Our first day at school and Hubs and I were excited! Our teacher, Janed, was softly spoken, super nice and had a wide happy smile. Hubs and I were both happy. Learning Spanish was great fun. In some respects it was easy because the grammar is so similar to Italian. But in other respects, knowing Italian kept confusing me and I kept speaking Ital-Spanish! Annoying!
After class, I signed up for salsa lessons – included in the price of the tuition – while Hubs opted to relax at home (our posh digs). The salsa lesson was small – just myself and another student at the school called Kyle, and two teachers. Memories of doing salsa lessons with my friend Claire Taylor came flooding back, and surprisingly, once we got started, I just fell into the rhythm of the steps and knew what I was doing. Kyle struggled a little bit – the skinny white American was not really the rhythmic type! An hour of moving my butt and I had worked up quite a sweat. It was fun! I think I’m going to carry on and go salsa dancing regularly when I get home.
Salsa class finished at 7pm and it had just gotten dark. The school was only four or five blocks from our posh new hotel, but I heeded the advice given to me. Kyle offered to walk me back to the main square, Plaza Foch, and I took him up on his offer. During the walk home I decided he was a knob – one of these awkward loner types that don’t have many friends…and there’s a reason for that. He’s a knob. Anyway, I was thankful that I had a knob to walk with since it was dark. Once we got to Plaza Foch I said thanks, bye, and walked promptly away. I couldn’t bring myself to invite him to dinner or for a drink or anything.
Wednesday after class was a cooking lesson at the school. The menu was typically Ecuadorian, and not that exciting…so Hubs and I tried to bail, but they had already bought all the ingredients so we had to stay. We dashed back to our posh new digs and went back just to eat. We left the preparation to Larry the fun American, Kyle the knob, and the teachers. Hubs thought the lunch of chorizo, potato patties, salad and beetroot was disgusting. I didn’t mind it actually.
Wednesday night Hubs and I went to Roy McCools Irish bar near our hotel for a quiz night. What a disaster. This is why I hate quiz nights. I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent woman, yet I suck at quizzes and always come away feeling stoopid. We didn’t stay the whole the quiz – it was getting late, we were losing badly, and I wanted to get a good night’s sleep. So we left. I can’t believe we got the question wrong – which is the longest river in the world. We said the Amazon, but it’s not, it’s the Nile. We KNEW that but got it wrong anyway!! We also got the question wrong – which is the driest continent – we said Africa… Stoopid Aussies! It’s AUSTRALIA!! How could we get that wrong??!
Thursday was day 3 of Spanish lessons and Hubs and I were advancing quickly. We were onto irregular verbs and it is hard! But we are getting there. It was a joy to see our teacher Janed each morning, so whilst it was tough, she made it enjoyable and we had heaps of laughs along the way.
After class the school took us on an excursion on a cable car up a huge mountain in Quito. We were so high up that the air felt considerably thinner and it was muy freo! Really cold!! We caught a local bus there, and that in itself was an adventure and dirt cheap at US 25 cents! After a hike that should have been easy but the altitude made it tough, we went into the visitor’s centre and Hubs and I indulged on some ‘pure oxygen’. I have heard of oxygen bars in NYC and heard that you can get a feeling of euphoria from it. It was crap – really crap. A waste of $5!
Thursday night was an organised night excursion of Quito taken by Vinicio, the founder of the school. It was fantastic! There was the young cute 19 yo German, Hano, Larry the larger than life 50-something American (great fun and a friend of dorothy’s), Hubs, myself, and Kyle the knob. We went to the Penicillio – the hill top with the statue of Mary as an angel that overlooks and protects the city. We then went to Rotanda, the strip of bars and restaurants in the old town. Vinicio took us to a great local Ecuadorian place that serves only empanadas, bbq chicken, and this hot mulled wine alcoholic drink. We had a great night chair-bopping to Ecuadorian indigenous musicians, eating delicious food and sampling a new, strange, yet more-ish warm alcoholic drink. We decided to all put in extra to pay for Vinicio and the bill cost us US$4 each. How CHEAP. A great night!
Friday was Hubs’ last day of class. She was opting out of Monday to have a day in the city. I loved learning spanish so much that I didn’t want to miss an opportunity! I started the lesson with a little cry after describing my family to Janed in Spanish. I got really sad and started missing everyone and the tears just fell! Oh dear. We helped our awesome teacher Janed to set up a facebook page and teach her how to use it. She is not that great with computers, and it was the least we could do to help her. She taught us so much about Ecuadorian culture and of course speaking Spanish.
After class we went on an excursion to the Guysamin gallery, a famous Ecuadorian artist who died about 10 years ago. His style is unique, easily distinguishable, and very emotional. It was good to see.
Friday night was our school night out. We went to a special Ecuadorian Indigenous Bar that was tiny and packed!! We had dinner there and a couple of drinks before we all decided that it was too busy and we should try somewhere else. There were a couple of slimy locals that us girls didn’t like so much so it was a good time to leave. Vinicio then took us to a tourist tacky night club that played ok music for the first half hour, then it turned crap. It was 10.30pm and I was not going to get a hang over or overly tired for a crap touristy night club. Larry, Hubs and I left, thank GOD.
Saturday we went to the bus station for 7am and caught a local bus to Otavalo, about 2 hours away from Quito. Otavalo has three famous markets on Saturdays – an animal market, a produce fruit and veg market, and a handicraft market. The markets were huge – just gigantic. The animal market was an eye opener. Pens of guinea pigs for sale – they eat them in South America (called Cuy on menus – watch out). Heaps of cows, chickens, sheep, some goats, and too many squealing pigs. Those poor pigs – they knew what they were in for – you could hear it in their traumatic squeals. I would really rather not have to hear that sound again – it’s upsetting. But it wont’ stop me eating pork!
The handicraft markets were great. I loved it!! I bought myself (another) hat, a straw coloured panama hat that I love. I also got some scarves, some jumpers for Susie’s kids, and a few other nick nacks. It was terrific.
After three hours of shopping it was time to eat. We had a delicious Ecuadorian lunch of soup with potato, cheese and avocado, chicken with rice (standard fare) and jelly for dessert. It was time for a hike and we walked for an hour through the interesting and picturesque countryside. The last part of the hike was a bit hairy – a narrow path on the edge of a cliff and the wind was blowing a gale. Larry was nervous but did it anyway and we came out at the top of a beautiful waterfall. WOW. So lovely!!
After waterfall-gazing and tree hugging, we caught the bus back into town for some delicious non-creamy gelato – ice gelato. Just what I needed after that big walk.
We were so tired when we finally got back into Quito at 9.30pm. Hubs and I went straight to bed.
Sunday I had a day off – and Hubs went with the school on another trip ‘tubing’ down a river. I needed a day to do washing, and I really wanted to go to the centre of the world and the equator. I took the easy route to Midad el Mundo, the centre of the world, and paid for a taxi. The 50 minute trip also turned into a Spanish lesson with el taxi driver – so that was a bonus! The museum there was kind of fun and we were shown some experiments of what happens when you go to the north side of the equator and the south side. The gravity is different – stronger on the north than the south. Weird.
Monday was my last day of school and I was oh so sad to be finishing up. Hubs and I both really started to enjoy Quito and didn’t really want to leave. After the first few days we were no longer frightened of the city and were getting into the groove of it. The Yanapuma School certainly helped. Besides the knob, the other students were fun and we both loved loud Larry! He as great company and had such a happy disposition. He might meet us in Argentina and do the wine region with us – oh I hope so!! Hubs only drinks coke and pina coladas, and she is not into wine, so it would be good to have a fellow wino with us! We’ll see, it’s probably a long shot.
Hubs did splash out and bought herself a beautiful soft llama wool jumper for A$120. Bargain for that quality. I wish I had room – I wanted one too!!
Quito, and Ecuador as a country, are a sensational place to visit. I only wish we had more time to dedicate to this country of high altitudes, friendly people, tasty chicken, and awesome markets. I am especially going to miss my Spanish school. Gracias por todo!! Hasta Luega! Adios amigos!!