Sitting here on a hammock outside of my classroom it’s amazing how normal this feels – the flutter of wings as a yellow warbler builds its nest beside me, the faint sound of ocean waves from across the street and the occasional babble of Spanish. I could’ve been living here on Isabela for months rather than just over a week.
My typical day starts around six with the crowing of roosters and barking of dogs on the street. Breakfast, eaten with my host siblings, is often assorted fruit and maybe a side of eggs. Sometimes my host mom mixes it up and serves grilled cheese or fried plantain dough. By seven o’clock I am out the door, headed to the beach before class starts at nine-thirty.
My house is one of the furthest from downtown and consequently my walk to class takes me through a jumble of different style houses in varying stages of construction. Some houses are little more than concrete blocks and a tin roof, while others are brightly painted and obviously well-tended too. I crunch over back streets of lava rocks for nearly ten minutes before they morph into the main sand roads of which the Isabelaños are so proud. These roads distinguish tranquil Isabela from the hustle and bustle of paved Puerto Ayora, and if the locals here are proud of anything it’s their small town atmosphere.
I typically stay on the beach until the lure of an internet connection becomes too strong or it’s time for class. For the last two weeks, lectures have consisted of free form discussions about the political ecology of the islands. It is a great introductory class and very interesting, but I yearn for the structure of scientific processes. Our course on terrestrial biology and adaptations starts next week and I cannot wait.
Lunches for this first week have been planned out for us. Eventually however we will be able to choose from six or seven restaurants every day. Shawerma, my host family’s restaurant, has already taken the lead as the students’ favorite. Its namesake, the shawerma, is very similar to a chicken gyro and tastes great, but my favorite is their astonishingly delicious falafel burger.
Full to bursting, the rest of lunch break is spent either relaxing in a hammock or sunbathing with the marine iguanas at a little swimming cove. Occasionally little Galapagos penguins surf in on the waves to feed among rocky outcroppings. Even if I wanted to do something different during this break, I wouldn’t be able to. Isabelaños take siesta very seriously – it often lasts until three o clock or later.
Around two afternoon lecture starts up. After that it’s usually right back to the beach to exercise and watch the sun set over the ocean. Sunsets here are easily the best I’ve seen, better even than Namibia. The reflection of the brilliant pinks and reds over the water makes me catch my breath every time. How lucky I am to be here.