Livin’ La Vida Quiteño - Quito Part II

I’ve been here in Quito for the past three and a half weeks. But today, for the first time, I finally felt like a Quiteño, a native of this city.

Don’t get me wrong, I started immersing myself in the Ecuadorian lifestyle the moment I arrived here in Quito. I’ve indulged in the food, the forms of transportation, the language, and even attempted to grasp the Ecuadorian attitude (still working on that last one). And I’ve truly enjoyed every step of the journey.

But today, something pretty remarkable happened. I decided to take the long way home and walk along one of the main roads in Quito, “Av. 6 de Diciembre,” instead of taking the bus (that’s not the remarkable part).

On my way home, I hoped to get my first Ecuadorian haircut and take out some cash from the bank. After trying – and failing – to cash a traveler’s check in five different banks, I felt like the stereotype of an American tourist. And then I bumped into an Ecuadorian woman, presumably a businesswoman, wearing a bold red blazer and a simple black skirt.

“Perdón,” she asked. “Dondé está Quicentro?” (“Excuse me, where is Quicentro?”).

Quicentro: one of the local malls here in Quito. Inside my head, I was jumping for joy, thinking (of course in Spanish), “Yo sé dónde está Quicentro!” (“I know where Quicentro is!”).

After I quickly got over the fact that I do, in fact, live in this city and I have been, multiple times, to Quicentro, I exuberantly provided the woman with a simple set of directions. To her, I was just another nineteen-year-old student carrying a backpack through the streets of Quito. To me, this moment was monumental.

Sometimes, it can feel quite daunting to try to fit into the culture, customs, and societal pace of a foreign country. Although I have a good handle on the Spanish language, the rapid speech on the streets of Quito sometimes intimidates me. I’ve realized that I’m pretty far from home and I don’t know everything there is to know about urban life in Ecuador.

But then a woman in a red blazer and black skirt comes up to you and asks for directions. And you have the answer to her question. You know exactly where the mall is. You live here in Quito. You’re just like any other Ecuadorian. These are the moments during my study abroad experience that have made all the difference to me.

In the end, I never got my haircut or cashed my traveler’s check. But I’ll never forget that at heart, while in this city, I am a Quiteño.

A city street in Quito, with the mountains in the distance.

Quito at sundown.