ECUADOR: ARRIVAL AND OUR FIRST TWO WEEKS
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We officially made it to Ecuador! After years of dreaming, months of planning, and a few weeks of scrambling to finish work and get everything ready, we were ecstatic to finally get on the airplane!
We left Detroit early in the morning on June 4th, had a long layover in Fort Lauderdale, then flew to Quito. Our flight out of Fort Lauderdale was delayed due to thunderstorms, so we didn't end up landing in Quito until close to 1 am (it was about a 4 1/2 hour flight).
We stayed in a small hotel near the airport called Quito Airport Suites and got a few hours of sleep before our flight to Manta early the next morning. The hotel was basic, but had clean sheets and hot water so we were happy! The Quito airport is modern and everything went smoothly with our flight to Manta. Looking out the window as we were leaving Quito was incredible, the terrain is beautiful.
Manta is a small city on the coast of Ecuador, it's an ~8 hour drive or 1 hour flight from Quito. Stepping off the plane into 80 degree heat and sunshine was the welcome we wanted. The airport was super small so we didn't have to wait long for our backpacks!
Our Workaway hosts, Janet and Ron, were kind enough to pick us up at the airport with one of their dogs, Scooby. We stopped at the grocery store before heading to their home. Sleep deprived grocery shopping in a foreign language can be quite the experience! But we somehow ended up with enough food to make it through a week.
We're now living in Puerto Cayo, a sleepy fishing village about an hour south of Manta. The first two weeks have been an adjustment period for us and a time to explore and learn as much as we can about the area. Since we are staying with Workaway hosts, we're expected to work around the property 4-5 hours per day, 5 days a week in exchange for a place to stay and $40 per week towards food. Each Workaway host can set their own requirements, but from searching the website it seems like this work level/compensation arrangement is fairly common and is a key factor in helping us stick to our budget.
The hosts' property is called Pasatiempo and they have 4 apartments for rent and a small volunteer apartment (along with their living quarters). The property is gated and comes with lots of dogs (7 total), one cat, and a beautiful pool! We spent the first seven nights here living in the volunteer apartment. It is basic, but provides everything you need - pots and pans, a gas stove, clean bathroom, and hot water. There's even your own high speed internet connection!
Our hosts were gracious enough to offer us the opportunity to move into one of the unrented apartments after our first week. We were super excited, as the apartment is nicer and has a wonderful breeze coming from the ocean since it's on the second floor. It's one of the original buildings on the property and is all wood, built way before the hosts bought the building and added on over five years ago. We are enjoying the amazing porch, cabin-ish feel of the apartment, and hearing the waves crash as we're falling asleep (although to be fair, you could hear the ocean from the volunteer apartment too)!
Spanish has been a bit tricky. We both have been working on learning Spanish over the last 6 months through Rosetta Stone and a phone app called Duo Lingo, however, we still have a long ways to go to learn the language. Our hosts are originally from the states and speak both English and Spanish, however, they also have one full time caretaker on the property, Franklin, who only speaks Spanish. We've been practicing our Spanish with him as much as possible and studying every day (and making good use of the Google Translate app!). I know it will take time to learn and we're trying to be patient, but we both want to be fluent right away!
Our work 5 days a week consists of walking two of the dogs, Carly and Benny, at 7:45am and 4:30pm each day (either on the beach or in the hills behind the property), raking leaves around the property, cleaning the pool, feeding the dogs and cat, and helping Franklin with random tasks. With Franklin, so far we've stained three wooden beach chairs, trimmed hedges, and transplanted tons of aloe plants. Kris also fixed the security system. Every day is a little bit different and it's been a fun change of pace from our previous desk jobs!
The weather in Puerto Cayo is not exactly what we were expecting (80 degrees and sunshine!). It ranges between 70-80 degrees every day, which is perfect. However, it's been overcast almost the entire time we've been here, we've only had a few hours here and there of sunshine. It constantly feels like a big thunderstorm is brewing, but it never actually rains much. Our hosts say that this is typical weather for the winter months. We've been getting used to the weather, and it's perfect for working outside and going on walks, but a little sunshine is always welcome!
Outside of our volunteer work, we've been able to go on lots of walks on the beach and explore the small town of Puerto Cayo, played trivia with a group of expats, visited two other towns nearby (mostly to get groceries), and spend time trying to work on our video and photo skills. There are two other guests that are renting another apartment who retired here from California. They have been very generous in showing us the area as well and we've enjoyed getting to know them.
We specifically chose a small beach town for the first stop on our travels in order to take some time to adjust from our lives at home and work on our Spanish skills. This location has been perfect for both of those things, and we're excited to spend the rest of the month here!