Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ecuador - 37th Country in 35 Years

You know I had to take a birthday trip……..

Why Ecuador??  

  1. I had never been there
  2. I wanted to buy an original Panama Hat
  3. I wanted to go to the Museum of the famous Ecuadorian painter Guayasamin and buy some of his art.
  4. I found private Spanish classes for $6/hour and Salsa classes for $7/hour.

I thought those were great reasons! This trip really came about because of Kate’s Guayasmin painting at her place in Costa Rica.  I had seen his work before, but never knew who it was.  While researching him on Google, I came across the Guayasamin Spanish School in Quito.  When I saw the prices, I was SOLD!

I arrived Sunday night to Quito (in business class of course-I will always love you Delta) and a “heavenly bed” at the Sheraton Quito was waiting for me.  I finally got to use some of my Starwood points from my credit card…well worth the $3000 I had to spend to get the free night! Haha  After taking my first taxi in Quito for $1.50, I thought ahhhh yes, now this is Latin America!  Even though Ecuador officially uses US dollars now it is way cheaper than Costa Rica.

Monday morning I started my Spanish class at 930am and was very pleased with my appointed profesora, Kenia.

I was so happy when she told me that my accent didn’t seem like an American!!  Nothing against Americans of course, but that was a compliment that I didn’t sound like a Gringa!

In the afternoon I had my first private salsa class with Daniel at Son Latino.  Oh Danny! Not only can he dance, he is a singer in a salsa band!  I was in heaven just trying to keep up with what he was showing me…I must say, I think I did pretty good, take a look at my video of one of my classes and tell me what you think…
This was a new style I never had danced before called Rueda de Casino. I am dancing with Daniel my instructor, and two other instructors at the school.
The school arranged a family stay for me and Im so glad I did that.
  For $15/night I stayed with Cristobal y Estella and their 2 sons, Diego and Javier.  We all ate dinner together and sat around talking for hours at night.  It was a TOTAL SPANISH WEEK-exactly what I wanted for my birthday.

Eleanor (the other gringa above) is from England and was also staying at their house.  She is at the beginning of a 10 month trip around the world.  (6 months in South America, then to New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, China….ahhh now that is a trip)

Wednesday I didn’t do my Spanish class so I could spend the day getting to know the beautiful historic area of Quito. (there is a new town and old town)  Of course I had made a list of things I wanted to see, and one week just wasn’t enough.  This city is DEFINITELY a repeater. I started out walking at 8am and my first stop was at the shoe shine.  I had brought a pair of comfortable black leather flats that were looking pretty worn, and for .25 cents this man made them look like new!!

I walked through a pretty park and couldn’t resist getting a treat at this fruit stand. 
I don’t think I have ever passed a fruit stand without buying. This round structure was also in the park
...and although Im not sure what it was when I was at the top I was able to see the steeples of a gothic church in the distance and headed that way. 
Once I reached, I pulled out my little map and discovered it is called La Basilica Del Voto Nacional. The church takes up two blocks and really reminded me of the Notre Dame in Paris. 
My first “souvenir” purchase was right outside the church from this indigenous girl selling beautiful cotton scarves for 2 cents…why not? (ok $2, but still)
The Centro Historico is so beautiful.  This church on the main square was so cool.  It really was a statement in white, with all the colorful buildings around it. 
The buildings have such character are so pretty and come in every color. 
There were several other churches that deserved pictures. This one was so ornate, I took a bunch of pics.
This was the main door...I loved the GOLD.
I also made it to the Metropoliano Cultural Center where I saw some great 3D paintings.  I always am inspired when I see “collage” art.  I have a great idea to make my own… many ideas…just like my mom.  It was only a semi-clear day, but I had to get up to El Panecillo, a HUGE statue of the virgin mary overlooking the city.  See the statue in the background.For $1 I climbed to the top of the statue.
This pic is from the inside of the statue.
Quito is surrounded by mountains and this vista, the city goes on and on. 
Its a little foggy, but do you see where the buildings are all taller in one section?  This is the new part of the city.
I had another salsa class at 6pm, so I took the trolle to the Capilla del Hombre and Fundacion de Guaysamin where I spent the next few hours. 
I am really in love with his work, and although I wasn’t able to afford the originals that were for sale, I bought some really great prints on quality paper.  I wanted so many I had to stop myself.  
From the Museum, also the previous house of the artist, there was another great view.In the afternoon, I went with another professor on a little field trip to Mitad del Mundo. 22k north of Quito. 
This is truly the “Middle of the World” just as the name says.  Measured with GPS a line marks the Equator.
At the museum we had a guide and they did a few experiments that were really interesting.  First, on the equator line, they balanced and egg on a pin. 
I was told to stand on the line and put my arms out to my side and “walk the line.”  It was like I was drunk (and I wasn’t!)  I couldn’t keep my balance. It was the strangest thing.
Then they took a portable sink to either side of the equator to show how the water drains in the opposite direction and ON the line, it drains straight down. 

We had a tour of native houses and I listened to the traditions of the [something?] natives. The men of the tribe would test the women useing this pipe to blow a spear into a cactus in the distance.  

If she sticks it in the cactus, she will make a good wife.  I HIT the target, but it didn’t stick.  Im so sorry mi Neto. I guess Im not a good wife, but I looked good in feathers, right?  The huge statue marking Mitad del Mundo, was under construction, but I was still able to get the obligatory pic.

I think Ecuadors favorite color is the same as mine….TURQUESA!
With traffic it took us over 2 hours to get home.  I had dinner plans that night with Maria Luisa’s brother.  I work with Maria Luisa at Habitat.  She is Peruvian and her brother Jorge is working in Quito as a consultant “temporarily” (its been a year and a half)
He picked me up around 8p and I was so happy when he said we were going to a Peruvian restaurant.  Astrid & Gaston was a BEAUTIFUL chick restaurant with red walls and cool art and great service.
We started out with what Jorge said was an authentic Pisco Sour and what followed was a 5 course Peruvian meal…first course? ceviche (my favorite) I also was able to eat something I have never tried before….cow heart.  It doesn’t sound good, but it was cooked to juicy perfection and quite delicious.  I love meeting new people and what I love even more is doing it in Spanish…..and even MORE than that over a bottle of Malbec.

Thursday I had 8 hours of Spanish “classes” since I took Wednesday off.  It was a long day, but perfect.  We were only in the classroom for 3 hours. After that my professor Kenia and I went to a couple different markets near the school in the neighborhood called Mariscal (also called “GRINGO-LANDIA” by the locals... A LOT of foreigners)  Since it was sunny, I picked out my panama hat from one of the many vendors and and got a damn good deal.  Asking price: $12….final price $8.  These hats are woven out of a plant called "Carludovica Palmata", which is native to Ecuador. It takes up to three months to manufacture, and the craftsmanship is amazing. You can roll it up or sit on it and they go back to the original shape without a wrinkle. They are quite expensive elsewhere.  At the Mercado Central in Costa Rica they wanted 27,000 colones (almost $60)…….UMM…NO!  In the vegetable market I saw some great foto ops, like this WHOLE FRIED PIG.

Here it is a little closer....appetizing?Only after I was drinking this delicious raspberry juice did I think hmmm, I wonder if they used purified water???
I doubt it, but I didn't get sick...YES! a stomach of steel! I bought a watermelon from this stand to take to the school, we all had to bring a different fruit for a salad.
 and I wanted to try the toasted corn from the stand below. It was so tasty!
I got a little bit down on San Jose after spending time in Quito. I couldn’t help but compare. I could go on and on, but one thing I really loved is that it’s obvious there was some city planning in Quito.  It’s a WALKABLE city. They have sidewalks everywhere, the trolle is wonderful, it has its own lane, is quick and cost .25 cents.  I don’t think I would die on a scooter there either. Yes there is traffic, but there is some order. Diverse residents, natives walking the city in their colorful outfits and fedora hats with feathers. OK ill stop now.  I really do love Costa Rica.  


  1. sounds like a wonderful trip!! i am loving your hair these days!!

  2. Very nice post. I especially liked the pictures. I didn't know that you could enter this statue. I would really liked to have done it, too. I visited also a language school called Ailola Quito for two weeks and compared to other countries in South America like Chile, it was pretty cheap - also the meals, transportation, etc.


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