While in Ecuador have tried so many varieties of foods and juices, and my favorites of those are the empanadas and papaya juice. The empanadas are made a little different depending on where you are. Some can be fluffy with cheese in the middle or more like a bread texture with or without the cheese. The papaya juice is freshly squeezed and served with any meal of the day, and it is semi-sweet. I have connected with locals by either talking about the food or fútbol, which is known as soccer back in the states. Everywhere you go you will see a field at a community center, in the park, or someone’s backyard. In the city of Quito, you have so many different people working in the city or visiting that it seems like you have walked into New York City without many people on the streets. When you travel out into the rural areas as if driving towards the rainforest to the southeast there are more small towns/villages where many people are farming or growing crops on the mountainside. The topography is diverse with the highlands, rainforest, and coast, and there are many different types of animals and plants in these areas.
The highlands have the national bird, the condor, Andean deer, Andean bears, smaller plants, and grasses. The rain forest has all of the tropical animals one may be more familiar with, such as toucans, spider monkeys, poisonous frogs, and tall trees. Finally, the coast has different marine species and penguins that live on the Galapagos Islands. A lot of these areas are being threatened by deforestation, mining operations, and old oil/crude pits that Texaco mismanaged back in the 1960s. When traveling away from the protected areas, such as the rainforest I spent several days in, you see how the trees start to get smaller, the lack of animals, and more agricultural farms.
Getting to know locals is great, and seeing the rich biodiversity and topography is also exciting, but realizing how exploitation of resources can negatively impact biodiversity and landscapes is eye-opening.