Monday, September 29, 2008


Made it to Cuenca... but what a hell of a trip. Yesterday I spent seven hours sitting on top of a train going through mountains (we only derailed once) and four and a half hours standing on a bus surrounded by people from the Netherlands (what the hell is up with that anyway? Everywhere I´ve gone here, I´ve been surrounded by Dutch people. So much for my attempts to learn Spanish).

I´ve inhaled about half the dirt in Ecuador. (The day before yesterday, I spent a few hours riding on the tops and in the backs of some trucks). Didn´t sleep much last night. Haven´t had a real meal in.... uh, who knows how many days (but I did get a deep-friend banana yesterday).

I love traveling!

Anyway, today I´m going to take it easy--maybe take a nap and actually buy myself an almuerzo (luuuunnncccchhhh!!!). I will probably stay in Cuenca a few days, then head either to the coast or to Banos, further inland. I figure I still have a week or so to travel before I need to be back in Quito.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Freezing my ass off in the Andes...

Aggghhhh, it is so freaking cold here! Why did I think that living in the mountains would be warmer than living in Prague?? Oh, yeah, I remember--I´m on the freaking EQUATOR. Guess an altitude of, what, 9,000 feet or so negates the warming influence of living on the middle of the world. Brrrr.....

On an up note, I was totally expecting to be sick today. So far, so good. And that comment will need to be explained, I guess, but I don´t know that I want to do it now. My fingers are too freaking cold to type.

EDIT: Read this: It does a prettu good job of describing the festival. And, of course, I will have pictures later on. I promise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Yesterday (Sunday), I hiked up Pichincha, which is an active volcano just outside of Quito. I went with a couple other people (two Germans, the nephew of my host mom, and a guide). A driver drove us part of the way up, then dropped us off and we were on our way. Now, Quito is 9,200 feet (2,800 meters) and the main peak of Pichincha (Guagua) is 15,696 feet (4,784 m). We didn´t go all the way to the peak because it was all rock and we would have needed special climbing equipment. We did go most of the way, though, and stood on the rim of the volcanic crater. (There is another peak, called Rucu Pichincha. The Teleferiqo goes to 13,400 feet (over 4,100 m) up Rucu Pichincha).

This is where the driver dropped us off. This picture was taken facing South, in the direction of Cotopaxi. Pichincha is behind us at this point.

Rucu Pichincha. You can really see the vegetation starting to change.

As we climbed, the flora changed drastically. This was in one of the last zones. There were all these beautiful flowers growing close to the ground. There were other flowers: small white ones, larger white ones, ones with a yellow center and white petals.

Guagua Pichincha.

The main peak of Pichincha is just up ahead. The little yellow house is just a resting point. There is a man who stays there during the day but then heads back down in the evenings. We stopped in the house for a rest and to eat some food, which we shared with the man there.

Nearing the end...

This is the very last leg of our trip. As you can see, there are no more plants and we are definitely up in the clouds. The crater is just ahead of us, at the end of this trail. At this point, we were walking very slowly and panting. I had a bit of a headache from the altitude and my heart was pounding, but other than that I was fine. It was really cold at this point, and even with an undershirt, a teeshirt, a fleece jacket, a regular jacket, a banadana over my head, and a scarf over that I was cold. (Next time I go up, I am taking gloves. Alpaca gloves, if I can find some. Which I´m sure I can.)

And here we are, on the rim of the crater. To the left is the crater, to the right is the way back down.

This is on the way back down, again facing South.

Further down--notice how different it looks (ie, there are trees again!).

September 21

September 21, 2008 5:54 pm

There are certain things that I always put of doing when I move to a new country. One of them involves changing the time and location on my laptop. As far as my laptop is concerned, it is 6:55 pm, East Coast time. I’ll get around to changing it eventually… but right now, it is some basic link to Maryland.

This all makes it sound like I’m homesick or completely miserable here. I’m not. Hell, I’m not even slightly miserable here. Before I left the States, I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to get so stressed—that I would just go with the flow and allow things to either fall into place or not. As a result, I accidentally found a place to stay for the first month. Rather than stressing about finding a cheaper apartment, I just explored the city for a week. Then, last night, I mentioned to my host mom that I would need a new place to live in a few weeks and asked if she knew of anyone. She wanted to know why I couldn’t stay with her and I told her that it was because I needed to find a cheaper place on my income. She asked me how much, I told her, and she said that I could stay with her for that amount. So now I have a place to live—a place that is not in gringolandia or in a dodgy part of town, with a family I can practice my Spanish with. So that all worked out (though we shall see with this 2-year-old. I may not be able to take living with that). I told my host mom I would need to be able to prepare my lunches in the kitchen, and she said that that was not a problem. Anyway, if I need to move I will move. Simple.

I’m also just going with the flow for the next few weeks. Tuesday afternoon, I am going to Latagunga, to the Mama Negra festival with the other folks staying here. It is a really big Ecuadorian festival. The girl from Holland worked in a hostel in Latagunga, so she was able to get us beds. So, no stress there. Then, I am going with the two Americans and the German girl on a special mountain loop to visit some really out-of-the-way towns. It will be really hard-core, I think—it involves catching milk trucks at 3 in the morning (and maybe even a possible chicken truck or two!). So I’m really looking forward to all that. Depending on how all that goes (and when I need to be back in Quito), I might go down to Cuenca after that. We shall see.

The only thing that is sort of stressing me right now is the fact that I won’t receive my teaching schedule until the afternoon before I am scheduled to teach. I really, really don’t like that. I won’t even know what levels I will be teaching. I didn’t sleep too well the night after I found that out. (Instead of sleeping, I tried to come up with different activities I could do with students of different levels). Anyway, I figure now that it will completely suck, but that I will muddle through it.

So, yesterday I went to Otavalo with the two Europeans. Otavalo is the site of the largest market in Ecuador. We took a bus over, and I really do need to explain some things about the transportation here. First, there are the taxis, which are standard yellow with a taxi sign on top. They are the most common vehicle on the street, and anywhere you go you see taxis zipping through intersections. There are also three electric bus lines that follow the three biggest streets through the middle of Quito. They all run north and south. Then, there are the buses. Most of them are blue, but there are also a few green and red ones. I’m not sure if there is any actual physical map of the bus routes, and some bus stops are marked with a basic sign—and some are not. Each bus has a driver and, well, I don’t know what he would be called, maybe an assistant. As the driver speeds through town, the assistant hangs out the door and yells out the bus’s various destinations. When people need to get on to the bus, it may or may not stop (though it does slow down), and the assistant helps yank them aboard. At certain points in time, he goes through the bus and collects the fare. It seems to cost about a dollar per hour or travel, give or take a few cents. (My bus fares so far have ranged from 18 cents to two dollars). Anyway, I’m still in the process of figuring out the bus system—and here is where it really helps living with an Ecuadorian host mom who can explain how to get to the bus. Once on the bus, the assistant (and other riders) are very helpful when it comes to explaining when and where to get off. When I went to Mitad del Mundo with one of the other Americans here, we missed where we were supposed to get off. We were the last two people on the bus when it stopped and the driver started to get out. When he saw us, he asked us where we had wanted to go and we told him. He laughed, said something along the lines of “oh, it’s down there. I’ll be heading back down there in five minutes—just stay on the bus.” Then, on the bus to Pululahua, I told the driver where we needed to get off. About a minute or so before we needed to leave the bus, one of the passengers pointed out our stop AND both the assistant and the driver made sure we got off all right. (Of course, this didn’t mean that the bus stopped, but by then I had figured out how to jump both onto and off of a rolling bus).

To get to Otavalo (and the market), we had to take a bus to Otavalo, then another bus to the actual market. After we got off the first bus, we were told that we could either take a taxi or run across the street and catch a local bus. We, of course, opted for the second. There were some other people waiting at the bus stop and they made sure that we knew which bus to run after. On the bus itself there were no seats, so we had to stand in the front of the bus. After a few second, the German girl nudged me and discreetly pointed to the passengers. They were all indigenous—darker-skinned and rather short. They, in turn, were nudging each other and staring at us. The German girl and I got a good laugh out of the fact that the tables had turned: the tourists were now the attraction.

The market itself was huge, though I didn’t buy anything. At that point I figured that I would have to move again and I didn’t want to have a lot of stuff to move. I also figured that, after I learned a bit of Spanish, I could go back and negotiate better and get some good Christmas presents for everyone. Expect chocolate and necklaces. Even for the guys.

Ahh, then today I went up to Pichincha, an active volcano. It was an amazing hike, about seven or so hours up and down again. My host family is friends with a guide, so we were able to get a discount. The German girl and I went with another girl from Germany who is studying in Quito. I’m not sure what the altitude is, but we were definitely up in the clouds (and the snow). Near the end we had to walk so slowly and stop pretty often (even the guide) because we were so out of breath. But I have to say that there might not be anything better than eating an Ecuadorian banana in the Andes Mountains.

September 19

September 19, 2008 4:50pm

Okay, everyone is getting chocolate for Christmas. Specifically, Kallari chocolate. I’m doing my best not to eat all of my $2 Kallari chocolate bar in one sitting. It is tough. I’ve already had three more pieces that I intended to… I will make it to tomorrow before I eat any more. Or at least until after dinner.

Speaking of food, I went down to El Mariscal to a vegetarian restaurant today and splurged. First of all, it was called El Maple, so I figure it must be owned by Canadians. Second, before you turn up your noses as the word vegetarian, remember, I hadn’t had a vegetable in almost a week. So I figured any restaurant where the name of the cuisine was derived from the word vegetable was probably going to be a safe bet. Finally, after a week of consuming minimal protein, a soy burger is just about the tastiest looking thing on a menu—right behind eggplant parmesagna (eggplants=vegetable, tomato sauce=vegetables, oregano=grows in the ground and is green, so it’s close enough to a vegetable, and cheese=comes from a cow, which eats grass, which is a form of vegetation). I do think my stomach has shrunk slightly, though, because I was stuffed with five or so bites left. Of course I made myself finish everything, because I, as I saw it, there was no telling when I would next be able to eat vegetables. Anyway, it looks like tonight is pasta. Again. Oh well. I’ll always have eggplant parmesagna (as in, “We’ll always have Paris”, not as in “I can always eat eggplant”).

6:40 pm (After my Spanish lesson).

Bleh. I chatted with Mom some this morning, and now I can’t remember what I told her and what I wrote here. I guess I could always go back and check and read what I wrote, but I don’t feel like going through the motions of scrolling up. Estoy cansada seems to have become my catchphrase here.

So, other guests here: there are two Americans—a couple in their mid-twenties, one girl from Holland (19), and one girl from Germany (21). I like them and get along with them all.

The problem with scrolling up is that I just saw the word chocolate, which reminded me of the chocolate bar within arm’s reach (and which I had managed to forget about). Ugh. Damn, that is some good chocolate. Okay, going to forget about it again. Just as soon as I have one more teeny, tiny piece.

Ah, I remember. Mom was asking me about the people who live here. Well, there is my host mom, L., her 14-year-old daughter, M, and her two-year-old nephew, also known as the brat I would dearly love to throw out of a window. Hmm, I probably shouldn’t post that on the internet for everyone to read, should I? Disclaimer: I have a slight tendency to exaggerate—just ask my grandmother about the clothes I suggested she burn. In this case, I’m not exaggerating the nature of the child, only my desired response. Okay, technically I’m not exaggerating that either. But I would never do it. Never ever. I wouldn’t even discipline the child (even though he smacked my ass earlier today). But that is just because I figure he is a lost cause.

There are also various family members who come and go. The other guests and I are constantly asking each other who people are (and hypothesizing about possible familial relationships). In general, I really like the atmosphere in the house—it feels very comfortable. I wish I were able to speak more Spanish… but that is coming along. I’m currently taking Spanish lessons from L’s nephew, who is a Spanish teacher. An hour/hour and a half every evening (when estoy cansada…). In fact, I should probably be out there, communicating and having fun. But I’m having fun in my room, reporting back on my day and impressions and listening to PJ Harvey...

Tomorrow I am going to Otavalo with the two Europeans. On the weekends there is a giant market there, so that should be really cool. But don’t worry—you will all get the chocolate I promised you. No cheap trinkets.

Then, Sunday I’m going to climb some mountain with the German girl, some other Germans girl I haven’t met yet, and an Ecuadorian guide (who is apparently a friend of the family and is giving us a slight discount). So, we shall see how that goes. It apparently takes six hours to climb the mountain and four hours to descend, and we will be going up to 14,000 feet, I think. Again, we shall see how that goes…

8:43 pm (After dinner)

Today I went back to the old part of Quito and visited another church. I had to pay to go into this one, and I wasn’t allowed to walk around by myself. I had a guide who explained everything to me. I managed to understand the majority of what he said, which made me pretty proud of myself (naturally). The church was gorgeous and any one who comes to visit me is definitely going to get dragged through this church—no arguments accepted.

Outside the church there were groups of students everywhere, carrying signs and waving flags that all said vota si. Next Monday there is going to be a major vote in this country on a new constitution that Correa has proposed. Correa is the current president of Ecuador and a socialist, and his proposed constitution includes things like universal health care. According to my Spanish teacher, most of the people in Ecuador support it (about 80%), except in Guayaquil, where opinion is split 50-50. Anyway, groups of students rallying means increased police presence, which means nervous traveler (still recovering from the Prague tank—I really, really did not like the Prague tank). Of course, when you are about a head taller than most of the police men, it is pretty hard to think of them as anything other than cute. But then, that is the type of thinking that can get a person in trouble, and I always remember all those stories of Latin American jails. I imagine that policemen become a lot more intimidating when you are looking at them through bars—though that is not a hypothesis I really want to test.

I also went by my school today and introduced myself. The director wasn’t there, but I got a tour of the school and got some more information about the whole school. I was not happy to discover than I won’t get my teaching schedule until the day before I start teaching. I was really counting on being able to prep classes over the next few weeks, but there is absolutely nothing I can do until 4pm the day before I start teaching. So that first week is going to be really, really rough. Ugh, ugh, and double ugh. But I will manage. Somehow.

As I left the school, it started pouring. I walked all the way back home in the rain—a good 20 minute walk—and arrived completely soaked. There were some more random family members here (who turned out to be the brat’s older brother and their father. The kids played soccer in the hall and the brat screamed the entire time. I guess that is how children show joy.) Anyway, I made up a batch of Chai (yum, though I am having problems getting my tea strong enough here. I think it is just that the tea I bought was really, really weak. I need to figure something out.)

Last night the other guests and I nearly came to blows over a tomato and cucumber salad. Our host mom set the bowl on the table and we all grabbed for it, taking as much as we could. We were all so excited to get vegetables, and we kept telling her how much we liked it. I think we are all a bit tired of rice—I caught the girl from Holland scooping some of her rice on to one of the American’s plates when he wasn’t looking.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mitad del Mundo y Pululahua

Today I went to Mitad del Mundo (the equator) and Pululahua...

Me messing around on the Equator. (Leaping from hemisphere to hemisphere in a single bound.)

One the way to Pululahua (pronounced Poo-lah-wah, I think.)


Billed as an Incan site, but I had my doubts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

September 17, 2008 7:04 am

Good morning from Quito! Much to say, but no ability to say it—waiting on some black tea. I think that is the only thing that I don’t like about the homestay—I don’t feel comfortable preparing things like that in the kitchen, especially when my host mom is there preparing breakfast (okay, how spoiled did I sound in that last sentence? Breakfast is being prepared for me—I really and truly cannot complain). Yeah, life is good. Today is laundry day, which I think means that I leave a pile of nasty, stinky clothes in the hands of my host mom and return in the evening to fresh, clean clothes on the clothesline. Believe it or not, this is all kinda hard for me to get used to, as I’ve become accustomed to doing all this on my own. But again, not complaining. Just making a simple observation.

Yesterday I walked around the old part of Quito (the colonial part). It is very different from El Mariscal. The streets and sidewalks are smaller, and there are so many people. Ironically enough, I saw more gringos there than I did in gringolandia. Bunch of backpackers looking for “authentic Ecuador” and smaller groups of middle-aged tourists on arranged tour groups, perhaps given a few hours to explore Old Quito on their own. At one point I just sat in a plaza and observed everyone around me: young boys carrying around kits of black shoe polish, offering shoe shines for a quarter (two approached me and offered a shoe shine. If I didn’t like my hiking boots so much, I would have taken them up on the offer, just to see how they would deal with shoes made of brown mesh instead of black leather), groups of young girls in those stereotypical Catholic schoolgirl uniforms, the aforementioned tourists (one man approached an indigenous couple and asked to take their picture—an interesting interaction to watch), men in suits holding clipboard, stopping passer-bys to talk to them (maybe get their opinion on some topic), the aforementioned backpackers (and every single on of them had a backpack—too funny).

Well, tengo hambre and I think breakfast is ready…

2:30 pm

Just finished lunch… pasta, potatoes, and plantains…. (and fruit juice). All very good (though a little heavy on the starch). The plantains had a peanut butter sauce on them—yum! (Food of the Americas: bananas and peanut butter in any form).

I spent this morning exploring El Parque Carolina (and braving public transportation there and back), so I think I’m going to take the rest of the afternoon off and go through my pictures, write some more for the ‘blog, and digest my starch. (I also inhaled a bit too much of the bus smoke on my way to and from the park, so I’m going to give my lungs a bit of a rest. I need to build my immunity to bus fumes, I guess.)

Back to yesterday: While walking around in the old town, I started to learn some of the rules of traffic. I had previously started to piece together some of the rules in El Mariscal. For example, major roads have crosswalks and signals. A solid green person means that you are probably okay to cross, but you should hurry. A blinking green person means that this is the least crazy this road is ever going to get, so you should put another person between yourself and the on-coming cars and make a run for it. A solid red person means, not surprisingly, don’t even think about crossing here—instead, go up or down a few feet, and cross where there is absolutely no crosswalk.

A lot of the roads here are one way (and, by the way, the roads are all very well marked here. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a place where there was better signage even on smaller side streets. New Jersey could definitely learn some lessons from the Quiteños—ahem). The smaller streets do not have lights or even stop signs. When a car approaches one of these intersections, it speeds up and honks its horn. I will never drive here.

I visited the San Francisco Church and Museum. The museum contained art from the Escuala Quiteña. That was a school of painting in Quito during the 1800s, under Spanish colonialism. In order to promote their brand of Catholocism, the monks and friars and whatnot (I don’t really know what they are all called—I guess I’m going to have to learn all that, huh?) gathered together talented indigenous painters and taught them how to paint in the Baroque and Roccoco styles. Now, generally I don’t like (eh, make that detest) Baroque (think of cherubs barfing fluffy pink vomit) and Roccoco art, but… well, I liked this. The paintings didn’t show the same technical skill found in European art of this time period, but they more than made up for it with a sort of folk naitivite. And, of course, I didn’t get the same sense of barfing cherubs (not a cherub in sight. Plenty of bloody Christos, though…)

Ah, yes, the bloody Christo of Latin America. Actually, the Christos here are no where near as gruesome as those in Mexico. These ones are definitely toned down a lot. But…

Well, I was in the museum by myself, and the lights are on timers. Good for cutting down on energy usage, so I completely approve of that. However, it does make it a little more difficult to enter a dark, empty room when one can only see the barest outlines of a carved, bleeding Christ. I swear I jumped out of my skin every single time the lights clicked on.

The Museo de Banco Central also uses lights on timers. This is not, as one might think, a museum of Ecuadorian banking throughout the ages but rather a museum contain anthropological artifacts and paintings by Ecuadorian artists. The artifacts were all very well arranged and organized chronologically (with dioramas! I love dioramas in museums! Especially when they contain little people!) with information in Spanish and in English (yea, gringolandia! Oh, I know I’m going to cringe when I read that later…). Yeah, so we had pre-Inca, Inca, during-Inca… the usual suspects. Everything ended, of course, in 1534 when the Spanish came.

Now, just last year, I was in Greece and Turkey, staring at pottery fragments. I must confess, I found the pottery here to be much more impressive than the pottery in Greece and Turkey. Not only that, but there was definite forward progress. It made me wonder what would have happened if the Spanish (or, I suppose, European in general) had not ventured to the Americas—at least for a few hundred years. I wonder how the civilization here would have developed. But I guess that is akin to wondering what would have happened if Corsica had not been part of France when Napoleon was born.

There were four room in the Museo: the anthropological room, the Colonial Art room, the Republic/Modern Art room, and the Contemporary Art room. The Republic/Modern Art room showed the progression from the Escuela Quiteña through portraits and landscapes to art inspired by social activism and issues. The Contemporary Art room—well, it was Contemporary Art. Not my thing. The highlight (?) was a statue of a man with his pants down, peeing. Yeah.

I went through the Colonial Art room last. It was on the mezzanine and it took me a while to find the steps (yeah, no holding back on my more embarrassing moments here…) It was more or less the same situation as in the Museo de San Francisco—empty, dark rooms with lights on timers. Only this was just before closing and it was raining really hard outside. A very creepy environment indeed.

This morning I went to the Botanical Garden and the Vivarium (snake house) in El Parque Carolina. The bus there was very crowded, but I managed to not get pick-pocketed (or, if I was, they did an excellent job of not being discovered by leaving everything in my purse). It was nice wandering around the gardens after spending so much time going through the city. One thing I will say about Prague, it had tons and tons of gardens—smaller ones tucked away where one could stumble upon them during walks and larger ones where one could escape the bustle of the city for awhile. I do find that, the older I get, the more I long for the tranquility of green spaces. I do get the impression that, while there might not be that many green spaces in Quito, I can always hop on a bus and venture into the jungle (although, after visiting the snake house today…).

First Pictures of Quito!

Inside the Museo de San Francisco.

Christo, bloody Christo.
(Part of my creepy Christ series--not to be confused with my baby Jesus with rickets series).

Quito old town.

In the Botanical Garden.

Orchid in the Botanical Garden.

Parque Carolina.

September 15, 2008 8:15 am

In Quito, Ecuador. I arrived yesterday, after 10 hours of travel and two airplane changes, one in El Salvador, and the other in Costa Rica. I thought for sure I was going to miss the last plane from Costa Rica. When I got on the plane in El Salvador, I instantly fell asleep in my seat. Half an hour later, I woke up, realized we were still on the ground and were now twenty minutes late. Not good when you only have a half an hour to change planes in the next airport. We did finally get up in the air, and I looked around the plane. I was in the back, in a row by myself, and I only saw a few other people in front of me. “Well,” I figured, “at least when the plane lands I should be able to get out of here pretty quickly.” The plane landed and arrived at the gate about fifteen minutes before my next flight was supposed to leave. Then, all of a sudden, the aisle was packed. The plane had been full, but everyone was so short that I hadn’t seen them at all.

SO, instead of being able to exit the plane quickly as I had hoped to do, I had to wait for 24 rows of people to get their bags and slowly meander down the aisle into the Costa Rica airport. But not only did I make it to Quito, my luggage did as well. How is that for luck?

The first plane ride, from Washington DC to El Salvador, I was one of two gringos on the airplane. Yes, there were only two of us. Instantly launched into a world of Spanish, I was. Oddly enough, there were several gringos on the plane from El Salvador to Costa Rica, and the plane was chock full of gringos on the way to Quito. I felt slightly cheated by all that, like I was doing something backwards. Ah well. I guess I’m not exactly off the beaten track here.

Now, I had been in Mexico taxis, but I had never been in a Latin American plane. I felt like maybe the flying style was close to the driving style. Granted, than may have been a result of the places we had to take off from, fly over, and land, but it all felt quite a bit more abrupt than I was used to. Lots of sharp turns and quick descents and bouncing and swerving on the tarmac. Flying into Quito, I was quite surprised to look out my window and see the airport right below me. “Hmm,” I thought, “Well, I guess we are going to turn around?” And sure enough, we did—nice sharp turn, one wing dipping low and giving me a very good view of the city below me. On the way down, I got to watch a soccer game—I mean, literally watch the people running after the ball in the stadium. But we made it okay, and I had no problems meeting up with my host mom. And now, time for breakfast…

9:08 pm

So, I spent today walking around and exploring El Mariscal, also known as gringolandia. It is where most of the backpacker hostels are located, as well as the Spanish schools (there are several in Quito). The school where I will be teaching is also located there. I walked past it, but didn’t go in. From the outside, it looks modern and respectable. I also located an Indian restaurant, although I didn’t eat there—maybe in the future.

What do I think of Quito? I like it. It is different—you know, you go to a new place and you don’t know what to expect, but you still form ideas. Like, I’ve been to Mexico and they speak Spanish there, so maybe Quito will be like Mexico City. It is not—thank goodness. For all that it is a major city, it is not intimidating so. It is a major city, but in a small country, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Even with buses spewing (a cliche, I know, that buses either spew or vomit or belch black smoke, but I’m not sure that there is any other verb that better describes the action. Maybe buses farting black smoke since it comes from the tail end?) black smoke, the city does not feel as oppressively dusty and dirty as Mexico City.

Maybe it was just because I was in gringolandia, but I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all today. Tomorrow I will venture south to the old part of Quito, which is a UNESCO heritage site, I believe (I feel like I’m just moving from one UNESCO city to another, although I’m not sure where Salisbury fits in with that statement). It might be different down there, so we shall see. Then, Wednesday, I am going to venture north to Parque La Carolina and visit the Botanical Garden. I’m excited about that.

Ahh, and I joined the South American Explorers Club today. There is a “clubhouse” in Quito, in El Mariscal. They have an English language library (which, after looking at the prices on severely used books in one of the two English language bookstores here is just by itself well worth the cost of membership), free internet, a DVD lending library, and information on trips around Ecuador (and South America in general). I also hope to connect with other teachers there and maybe find an apartment.

Which brings me, quite naturally, to my living arrangements here. I am renting a room from an Ecuadorian and her family. The room is small, but the bed is comfortable, and she has promised me a larger room as soon as some other boarders leave. Right now there are five of us here (not including the host and her two children), so it is a full house (well, apartment). When L., my host mom, showed me my room, she looked at my baggage, looked at the room, looked at me, and declared it too small. I felt like a bit of a tool, traveling with as much stuff as I did, but when I explained to her that I was going to be living here for a year, she understood. She is very nice, and very good at communicating clearly. She is also very patient and encouraging—which makes me want to be able to speak Spanish with her. Yea, motivation. In fact, I may go ahead and start taking some Spanish classes before I start teaching. If I go through my new club, I can get private lessons for $5 an hour—well worth it, I think. The food here is good (though I’ve only had a couple of meal here). In fact, the only thing that is less than perfect is the youngest child, a two-year old boy who is treated like a prince and who would probably benefit from a spanking or two. Ah well. I must remember, I spent the day before I flew out here with the world’s best natured baby, so naturally any other kid is going to seem like a handful.

The altitude: okay, I’m aware of it. Today wasn’t too bad, but I did have a small headache most of the day. El Mariscal is pretty flat, but to walk from there to where I’m staying I have to go up a hill. Not a giant hill by any means, but a hill nevertheless. About four blocks up the hill I’m panting, and two more blocks up I’m convinced that the apartment should be right there, that I must have gone too far. Those last two blocks I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to make it. Other than that, I’ve been fine. Now, I had figured that today would be as bad as it got and that probably by tomorrow I’d be fine. Then, this evening, I heard that apparently the third day is the worst. So now I have something to look forward to. Yea.

And I believe that that is it. I’ll probably write some more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I made it to Quito. Right now I´m in an internet cafe and I don´t have much time here, but I promise that I will post more later.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Today is Tuesday.

It has been so long since I've posted anything here that the user interface has completely changed. But I'm sure I'll figure it out--I'm a smart cookie. (Mmmm, brownies...)

So, as you might have gathered from the subject line of this particular 'blog, today is Tuesday. I am leaving on Sunday. That means I have some days--you know, those days between today and Sunday--to pack and gather and gather and pack.

Now, most readers will have heard already, but I have found a place to stay for my first month there. I will be doing a homestay, living with an Ecuadorian woman and her two kids. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. Of course, she doesn't speak any English and I don't speak any Spanish, so... well, I'll be forced to learn, won't I?

Other than that, I don't have any news. I'll update this 'blog as things happen.