Wednesday, September 17, 2008

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.


At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the trip down went well and your host mom sounds like she's got her crap together (even though she doesn't beat her youngest enough).

Hmmm...and while Cecilia IS the sweetest, happiest baby ever it all may come crashing down when she reaches two. Especially if she's anything like I was during the toddler years.

Hey, won't that be about the same time you come back?? : )


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