Transitioning to Ecuador: The Ups and Downs

Honestly, I thought Ecuador would be the same as Colombia.

It's probably ignorant to admit that, but I did.  I felt like I'd adjusted to Colombia.  My Spanish is getting better.  I'd learned several local phrases.  I was getting used to the beautiful lush green and mountains.

Colombian countryside near Ipiales

Colombian countryside near Ipiales

Beautiful hike in Salento, Colombia

Beautiful hike in Salento, Colombia

Ecuador, it turns out, is a totally different country.

They (naturally) don't like being compared to Colombians.  The climate and terrain here is totally different- dry and more desert like than Colombia's tropical mountains.  The streets of Cuenca are much dirtier, and the city's covered in graffiti.

The street our apartment is on in Cuenca

The street our apartment is on in Cuenca

The door from the street that leads us down a long narrow path to our apartment.

The door from the street that leads us down a long narrow path to our apartment.

We arrived last Friday, and I immediately started having stomach problems.  The next day, they started with Nate.  After 5 days of issues, we finally conceded and bought an antibiotic over the counter for $7 USD.  I don't know why we didn't just start this earlier.

Feeling crappy has meant many days this week of lounging around our little Airbnb apartment.  It's nice and comfortable but also leaves me feeling like we're hiding out.  I mean, this is my first time in Ecuador and in Cuenca.  Shouldn't I be site seeing every minute?

Nate cooking in our apartment with the help of Lupo, our neighbor's cat.

Nate cooking in our apartment with the help of Lupo, our neighbor's cat.

Additionally we've found it actually harder to book tours here, despite Ecuador being a poorer country.  We've emailed at least 4 companies asking to spend money with them with no reply.  When we randomly passed one's office on the street the other day, we ducked in and explained that we wanted to sign up for the food tour/cooking class.  When was it offered?  We were given a business card and told to e-mail because he'd have to call around and find a tour guide.  No reply.  One tour company has an amazing website detailing several day trips we wanted to take.  When we navigated to the bottom of the page to sign up, there's a note that says, "All tours have been suspended until further notice."  Bummer.

The weather is also different here.  It's cloudy and colder and rains for a little bit everyday.  In Colombia I was used to the beautiful eternal spring of Medellin and sunshine all day long.  The rain was nice at first but now sort of makes me feel like it's even harder to get out and explore the city.

Cloudy Cuenca

Cloudy Cuenca

I don't mean to complain.  I'm still very grateful to be in this beautiful country.  I'm happy to have control over my time- to be able to nap in the middle of the day when I feel bad rather than to be sitting at a computer counting down the hours until 5 p.m.

It's still been a transition.

On the bright side, we started Spanish classes in a school that I really like.  I went to a cocktails class and learned how to make a local Andean drink with cinnamon and a fruit similar to clementines.  Through school, we're connecting with fellow travelers, which makes me feel less isolated.

It is also really nice to have our own space.  We've cooked a bunch of dinners in our little kitchen and enjoyed learning how to buy produce and veggies in the big open-air market across the street.

Yummy pasta dish we cooked in our kitchen,

Yummy pasta dish we cooked in our kitchen,

When we're feeling better (and the tour companies call us back), we're looking forward to a day trip to a national park nearby to hike, a cooking class here in the city and a few nice dinners out.