This Semester is Finally Over!!

semester
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I never thought this day would come after all that has happened in the past couple of months. I did it, you did it, we all did it! This horribly long and dreadful disaster of a semester is FINALLY OVER.

This past finals week I was supposed to have three exams: one for my physiology class, one for my organic chemistry class, and one for my accounting class. The final for my physiology class ended up being optional and I was fortunate enough to have a high enough grade that I didn’t have to take the final. For my organic chemistry and accounting classes, that wasn’t the case, but both of those finals were open note, which was nice. Both finals went well and I’m going to get the grades I’ve worked for which is awesome, but I still feel like my organic chemistry grade could have been even better. With that in mind, I’m still thankful for what I got, even though I struggled quite a bit with the online transition for that course.

I finished everything on Wednesday which was awesome and around this time last year, I was moving out of my dorm and celebrating my first year of college with my family. I was hoping to get to do that this year, but a little virus named COVID-19 definitely put a damper on those plans. It was a bit odd not getting to celebrate all the hard work my sister and I did this past year at a nice restaurant with my family, but a good dinner at home was still fun. Different, but fun.

With all of the stress that came with my course load and also the switch to online classes as a result of the pandemic, I’ve never felt so mentally exhausted from a semester and I can imagine that many of you are also feeling that way. When I hit that “Submit” button on my accounting final, I just remember feeling this wave of relief rush over me. It was all over. FINALLY.

Of course I’m still taking a summer class, but that won’t be starting until June. I still get a bit of a break though and I’m hoping I stay healthy and that my family stays healthy and that humanity starts to gain the upper hand on this troublesome virus so that we get a chance to start our normal lives back up again and enjoy some of our summer. I’m also studying for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) this summer so that’ll definitely be something you hear about as my test date approaches in August.

I hope you’re all staying healthy and taking care of yourselves! Take some time to celebrate this weekend, whether you just graduated from high school or college or even if you just finished a semester, like me. 🙂 We deserve it. See you next Sunday!

COVID-19 in Colorado: Our Current Situation

COVID-19 in Colorado
Credits to the artist. 🙂

Maybe you’re all sick of hearing about it by now, but we’ve got a global pandemic on our hands. I think it’s important to stay informed and educated during a time like this and more than anything, I think it’s important to stay positive and driven. Here’s how my story on COVID-19 in Colorado.

As I write this, Colorado is way over 200 cases of COVID-19 and the United States has declared a national emergency. New York, Washington, and New York have been the hardest hit as of right now and I send prayers to all of you reading from those states right now. This whole situation has been unreal.

Colorado is currently in a place where a lot of businesses and services have shut down until late March or April, but I honestly have a feeling that a lot of things are going to be closed for longer. I come from a place of observation, not pessimism when I see this. Seeing how fast the virus has spread in the United States, I just have a feeling that we’re just seeing the beginning of things in the U.S. From what I know, most, if not all schools have switched to holding some form of online classes or provided families with homeschooling content and it’ll be interesting to see what comes from this as far as education opportunities go, once this clears up.

There’s a lot of talk about a stay at home order or shelter in place order. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we need to do what we can to flatten that curve. As a biology major, I have been very interested in this entire situation. Of course I’m saddened by the effects this is having on so many people and honestly scared in some ways by the power something that’s not even as large as skin cell can have on the world. I’ve also been so interested in how this virus can survive on surfaces and how it affects our bodies. I’m also really proud to say that my university, Colorado State, has a research center that is currently conducting research to find a vaccine for this little monster that has sent our world into the state it’s currently in.

COVID-19 in Colorado has turned grocery stores into an absolute nightmare now. My family has been trying to find rice and flour for the past week now, and we’ve had zero luck because of all of these people stockpiling their food and additional household supplies. I can understand that there’s a lot of uncertainty regarding our current situation but you do not need the large amounts of toilet paper stashed in your bathroom or all of the frozen foods you can fit in your cart. Trust me. There are some people who haven’t even had a CHANCE to grab any of that and the only food they have is what was in their fridge before this whole mess started, and these stockpilers have left those people with zero options. My mom and sister went to the grocery store this past week and there was this dad there with his son. They were throwing a birthday party and couldn’t find chicken ANYWHERE because so many other people had run in, taken as much as they could, and left. As mentioned before, I understand that this situation is scary to many and new to all of us, but we need to be rational with our decisions and consider others, especially when it comes to what’s available for purchase.

And still on the topic of grocery stores, my mom and I got back from Costco earlier today and dealt with some extremely nasty people. COVID-19 in Colorado has turned some people into monsters, oh my goodness. I understand that this is a tough time and again, it’s scary and new, but no one deserves to be yelled at over barely bumping into someone with a cart. My mom barely caught the heel of this lady when we were getting into Costco and this lady turned around and screamed at my mom, yelling, “WOULD YOU STOP RUNNING INTO ME WITH YOUR CART?!” First of all, that lady rudely asked me before we even entered the store and asked why there was a line. Costco created a 30 person in, 30 person out policy to comply with CDC guidelines. She then proceeded to cut us in the line after we were asked to sanitize the cart and when my mom just barely ran into her, this lady blew up on us. I don’t know what her situation was or what she has been dealing with, but I believe that regardless of whether or not you’re having a good day, you should put your feelings and thoughts aside and be kind to others. No one deserves to be treated with that sort of unkindness EVER and especially in a time like this. Some people were even fighting over the food and stuff available in Costco, which I found ridiculous too. Good Lord, it’s a rotisserie chicken. The sign said that each shopping party could only grab one chicken, so accept it. Those are the rules. And the way that some people treated the employees was absolutely disgusting. The employees are more at risk than anyone because of the amount of people they interact with and you have the audacity to scream at them for there not being any cleaning supplies in stock? That’s just unacceptable.

From this post, my goal is not to scare you or worry you. It is simply to educate you on what we’ve been dealing with in my state. I hope that you all are staying healthy and smart out there. Please take care of each other and listen to what your local and national governments are saying. Stay informed and most importantly, take care of yourselves and stay positive. And in addition to that, we need to be kind. My life quote is “Have courage and be kind.” In a time like this, that is SO SO SO important. We do not have time to be blaming some poor employee at Costco for not knowing where the Naked Juice is. We don’t have the resources to be hoarding toilet paper and napkins and other supplies. We SHOULD be treating each other with respect and lifting each other in this uncertain time so that we can get through this.

So have courage and be kind. Stay healthy too. 🙂 See you next week.

College Life and COVID-19

covid-19
Picture courtesy of the Center for Disease Control

So this past week has been one HECK of a week, let me say that. College life and COVID-19 are quite the combination. I’m now on spring break (thank goodness) but this past week at school, it was very interesting to see how coronavirus (COVID-19) developed and how it has affected everything.

It has been incredible to watch the response to this novel virus strain from the local, state, national, and even international levels. A couple of weeks ago, we received emails here at CSU introducing this current nightmare of a coronavirus. We were told that my university was monitoring the situation and would be updated as new information came up. And that new information came QUICK.

First the virus hit the U.S. and after that, boom. Schools in Washington were deciding to shift to online platforms, and before I knew it, CSU decided to do the same. On Wednesday this past week, our president and executive team made the decision to extend our spring break to March 24th, with classes starting up ONLINE beginning March 25th. We will be in online classes at least until April 10th and as the virus continues to do its thing, my school may or may not continue to use online platforms for learning. We shall see.

On Wednesday, it was very interesting to see the reactions of my fellow students. Some were thrilled classes were moving online and ideas of slacking off and screwing around clearly filled their heads. Others, myself included were concerned. What’s going to happen to my labs? Are all exams online now? Are my exams still going to happen that were scheduled upon return from spring break prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? There are just so many questions we have. Some have answers, but some are still just up in the air.

Now. I keep talking about Wednesday, and now I would like to have a little story time. Wednesday, I was supposed to have an in-person exam for my physiology class, which has become my favorite class this semester without a doubt. I was headed to my accounting class at noon when I received an email that my exam, which was supposed to be at 5 on Wednesday night, was moved to be online and I had five hours to schedule an online exam time. It was a mess and I have absolutely hated working with ProctorU to handle online exams. Read my posts about summer classes to learn more about those experiences. Haha.

And as I now add to this post on Sunday, my university has decided to shut down for the rest of the semester, with all classes finishing online. This will be interesting. Oh boy, will this test the discipline and self-control and focus of students across the country.

More than anything, I want everyone to stay healthy and smart out there. To those of you reading this, please please please take care of yourselves and your family. Please make smart decisions and educate yourself on the current situation. Now, more than ever we need to make educated and well-thought out decisions to keep each of us safe and healthy to the best of our abilities. CO-VID 19 is a fascinating, but clearly contagious and dangerous virus to many people so we need to work together and get through this. I really recommend checking out the CDC page on the virus. I’ll link it for your convenience: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

Have a good week and stay healthy out there. See you next Sunday!

Guayaquil: The Final Installment of the Ecuador Posts

By now, some of you might be like, “Thank God this is the last Ecuador post.” If that’s you, I’m sorry. I promise this is the last one! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these travel posts. I always find travel blog posts to be really fun to write and also look back on. 🙂 The final destination of my Ecuador study abroad was the hustling, bustling city of Guayaquil and boy was it different from anything I had experienced so far.

On our way out of Cuenca and into Guayaquil, we stopped at Homero Ortega Panama hats, a place that makes (here’s a shocker) Panama hats. There were a lot of really pretty and well made hats and I’m a little bummed that I didn’t get one, but that’s ok. Now I know where to get a really nice, high quality hat if I’m looking for one! It was really interesting to see the process of making the hats. They’re woven into a pretty generic pattern and then pressed into this machine that forms the actual shape of the hats and then any additional accessories or designs are added after. Pretty cool if you ask me.

After our hat shopping excursion, we stopped about halfway between Cuenca and Guayaquil at this place called Dos Chorreras for lunch and a tour of the little abandoned mountain town up the road. The tour was cool and the city was absolutely tiny! There was a small mine, saloon, church, and maybe like two or three tiny, tiny houses from what I can remember. And each building wasn’t very big either. Imagine a typical college dorm room and maybe cut a fourth of that off. That was the amount of space on the inside of the church. It was really cold when we did the tour so it felt reaaaally nice to go inside the hotel/restaurant and sit somewhere warm. For lunch, we had a choice of trout (as the place had a trout farm) or steak and I went with steak. The dish it was served on was in the shape of a cow too so that was fun! Prior to the meal, there was a really yummy soup served too and of course my meal wouldn’t be complete without blackberry juice. I ate way too well in Ecuador. Way too well.

After lunch, it was another hour and a half (I think?) to Guayaquil and we arrived at our hotel, Hotel Palace, just before dinner. We had time to unwind and relax and then we got dinner on our own. A couple of the other students and I went and got empanadas at a place not too far from our hotel and boy was I glad that I went with other people. There were so many beggars and someone cat-called me along the way too.

Guayaquil

While waiting for my empanadas, this homeless woman stood right at my side pleading that I give her money and on my other side, this nine-year old boy was doing the same. I wanted to help, but I just felt so uncomfortable. My empanadas were ok, but I feel like the experience of the city itself, made them less enjoyable.

There was also this man walking around the empanada stand who had blood GUSHING down his left arm (and when I say gushing, like it was really running down his arm) and it was dripping all over the streets and sidewalks. I’m not sure where he had been or what had happened, but after seeing all of that, I was ready to go hide in my hotel room. I guess that was how Guayaquil welcomed us?

After a unique dinner experience, we went and got ice cream and I got a blackberry milkshake at an ice cream shop across the street from the empanada stand. It was pretty yummy. 🙂 Our night wrapped up with a trip to an iguana park. Somewhere in the center of Guayaquil, there’s this park that is literally just home to a BUNCH of iguanas. Like so many iguanas. They were all sleeping by the time we got there but it was cute to see so many cute creatures. Well, maybe they weren’t all cute. Some of them were though! After some time chilling with the iguanas, we all went back to the hotel and hit the hay for the night.

The next day, we had a wonderful breakfast at our hotel and were all ready for our big business visits to Guangala Chocolate and Tulicorp, another chocolate company. Guayaquil = warm temperatures = optimal chocolate making and eating conditions. At Guangala, we got to tour the patio and learn about the chocolate making process and more specifically, the process of extracting cacao from cocoa beans and preparations for turning the cacao into chocolate. It was hot and WOW was the sun beating down on us and I was so thankful to have a water bottle with me that day. It was nice to have my hat too. At Guangala, I realized just how small the world is too. The wonderful woman that gave us a tour played tennis at CSU and her and I had a chance to talk a little about tennis so that was fun. 🙂

Following our roast on the patios of Guangala, we had lunch at this really cute place that had seafood and really good hot sauce. After lunch, it was time for our tour of Tulicorp, the other chocolate factory. At Tulicorp, we learned about how the cocoa beans are actually made into chocolate and had an opportunity to try a variety of chocolates. Let’s just say that I was pretty chocolate-ed out after this day. There was so much chocolate.

Guayaquil

Now full of chocolate, we headed back to our hotel, had some time to relax and shower and then, again it was dinner time. One of the supervisors wanted to find this placed called Arthur’s Cafe that was about a 30-minute walk away from our hotel and so a group of students and I joined her in finding it. Sadly, that cafe was closed permanently and we didn’t know that until we were standing at the vacated doors of what was once Arthur’s Cafe. We were all pretty hungry at this point so we found some other place nearby that was alright. The service was HORRIBLE and the food was so-so, but at least I got some more blackberry juice out of the deal! After our meh dinner, we made the 30-minute trek back to our hotel and I passed out.

Guayaquil

And just like that, it was January 15th. Our last day in Ecuador. We had breakfast at the hotel and then drove for about two hours to get to Salinas Beach, where we would spend a good chunk of the day. I spent some time swimming, working on a tan (which tends to be VERY hard for me), and doing one other thing that has me permanently traumatized… A banana boat. So some of you might be asking, what’s so scary about a banana boat? To those of you that have been on one and enjoyed yourselves, you’re not human. To those of you that have been on one and hated every second of it, I feel ya. To those of you that are like banana boat????? I’ll explain.

So a banana boat is a giant inflatable banana with straps attached to the top, which is where you sit. One end of the devilish banana is attached to a boat and as you ride along on this banana, the boat driver makes a sharp turn and you fall off unless you hold on for dear life. It’s supposed to be “fun”. Tell me WHERE the fun is, because I don’t see it.

See the thing is, I didn’t know that you were going to be flung off the banana as the boat driver guided us around. I thought we would just hop on the banana, and then get to bounce around and ride the waves. If that’s what the banana boat had actually been, I would’ve loved it. But NOOOOO. I legitimately get chills writing about it. Upon our first turn, we were WHIPPED off that stupid banana and a bunch of the people I was on the banana boat with all crashed into each other. One of my friends got smacked really hard in the head and someone or something smacked my ankle reaaaal hard. We had life vests on, so we weren’t going to drown but the feeling of being flung from a banana and then tossed around in the water and banged up by a bunch of other people was so so so NOT fun. We did this unfortunate banana flipping thing two more times and then it was all over. Thank. God. 10/10 would not ever recommend a banana boat to ANYONE. As I write this, my ankle still feels a bit tender because of the damage that was done on that gosh darn banana boat. Not good. Not good at all.

After that traumatizing experience, I remained on land for the rest of our time at the beach. Some ice cream helped lighten my mood, but wowza was I ready to go home at that point. After our time at the beach, we stopped at a local spot for lunch that had some of the best fettuccine with shrimp I’ve ever had. They also served my meal with a mountain of rice and avocado which was much appreciated.

We arrived at the hotel back in Guayaquil about two hours after leaving our lunch spot and by then, we had to finish up our packing and shower. At this moment, I realized just how sunburnt I had gotten. Yes, I had applied sunscreen, but being at the equator is just so different than being under the sun in Colorado. I was RED. I barely peeled later though, so that’s good!

Guayaquil
Image by Creative Fabrica

Now all ready to go to the airport, we had our farewell dinner at this gorgeous place that had some of the best service we had the entire trip. The food was phenomenal too. If I could remember the name of the place, I would definitely share and recommend that if you’re ever in Guayaquil. It was incredible. I definitely felt under-dressed though, in my leggings and hoodie. It was definitely a more formal eating spot.

And now the fun had ended and it was time to soak in the long lines of customs and airport security. Yippeeeeee. Getting through customs and security took a while, but it was fine. The miserable part came with the six-hour flight to Dallas. My sinuses wanted to kill me and it felt like my head was going to explode the entire flight to Dallas. And to add to that, it was also past midnight and I was trying to sleep. No bueno. When we got close to Dallas, our pilot announced that a storm was over Dallas that prevented us from landing so we had to detour to Austin, sit there on the plane for 30 minutes and then made it to Dallas.

And that was the cherry on top. Our little detour resulted in us missing our connecting flight to Denver, and the people with American Airlines were everything BUT helpful about our situation. No one was helping us get on another flight and I was just feeling miserable and exhausted and just wanted to be home already. Customs in Dallas really sucked too.

Finally, a wonderful woman came to our rescue and helped us all get on a flight back to Denver (even if it was going to put me home two hours later than planned) so we were going to be home. I fueled up with some Starbucks and before we knew it, we were on our flight back to Denver.

I got home around noon and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to be home. I really missed my country, of course, but I really missed my family. To give up two weeks of my winter break for a study abroad was totally worth it, but that time I missed with family is also important to me and I was a little bummed that I only have a couple of days with them before I had to leave for spring semester to start. Regardless, it felt good to be home and enjoy the time I could with my family.

Guayaquil

Ecuador, you were an incredible, hospitable country, even if I got sick while visiting. Thank you for being the first country, beside the United States for me to visit and explore. I’ll be back and I’m looking at you, Galapagos Islands! 🙂 If you’re a student in college or even high school that is considering studying abroad, I highly recommend looking into some sort of program, even if it is a short two-week thing, because it really gives you a chance to explore a new culture, have some fun, and get college credit while doing it.

I hope you all have enjoyed the Ecuador posts and on that note, I’ll see you all next Sunday. 🙂

Baños! And Not the Kind You Might Be Thinking…

Baños

I ran out of creative ways to say hello to the city I visited. I think what I did works though haha. Like with Quito, I could say hello and with Otavalo, heyo was fun, but I have nothing for this one. Anyway, the next city we stopped in during my study abroad to Ecuador was Baños!

The full name of the city is Baños de Santa Agua (or Holy Water Baths in English), but for short, it is referred to as Baños. This was a pretty touristy town but it was still super cool to visit. We did a lot of fun stuff here. The geography of Baños was very different from anything we had experienced before. We were still surrounded by mountains but the area was much more jungly than before. That was partly due to the fact that we were at one of the gateways to the Amazon jungle.

Baños

On our way out from Otavalo to Baños, we visited Rose Success, one of the many rose farms in Ecuador. It was really cool to see all of the greenhouses and be around SO MANY roses. In Ecuador, roses don’t have as much value as they do in the United States, because they are in abundance there. You could buy a dozen roses for $2 there as opposed to the at least $12 you would spend on the same bouquet here. Crazy! After our business visit, we stopped at Pujili Market which is one of the many fruit and vegetable markets in that area. It was so cool to see that much fruit and all of the unique products sold. We got to try some passionfruit and that was pretty weird but good at the same time. And I learned the proper way to eat mangoes that day too! If you’re ever curious, let me know and I’ll teach you.

The next stop on our journey to Baños was a painter’s house and we had the opportunity to watch him paint a traditional Ecuadorian painting. These types of painting always include the condor (the national bird of Ecuador) and a volcano. There are typically other features commonly seen in these paintings including llamas and working people. The tradition behind the paintings is really fascinating and if you ever have time to learn about it, I highly recommend it! The arts and crafts tour continued with another stop at a pottery place where we had the chance to make our own pieces using volcanic clay. We created our pieces in a traditional way. To do this, we had to take a chunk of clay and then press it into the mold we were given. Mine had a farmer with some llamas in it. 🙂

Following that, we stopped for ice cream in a town called Salcedo, which specializes in dairy products because of all of the cows they have there. The coconut ice cream was reallllly good. And then after dessert, we had dinner and then arrived at our new hotel, the Alisamay Hotel in Baños.

Baños

That night, I’m pretty sure I got the WORST sleep I’ve ever gotten in my entire life. There was this dang rooster at the house next door to our hotel and it screeched all night. I’m not even exaggerating. He must have had a lot to say. Regardless of the lack of sleep I got, I still had a really fun day the next day.

On January 8th, we started our day off with a hike to a beautiful waterfall. The hike wasn’t anything too taxing which was nice. The views of the waterfall were spectacular too. And after the waterfall hike, the physical intensity picked WAY UP. We went to this spot where you could zipline across a canyon and then zipline back. The ziplining was SO different from the ziplining I’ve done before. Instead of sitting in the harness, we were hoisted up once the harness was attached to our chests and the line and then our feet were placed into what I will describe as a baby harness. With this zipline, I basically flew like Superman. It was really cool but kinda painful. I can’t imagine how the guys felt doing this. Yikes… When we got to the other side, we were taken down from the line and had to carry all of our gear up a mountain (I’m not really exaggerating. The hike was intense and my lungs hated me for it haha) to then get reattached and fly back the other way.

I enjoyed the zipline experience but would I ever do it like that again, probably not. There was something just so fun about the ziplining I did in Hawaii that made it better than what I experienced in Ecuador. And now you might think, wow, that’s a lot to do in one day. Did you go to bed after? The answer to that question is no. We hadn’t even had lunch yet!

After the zipline, our bus drove us up to La Casa del Arbol which is this treehouse at the top of one of the mountains in that area. It’s owned by a man who keeps an eye on all of the volcanoes in the area and if one of them begins to show signs of eruption, he notifies the government. At this place, there was this swing attached to a treehouse and you could swing “off the edge of the world”. It was a cool experience and as a disclaimer, we were not going off the edge of the world, it was more off the side of a decently steep hill. It wasn’t even a cliff. And we only had to pay $1 to get to the park! Pretty nice right? I enjoyed the swing, but I really enjoyed the view more than anything. It was gorgeous up there.

And with our incredibly long morning complete, we FINALLY had lunch. It was around 2 in the afternoon when we finally got to a market to grab some food. The food, by the way, was INCREDIBLY good. I’m not sure if it was good just because I was starved or it was actually good. I’m pretty positive that it was a combo.

With that busy day coming to a close, we then headed back to the hotel to shower and relax and then went to dinner at this really nice hotel with a restaurant called the Luna Volcan. I got to try ceviche for the first time here and I was really pleased with how much I liked it. Thanks for the recommendations, Dad 😉

The next day, after another sleepless night thanks to Señor Rooster, was quite relaxing. We only had a half-day left in Baños and we had the chance to do whatever we wanted that morning. Some of the girls and I went to this spa that wasn’t too far from our hotel called Huellas Natural Spa and the experience was pretty good. The massage I had was probably one of the best I’ve ever had, and while the manicure was pretty mediocre, the service was still great and I was shocked at how decent it all was in general for $45. I had a facial, full body massage, and manicure. After the mini spa day, we went to lunch at this place called Honey that had massive milkshakes and extremely yummy paninis. I don’t think I’ve ever had a milkshake that contained that much sugar in my entire life. I definitely crashed on the bus later.

We had a chance to explore Baños until about 3:15 that afternoon and then we were off to our next city, Riobamba. That’ll be a story for next Sunday. Have a great week and I’ll see you all next Sunday! 🙂

Heyo, Otavalo

Otavalo

Like I said, we’re back with the Ecuador content, yippee! And this was probably my favorite city we visited during my study abroad program. Heyo, Otavalo! This week I’ve got stories about llamas, a lot more food and a lot of little town visits and stops. So I hope you’re not sick of the Ecuador blogs and you’re ready to do some reading. 🙂 And also maybe look at a few pictures of llamas. What I’ve included in this post is only a small fraction of the llama pictures I’ve accumulated.

On our way out of Quito we visited the ruins of one of the indigenous groups. Despite the fact that the ruins were mostly covered with grass and remained unexcavated, they were still very cool to see and it was interesting to learn about many of the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous people. One of the most interesting things I learned here was that the moon was the most important god to the people. The sun was an introduced character. And also, if you want your hair to grow longer, you need to cut it at the full moon. Kinda quirky, kinda cool.

At this same archaeological site, we were surrounded by llamas. And when I say surrounded, I literally mean it. There were soooo many. And they were all so cute too! We had the chance to feed the llamas salt and take as many pictures as we wanted. They were all really cute and I feel proud to say that I didn’t get spit on. Woohoo! I’ve never seen llamas run, but this was the place to see that at and it was really cool to spend as much time as we did with some really cool creatures.

Our next stop was at the Quitsalo Museum, basically another equator stop. This one was a more scientific view of the equator and they tried to explain things in a more scientific way. It was interesting, but it was ultimately just a plug for their explanations and documentary. I was hot and hungry and to be honest, I wasn’t all that interested. I was glad to leave that place, that’s for sure.

Otavalo

After our play time with llamas and second trip to the equator, we went to this place for lunch called Cafe de Vaca, or Cow Cafe. The restaurant was cow-themed and it was pretty dang cute. The food was really good too. My favorite parts were the drinks and dessert although the entire meal was really good. To drink, I had lemon, mint, and pineapple juice and for dessert we had a passionfruit mousse. So yummyyyy. We were still on our way to Otavalo at this point and our next step was a scenic view of the city as we got closer. It was really cool because we got to see Imbabura and Cotacachi, two of the volcanos in that area. A much needed bathroom break occurred too, haha.

After a long day of traveling and fun, we arrived at our next hotel, Las Palmeras Inn. This place was nothing like a Holiday Inn Express but it was pretty cute. The one thing I hated about it though, was my specific room situation. My roommates were fine, but I hated where our room was. It was on the top floor of the main building at the inn and we had no true bathroom that was just ours. Our room opened into the common TV room and then a bathroom which had a shower and all of the stuff you typically find in a bathroom, but it was accessible to all. I just felt like I couldn’t really get clean at that place. It was still gorgeous and the place was nice though.

Otavalo

The next day, January 6th, was going to be our big day at the Otavalo Market. I was so pumped. Our day started with breakfast at the inn and then we went to the market. We had three hours to shop to our hearts’ content and I really enjoyed it. Bartering was stressful but fun and I enjoyed being competitive will all these Ecuadorians trying to get me to pay more for things that I should. In the end, I made a friend in the market who gave me a free bracelet, walked away with a lot of llama-related items, and had a really good time. Everything was extremely cheap and it was just really cool to interact with the locals in the way that we did. This was more of what I expected out of a study abroad. All of the touristy things we had done up until this point had been extremely fun and memorable, but I went to Ecuador to experience a new culture and immerse myself in it. That’s something I definitely had the opportunity to do at the market and I loved it.

After our time at the market, we went to a musician’s home where he demonstrated and played a variety of handmade instruments for us. His family performed for us as well and that was really cool. After that, we had lunch at a great local spot and I didn’t get food poisoning so that was a good thing (I wish I hadn’t thought that because oh boy do I have a story for later!). Our next little stop in Otavalo was in a little city that is known for its wood carvings. It was called San Antonio and no it was not in Texas, haha. After our short time there, it was back to Las Palmeras Inn and we had a cooking class! I got to prepare my own trout and help make empanadas. We also got to see how they make blackberry ice cream. Yum yum yum.

And just like that, short but sweet, we were saying adios to Otavalo and were onto our next city, Baños! I’m excited to share everything we did there. There was a lot of excitement and a lot to do in our next city. But you’ll just have to wait til next Sunday to hear about that! Have a good week and ciao for now. 🙂

Otavalo

Check out my other Ecuador posts!
Journals
Quito

Hello, Quito

Hola y bienvenidos a mi blog! Hoy, vamos a hablar de…I’m just kidding haha. I don’t think I could do an entire post in Spanish. I could, maybe on a very basic level, but I’m not sure that you’re all here for that kind of blog. Anyway! This week I’m going to be talking about the first city we stayed in during my study abroad from January 2nd to the 15th. Quito! The capital of Ecuador!

If you haven’t read my post on all of my journals summing up my Ecuador trip, I recommend maybe doing that before you read this post, just so you get a general idea of everything I did. Or if that’s all you want to read about my time in Ecuador, you can read that too, by clicking HERE! 🙂 You won’t be totally lost if you don’t though. On with the show!

What a wonderful way to start off my trip to Ecuador. We arrived super late on the 2nd after an entire day of traveling. My first time through customs wasn’t as scary as I honestly imagined it being. The man just asked how long I will stay, and I couldn’t remember how to say fourteen days in Spanish, so I told him “Two weeks (dos semanas)!” and called that good. My first stamp is looking pretty cute in my passport. 🙂

Quito

When we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express we stayed at downtown, my roommates and I practically all crashed. That may or may not be a theme of mine for this trip, haha. The next morning, January 3rd, we had an early breakfast at our hotel and then it was off to the Fundacion Cristo Misionero Orante, which is a school run by a group of nuns. The place was entirely self-sustaining, so all of the food they needed was right there for them. In addition to that, they also double as a safe place and home for children who come from abusive homes. At Fundacion Cristo Misionero Orante, we helped weed in the areas where farming happened so that they could plant more vegetables and herbs too. We also had the opportunity to teach English to the kids who were in class at the time. Another student and I had the opportunity to go and teach English toward the end of our time at the school, and let me tell you, it was not easy. One of the things I learned during this part of the trip is that I really wish I had taken more opportunities to learn Spanish in high school. I learned quite a bit, but what I knew still wasn’t enough. The kids most definitely wanted to communicate and I wanted to communicate back, but it was difficult. Sometimes, I felt like a fool, if I’m being completely honest. In the end though, I was more focused on just being able to make the kids smile and enjoy their company overall.

Quito

After about three hours of work at the school, we went back to downtown Quito for lunch at this super cute place, Patio Andaluz. Our first of many wonderful meals happened at this place. My addiction to blackberry juice also began this day, haha.

Quito

With full stomachs, our tour of Quito then began. We saw the president’s estate, the main plaza, and many beautiful, tight streets lined with brightly colored buildings that were both homes and shops. Locals walked around will platters filled with meringue treats which looked delicious and every chance they had, they wanted to sell us something. We also visited a beautiful cathedral during our tour of Quito. With the help of our wonderful guide, we were allowed into the church and even got to climb up to the roof and see a wonderful city view. I can now say that I’ve been on top of a church before. Literally, the very top. After this, we visited another spot where we could see all of Quito. It was beautiful and also really cool to look out and see how the building climbed up the Andes Mountains and then suddenly stopped.

Our first busy day in Quito concluded with a wonderful dinner at this place not too far from the hotel called Restaurante Achiote. The food was great, yet again, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the dessert which was figs dipped in black sugar and cheese. It was different, that’s for sure. A lot of the people on my trip really wanted to go out that night, so we went to this area deemed “Gringoland” and found a bar. I got some good old bottled water while everyone else drank. One of the things I learned to be extremely grateful for that night was the no smoking policy that a lot of places have in the United States. There was a man smoking behind me and let me just say my asthma wasn’t too pleased with that. My first experience in a bar was an interesting one, that’s for sure.

Quito

The next day in Quito, we were back at Fundacion Cristo Misionero Orante. We helped paint the wall outside the school to cover up the graffiti and also did some more weeding. If I can’t put that I’m a professional weeder on my resume at this point, I’m going to be very disappointed. Just kidding. It was REALLY hot that day and I am so glad that I brought some water, sunscreen, and a hat with me that day.

Quito

After our time at the school again, we headed to Hacienda Herlinda for lunch. The food was fantastic, again and after that we visited El Mitad del Mundo, or the middle of the world. Here I got to experience the wackiness that is the equator and now I can proudly say that I’ve been in both hemispheres at once! Fun times. With another busy day practically over, it was back to the hotel. We later had dinner (at a place that I can’t remember and appear to not have written about in my notes) and then went and got brownies at this place called Sweets and Coffee, which to me, seems like the Starbucks of Ecuador. It was a cute little place! Everyone wanted to go out again that night, but I was getting a headache, so I called it a night.

And just like that, our time in Quito was over and we were onto our next city, the one I was most excited for, Otavalo. Save the drama for your llama and I’ll see you all next Sunday!

My Ecuador Journals: Summing Up My Time in Ecuador

I’m back! And oh boy does it feel good to be home. I really enjoyed my time in Ecuador but after getting food poisoning and catching a cold toward the end of my study abroad program, it sure feels good to be home. For my business minor, there was a two-week course offered through my university that would give me credit for the capstone business minor course. There were no prerequisites so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to go abroad for my first time and also get some college credit while I do it! I’m planning on posting more detailed stories of my time in Ecuador in weeks to come, but for this weekend, I decided to share the journals we had to write as our assignments for the class. They might be boring, they might be interesting. Hopefully you enjoy!

Ecuador journals

QUITO
Everything we experienced in Quito has surpassed my expectations. I expected Quito to be a busy and modern because it is a big city and the capital of Ecuador, but I didn’t expect it to be as fun to explore and beautiful as it is. If you wanted a quiet afternoon to sit in the grass and watch people, you could do that and have a panoramic view of the entire city. If you wanted to go out with friends and have a good time at a bar and sing some karaoke, you could do that too. You could also just wander the streets of downtown Quito and look through all the shops and see all the beautiful architecture that makes Quito so special. Honestly, the food has been the biggest surprise to me too. There has been so much food at every meal and it has all been so unique and delicious too. The food is all so filling too. 
When looking at what makes Ecuador and the United States similar, obviously the currency has been similar and that has been so convenient. There have been a lot of differences. The food has been so good here and the process of each meal has been so different. Meals are so long here and it’s interesting that lunch is the prioritized meal here and that they really value family time at meals too. In the US, I feel like meals are important and valued but not to the same extent that they are in Ecuador. The driving has been so different here too. Being in the bus, there were so many times where I was concerned for people driving or walking around but they all just made it work! It was cool to see how polite all of the people were when driving for the most part too. Even when someone cut someone else off or a person didn’t like what they saw on the road, they would honk quietly and move on with their day. 
Out of everything in Quito, I feel like being at the school had the biggest impact on me. I truly didn’t realize how scary it is to have a bunch of people around you that speak a language I barely understand. I took a decent amount of Spanish in high school but I felt so overwhelmed by how fast the kids spoke Spanish and I couldn’t keep up. It was also amazing to see how happy all of the kids were with their simple life. I was inspired by them for that. They would find reasons to smile and giggle and act goofy in any situation! And when they were playing, it was also so crazy to see how aggressive and rough they were with each other. What truly shocked me was their ability to just get right back up and get back to what they were doing after being knocked to the ground or get knocked in the head with a soccer ball. Now those were some resilient kids. What I really enjoyed about the school was the curiosity of the kids and their desire to communicate with us even if we had our language barrier. The kids would try so hard to find other ways to get answers out of me if I didn’t understand what they asked the first time and it was and I admired their persistence. They were also so curious in what we were doing and I loved it when some of the boys came over and tried to help weed. They were adorable. I hope that what we did at that school helps the teachers and nuns and kids feel good about the place they work and play at. I hope they are able to use that space to grow more food and continue to be super self-sustaining and helpful in the lives of all of those kids. 
Quito was a fun, beautiful city and I feel so lucky to have been able to experience everything we did. Quito will always be special to me now because it is the first city I visited on my first time outside the US.  I hope I get a chance to come back!

Ecuador journals

OTAVALO AND THE NORTHERN HIGHLANDS
Since leaving Quito, the trip has only gotten better. When we went to the Cochasquí Archaeological Park and got to see all of the llamas, I had so much fun. That was such a unique experience and that place was so beautiful. The tour guide mentioned something about the energy of that place I believed in it fully. That park was super cool. I really enjoyed learning about the information that is known about the people that lived there. The whole thing about cutting your hair at the full moon to help it grow longer was fascinating. Their ability to track the stars and understand their environment based on the patterns of the sun, moon, and stars was fascinating.
When we arrived in Otavalo and finally had the opportunity to go to the market, I think that became my favorite part of the trip. While the previous days had all been incredible, I feel like I was able to immerse myself into the culture even more and engage with the locals more which is something I have looked forward to this trip. Bartering was a new and fun way to shop and I was able to use some of the Spanish I know to make some pretty good deals. $15 for a pair of silver earrings just seems insane in the United States, but that was a deal I was able to make while at the market and I thought that was pretty cool. There was a man toward the back of the market that sold jewelry and by the end of our time there, I would say I made a friend at the market. We were his first customers of the day and he even gave us free bracelets for being his first customers. It was really cool to see all of the different things that people had made and how proud they were to display their goods. The work with the jewelry and wool products was especially impressive.
After our time in the market, I really enjoyed going to Nanda Mañachi, Peguche, and the town of Cotocachi. Each stop we made had something so unique to it and I loved the emphasis on tradition. Especially with Peguche, I loved seeing parts of the traditional processes in making the beautiful wool scarves, sweaters, blankets, and tapestries. Other big companies that make wool products may have more perfected wool, but at Peguche, there was clearly so much passion and love for the work and culture which means so much more to me than precision and perfection with creating the wool yarn to begin with. After visiting Peguche, I don’t think I’ve ever actually felt softer wool.
Between Quito and the cities of the Highlands, I feel like I’ve liked Otavalo and the Northern Highlands a little bit more. I did enjoy the modern, big-city feel that Quito had, but I feel like Otavalo and the other smaller cities we visited here expressed so much more culture and tradition which I enjoyed seeing and being a part of. Just thinking about the way that people dressed in Otavalo already was so different from Quito. Most men had long, braided hair and wore some form of a hat. The women all had very long hair and I can’t recall seeing a single woman that wasn’t wearing a skirt. It was all very traditional here and there was clearly so much pride with it too. I liked to see that. Every little town we visited specialized in one thing or the other which was cool too. Like with San Antonio, they specialized in wood carvings and you might be able to find some of that in another city but not to the same extent. In Quito, there was no specialization like that. It was mostly modern, and you could find a variety of things everywhere.

Ecuador journals

BAÑOS
Baños was an incredible little town and I’m glad that it was added to the program. There’s so much to do there and the town itself has so much variety in its geography and it’s in a good location for adventure tourism. Baños is surrounded by volcanoes and mountains so that makes it a prime location for adventurous mountain climbers, mountain biking, and also for hot springs. It has a lot of waterfalls and rivers that create opportunities for whitewater rafting and other water-related activities. Baños is just in a great geographic location and that is part of what allows it to support so much tourism in general but especially the adventure tourism, as I mentioned. Tourism in general definitely has a positive impact on the economy in Baños. It was clear that Baños relies on tourism and the money it brings to the city based on all the souvenir shops and touristy experiences like ziplining, bike tours, and the swings off the mountainsides.
Out of everything we did in Baños, my favorite thing was the zipline because the views were just so beautiful and I enjoyed getting to be around so many other people that were excited to do fun, adventurous things like ziplining. I’ve ziplined before but it was just such a unique experience getting to be strapped in face down and experience the canopy as if we were flying. That hike was not so fun though when we needed to get to the second platform to come back. That was intense. Regardless, the views were great and I really enjoyed the zipline.
In comparison to Otavalo, Baños just had a lot to do and was clearly a town geared toward tourists. From the goods that were sold to the appearance of the shops to the way locals interacted with everyone, Baños was clearly a tourist town. Baños just had so much variety too. There were the Andes and the Amazon rainforest and rivers and waterfalls and hot springs. Otavalo, on the other hand, was more geared toward its own people. The market was more of a tourist attraction but it still appealed to the locals. They were still very involved in the market and the overall culture of the market.
When we visited Rose Success on our drive to Baños, I really enjoyed getting to see the process of growing the roses, picking the roses, and ultimately preparing them for shipment to their various locations. It was interesting to learn about the specific requirements for roses going to specific places. Like for roses going to Russia, the stems need to be quite long. And I was also shocked to see some of the roses that were deemed unfit for export. They looked gorgeous to me! It was cool to see that roses that aren’t selected for export at least make it to the markets and stands throughout Ecuador. That’s a much less wasteful way to run a business, especially a flower business.
Overall, Baños was a fun town to explore and experience. It has so much to offer and I know for a fact that everything we did in Baños will not be forgotten. I’m excited to see what programs in the future have the chance to experience in Baños!

A BUNCH OF SMALL STOPS
Our visit to Rodrigo’s home and the Urbina Estacion was really cool. I liked the art on the walls in that room we were in that displayed each of the volcanoes and big mountains in Ecuador along with the surrounding cities. That really put everything in perspective when looking at the geographical layout of Ecuador. I loved hearing Rodrigo’s stories too. He was such an interesting man and clearly has a lot of experience with the mountains and volcanoes of Ecuador. If he comes out with a book in the near future, that’s something I would be interested in reading so that I can learn even more about his life and support the exciting work he does.
The lava rock dinner following our visit to Rodrigo’s house was so fun and a super unique experience. The hacienda we ate at was gorgeous and it was cool to be in the same building Simón Bolivar once stayed in. Getting to grill my own food was a fun experience. All of the food was so good that night and if I had to pick a favorite part, I would definitely say the flan. It was delicious.
When we went to Riobamba, I was honestly shocked by how nice it ended up being. When we initially drove in, I was honestly quite sketched out by everything we drove past but when I could finally see everything the next day, that opinion changed. The hotel was very nice and had really good strawberry-blackberry juice and the downtown area was actually quite cute. When we visited the Guamote community while in Riobamba, I really enjoyed getting to try and teach English again. The class we had was much more shy than the class that I had at the school outside Quito, but they were so cute and I loved watching them try to follow along when we sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”. The guinea pig preparation was honestly rough for me to watch but I was happy to see how humane the process was and I was impressed by how fast the women killed and cleaned the guinea pigs to prepare them for our meal later. When we finally had lunch, I was surprised by the food, honestly. I expected it to be bland and was going into it thinking I wasn’t going to eat very much food at all but I had a decent amount of potatoes and corn. The food was pretty bland but it was fresh and I did enjoy eating it when there was seasoning and hot sauce provided. I even tried a tiny piece of guinea pig but I think after that experience, I probably won’t try guinea pig again. One of the biggest take-aways I had from our experience in that community was that you don’t need much in life to be happy. Living a simple life doesn’t mean you live a sad life. That was quite the opposite in the Guamote community and it’s something I plan to think a lot about and apply to my own life.
The Devil’s Nose train ride was the first train ride I’ve actually ever taken and for my first one, I’d say it was pretty good. I enjoyed the views and was glad that Effy could do some explaining and pointing out for me because the tour guide on the train was extremely difficult to understand. When we arrived at the mountain community, I really enjoyed getting to see the dances. I loved the bright colors and really loved the skirts the women wore. I wish that we had a chance to wear those and dance around in them but the dancing we did was still very fun. Before and after the train ride, it was fun to explore Alausí. It was a cute little town. The food was pretty good and extremely cheap there as well. I spent $6 on a meal for a huge glass of blackberry juice, a bowl of chicken soup, rice, chicken, and a salad. It was a good deal and I’m still so shocked by how cheap food is here. In the US, a meal like that would’ve easily cost about $15.

Ecuador journals

INGAPIRCA AND CUENCA
The Ingapirca ruins were cool to see, especially when looking at the fusion of Cañari and Incan culture and tradition in the way the different structures were built. It was interesting to compare pure Cañari-built structures to pure Incan-built structures and then see how they came together, especially with that one room that was supposedly where the Incan king and Cañari princess stayed. These ruins were more of what I expected to see when we first visited the ruins on our way to Otavalo. It was interesting to see that the moon was another important god to the Incans and Cañaris. That has been something consistent throughout many of the indigenous and ancient communities we’ve learned about during our time here.
Our time in Ingapirca was extremely short but I enjoyed the time we spent both at the hotel and the ruins. Cuenca was another short visit, but I also enjoyed the time we spent there. Cuenca had a very different vibe to it than any other city we visited. It was busy and moving, but the dominance of the Catholic religion definitely played into the tone of the city. I remember Effy telling us that no building can be taller than the Catedral de Cuenca and that goes to show how powerful religion is in that city. I loved getting to go in and see what that cathedral looked like. It was an incredible building and the feeling I got from standing inside it was truly powerful. The beauty of the churches we passed and got to see clearly demonstrate that people in Cuenca care deeply about their religion. From the three baby Jesus parades I saw, I also realized how important community and that sense of religious belief as a community is to people in Cuenca. The fact that mostly everything was also closed on Sunday demonstrated how seriously people in Cuenca follow their religion, once again.
On our way out from Cuenca, stopping at Homero Ortega was a fun and interesting trip. It was cool to learn about the process of making Panama hats and I truly feel confident saying I’ve never seen that many hats in my entire life. There was so much variety in the size, style, and color of each and every hat that came out of that company. I was impressed by the care and quality that went into creating each hat to make sure that something wonderful was made. The quality surely pays off when looking at the customer base that Homero Ortega has, including Princess Diana, Julia Roberts, and Johnny Depp. It was crazy to hear about the one man who paid $40,000 for ten hats and the process that goes into working with clients to create the hats in demand. I just don’t think I’d ever spend $4,000 for a single hat. They were great quality though and they had a bunch of fun, cute hats that might be worth it.
When looking at Ingapirca and Cuenca in comparison to a lot of the other cities we’ve visited, they’ve definitely been more on the indigenous side of things, like Otavalo. There were more businesses that appealed to locals and the traditions of the people there as opposed to tourists. There was a small town feel to both Ingapirca and Cuenca that reminded me of Otavalo, just because neither are truly big tourist towns. Truly though, it’s hard to compare these cities to past cities we’ve been to during our time here because we haven’t had the same amount of time to experience them as we have with cities like Quito and Baños. Ingapirca also just didn’t seem like a very large city and a majority of things in Cuenca were closed due to the fact that it was Sunday while we were there. Regardless, both were great little cities and I enjoyed spending time in both. Hopefully students next year will get to enjoy a more lively Cuenca!

GUAYAQUIL AND SALINAS BEACH
The visits to both chocolate companies were interesting. I enjoyed seeing the process of creating chocolate from the bean fermentation at Guangala to the actual molding and making of chocolate at Tulicorp. At Guangala, I loved seeing how knowledgeable Rafaela and Jimmy were about their work. They were also clearly very passionate about the work they do and I appreciated the sustainable aspect of their business as well. It was very clear that Guangala considers the environmental impacts their work has on the world around them and that sets them apart from other cacao processing companies. There was also a very clear positive relationship between management and the workers. The way that Jimmy and Rafaela both interacted with workers on the patio was very positive and encouraging. It was good to hear that Guangala is set on educating their employees too. From what it sounded like, Guangala makes sure its workers are educated on matters from different diseases cacao plants can get to how to properly harvest cacao pods and prepare them for fermentation. Continuing education is important in all fields but I found it very interesting that Guangala invested so much in it for their workers. It shows that they want high-quality products and employees who know a lot and care a lot about their products.
At Tulicorp, I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the company. Everyone working while we were there was focused and working hard but they were clearly enjoying themselves. The conditions were hot and it was somewhat dark in there, but they were completing their tasks and smiling while they did it. That that they enjoy what they do. Happiness at the employee level comes from a strong management team and from what I could tell, Tulicorp was well run and has a fantastic family running it. It was cool to see that there had been four generations of cocoa business owners at Tulicorp. The passion for cocoa ran in the family and it very clearly continued and was displayed in the work we got to see and hear about. Tulicorp had a small business feel, but everyone there knew that they were an important and powerful company that worked with a lot of big names and companies like Trader Joe’s.
At both places, I was surprised by how involved management was with the entire process. It was cool to hear that Jimmy, Rafaela, and people at Tulicorp regularly visit the cacao farms to see the workers and their plants. They are so much more involved than I ever expected them to be and I feel like that helps both Guangala and Tulicorp stand out in Ecuador. In terms of regulations, I was surprised by all the sustainability regulations that both Tulicorp and Guangala held themselves to. To me, the biggest surprise came from the sustainability regulation aspect of the chocolate industry. It’s not something I would have initially considered to be important but it definitely is and it’s great to see such successful chocolate businesses working so hard to take care of the environment. I wasn’t too surprised by the amount of regulations otherwise though. It makes sense for a high-quality product to have a lot of regulations. In order for something delicious and desirable to be produced, there has to be a process that regulates everything from the qualities of pesticides and insecticides that protect the cacao pods all the way to the machinery and maintenance of that machinery that makes the chocolate.

And with the end of that journal comes the end of this extremely long post. I hope some of you are still around to see this, haha. In the weeks to come, I’ll highlight each major stop we made that was reflected by each of my Ecuador journals. I had a lot to say with my journals but there is just so much that we did and covered during my two weeks in Ecuador and I can’t contain it all to one or two blog posts. So if you’re into travel blogs, that’s what this is going to become for a bit. Have a wonderful week everyone! 🙂

Reflecting on 2019

reflecting on 2019
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

This year was quite the year. A lot happened. A lot always happens, but I feel like this year was especially good and also especially sad and hard. With that said, I’m reflecting on 2019 and looking back on the year I had.

January: My family and I rang in the new year from our couch and I got to play a lot of tennis with my dad, sister, and friends that we’ve made at the Ranch Country Club. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play at such a nice facility and have courts year round to play at. Does anyone remember my shrimp project for ecology last school year? That happened in late January too. 🙂

February: I went to a dinner to celebrate my academic achievements for my freshman year. We also celebrated my mom’s birthday. Marty was starting to get pretty sick around this time but he was still a happy, wonderful dog.

March: School was definitely in full swing again and I got to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. Her birthday was during the week, so I didn’t get to be home for it, but we celebrated over the weekend. We also had those two big bomb cyclones in March. I got school off twice so of course I remember that! 🙂 My aunt also came to visit during spring break and we had a great time at the Denver Art Museum (at least outside it), touring Regis, and eating at BurgerFi.

April: Boo turned eight in April and I got to watch Allyson at a couple of her high school tennis matches. She was 1 singles so of course I had to be there to be her cheerleader! Allyson also had her senior prom and I had so much fun helping her get ready. She looked beautiful. 🙂

May: Bobo turned two and I finished out my first year of college. Allyson also graduated from high school and my aunt and uncle came to spend some time with us around then. We had a wonderful party for her at the Ranch and it was so good to be around so many friends and family members to celebrate her. We also sent Allyson to Hawaii then!

June: Allyson started working at Build-A-Bear, so I was one proud sister then, haha. We also spent a lot of time at the pool and on the tennis court for leagues, tournaments, and just some good family fun. My grandma also flew back to Georgia in June and my summer classes were in full swing. Woohoooo.

July: Boo rang in July with his big dental surgery. He needed a bunch of teeth extracted so that was his way to celebrate our nation’s independence. In July, I played a lot more tennis and explored Colorado with my family. We went to The Inventing Room, saved a bunny from our window well, and Allyson and I won a couple of tournaments. I also visited one of my best friends from school in California. We had a lot of fun. 🙂

August: We celebrated my dad and aunt’s birthday as well as Marty’s tenth birthday and then shortly after Marty’s birthday, he passed away. 🙁 I still miss him so much. If I’m being totally honest, I’ve struggled more than I thought I would with his loss. Beside that, I started my sophomore year of school and we also made a trip to Farmington to see my grandpa, aunt, and uncle before school started. My family and I also went and saw Anastasia in August and it was a beautiful show.

September: My dad and mom went to New Mexico for my dad’s high school reunion and while that was happening, I was in full study mode already. Organic chemistry and physics were an intense combo! Despite our distance, we also celebrated my uncle’s birthday. 🙂

October: I turned 20! We also celebrated my grandma’s birthday. My family and I went to Phil Collins’ concert when he was in town and I also competed in the Miss Colorado USA pageant.

November: My family and I went to the Denver Art Museum for a project Allyson needed to work on. Early in November, my grandpa passed away too. 🙁 It was tough and still is tough to deal with his death. Over Thanksgiving break, we went to New Mexico for Thanksgiving at my great aunt’s house and we also celebrated my grandpa’s life at his memorial service. My sister and I had the honor of speaking at it. We also visited the Salmon Ruins while in New Mexico. This year, one of the things that I truly took to heart is that family is the most important thing to me. I don’t know who I would be or where I would be without them.

December: The last few days of 2019. We spent Christmas at home this year and it was different, but it was good. We had my great aunt’s famous cheesy potatoes on Christmas morning and that was fun. Different, but fun. We also went to Gaylord, the new hotel/resort out by DIA and saw their ice display. It was really cool. I’ve enjoyed a lot of time with family while I’ve been home since winter break started and I finished strong with my sophomore season at CSU.

So that was my year! I know there are still a couple of days, but I felt like reflecting on 2019 now was a good idea. This year sucked in a lot of ways but it was also an incredible year. There will always be good and there will also always be bad. With every new year, I just remember that and see how I can improve my responses and attitude toward new challenges, obstacles, successes, and downfalls. I hope these last few days, you all spend some time reflecting on 2019 and enjoying the last days of this decade. I’m looking forward to 2020!

I won’t be posting for the next two weeks due to a study abroad I’m doing in Ecuador, so I’ll see you all in the new year when I get back. Have a great week and again, Happy New Year!

Back to School! Getting Ready for Year 2 at CSU

This past Monday, I moved back in at Colorado State University. Classes don’t start for another week but I was granted early move-in by the honors program (thank youuuu) so I could be all settled in in time for me to take part of the peer mentor trainings for freshman seminars that CSU requires through the honors program. Oooooh. Basically, I’m an instructor for a freshman seminar recitation course. Fun! I get to provide a bunch of resources to freshmen in the honors program and help make their transition to college as smooth as possible. I’m supposed to have a partner, but I’m not going to lie, he’s been a lousy one so far so we’ll see how that goes!

Monday was a fun day. Let me tell ya. Monday = move in. I said all my goodbyes to my dad, Marty, Boo, and Bobo and then was in Fort Collins a little after noon. That’s when the unpacking began. My mom and sister made a second trip back to my house to get the rest of my stuff and then all of the magic in my new room truly happened. I’ll have to post a picture of it some time! The unpacking and sorting and decorating really wasn’t complete until around 6 o’clock and my mom, sister, and I had all skipped out on lunch so we were all pretty drained. When finished with my room, we went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner where I ate WAY too much (but also needed it so we’re fine). After dinner, I said goodbye to my mom and sister and was back in my hall. Bed time followed shortly after. I was pooped!

CSU

Tuesday was a big training day for the peer mentor program. There were so many ice breakers and a lot of good information to help us all be the most successful and helpful instructors to our freshmen. Wednesday was the day I actually got to meet my freshmen and I’m so pleased with the group I got. They seem to be a wonderful group of very smart young individuals and I look forward to seeing them become more confident and comfortable with college. 🙂 I don’t know if many other honors programs run things the way that CSU’s honors program does, but I’m blown away by the attention and support that each student receives.

Thursday was my first day to really just do nothing which was kind of nice but also really weird. This was the day that my sister, Allyson, was moving in at Regis University and also the day that most people were moving in on campus here at CSU. It was also Marty’s tenth birthday. I’m still celebrating and I’m still so thankful that my sweet bubba has been such a wonderful part of my life. Anyway…

Thursday morning, not much happened. In the evening though, the big carnival on campus happened! Despite some threatening clouds and the occasional bit of rain, the carnival continued on. My friends and I didn’t do many of the rides (I’m personally just not a fan) but we did try every single ice cream thing (including snow cones) that was available to us. There was also popcorn and I found out I’m not horrible at skee ball. CSU seriously knows how to throw a welcome party, wow. This was a super fun night because I just got to be around so many good people that I love so so so much. I’m excited and thankful to be with the friends I made last year.

Friday, once again, the morning was pretty slow and relaxed. My friend and I went to get our nails done and also had lunch at Torchy’s Tacos which has become one of my favorite places to eat in the whole entire world. The trashy trailer park tacos are the way to go in my opinion. 🙂 10/10 would recommend.

CSU

In the evening on Friday, there were activities at the Lory Student Center and that was my favorite part of this past week. My friends and I got there an hour before anything actually opened so that we could wait in line to stuff little Rams, kinda like what you do at Build-A-Bear Workshop. We successfully stuffed our Rams and then went on to collect so much free food from Spoons (which is a local Fort Collins favorite), Panda Express (a personal favorite haha), as well as That Bagel Place (which I believe is another Fort Collins thing). We made glitter jars and made sand art and really just enjoyed each others company. My friends and I even made it on the Lory Student Center’s Instagram story!

Yesterday, I had my first day of work with a local tennis facility and I really enjoyed getting to play and TEACH the sport I love. The little lobbers (which were the 4-6 year olds) were my favorite. They were just all so adorable and so so so bad at tennis and I loved it! Teaching is a really different side of things that I think I’ll learn to really appreciate.

This past week was exhausting but so much fun at the same time. I’m so excited to be heading into this school year and see where things take me from here. If you’re a fellow Rammie and you’re reading this, good luck here at CSU! 🙂 If you’ve headed back to school already, I hope things got off to a good start for you and if you’re just getting into classes and you’re not from CSU, I still wish you the best of luck. 🙂 We’re all gonna need it. Especially if your name is Ana Horvath and you’re taking a physics and organic chemistry at the same time… Have a good week!