Thursday, July 24, 2008

ecuadorian recap, proceed with caution!

Ah, finally home sweet home... my Chilean home that is ;). My trip was incredible but absolutely, positively, exhausting! It took a toll on my camera battery too and since I didn't have a Uruguayan converter it still remains dead. But have no fear my friends. I still have my last few days in Ecuador to entertain you with, and they were surely a mouthful. Now I must warn you, what is coming next is not pretty but it was a once-in-a-lifetime taste and I am glad I was able to try it. My family even made it a point to bring me to their favorite Cuencan restaurant to commemorate the event, big since they never eat out especially not at lunch. Alright, that's enough explaining, the picture speaks for itself:
Hm, cuy, what's that? Well. It is exactly what it looks like. Guinea Pig. If that fact alone isn't enough to scare you away, how's the fact that it was staring as me as I attempted to eat it! Haha, oh gosh, reflecting on this I'm surprised I was even able to stomach the poor thing. It was surprisingly quite good with a rabbit-like flavor although there wasn't much meat. I avoided the skin because it had been fried and handed it over to my "brother." Beneath my best friend's pet was a medley of hominy and rice. That's an Ecuadorian meal for you! A combo of their favorite starches and an Andean classic. Of course, as proud of myself as I was, that's not my kind of my meal, and before I even had a chance to ask, my "parents" ordered a large salad too :).  And that large and adventurous meal could obviously only be followed by one thing, chicha, a fermented drink made from manioca root. This was quite the digestif, and although I drank it slow because it was served hot and that's what my host mother advised I still felt an alcoholic buzz. What an experience :). It was a such a treat to have a long leisurely lunch out with my family but unfortunately it was cut short by my last Spanish class! Ah well, we had oral presentations followed by an sweet and encouraging speech from our professor. Here's the beautiful square on my walk home. Since dinners weren't really a meal in my house I haven't been taking pictures of what I've been eating in the evenings. This combination was a staple- toasted tomato & cheese sandwich, steamed veggies (broccoli in this case), and tea for warmth! It never failed to fill me up!
However, this particular evening was our very special goodbye dinner with our families so I finally got lucky, too bad I wasn't too hungry after my large lunch because... ...everything was incredible! It was held at best local steakhouse but the program director had the chef make me spaghetti as my main dish :). I filled my plate with salad, a vegetable medley, hominy, baked potato, and bread before placing my special order on top. It's really too bad this taste went to waste, I hardly made a dent. And that was that, the next morning I got up bright and early, ate a quick breakfast and headed to the airport. In short, it was a tearful goodbye. My family was wonderful to me and it was so hard to leave them behind. If I can, I would love return to Cuenca one day! Our plane landed in Quito after a quick and easy flight and we got straight onto the bus headed towards Otavalo. I woke a few hours later to find myself at our hotel and famished. My group dropped of our bags and headed into the city in search of lunch. Pretty soon we landed an adorably authentic restaurant where I thoroughly enjoyed a cheese sandwich with avocado, onions, and tomato. And french fries too 0:) they were so worth it. Everything was out of this world when combined with my hunger! Following our relaxing and exquisite lunch we made our way to the market. We spent the entire day browsing through stands of jewelry, crafts, art, and clothes. I purchased a painted feather and Incan coin earrings and obviously bargained them to an incredible price. By the time the vendors were closing up shop my friends and I were in dire need of a pick-me-up. We headed for ice cream but I couldn't pass up the cappucino. Yummy. Later that night we stumbled upon another great restaurant. They had so many options but unfortunately my appetite was not in favor of eating a heavy meal. In FWDGF fashion I tried to listen to my body's cues and ordered the Vegetarian Plate. It ended up being the perfect choice. Just look at the freshness of it all! The following day we turned around to return to Quito. I did mention how busy we were the entire time right?! Before we left I had one of the best cups of coffee I've had in a while, scrambled eggs, and fresh bread and jam. My friend drank the juice, lol. It was just the right amount to start my day, although, I must admit, I've had major cravings for my oats lately.On our way back we stopped here, an active volcano. It definitely does not look dangerous in the least, I was thinking gorgeous? Yes, it was, and our visit even included a motor boat ride on the lagoon.
Before we headed back to Quito we stopped for lunch. My lack of appetite had returned from yesterday so I ordered an appetizer, Shrimp Avocado. The avocado itself was amazing but the shrimp had been doused in mayonnaise so I only tasted a few. To supplement my small meal I also had a flavorful yet camera-shy Vegetable compote.
And this is where it ends, for Ecuador that is. The next morning I came to Santiago de Chile and met my new family. My Chilean mom and I didn't get the memo the make funny pictures, ha, and my host dad, brother, and baby sister didn't make it in time for the shoot, but here's half the family. Still, I only spent a brief evening with them; in the morning that followed I began my field study seminar and haven't been back "home" since then!

I will summarize my trip in the next post but here's tonight's meal, drum roll please- Zucchini Frittata, Rice with Carrots, Raddiccio & Lettuce in olive oil, lemon, s&p. Score. As fascinating as my recent travels have been, I haven't been able to make the best food choices for reasons beyond my control, so this nutritious and cleansing meal was just what I needed. Again, score ;). By the way, my apologizes for the bad photo, my phone is just not up to par I guess. And on that note, I'm plugging in my camera battery charger and off to bed. Let's hope I can get a real night's sleep for once, be back soon!

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