilled cheese sandwiches that I love so much then we were off to the airport. The plane took off on time at 3:35 p.m. and the 4-hour flight was pretty pleasant. I'm not 100% comfortable with flying, but I'll admit it wasn't all that bad. The flight was smooth the entire way and I didn't have anyone sitting directly beside me. Apparently, American Airlines has some partnership with CBS so I watched "How I Met Your Mother", "The Late Show with David Letterman" and some clips of other CBS TV that I normally don't tune in for. Once Fantastic 4 started, I opted for my iPod and my copy of Eat, Pray, Love.
We actually landed at Mariscal Sucre Airport 15 minutes early. As soon as I walked off the plane, I saw Ronnie waiting at the end of the tunnel. I was so happy to see him! It was so great to finally be back with him, even if it is far from home. Going through Customs and Immigration was a breeze, much easier than I had expected. Once we were outside I was greeted with a pleasant burst of cool air. It was about 54 degrees and rainy. Besides the rain, I loved the weather! It was already dark when we landed so the drive home didn't offer much to look at besides the buildings with huge advertisements on the sides of them. The streets were windy and bumpy and the other people on the road drove like they were the only ones there. At each stop light a group of 2-4 kids would walk out in front of the cars to juggle, dance, beg for money. Some were actually pretty talented!
The drive home was only bout 15 minutes. We stepped off the elevator on our floor and there was a huge "Welcome to Quito" banner from Ronnie. It was very sweet. He then unlocked our front door and picked me up to carry his bride over the threshold. :) He gave me the grand tour of our BEAUTIFUL apartment... it really is amazing! In the dining room was a vase filled with gorgeous flowers--purple and ivory, because they were the colors in our wedding--and scattered throughout the place were more"Welcome to Quito" signs.
After the tour we walked next door for dinner. There is a really cute, but trendy, Chinese restaurant called China Bistro. It was a very nice place with great service and how can you beat Chinese food directly next door to your building?? The strange thing was as we were sitting in the Chinese restaurant, in Ecuador, we were listening to The Beatles play from the speakers in the ceiling. It was all just an odd combination, but enjoyable nonetheless. The food was pretty good and we had some leftovers "para llevar".
I was happy that I had not really suffered from any altitude sickness, thus far. I had a mild headache, but nothing major. I slept well last night, however, beginning at about 2 a.m., I woke up just about every hour, which, I have now learned is common because of the altitude. After tossing and turning for the next few hours I finally realized that I should just get up...at 7 a.m.! Ronnie also woke up and took me to the window so I could now see the view of Pinchincha during the day. The view was remarkable, but because of some low cloud coverage, I couldn't see the peaks of the mountains. Ronnie made us some amazing pancakes and we ate breakfast looking out onto the city. It is so pretty!
After breakfast we drove over to get some groceries at SuperMaxi. It was a very nice grocery store that had much of the same offerings as any Publix...although I could definitely tell it wasn't the same. I wasn't really in the mood to shop, I just wanted to browse each and every aisle so I knew what I would be working with for the next 3 years. We filled our cart with Gatorade, Fruity Pebbles, Kraft Mac N Cheese, bread, tuna and Pepperidge Farm cookies...and I don't think we stood out as Americans at all...ha! Once we were home, Ronnie frantically looked for the UM v. Ga Tech football game on TV, but the only thing playing on ESPN was futbol (soccer). He was not happy! We decided to head to the mall. After trying to navigate our way to Quicentro and realizing that there was actually a home game being played (the stadium is across the street from the mall) we opted for the other mall, El Jardin, instead. The mall was very nice with 3 floors and lots of shopping options. There were some stores that I recognized the names of and others were new to me. Ronnie was very happy when I pointed out a Taco Bell...the first one he's seen since he's been here. Some other dining options were KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. And to top it all off Dave Matthews Band was being piped through the speakers in the mall. It felt like home...sort of.
So, that's been my first 24 hours in a nutshell. Tonight we are going to dinner with some of his friends from work. Everyone I have met so far has been extremely friendly and I'm sure once I get more comfortable this place won't be so bad.
In exactly 3 days I will be boarding a plane bound for Ecuador where Ronnie and I can finally start our lives together as a married couple! The last few months have been such a whirlwind of craziness with wedding planning, celebrations, and finally packing my life up to move overseas. As much as I am going to miss my family, friends and Miami/the USA, I am very much looking forward to the new adventures that await me/us in South America.