I have arrived in Quito..although I must say landing in this glorious city had me thinking I was on a roller coaster in Orlando…The flight was uneventful until our approach into Quito. As we approached, everyone who had a window seat had their faces glued to the windows looking at the beautiful view of all the mountain ranges…and THEN the plane banked sharply to the left and dropped a good distance…before we could catch our breath the plane banked to the right and dropped some more…NOW I, who had an aisle seat in the middle of the plane, had a clear view out the windows because all those window seated people were now plastered to their seats…what we thought was an out of control plane was actually the pilot deftly maneuvering between mountain ranges…it felt very Top Gunesque!…except we were in a 767!…as many prewarnings as I had been given about the approach, I was unprepared for the landing…we accelerated as we touched the ground…it truly felt like we were crashing…but lo and behold we landed and actually stopped…and believe me when I tell you the entire plane broke out into applause and cheers…I was told by the Ecuadorian gentleman sitting next to me that this was par for the course…even the cheering!
Quito, Ecuador is a wonderful city…the people are so welcoming and kind…yes, it is quite poor but with most developing countries, the people are very proud and go to great lengths to show you how wonderful their country is…yesterday, while walking , I saw 2 men weeding between the bricks on a sidewalk…everyone has their flowers out and it is an interesting juxtaposition to some of the older buildings,,,,
I am staying at a Pension for my first couple of days to get used to the altitude. On my first day I wandered a bit and had a wonderful ceviche(sort of sushi but it is actually considered cooked by marinating the fish or shrimp in lime juice) lunch…I then returned for a bit of a siesta…the altitude has not affected me at all…except I was a bit tired the first day…I guess all the Boot camp classes helped me get in shape…Thanks Rick! To my surprise, I was awoken by my telephone ringing…the woman told me I had a friend visiting!?! Since I knew no one, I was a bit confused. I went downstairs to find the husband and wife I will be living with standing in front of me. They came to meet me. They only spoke Spanish…but helped me, as we attempted to communicate, by correcting my very limited repertoire…all I could say was “Por Favor, hableme mas dispasce. Yo habla espanol muy poco!”…which means “Please speak slowly. I speak very little Spanish”…they followed my instruction and then continued to ask me questions…which to my surprise I understood…but had no idea how to answer…we agreed that they would pick me up on Sunday 12pm and I would go back to their home for dinner, which is the midday meal.
I spent most of the morning Saturday trying to find where the family lived and where the school was located…I can tell you this…there are a lot of hills…which should help me work off ALL the potato and rice they serve with every meal…It will take me 30-40 minutes to walk to school unless I decide to brave the bus system…and from watching it from the sidewalk I’m not sure I am physically fit enough to work it…It seems the buses do not stop UNLESS they are picking up people…otherwise they slow a bit and you jump off…my dexterity is questionable at best so walking seems a good alternative!
After I had figured out my route I walked to what is known as the “Old City” of Quito…it is the Colonial Town and where the Presidential Palace is…it took about an hour to get there by foot…amazingly, I have been using my map and actually NOT getting lost! Amazing! Old Quito is quite quaint. Lots of shops and people all over…I visited outdoor markets…enjoyed a lovely cafe..and PRACTICED my Spanish…there was some kind of demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace that seemed under control one minute and then as I came back around it was surrounded by a lot of military police…so I decided to exit and avoid it…see, I do have common sense after all! (:
By evening I ventured out to shop a bit and go to an internet cafe…An older gentleman greeted me and I greeted him in return…he then asked where I was from and I told him the US…he said he was from Romania but had lived here since WWII…Yes, I have an affinity for meeting older(80+) men…he, like the man Tucker and I met last year in Salzburg had survived Auschwitz…he lost his whole family and after the war came here…we spoke for an hour and then he invited me to his home…and Yes I went…I sized up the situation and decided I could overtake him if he pulled something on me! (: He lived in a home nearby and seemed quite lonely…he lost his wife a few years ago…we shared tea and cake and I went on my way with a promise to return next Saturday for some more tea and cake!…I went on to the Internet Cafe to look at my email…there I met a young(20) man who is also doing a language immersion program in Cuenca. We chatted and ended up having dinner together…which is a good thing…because here in Quito some restaurants charge a premium of 10.00 to dine alone! They post signs stating that and I was actually turned away at one restaurant in the old city for being alone! So in 3 hours I met 2 lovely gentlemen…except for the age difference, I´d say I had a boon with men today!
My first impressions of Quito are of a very nice city with an amazing large number of cultural sites. The people are so kind(except in those restaurants that don´t like single people)…if you attempt to speak Spanish, everyone helps…actually most people here do not speak any English…it is a rare person who speaks any English at all…so that will be good for me…Well excuse the bad spelling and improper grammar…and wish me luck…I start school tomorrow.
Adios mi amigos and amigas!