Saturday: After departing the bus station and making it back to my casa, I took a long shower, took a ton of clothes for washing and heading for the historic old town section of Quito. Quito is in a valley flanked by volcanic peaks and it's old town has been an Unecsco World Heritage Site since 1978 as it truly is one of the few remaining colonial centers in all of Latin America. I started out in Plaza Grande where the Ecuadorian White House is located
. From there it was off to the beautiful Plaza and Monastary of San Francisco which is a central hub of activity in Quito given it's huge cobblestone plaza and the twin bell towers of Ecuadors oldest church. After I popped into the Museo de la Ciuadad (City Museum) for a glance at some interesting dioramas and models of indigenous homes. Afterwards, a visit to a Lonely Planet recommended ice cream bar which was indeed a little slice of heaven. As I walked back towards "my side" of town, I had to walk through two parks both of which seemed a bit dodgy to me so I didn't take any photos. One of the guys from another school in the jungle was actually mugged in the middle of the day in one of these parks and they took his camera, money and watch. After my little walking tour (6 hours), I spent some time on the internet updating my blog them back to home for dinner. Max (another American) texted me and wanted to grab a beer...but I was exhausted by 9 and passed out. At 2AM my phone starts ringing, I jump up and it's Steena and Paula (the two Danish girls from our school). They beg me to meet them at No Bar as it's their last night...but as No bar closes at 2:30 and I was halfway asleep, I regrettably couldn't join them.
Sunday: Up fairly early on Sunday for more sites in Quito. First stop...El Panecillo...or Little Break Loaf. This is a major Quito landmark and is topped by a huge statue on La Virgen de Quito complete with a crown of stars, eagles wings and a chained dragon atop a globe of the world
. There are great views of the city which are hopefully captured by my photos. Taking a taxi up and back was a bit expensive ($6 RT) but as I hear there are many robberies...it was money well spent. A 15 minute trolley ride later and I was at Parque La Carolina...or Quito's version of Central Park. Unlike the other sketchy parks I visited yesterday, this one was fully of families, soccer games and couples mugging under the warm sun. I spent thirty minutes watching a damn good football game and continued walking through the park to the Vivarium or house of reptiles. No photos were allowed, but this place was full of some of the most dangerous snakes in the world all viewable in what where basically fish tanks...with nothing else between you and a bite but a thin pane of glass. I took the opportunity to visit a couple local shopping malls and was pretty impressed...Hugo Boss, Prada...some fairly nice brands...and not the cheap knocks offs from China. There was also a Taco Bell which game me a small orgasm thanks to a burrito and taco. Afterwards, some more internet time to research the next part of my trip then dinner with my familia.
Monday: School and then out with Claire to Cafe Mosaic. School on Monday was a bit rough as I had a professor I wasn't to keen on having again. However, it's turned out fine and I have no regrets. Not much to report today. It's my final week here...Claire's too...also Harry's
. Amazonas School is definitely going to be a dead place to be next week. I'm so, so glad I came when I did as I met some very interesting and friendly travelers who I know many of which I will stay in touch with for many years to come. Claire is finished with school so yesterday she went to Mindo. She returned today and called me to see if anything was going on after dinner. I told her we should go check out Cafe Mosaic which according to Lonely Planet has some of the nicest views of Quito. A 15 minute Trolley/Cab ride later and Claire and I were indeed verifying what Lonley Planet had said. Great night time views of the city...I wish I had my camera. Pretty expensive drinks for Ecuador (around $5 each) but definitely worth it for the view.
Tuesday: Happy Halloween! And last night out with my Ecuadorian sister...Diane. Diane and I met Claire, Max and Harry at No Bar for some Halloween madness and mucho bailando (dancing). Good times at No Bar once more...given I had no desire to be hungover for 5 hours of classes manana, I limited myself to 4 drinks total. Harry and Max on the other hand...un poco boracho (a little drunk). At one point I saw someone on Harry's shoulders and Max trying to get a little closer to a beautiful local chick. Diana, Claire and I enjoyed our little dance spot and danced until 1:30 or so.
Wednesday: Ciao to my sister and the last night in Quito for Claire. This morning my sister (Diane) was leaving for her home in Santo Domingo. We took the trolley bus as far as we could together before I had to get off for my short walk to school. I'll definitely miss her and will keep in touch during the rest of my travels. It's also Claire's last night and as we have spent so much time together the past few weeks, it wouldn't be right to not have a nice dinner with her. She and I have got along extremely well and it's very, very possible we'll meet up again in Buenos Aires or possibly sooner. We had a great dinner at a fairly trendy restaurant in town called Q bar. I had ceviche and some mussels...Claire had a huge salad that was really, really good. At nearly $15 each total, it was definitely the most expensive meal I've had in Quito...but good nonetheless.
Thursday: Day of the Dead. Trip with Harry and two professors to a cementary about an hour north of Quito in town of Calderon. Why travel so far for a cementary you might ask? Well...today happens to be the Day of the Dead which is a very popular holiday throughout Latin America. However..in Ecuador...it's un poco different. In rural areas (which is why we traveled an hour out of town), entire indigenous families show up at cementaries to eat, drink and leave offerings (flowers, poems, food) in memory of their departed loved ones
. The cementary we went to was especially interesting given the number of indigenous people buried or entombed there. Out of respect, I didn't take any pictures, but picture this...your entire family going to the grave site of your grandmother each November 2 and having a giant picnic on her plot. That and bringing things that you think she might like and leaving those on her plot. Quite interesting to experience actually and I'm glad we did it. After that, it was back to school for colada morada and guaguas de pan. Another tradition on the Day of the Dead is to eat and drink these specialities of Ecuador. Colada morada is a corn based drink, made with dark purple corn flour, which is cooked with pre-cooked fruits in sugar and spices. Guagua is a Quitchwa word meaning child which is used by everyone (pronounced wawa). Every family makes bread dough and cooks it in little children-like shapes which are then decorated with the help of the children. Both the drink and bread filled me up so no need for lunch for me. That night, Hannah (Germany) Max (U.S.) and Max's local friend went out for drinks to Gringolandia. After a few cheap cuba libres, we ended up in some local dance spot called Bungalow 6. About midnight I was exhausted and took a cab home...good times though on the dance floor.
Friday: Last day of school!!! Today is my last day of school and while I'm sad to be leaving...I'm definitely ready for some new locations. Today was spent practicing what I learned and while I'm no where near fluent...I can definitely converse and hold a conversation with a native....as long as they keep the verbs simple and don't mind repeating things a few times. ;) After school I met up with Mike who is a U.S. citizen working for our government in Quito. He has a son in another language school here and he and his wife have been living and working in Latin America for many years
. Mike gave me some interesting advice on work for the U.S. government agencies and I may follow up on some of it should I decide to leave Deloitte. It definitely sounds like a great deal if you can get a U.S. salary in a place like Quito where the cost of living is so incredibly low. For example...a really, really nice house here in a decent part of town costs around $60K US. As tonight is my last night in Quito, Harry, Max and I did some serious damage to our internal organs thanks to two for one drinks at our favorite cocktail bar. Afterwards we headed over to the Bungalow bar for more madness. I started to have a brown out (not quite a blackout) so I left around 1:30.
Saturday: Trip Day...time to Depart Ecuador...BY BUS....and more about my family in Quito. Well, my first venture outside of Ecuador isn't working out as well as I expected. My initial plan was to bus across the Ecuador/Peru border to a town in northern Peru called Tumbez and catch two flights from there to Lima and then to a town in southern Peru called Arequipa. BUT...the flights from Tumbez to Lima are non existent on Sunday AND even if they had flights...I would be flying later in the day and wouldn't be able to catch a flight the same day to Arequipa...which would mean an overnight in Lima and flight to Arequipa on Monday afternoon. Soooo...I'm going to endure a 30 hour bus ride all the way to Lima leaving Saturday night at 10PM and not arriving until late morning Monday...holy crap. Yeah..that should be real, real fun. After arriving into Lima on Monday, I'm going to catch a flight that afternoon to Arequipa so the net-net is I arrive into Arequipa late Monday anyway. C'est la vie.
I haven't included many pictures about my family and the house I have been living in so in this post I'll put some pics of Inez (my mom), my sister and others if possible. Next post will be from Arequipa in southern peru. Ciao.
My final week here...on Saturday the 4th I leave via bus for Peru...more on that later. After nearly 5 weeks in Quito, I have never actually explored the town itself...sad, I know. So given my early arrival into Quito from the jungle on Saturday, I dedicated the entire weekend for visiting some sites in the city I want to check out before I depart. The rest of the week had a few interesting activities as well...so...one more recap from Ecuador: