17th August: Quito, Ecuador
I am currently sitting in the auditorium of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito listening to an orientation the university has prepared for us. It has been such an intricate adventure getting here and I am still recovering from it all. When I finally arrived at the Quito airport, 24 hours after I was supposed to, Juan Carlos (one of the program coordinators) picked me up and we got on an $8 bus to make our way to the old airport. We drove for about 45 minutes during the sunset through the most beautiful and grand mountain ranges I had ever seen.
“Maybe all the struggles of the last day and a half were worth it for this beautiful view,” I thought to myself as the bus pulled up to the half-abandoned building. That thought was cut short when I was quickly embraced and taken by the arm to an awaiting taxi by a flustered Ecuadorian woman, my host mother.
We arrived to her house and she gave me rice and chicken (a South American staple) while I explained the events that had unfolded over the course of the last two days.
14th August: Philadelphia, United States
It all began on Monday the 14th when I started my day in Philadelphia International Airport at 6 in the morning. I was supposed to have two flights that day, which I didn’t mind much because it was cheaper and I could spend the day mentally preparing for my time abroad.
From PHL I flew to Tampa, and from Tampa I flew to Miami. I arrived in Miami ready to board my flight to Quito, Ecuador and was happy to have an hour to relax before boarding at 2:50. Unfortunately, I would learn shortly that there were different plans for myself and the other ~130 passengers.
The first curve ball that got thrown at us was that there was to be maintenance done on our first plane, so they moved us to a new gate. However, since there were no planes ready to take us where we needed to go, we had to wait a couple hours. I understand that American Airlines doesn’t just have extra planes waiting around to take people to Ecuador on a moment’s notice, so I didn’t let it get to me.
We were supposed to board the flight at 2:50, but were not able to get on the plane until 4:50. I sat down, ready for my third and final flight to begin when the pilot announced that two people decided to get off and that we would have to wait for their luggage to be removed. I didn’t want to be bothered just yet, so instead of focusing on the setbacks I let myself fall asleep.
I was woken up by screams and flight attendants running up and down the aisle. From the angle my seat was at, I could only see the people crowding around the emergency. At one point, a crew member lifted up a blanket to give the person privacy in whatever was happening, but in my sleepy state, I really thought someone had died and they had to cover a body. Luckily that was not the case, we found out after a short while that one of the crew members was having what appeared to be a seizure or a heart attack.
I had no idea where we were, but I knew we were going to have to land to get the flight attendant to a hospital as soon as possible. We landed around 8:30 pm and learned that the crew member had a heart attack and would be taken to the hospital. We also learned that we were now in Jamaica and, after an hour of decision making, the crew began handing out customs forms. The staff had been aboard that plane since 4 am and due to certain laws, they would not be able to work any longer. We were going to stay the night in Jamaica. We were taken to a hotel near the airport and had to wait in line to get a room. Another setback was that American Airlines did not send a representative with us to help us get our rooms and most of the passengers were Ecuadorian and did not speak English. I finally got a room around 2 am and I had never been as happy to rest in an unfamiliar bed as I did that night.
We got our flight to Quito around noon and I surprisingly felt more prepared to arrive than I did the day before. If I can handle all the setbacks, twists, and turns that my first day had to offer, I feel like I can handle anything. Taking the leap to study abroad is scary and full of surprises, but I am so grateful to be where I am now. All the uncertainty I carried with me seems so irrelevant because I am living, learning, and loving my time in a new culture.