Quito, Ecuador, Valle de los Chillos – 30 June, 2011

After eight months of traipsing around, we decided to try something a bit different when we headed to South America. Suhail and I both have some experience with Spanish (thanks to classes about 20 years ago and life in Chicago in general), but we have always wanted to improve our grasp. We’d also read that Quito was a great place to learn, as the folks here have a more mild accent and slower manner of speaking.

Quito is not very touristy anyway, so having some Spanish is helpful and appreciated just about anywhere. Also, at this point in our travels, we are taking nearly any chance to get away from the tourist track (though sometimes it is inevitable, and well worth its drawbacks, when you are visiting an amazing spot!).

Suhail treks though our neighborhood

I did some poking around on the internet and we decided to “hire” Mariana Gonzales (Highly recommended! She can be contacted via her website).

Not only did Mariana offer years of experience, she and her family open their home to students, allowing them to have a more 24/7 experience with the language (Suhail and I are supposed to even speak to each other in Spanish at all times – this part is sometimes tougher than you may think!). We are thrilled with both our classes and our new living situation.

After spending our first couple of days in the city of Quito, Mariana met us at our hotel and we headed for her home in the Valle de los Chillos. This area is about 15-20 minutes by bus from the heart of Quito. It is rapidly developing, but is nothing like suburban America.

After my years’ of urban planning classes, I finally really understand the importance of zoning!!! Our house is modern and not unlike a typical American home (bar a few things that take getting used to, like needing to purchase tanks of gas for both cooking and hot water – when we forget or miss the truck, we have cold showers or cold food!). The neighbors, however, live like farmers. As I write this, I am looking out over their cornfields, shack-like house and the incredibly rough dirt road between us. There is a lot of construction going on around here, and most of it is upscale, modern housing – including a nearby block of condos that looks sorely out of place.

At any rate, it is a very interesting place to live and gives us a much deeper understanding of life in Ecuador than we would have if we were staying in a hotel in the city and taking classes in the tourist neighborhood. Beyond just being here, we have been welcomed whole-heartedly by Mariana and her family – her husband, Frank, 16-year old daughter, Maria Jose, and 11-year old son, Jean Pierre (aka Salchipapa). We eat three meals a day with them and they actually want to hang out and take us on outings on the weekend. We do pay to stay here, but there is no way to put a price on all they have given us.

Here are some of the typical sights around our neighborhood – you will see the strange mix of suburban and rural clearly here!

Typical walk in our hood

the mountains are omnipresent and the streets are much steeper than what we are used to!

There are several "garages" for oil changes and the like in the neighborhood

The neighbors' cows use all the neighborhood for grazing - including the local soccer field!

Neighbor and her sheep with new houses in the distance

There are some amazing skies around here

The view from our bedroom is a panorama of the entire Valle de los Chillos

…and just a few of the sights we’ve enjoyed in and around Quito:

On our first weekend in town, the family took us to a traditional dance performance in Quito Colonial

Traditional Ecuadorian dance

After the show, we went to La Ronda, a fun, popular spot for both tourists and locals to wander around, enjoying street performances and canelaza (more on that here)

La Ronda, Quito


  1. Gail Sutton wrote:

    WOW This is so interesting. What a great way to learn/re learn the language. I am impressed. Really enjoyed the skateboarding today…..especially passing off the board to the kid. Nice. How long will you stay in Quito? Thanks for sharing.

    • kristen wrote:

      Thanks, Gail! We left Quito on Wednesday night and are now in Puerto Lopez, a beach town on the Ecuadorian coast. We´ll be back in Quito for a bit and then head south to see some more of this beautiful country. The kid in the video is our new “little brother” and we will be seeing them one last time before we fly out of Quito in early August. It´s been great to expand our Spanish knowledge and explore this beautiful, friendly country! And, as always, thanks for reading about our adventures!!!

  2. Christie wrote:

    Hi Guys, thanks for the props on the LA section of your blog! We miss u! As I am sure everyone does. Love reading your lifes adventures. Wy and I just caught up on your blog last night watching all the videos (some again) and reading about the second part of your trip! It’s fun to watch the videos from 1st part if trip now after hearing stories! Well just wanted to say hi and wish you well! Thanks for sharing! We love it both blog and video page on YouTube!
    Love Christie

    • Christie wrote:

      Ps. Just bought a home delivery of local produce and it reminds me of you 2.

      • kristen wrote:

        Thanks so much, Christie! Glad you guys are enjoying everything. We had a long bus ride yesterday/today (23+ hrs!), so we are looking forward to having a good night’s sleep tonight and getting out and enjoying northern Chile. More posts and videos coming very soon! Hope you guys are doing well. Miss you and hope to see you again SOON!!! xo

        • Jan Wagner wrote:

          Hi guys, thank you very much for sharing this with us. That´s an amazing blog. I am a 34year-old Germanwho is going to work in Ecuador from September on. I would like to improve my Spanish before I start. Could you tell me some mor about your experiences with Mariana?


          • kristen wrote:

            Hi Jan! I can only rave about our experience with Mariana. She is patient, but firm and genuinely loves her work, both teaching and meeting people from other cultures. This means that not only do you get an incredible grasp on your Spanish, you get to really know her and her family, and vice versa, which is what made our visit to Ecuador so special. The two months we spent with Mariana and her family were definite highlights of our entire year + of travel! Please let us know if you decide to study and/or stay with her!

            P.S. She also offers classes via Skype, so you could get started before you leave Germany!

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