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iHolà Willamette!

Hello Willamette Community!

My name is Emmanuela Ulchur-Rota and I am an exchange student from Quito, Ecuador, a tiny but beautiful country in South America! I study Art History and plan to do a Minor on Translation once I go back home. Ecuador, as its name suggests, sits on the equator, and therefore, right in the center, in the thickest part of the Earth. Ecuador´s landscapes and terrains are very diverse. Hope to hear from everyone else soon! ¡Nos vemos pronto!

I study Art History and plan to do a Minor on Translation once I go back home. Ecuador, as its name suggests, sits on the equator, and therefore, right in the center, in the thickest part of the Earth.

Although Ecuador is considered to be in the “center” of the world and, therefore, very warm, its weather varies depending on the region. Quito, the capital, for instance, is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. We do not have four seasons. We have two and we call them Summer and Winter although they are mild variations of what you would call Spring. Summer is usually very sunny and windy. As for winter, guess what? Lots of rain, just like in Salem! Due to the surrounding highlands, we have a very chilly atmosphere throughout the whole year. But if you are looking for a different weather, you can just drive down to the coast. Ecuadorian beaches are relatively close to the city and you can get a ride on car or bus easily. If you want to go further in the land, you can visit the rainforest region where the temperatures are extremely hot and humid. On the other hand, if you want to get a deeper sense of the Ecuadorian experience, you can visit The Galápagos Islands. I have been there three times, wishing every time that I could stay there longer. Giant tortoises, sea lions, birds, lizards, iguanas and a huge number of other species live there. It is a protected and unique place in the world where Darwin´s Theory of Evolution was first developed!

Ecuador is a multicultural country due to its historical background. As an ex-Spanish colony, we are characterized by being a mixture of Indigenous, Spanish and African American cultures. “Mestizaje” or the fusion of different ethnicities is therefore what defines us as a group and as a country. As a “mestiza”, I am half Colombian, half Ecuadorian. My father´s father was Indigenous and my mother´s grandparents were Italian.

Ecuador´s biodiversity is not only depicted in people but also in flora and fauna. The Ecuadorian government had promised to protect and preserve our most important natural reserve in the jungle: the Yasuní ITT. However, in spite of earlier plans of preservation, the area is now about to be exploited for oil. Although the Ecuadorian government claims they will only drill 1% of the reserve, many people fear it will become an ecological disaster. The Yasuní ITT is the home, not only of an outstanding number of amphibians, birds, mammals and plants, but also the area where the Huaroani Indigenous Tribes live in isolation, unwilling to let “civilization” destroy their territory. Because of this situation, the country is now polarized between people who support the traditional idea of development, and those who focus on the preservation of wildlife. While some people support the government´s decision thinking it will bring prosperity and clear poverty in the country, others are appalled by it. They want to defend the rights of the Indigenous people who live there as well as its millions of animals and plants.

A snow view of volcán Cayambe

Friendly Galápagos sea iguana taking a break from the water

Here, at Willamette, I am very happy to find students from all over the world. I am interested to meet and see other cultures and try to open my eyes and mind. I believe traveling experiences can always help you break or at least modify our usual prejudices and preconceptions about each other. In fact, I think traveling experiences transform the way we see and perceive the world. Therefore, the way we interpret the world changes. I also believe traveling experiences can be life changing in many aspects. As for my own experience, my family and I moved to Kentucky for two years when I was ten years old. I didn´t speak any English and had a hard time adapting to the elementary school I went to. Cultural differences were probably the toughest parts of this experience. The weirdest questions would come up, such as: “Does your country have purple trees and blue buses?” or “Do you keep elephants in the back of your houses?” or -the best one- “Are there any cute guys in Ecuador”?
On top of that, let’s just add the peculiar, southern American accent to ears that were not used to it.

Funny and hard experience, but I would not change it for the world. It changed many perspectives I had of myself and others, my country, the United States, different cultures, food, music; and it definitely opened a lot of doors for me.

We may not have snow in Quito, but we do have snow in the highest parts of our mountains and volcanoes (as you can see on the photo of “volcán Cayambe”). Although not all of the volcanoes are active, we have had a few minor ash eruptions from Pichincha volcano. Other than that, we enjoy taking hikes and climbing mountains. Ecuador´s landscapes and terrains are perfect for other types of outdoor sports such as rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, rafting and much more!!

Hope to hear from everyone else soon! ¡Nos vemos pronto!

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