The Streets of Quito

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
1
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Monday, March 14, 2005

"I haven't any fear of getting caught out after dark in Quito. I hold a can of pepper spray right out in front of me so everyone can see it. I don't go anywhere without it."
"But what if the muggers have guns?" I asked.
"It's all knives in Quito, they don't have guns - can't afford them." she replied.
Ellen and I were having dinner with Anne-Marie, a freckled young Irish woman who'd been teaching English for the past six months in Quito, Ecuador. She was describing how she deals with would-be thieves and muggers.
"And you can negotiate if your Spanish is good enough. They'll usually settle for $20.00." she continued.
"Hah, that's nothing" said Michel the globetrotting Swiss. "A couple of months ago, I was robbed while leaving a disco in Quito at 4:00 a.m. One of the robbers had a gun - the other one a machete. When I told them all I had was two cigarettes, they settled for one of them. I smoked one of the cigarettes and they shared the other one between them. After we finished the one with the gun said '"You better be careful Senor. You are walking in a very dangerous neighbourhood."'

We came close ourselves one night in Quito. Ellen and I were walking down the main street; busy Calle Amazonas when I noticed an odd young character walking about five metres in front of us. He kept turning his head slightly to the left. He was watching us out of the corner of his eye. I looked behind us and there were two more - a he and a she. They were a couple of metres behind us and closing in as the one in front turned towards us. I grabbed Ellen by the arm and steered us into a brightly lit open-air pharmacy. Like two small fish on a coral reef we'd escaped our predators. The three sharks circled in confusion then sped off into the night.

Where Does All the Small Change Go?

No one in Ecuador can make change. Upscale shops, busy restaurants, street vendors - it doesn't matter. When you buy something you're expected to have the exact change - or at least be within a dollar of it. If everyone pays this way you would think that all or at least most vendors would have lots of small bills and coins. My Spanish isn't nearly good enough to question this mystery so it will continue to remain just that.
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