Ecuador is really a beautiful country... it packs in quite the range of climate, landscape and altitude. Quito is nearly 10,000 feet a.s.l, situated near the Pinchincha volcano. Consequently the whole city is very hilly and your breathing tends to be a bit labored from the height. Old town has some beautiful architecture and seems to consist of a series of plazas. We've been to several museums - including the Casa del Alabado, which houses a small but very well displayed collection of precolombian art. La mariscal neighborhood (also called gringo land) is where the most restaurants and bars are and is perhaps the liveliest part of the city. Plus it has a nice little artisan/handicraft market if you don't feel like making the two hour journey to Otavalo. A trip to Ecuador wouldn't be complete without buying something made of alpaca or some tagua (tree ivory) jewelry.
Outside of Quito, we've taken a trip up to Cayambe (~ a one and a half hour drive from Quito) to go horseback riding. The landscape is quite undulating... our horses got up and down some rather impressive hills. We were told Cayambe is best known for bizchocos (a kind of flaky biscuit) and the roses that are grown there (apparently $2 or less for a dozen). Mitad del Mundo is definitely worth a trip; besides the monument to the equator there are a bunch of museums and it isn't a far ride to the rather quirky Intiñan Solar Museum.
We've also had ample opportunities to sample the local cuisine - as a vegetarian, I've been pleasantly surprised that finding food hasn't been too difficult. The fruit here is unsurprisingly amazing and very cheap. In addition to the more standard pineapples, papayas and mangoes, there are the more unusual cherimoyas (custard apples), granadillas (passion fruits), pitahayas (dragon fruits), guanábanas (soursop), mameys (no idea if there's an english word for it) and of course the infamous tree tomato (it's an acquired taste). If you're a fan of coffee or chocolate (and who isn't) this is certainly a good place to be - I've yet to have a bad cup of coffee here. The local coffee chain called Sweet & Coffee is particularly good and sells a variety of desserts. There seem to be two main chocolate brands here - Republica del Caco and Pacari. Both are good, but Pacari is more reasonably priced. They offer some unusual flavors I haven't seen anywhere else, including rose petals, lemongrass and goldenberry. Lunch in Ecuador is an involved affair and always starts with a soup course. The ceviche here is good and they even make a veggie version with palm hearts.
Overall it's been great getting better acquainted with my host country, that said, I'm more than ready to get data collection started.