Is It North or South?
Ecuador is an extremely diverse country; full of different cultures and experiences. Though Spanish is the official language, Ecuador recognizes fourteen indigenous languages; four in the coast region and ten in the Amazon area. Ecuador is also a country divided into four unique geographic regions. The first area is the coast or “La Costa.” The second area is the highlands or “La Sierra,” where we met the San Clemente community. The third is the Amazon region and the fourth is “La Region Insular,” which consists of the Galapagos Islands, most famous for their role in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Of the hundreds of things to do in the Sierra region, one of the most advertised for tourists to visit is Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the World City). This monument is around 27 kilometers or 17 miles north of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. It takes approximately one hour to get there in car and almost two hours in bus. Out of the thirteen students in the class, eight of us visited this monument.
After leaving the Pululahua crater, we drove to the Mitad del Mundo monument. Once we got there, we bought our entrance tickets and got a chocolate bar. We stalled for a bit; not knowing what to do or where to go. We started walking and came across a tiny museum with the history of the train in Ecuador; and we also got to see a telegraph board. We quickly walked out and came across a little playground with an obstacle house made of dark wood and swings. This little park was full of kids with the parents just outside the area bordered by a one-foot cement wall. Our friends Flori and Kayla took a turn on the swings.
As we kept walking, we came across many different little museums, restaurants, and shops gathered around the yellow line that divides the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. This line starts at the main monument and ends at the church behind us. Though the line does not enter the church, the pews are separated by it, interrupted only by the altar at the very back of the church.
After taking some pictures, we went to the museum that caught everyone’s attention, the “Museo Helados de Paila Rosalía Suárez” – an ice cream museum! We entered the museum and a young woman approached and asked us if we wanted a tour. After we agreed, she started explaining how ice cream used to be done before refrigeration existed. She mentioned that people had to bring use chunks of ice from the mountains and some was put into a bronze pot (the paila) and stirred nonstop for two hours with a wood spoon. The young woman also mentioned that Rosalía Suárez was the first person to come up with the ice cream and paila business. After we took a tour on the downstairs floor, we were invited to try the paila ice creams on the top floor.
After we ordered our ice cream, we walked to the “Museo de la Cerveza Artesanal” (The Museum of Artisanal Beer). Here, a young man explained the entire process of making their beer. We did not stay here too long however. Moving quickly, we walked to the “Plaza del Cacao” or the Cacao’s Plaza. Here, we had a self-guided tour and learned about the cacao’s history along with little “Did you know’s?…”
For example: “Did you know that… The two Mexican gods of cacao are: Quetzalcóatl (Aztec) and Ek-Chuan (Mayan).”
After the tour, we came across this area annexed to the museum where we could see firsthand and also participate in how to make chocolate out of the cacao bean, which Ecuador is the number one exporter of cacao bean in the world.
After visiting this area, we moved on to the main monument in Mitad del Mundo – the obelisk, which houses an ethnographic museum inside and a floor at the top that overlooks the valley. To get to the obelisk, we passed a miniature model of Quito and some people who were trying to balance an egg on the equator line. We did not have a chance to try it since there were a lot of people in line. According to my host family, it is very hard to do and only my host sister, Stephanie, has been able to do it out of her whole family. We took the elevator to the top floor of the obelisk and took many pictures. As we walked down the stairs, we saw many interesting artifacts; both indigenous and modern. For example, we got to see water run clockwise and counter-clockwise at the same time; a trick that supposedly only works on the equator.
After we walked out of the obelisk, we took a quick tour to the planetarium. Since we went during the day, we did not really spend a lot of time here. After the planetarium, we walked down the promenade. Once at the main entrance, we took a look at the Headquarters of the Union of South American Nations building (UNASUR for its Spanish acronym), which opened in 2014.
Before ending our day at Mitad del Mundo, we went to eat at this little restaurant just outside the Mitad del Mundo park; a maybe two minute drive. We were all excited for it since this was going to be our first time trying “Cuy” or Guinea Pig, which is considered a delicacy here in Ecuador. We ordered one to share since, even though we were thrilled about trying something exotic for lunch, it is not really customary in our culture. Thankfully, the woman who attended us at the restaurant cut it in pieces so we did not have to try to figure out how to eat what most of us would consider a pet. Most of us tried it. The meat tasted sort of like chicken while the fried skin tasted like chicarron (friend pork skin). We ate lunch and drove back to Quito, which concluded our visit to Mitad del Mundo.