[dropcap]F[/dropcap]oreign sirens blaring, impeccable Spanish engulfing the streets, dogs barking and the constant pounding of hammers. These are just a few of the many sounds I awoke to on my first morning in Quito, Ecuador. After many long hours of stressful plane rides and layovers my body was restless and weary, yet this didn’t stop my head from popping up out of my small twin bed in excitement. I was FINALLY, after what seemed like a lifetime, in Quito for my first study abroad excursion. After eating a delightful breakfast, we were finally ready for our first expedition throughout Quito. Once partaking in a pleasurable scavenger hunt and lunch in La Mariscal, our group ventured onward to Old Town. Old town is a stunning square in Quito full of vast history, unmemorable architecture and countless stores.
Our first stop in Old Town was the unforgettable Basílica del Voto Nacional. The Basílica is an outrageously picturesque church with lovely Gothic architecture. Once entering the Basílica, several unsteady staircases led to various viewpoints overlooking all of Quito, including the Andes Mountains and Pichincha. Pichincha is one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes and the closest volcano to Quito. This spectacle was one that will never be forgotten, and will very likely never be replicated.
Our next stop was at the heart of Old Town, Centro Histórico. Here we witnessed bustling, lean streets congested with countless persons ranging from infants to elders. Several lonely children, women and families were seen selling items on the street. Small boys in raggedy, dirty clothes chased down sightseers in an attempt to shine their shoes. Families held out their beautiful, hand painted artwork hoping to sell just a few pieces. Women sauntered the streets holding intriguing and vibrant scarfs for ridiculously low prices that couldn’t be ignored. Multiple musicians were spotted in the corners of the steep hills; playing and yearning for spare change to soon come sinking into their hats.
Within Old Town is the Plaza de la Independencia, Quito’s principal square. Here resides the Presidential Palace, along with many other historical landmarks and sights. Many individuals chose this area as a place for peaceful protests and public speech. After venturing near the Palace, it was immediately noticeable that something of similar nature was occurring. Hundreds of people formed in bubbles throughout the square in a “protest” featuring the rights, wants and needs of the Agricultural Association. Many surrounded this attraction while others sprawled out on the limited, surrounding grass. It was a meeting area, a place to socialize, a place to voice opinions and rights and, most importantly, a place representing vast amounts of history and power.
My first day in Quito was definitely one that few others will ever have the honor of comparing to. I came back to my bright, cozy hostel after viewing indescribable scenes full of exquisite architecture and picturesque landscapes. For the first time I was engrossed in a culture extremely different than that of my own. I saw sights that some may consider pure glee, and I witnessed things that many may consider sorrowful. I flopped onto my bed and laid my head down feeling nothing but inspiration, contentment and, not shockingly, tremendous fatigue. This was what I was meant to do. This was where I was meant to be.