Sunday, August 23, 2009


First impressions of Quito: Cheap, busy, intimidating, altitude.

Those of you that know me well will know i´m not really a city person. Cities make me a bit apprehensive and very stressed and grumpy. Add to this some jet lag, altitude sickness and not understanding a word anyone says and it is a recipe for disaster. I have to admit that I got a pretty big culture shock on the first couple of days in Quito. The way I planned on dealing with this was to stay locked in our hostel. Thankfully I had Ryan with me who snapped me out of it when he complained of being hungry. The only way to get food was to venture our into the unknown. We didn´t go far, only up the street to find where we would need to attend our language school on Monday, and then to a restaurant around the corner which had a translated menu.
We were amazed to find how cheap everything is. 80c an hour for internet, 30c for a bottle of water, and that´s including the tourist tax that the vendors slap onto everything for the stupid foreigners.

We headed back to the hostel hoping to get a good sleep so we could enjoy our first full day in Quito. Before bed Ryan decided to go exploring in the hostel and found a cool roof top terrace. For some reason I was apprehensive to go up there. Telling myself I was being stupid, I folowed him up to see the nice view from the top. It was on the way back down that I scored my first injury or the trip. I missed a step and comando rolled down the secold flight of steps. I have put it down to fatigue and a headache due to altitude. It couldn´t possibly have anything to do with being clumsy.

That night I was woken up at 3am. Apparantly that´s when the party really gets into full swing in Quito. I could not sleep another wink after that, due to the live salsa music occurring right outside our window. At first I was pretty pissed off, but after a while of listening to how much fun everyone was having, I started to wish I was joining them. It was only the fear of being drugged, robbed, raped or all 3, that kept me in bed. The music finally stopped at about 6am, around the same time that the traffic started up again and salsa was replaced with car horns.

The next day we got up at about 11 and changed rooms where we met a German girl called Anja who said that she and our other room mate were heading into Old Town that afternoon. Ryan and I decided to join them on our first real cultural experience. We had just been talking to the guys form the hostel who were telling us about all the danger, robberies etc, just before we got onto the trole (a bus on wires), which is the site of a lot of this theft, so I was shitting myself. I looked at everyone like they were a possible threat and was especially suspicious of the little kids that kept bumping into me (their cute little snotty faces don´t fool me!). Our guide was our room mate from America who spoke fluent Spanish. Noone can remember his name so we have branded him America. He took us to a fresh food market which was closed being Sunday and then to a beautiful old church which was also closing early being Sunday. America rectified himself by talking the guards into letting us in for 20 mins to see the tower. The 300 steps it took to get there were not an easy feat at 2000m altitude, but the view from the top was sensational. We then walked the old streets to another church which was decroated with everything gold plated. I found this a bit extravagant, especially considering that just outside the door was a woman sleeping standing up, carrying everything she owned on her back, and little kids were running around trying to sell chewing gum to feed themselves, where in Australia they would be eating that gum.

On our way back to the bus station we passed a park where there were buskers performing for huge crowds. It was beautiful to see people of different classes, from wealthy to poor, standing together and laughing at a couple of street performers. Another nerve racking bus ride and 15 minute walk got us back to the hostel before dark.

I felt a bit funny walking to school with Ryan at 8.30am for our first big day of language classes. I almost felt 12 again. We were expecting to be doing a group lesson with up to 4 people so we were very surprised when the headmaster introduced us to our individual teachers. It was very intimidating sitting opposite a woman talking a completely foreign language but after the initial shock I started to enjoy myself. It was hilarious to see Ryan at break time. He came out looking pale and confused. If I didn´t know better I´d have thought someone had just slapped him in the face!

The first couple of days of school were productive but by Wedsesday I was exhausted by a lack of sleep and jet lag had officially hit me, so not much was sinking in. I really enjoyed learning a language again though and promised myself I would practice and possibly study spanish at a school again in the future.

The school organised a couple of free activities during the week after classes. On Tuesday Ryan and I tried salsa lessons. It was hilarious. Ryan was pretty good but all the other guys had no rhythm and kept stepping on the girls toes. By the end our teacher had given up and just did his own thing which we copied if we could.
On Thursday we attended cooking classes and made a tasty ecuadorian dish which consisted of potato patties, salsa, avacado, sausage and beetroot and carrot salad.

Because I was too scared to leave the hostel after dark, I decided I wasn´t going out till the next weekend when I felt more comfortable. That idea went out the window on Tuesday night when Shir, our new roomie, decided she was taking us out, Ryan was up for it but I took a little more convincing. We had some dinner and then went to a club. I was tired and over it by 10.30 but Ryan was getting more and more drunk and headed to the dance floor. Being the over-protective sister that I am I wouldn´t leave Ryan alone to walk the 100m back to the hostel by himself so I sat in the corner where I was stared at by old creepy men and greased off by Ecuadorian women, until I managed to drag Ryan away at midnight.

Wednesday was ladies night. This means that at Bungalow 6, a happening club, ladies are given free drinks, including cocktails and shots until 10 and men are banned from entering until 10 (i think so the barmen can get a head start on chatting up the girls). By 10.30 the bar fills up with guys wanting to take advantage of the already tipsy ladies. I wasn´t going to go, didn´t want to leave Ryan on his own, but he talked me into going with a few of the girls from school. I had a great time dancing with a group of ladies again. It is amazing how much attention a group of 'gringo' (foreign) girls can attract. Sorry friends, no action to report.

I had panned to have a quiet one on Thursday until we found out the Ecuadorians were celebrating the bicentenary of their independence. This meant celebrations. We sat in a bar and drank 2 for 1 cocktails and watched a free live concert, consisting of a number of local bands in range of different music styles. It was great. On Friday I wasn´t in the mood for partying but instead we hung out with a few of the people from the hostel and a guitar and had some sing alongs.

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