I am staying at Community Hostel in Quito, and it is lovely.
I got really lucky because I had originally planned to stay at Secret Garden, but it was totally booked. As I was searching, I discovered this place, which also happens to have a non-profit wing. 10% of the profits are donated to a Dutch-run foundation that helps children of single mothers. I asked the owner of this hostel what his motivation was for donating the money, and he said that he looked into local foundations, and this was the most reputable. Additionally, credit card companies charge a 6% fee, and he would rather a percentage of the profits go to children vs. credit card companies. No visa accepted here! Interesting... It would be interesting to see if this would be a model that could catch on - convince hostels not to accept credit cards, and instead donate to a particular program that benefits children. In the US, there would also be a tax incentive. I wonder if that is true here as well. I also wonder how much money actually gets donated... I definitely have more questions to ask.
Aside from the non-profit aspect, the hostel is great because it lives up to its name. In the morning, everyone woke up early and had delicious $2 breakfast of eggs, guac, fruit salad and yogurt together around a large dining room table. We all decided to go to the center of the Earth by bus after breakfast.
The equator line was cool, though obviously very touristy. It was fun to get some photos standing in both hemispheres. As the 6 of us headed back to Quito, it began to downpour. To make matters worse, the bus didn't exactly take us where we wanted to go, so we stood out in the rain trying to hail a cab. Luckily, cabs are extremely cheap here and the total cost was a dollar each.
As soon as we got back to the hostel, I made plans to stay much longer than I originally planned. After talking to people, it seems like the best approach is to arrange a hostel in Quito and just take day trips. I will be here for about a week.
In the afternoon, a few of us went to get chai at a fancy coffee place. We went with an Ecuadorean guy who works at the hostel, Obbi. He was telling us all about the currency crash in 1999, when the country converted to dollars. He talked about how the government was corrupt, and certain elite people knew to convert their money ahead of time while others lost tens of thousands of dollars. He also explained that the current restrictions on converting money in Venezuela and Argentina are to prevent a similar situation, though many people simply convert their money on the black market. It was a really interesting discussion.
For dinner, I headed with some of the boys to get Chinese food. It was a struggle to decipher the menu, especially the Spanish term for lo mien, but after the waiter had a good laugh at us, I ended up with a rice and vegetables plate.
Later, the entire hostel ended up at a new microbrewery that hasn't officially opened yet. Because the brewery doesn't have a license to sell alcohol, you had to knock on the door to be let in, then you pay a suggested donation for your drink.
Upon returning to the hostel, I had a long discussion about the viability of after school programs run and staffed by foreign volunteers with a guy who runs Strive, a non-profit that sends 18-20 high school athletes to Kenya or Peru each summer to volunteer building schools, etc. They are currently expanding to incorporate a year-long volunteer after school program for the students at the schools they already work with. It sounds like a really amazing program. The organization kind of synthesizes my experiences in the working world thus far - high school summer program, teaching, and Fairplay. I wonder if there is some way for me to get more involved in the organization...
I almost forgot the best part of the hostel... For $20, I am sleeping in a private room with a king sized bed!