In my last few days at the school I met a couple of inspiring girls. One has trained to be a nurse, worked with the homeless, travelled to various places around the world and raised funds to build an orphanage in Nicaragua, the 2nd poorest nation in the western hemisphere. She’s only 23!! And she doesn’t come from a wealthy background either. Anna, I have a lot of respect for you!
Another is Michelle who entertained me with her stories of ‘learning’ how to teach English in South America, aka being dropped in at the deep end and told to just read the manual to them! I like to meet people who impress me so much, it makes possibilities seem wider, and reminds me that people can do what they set their minds to. Callum (in Rio) and Sofia (at Terracentro) also made me think like that, they’re people who just get on and do the right thing, genuinely interesting and hardworking individuals.
Anyway I moved on to the next stage after the comfort of the Spanish school and moved into a hostel. I did feel a little trepidation, but just remembered that getting out of my comfort zone is a good thing! By coincidence, a chance contact at the time led me down memory lane and palpably reminded me of the self-doubt I used to feel when I was with those people (not because-of those people, I might add) in such contrast to now when I meet new people here and I don’t care if my hair is a mess or I have ‘the wrong’ clothes!
The people in my hostel dorm were all of a similar mindset, all around my age and not out to please anyone else. We went out for a couple of meals and were all happy to be back and in bed by 10.30 🙂 I still can’t believe we bumped into Anna in La Ronda; of all the restaurants in Quito I happened to walk into that one!
A few more observations in Quito:
It’s no smoking everywhere indoors thank goodness! Not sure I could cope with that on top of the pollution! But actually very few people seem to smoke.
They love a bit of popcorn with their lunch – you often get a little bag or plate of it, not salted or sweetened, and just eat it or add it to your soup!
There’s white pineapple in addition to the usual yellow variety: the aftertaste is a bit more tangy.
Paintings here often seem to have labels painted onto them, so you can identify the different characters or ‘stories’ in the picture.
Sometimes the toilet paper is kept outside the baños, so you have to be observant!
There are no souvenir shops! Picture London with its endless union jacks, model beefeaters big bens tower bridges, etc. Nothing even remotely like that here! The shops in the old town (the most touristy part) are all restaurants, shoe shops, wool shops, clothes shops and video shops. They don’t even sell postcards!
In contrast to a cloudy Wednesday, Thursday started off as a beautiful day: the sun was shining over the view from the hostel roof terrace, I’d bought stuff for breakfast the day before, and I had a plan.
So I set out from the hostel walking towards Plaza San Francisco, which to me is the quintessential Quito square. I was so happy when I turned the corner and there it was in full blue-andean-sky glory! There were little kids chasing the pigeons, but it was quite peaceful.
The Church of San Francisco is beautiful inside, but I couldn’t take pictures or stay as there was a service in progress. I also went inside Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus, which apparently is the church with the most gold inside; lovely.
Finally, I went in the Cathedral next to Plaza Grande. In there the wooden floorboards were all incredibly creaky! And there was a strong scent of burning candles.
Sitting for a moment in Plaza Grande afterwards, the wind was rustling through the blossom and leaves of the trees, there were birds singing, the man was quietly repeating ‘Té de coca Té de coca Té de coca!’, there was a gentle murmuring of people, and splashes of water in the fountain. Those moments come when you travel solo, your thoughts are clear and you pay attention to more, I think! Three little boys aged maybe 5 or 6 came over to see if they could shine my shoes for me (I was wearing flip-flops!), each with their little box of equipment 😦 There are often small children selling fruit in the middle of the road too. The sun was high in the sky, and before long there were again whistles, sirens, horns blowing and traffic noise. Back to busy. I walked home on the sunny side of the streets, past Plaza del Teatro.
However, later that day I was wishing that maybe I hadn’t walked on the sunny side of the street. I was looking forward to rounding off a lovely day by going out with Michelle, Anna and a few other people, but just as they arrived at my hostel to pick me up I started to feel unwell. I hadn’t eaten any street food, or meat, or anything dodgy, so I’m not sure whether this was altitude (after 3 weeks?) or sunstroke or my malaria medication or my breakfast/lunch or what but… Well, it was time for me to lose all my dignity and throw up… lots…over a number of hours…even into the night…oh dear! People helped me out by giving me water and rehydration salts, and something to try to stop it, and the guy on the bunk below me swapped so I didn’t have to climb down every time, and they all said not to be embarrassed they’d all been there before! I could see the funny side, but I hope that doesn’t happen again!!