As I slowly but surely adjust to living 1) in another country/continent and 2) in a huge city, here are some interesting tidbits I discovered about Quito, Ecuador.
1. "Pare" is written on stop signs here, which in my mind makes a lot more sense than the "alto" used commonly in Mexico and Costa Rica.
2. Exchanging money here is easy because Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar (i.e. you don't have to exchange it!). I have never once seen a $1 bill, but the $1 Sacagawea coin is widely used. Some old Ecuadorian coins are still in circulation, and are equivalent to the U.S. coins (and there is a 50 cent piece!).
3. Flower shops can be found on practically every street corner. The huge rose industry here ships flowers mainly to the U.S. and Europe.
4. Quito's roads have a separate lane specifically for buses/trolleys, in order to move faster (without having to stop in traffic).
5. Gas heap is super cheap! Regular gasoline costs about $1.50 per gallon (yes, they use gallons). This is because, due to the petroleum industry, gas is subsidized by the government.
6. Every Sunday morning one of the main roads here (Avenida de las Amazonas) is closed off to all vehicles, in order to allow for the hundreds of bicyclists that ride down the street. This event, called Ciclopaseo, is similar (although smaller scale) to Critical Mass bike events around the world.
7. Many artisan shops sell small figurines carved out of tagua, a small nut that grows on a type of palm tree. The result is often referred to as vegetable ivory - it's a cheaper and more ethical way to produce the same look.
Having lived in the city for over a week now, I am getting used to taking taxis (very cheap!), wandering around the HUGE park nearby, and exploring little shops on my way to class. Many times I wish I had more to do during this time of study. Hopefully opportunities will arise to take part in community activities or make new connections. For now, I'm still figuring out my role...and trying hard not to look too much like a tourist!