Settling into life in Baños, Ecuador

by Kim on September 19, 2012 · 40 comments

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Ecuador for over a month now. I don’t know what we were thinking before we left the U.S., but 4.5 months in South America just isn’t enough. I’m excited to head to India in January, but I’m sad that we’re not able to explore every nook and cranny of the places we’re visiting. There’s so much to see and do.

I’m constantly amazed at how quickly we’ve adapted to our new way of life. Aside from a few minor bumps in the road, and the incredible stress right before we left the states, we’ve fallen into this new lifestyle with ease. We’re having such an incredible adventure and I sometimes still have to pause and allow myself to realize that after years of planning and dreaming this is actually happening. I feel similar to the way I used to feel in college- carefree and aware that I am fully participating in the act of being alive. I’m learning a lot. I’m having a hell of a good time. My future feels wide open again.

We’re currently in Baños, Ecuador, where we’re spending three weeks, and we love it here. Baños itself is small and charming, a beautiful little town tucked into the Andes mountains. We are living and volunteering at Arte del Mundo, an organization that promotes literacy and the arts to the children of Baños.

A view of Baños, Ecuador from the hills above

We’re living communally with six other volunteers and it’s so fun. I love that I’m making new friends from all over the world. We’ve met such an eclectic and fun mix of people. Brian and I both lean towards introversion and before we left I feared that we might get lonely out here on the road. But the truth is that so far any moments of loneliness have been fleeting and outnumbered by whole days filled with new friends. 

Dinner with our friends and fellow volunteers

We’ve been busy in Baños! In the mornings we are taking Spanish classes (for four hours!) at Mayra’s Spanish School. We have private lessons with our teacher Markos, whom we adore. Brian and I are both terrible students, we can’t remember a thing, but Markos is patient and he’s teaching us a lot about the language and about life in Ecuador.

This is how we normally look and feel in Spanish class

In the afternoons we volunteer with the children. We read with them for an hour and then launch into an activity that the volunteers have planned in advance. We do fun things like make silent movies, bake cookies, create art and play games outside.

Hosting the Baños Olympics

By the end of the day Brian and I are both exhausted and our heads are spinning. Learning (or, rather, attempting to learn) a new language is hard. I’ve found that I improve the most during the hours I’m working with the kids. They talk a million miles a minute and don’t care that I can’t speak a lick of Spanish. I have to get creative and use my limited vocabulary to communicate with them. I end up saying ridiculous things like “you to read book with me?” and “no to run!” but at least I get my point across. 

I’ve been running regularly here in Baños and even have a normal route. Baños is hilly and at elevation so the running is slow-going, but I love exploring the dusty back roads outside of town. It’s not uncommon for me to be chased by dogs, rerouted around cows and horses, or stopped by locals who want to ask me where I’m from and how long I’ll be in Ecuador.

It’s been so nice to settle into a place, unpack our bags, and establish a bit of a routine. There’s a part of me that’s beginning to itch with the desire to move on, to see the next city, the next country, but a bigger part of me that is happy that we’ve spent some serious time getting to know Baños. We’re learning a lot about how we like to travel. The deeper, richer experiences seem to happen only when we slow down. 

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel September 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

The images I have in my head of you running around dusty roads and being followed by dogs and other animals, and then being asked questions in Spanish along the way makes me smile. I’m amazed you continue to run while you’re there…I’m not even running much and I have no excuse! Other than needing new shoes pretty badly.

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:38 am

I have to force myself to run every day… I never want to do it (what’s new?). But I do love seeing places I wouldn’t see otherwise because I’m on foot and running.

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Dalene September 19, 2012 at 11:40 am

We have so many great memories from Banos, really glad that you are enjoying it as well. Say hi to Karlito for us!

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:39 am

Banos is a great place! I will tell Karl you say hello AND btw, I saw the “brick” that you and Pete donated up on the wall here in the new theater!

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Sarah Somewhere September 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Oh I hear ya on the Spanish sista! We’re only three days in and it’s HARD! I don’t know why I thought it would be easy… I absolutely LOVE that photo of Brian and the kids. I can just imagine what that day would have entailed. It’s a wonderful thing you’re doing with those kids, and I’m sure they’ll never forget it.

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:39 am

Oh man… Spanish is so freaking hard! I’m embarrassed to say that I took EIGHT YEARS in high school and college and I still don’t know a damn thing…

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Keirnsy September 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Yay Yay Yay! It’s such a delight to read about your adventures.

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:40 am

Yay, so glad you’re following along Sarah!

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Sacha September 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Haha love that photo of you guys in your spanish class!!

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:40 am

Hehe, yep, it pretty much says all it needs to say about our life in Spanish class.

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Dana September 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Looks great! Learning a new language is SO hard, and surprisingly exhausting…boa sorte with all of your spanish ;)

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:40 am

It’s crazy how exhausting it is. My brain is toast by the end of the day.

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Hannah September 19, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I can feel your pain in that photo from your Spanish class! I think what you guys are doing is awesome – those kids couldn’t ask for better people to be spending their days with :)

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:41 am

The kids are amazing- so smart and talented. They don’t need us at all, but we are learning a lot from them.

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EarthDrifter September 19, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Baños is beautiful. This post brings back memories. I visited Arte del Mundo after spontaneously meeting one of the Directors (the chilled out British dude whose name currently escapes my memory). A couple of kids gave me a geography lesson. They seem so eager to learn. It seems like such a great program. I attended movie night there. Hang in there with the Spanish. A new language takes years to learn. At least the alphabet’s easy, unlike Arabic, which I’m currently trying to shove into my brain. Ahhhhhhh! Brutal!

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:45 am

Ha, that chilled out British dude would be Karl! The kids are amazing! Very eager to learn, very smart, very sweet. They’ve stolen a bit of my heart. Movie night is tonight! So funny to see that things stay the same around here :)

Good luck with Arabic. That’s insane! I wouldn’t even know where to start with that language…

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Bama September 20, 2012 at 7:15 am

Reading your story reminds me of my forgotten wish to volunteer while traveling. Oh and learning a local language sounds so much exciting as well! I’ll be following your story on India, Kim. :)

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 8:53 am

Thanks Bama! There are so many volunteering opportunities- you’ll definitely be able to find one when you want it.

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Miel September 20, 2012 at 7:46 am

It is too bad you are having to head on from Banos, particularly when the best time to be in Banos is during carnival. I was there in 1998 for carnival and had a blast. I also feel you with the Spanish classes, been there, done that. I spent a semester in Cuenca and highly recommend that you make it there as well, if you do, I have some good connections to set you up with.

Cheers,

Miel

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 8:54 am

Hi Miel, we are headed to Cuenca when we leave Banos- looking forward to it, I hear amazing things.

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@TheBigBreak September 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Kim, Soo jealous but glad you have found such a great place. I loved Banos but only spent a couple days there. But, I imagine it is nice to be able to unpack and call home for even a little while. And, I am sure the language lessons are going better than you feel like they are. Drink more beer. That always helps with fluency. :)

Our planning is SLOW but hopefully getting closer (maybe 6 months?). We might follow you down to Ecuador… stopping first in Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica…. ha! How ever will we decide?

Love following your experiences. Thanks for posting in detail. Love the running stories. Makes me hopeful I can keep it up on my trip too.

Cheers!

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Well, if you make your way back to Banos I know a great place you can volunteer! Also, I’m already plotting our next loop around the world and it will definitely begin in Mexico and then go south through Central America. So I know what you mean, it’s so hard to decide!!

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Ali September 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

Sounds great! Learning a new language is really tough, but you’ll start picking it up since you’re spending so much time in Spanish speaking countries. As for slowing down and settling into a place, it sounds wonderful. As much as I love to travel and see more and more, I’ve learned over the past couple years, that slowing down is really a wonderful way to see the destination. And even if it means you won’t get to see as many cities or countries in South America, you’ll still enjoy what you do see, and you can always come back for more later!

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Kim September 22, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I know you know all about the frustrations of learning a new language! :) I am already plotting our next trip through South America where we’ll move even slower but go to more destinations- I think I could easily spend a year just moving slowly through SA.

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Torre – Fearful Adventurer September 22, 2012 at 1:39 am

What a beautiful life! You guys are always such an inspiration. x

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Kim September 22, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Thank you Torre. You are actually one of my inspirations, so it means a lot coming from you!

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) September 22, 2012 at 2:03 am

It must feel so nice to have settled in a place and have it feel a bit like a home away from home. We really loved Hong Kong and spent 9 days there, but that’s the longest we’ve been anywhere thus far! I’m looking forward to finding a place we love so much, we just can’t bear to leave it right away. Alas, in Japan & HK it was just too expensive to nest for very long!

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Kim September 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Yeah, I can imagine that Japan is just way too expensive to linger for long. We are barely spending any money here in Banos. Our room costs $5 per person per day. Our breakfast consists of fresh squeezed orange juice ($15 oranges for $1) and croissants ($0.20 cents each). It’s insanely inexpensive…

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Rica September 22, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I end up saying ridiculous things like “you to read book with me?” and “no to run!” but at least I get my point across. — this made me laugh! I experienced the same thing when I was in Vietnam, trying to get my point across to locals but speaking in broken English :)

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Dustin September 24, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Not sure if y’all know of each others blog but Always Twirling (http://www.alwaystwirling.com) is also in Banos right now, both of you guys are folks we would love to catch up with on the road!

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Kim September 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Fantastic! I just emailed them. Hopefully we can meet up with Always Twirling and Beyond Blighty!!

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Cam @ Traveling Canucks September 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

We loved Banos. We were there for Carnival in 2009, chaos!
Great to see you learning the language, sounds like a rewarding experience

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Kim September 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

I’ve heard Carnival is insane… lucky you!!

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Jeremy September 25, 2012 at 4:13 am

Wow, Banos looks so beautiful!

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Kim September 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Jeremy, it really is. It’s been my favorite place in Ecuador so far!

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Claudia Swartz January 8, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Hello Kim
Just.love reading.your Blog.I am 63 years old,in excellent Health and Shape and am a Blues Musician.I am tired of struggling in America and want to visit Ecuadir possibly retire
there.The only Thing I am worried about is the Theft Crime and general Safety there.

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Kim January 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Hi Claudia,

There is some crime and theft there but we found that if you just use your head you will be fine. And once you get outside of the big cities things really settle down. Banos, for example, is just an amazing little place to live and very safe. I think you’ll love it. Good luck in your retirement!

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