Pushing My Limits

If there is one common theme to these past 4 months, it is the fact that I am constantly pushing my limits, whether on purpose or not.  This is happening in all parts of my life, and even though it has been uncomfortable for me, I know these situations are exactly what I need.

Two weeks ago, I got 2 new classes at work.  The student in my morning class is very similar to my previous students.  However, my student in the night class has been a very big challenge for me.  As most of you know, patience is not one of my strongest traits, and that is wording it nicely.  Well, this student is beginner of the beginners.  The first week, we went over the very basic vocabulary of “My name is…” “I am from…” and other introductory phrases.  Since I just recently was in this guy’s shoes, I understand the difficulties of learning a new language.  I hoped that being able to relate to him would give me more patience, but I’m not sure it works like that.  I have been trying to use every last ounce of patience during this class, since it isn’t his fault that he doesn’t know English yet.  And he is trying, so I have been trying to stay calm.  But sometimes, it’s so tough when at the beginning of class I ask him “How are you?” and it take 2 minutes for him to understand what I said and come up with an answer.  This has been a huge challenge for me, but I know that patience is something that I really need to work on.  Hopefully, over time, I will be able to improve on this.

Now, for the more exciting way I am pushing my limits!  This past weekend, I went to Banos with some friends.  Banos is this tiny adventure town, located about 3 1/2 hours from Quito.  So, 4 of us took a bus there Friday night and then met some other friends who where there as well.  We woke up Saturday morning ready to start our day of accomplishing many outdoors activities.  Unfortunately, the weather thought differently.  It was pouring, so we decided to get some breakfast and then see if the rain would let up any.  Quickly, we realized that the rain was going to be off and on throughout the entire day, so we said “what the heck, let’s just go for it.”  One of the biggest attractions about this mountain town is the abundance of waterfalls, one in particular named “El Pailon del Diablo.”  Being the active group that we are, we chose to rent bikes for the day, only $5, and bike to the see this spectacular waterfall.  This was perfect because we were able to exercise and sightsee at the same time! Along the road, there are places to stop to view the scenery or zip line if you want.  Some people in the group wanted to stop at one of the many zip lines that we passed.  A few people wanted to do it, and I won’t turn down a zip lining opportunity, especially when its 1 km long, beautiful scenery, and only $10!  As you were flying, you couldn’t even see where you were going to, which made it very exciting.

Once we finished zip lining, we continued on our bikes to the waterfall.  We got to the town, then had to hike about 30 minutes, but the view was well worth the hike.  You can walk through almost caves until you are right between the waterfall and the rocks.  Since it had been rainy all day, the water was extremely powerful and we got soaked- although we were already soaked from the rain so it wasn’t a big problem.  

You can walk down those steps and look up to see the waterfall.  Its like the rides at Six Flags where you stand on the bridge and get splashed from the spray of the water.  It was a really cool experience to feel just how powerful the water really is.

This picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but we were able to get this close to the waterfall.  You could reach out and actually touch the water.

After walking behind the waterfall, we walked across a very suspect bridge to get this view.  I was absolutely terrified of the bridge and wasn’t sure it would hold the weight of everyone.  People were jumping on the bridge and I was not too happy about that- thought I was going to lose it.  But luckily, the bridge held up and we all survived.  However, we now had to hike 30 minutes up to the town where our bikes were.  All of us were incredibly tired and hungry because it was almost 3 and no one had lunch.  Let me tell you, I think every one of us became very “hangry” so it was crucial that we got food immediately.  I’m not sure if it was because we were so hungry or because the food was that good, but Betsy and I shared a banana and chocolate empanada that was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  I think I would literally kill for that empanada.  Once all of us had eaten and were calmer, we decided to take this army type truck back into town instead of biking uphill for over an hour.

Once we got back into town, we grabbed a cab and headed to the Casa del Arbol or treehouse, which is home to the “swing at the end of the world.”  I know it is just a swing, but it was so fun.  There was this guy up there that was an unofficial “professional pusher” He would literally push the people that were on the swing and then twist them around while they were swinging.  We were all very impressed with his skills, clearly that wasn’t his first time.  Unfortunately, his family wanted to go right before it was my turn so I wasn’t able to experience his pushing first-hand.  However, my buddy Betsy stepped up and did a pretty good job!

Now, it was finally time to shower and relax before going to dinner and then onto the salsateca.  Needless to say, we all feel asleep immediately that night once we got back to the hostel.

Sunday, we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.  After eating breakfast, Betsy decided that she wanted to do “puenting” which is almost the same as bungee jumping.  I had been debating on whether I wanted to do this or not, but I finally decided that I needed to face my fear of heights and prove to myself that I could do it.  We walked out to the bridge and I couldn’t watch, I could only stand in the middle of the bridge staring at the road.  Betsy and I got our harnesses on and I was still okay.  Then, it was my turn to go!  As soon as the guy hooked the rope onto the harness, it all started to get real, like very real.  Next was one of the toughest parts, climbing over the railing.  My legs were starting to shake, and I could barely force myself to climb over.

I’m so glad you can’t see my face in these pictures, because I’m sure I was as white as a ghost and had a facial expression of complete terror.  

Standing on this platform was one of the most terrifying moments of my life- and that is not an exaggeration at all.  I tried not to look down, but I just couldn’t help it.  Here I was on this 1ft x 1ft platform looking down 100 meters to a river.  This one tiny piece of wood was supporting me.  I knew that I couldn’t wait long, and I had already climbed over the railing, so I only had one option and that was to jump.  So the guy said ” 3, 2, 1, JUMP!”

As soon as my feet left that platform, it was an amazing experience!  I absolutely loved it and wished it had been longer.  There was such a feeling of relief after doing this and conquering a big fear of mine.  I never thought I would jump off of a bridge, but I was able to not let the fear affect me.  Betsy and I were so proud and happy to be able to cross this off of our bucket lists- well it was on her bucket list, not mine but I’m glad I could help her anyways.  Since we were a little tired, we decided to walk to the thermal springs that are right outside of town.  There are 2 thermal springs, one is in town and the other is outside of town.  Most of the tourists go to the one in town so it is very “gringo.”  When we showed up to the thermal springs that the “locals” use, everyone looked at us like we have 3 heads.  I think they were wondering why 4 gringas were there, since this was not a common occurrence.

Being in the water was exactly what we needed.  Our muscles were so sore and I was incredibly tense from the exhilarating experience of jumping off of a bridge.  There was a pool that was hot, 3 medium, and 1 cold.  So we alternated between all 3 of the different temperatures trying to get the full effect.  By the time we left the thermal springs, it was already 2 in the afternoon and us gringas were starting to get “hangry” again, so it was time to head back into town.  We had a great lunch then met the rest of the group to head back to Quito.

This was a great weekend full of tons of excitement and activity, but honestly, I was ready to get back to my calm life in Quito!

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