So, a typical day now starts with waking up with the sun just after 6am and getting ready to be in the kitchen by 7.30ish for a different breakfast than I was used to back home! A glass of freshly prepared juice, different nearly every day, all the sweeter because Carmen buys the fruit regularly, it’s not long been picked, she squeezes (for example) a couple of sweet oranges, blends them with some ripe strawberries and stirs in some (cooled) boiled water… ¡Y listo! Plus some manjar de luche (yum!), bread, scrambled eggs, two pieces of fruit and a cup of coffee.
Then there’s the 30 min walk (or bus ride for $0.25, to avoid the diesel fumes) to school, where I talk through my homework from the day before, then learn some new grammar or some more information about Ecuador, all solely in Spanish. Break time is 11am sharp and everyone takes it (how refreshing!) to go and sit in the sun if it’s there and haltingly practise the Spanish we’ve just learned on the other students, or hurriedly make plans for meeting up after lessons, or see how much of the teachers’ conversation we can understand!
Lessons finish at 1 then the main meal of the day here is lunch, and you always get soup, followed by often rice and chicken or fish, and a little desert, for $2 or $3, although there are plenty of places that will charge at least double that if you’re drawn to their more western appeal!
This week in the afternoons Luke and I went first to Plaza Foch (in “Gringolandia”), and then the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana to see lots of artefacts and artworks showing the history of the different peoples of Ecuador, including scale models and intricate Inca jewellery.
The day after, we went to the scenic and pretty Guápulo, made all the more poignant because it’s the church where Carmen got married, which is very impressive!
An overpriced taxi ride later (we were supposed to insist on the ‘taximetro’ (meter) but it seems we’d agreed the price upfront not for 5 minutes, but $5), I went into La Capilla del Hombre and had one of those irresistible smile moments!
It’s a building dedicated to the suffering people of Ecuador through the medium of art, next to the (granted, luxurious) house where the artist, Guayasamín, lived, with stupendous views across the city! I absolutely loved it!
In addition to a main body of work depicting the souls of indigenous people through the features of their faces and hands, he repeatedly painted the same aspect of Quito but in different colours, light, weather and moods. My favourite was ‘Quito Verde’, not least because I actually had goosebumps standing 2 feet away from the original!
The saying above means ‘leave a light on; I’ll always return’ and the one below is ‘I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a child who had no feet’
In total contrast, for the next couple of days I started to feel unwell (manflu!) but was in the hustle and bustle of the city and the noisy local market, Santa Clara (with smells of fresh flowers, fish, cooking) to buy local fruits as the basis of a discussion in class on Friday. Now: it’s been said to me years ago (authoritatively) that there’s only one type of banana in the world. How wrong! At least 4 types are here!
Between us we bought delicious pineapple, tuna(=sweet fruit from a cactus), pitajaya ($$), plátano rosado and plátano orito, as well as ones I didn’t like quite so much: guayaba, uvillas, granadilla. The babacos (big yellow star-shaped fruit) are really tasty too! I know this because it’s one of the many varied things Carmen has cooked for us at the homestay. In lots of ways it’s been brilliant staying there, because I’ve seen life in an Ecuadorian family not just from a hostel, I’ve been well-fed with a healthy varied diet (including also mote, quinoa, tortilla, various soups), she’s really interesting to talk to, very caring, and has made me super-fresh lemon and honey to help my throat. It’s really been the best time for me to be ill, because my only commitment is school, and I could rest a lot without worrying about cooking for myself or wondering if I’m doing the right thing or feeling pressure to go out. Bien!