Saturday, December 03, 2005

20 Julio 1989: Quito, Ecuador

(This part of the journal is taken from letters written to Spencer. I have tastefully edited out all of the mushy stuff.)

Well, I may be stuck in Ecuador for an extra week or two! We were finished with the Galapagos on the 18th. Everyone else in our group was heading back to the States on the 19th. Some left earlier and they were able to make reservations 3 or 4 days before they wanted to leave. I left myself at least a week and a half, but the airline is full until August 4th, and I'm on the waiting list for that! Fortunately, it's very cheap to live here - $5 a night for a rather nice hotel, clean with hot water. Other not-so-nice places are about a dollar a night in case I have to go into starvation mode. A large plate of arroz con pollo is about 68 cents, and it's enough to last you for two meals. Mineral water is 6 cents, a cola is 8 cents. I'm at a Pizza Hut, of all places, right now, and everything was less than $1.50 (but it didn't taste anything like an American pizza, since they use local cheeses and ingredients.) The worst thing is the taxis. You really must watch out for them. The one who picked me up at the airport here was really outrageous, and I didn't feel like getting the fare reduced much even though I'm pretty proficient at that. "No tengo mucho dinero!" "Vamos a Policia!"

A man in the Pizza Hut just gave a little child selling lottery tickets a slice of pizza. (The same man also had one of the little boys shine his shoes, much to the chagrin of the Pizza Hut management.) Ecuador is nominally socialist, but free enterprise is thriving here. I've never seen so many people sell so many things. One of our waitresses is dressed in traditional Indian garb: black skirt, beautiful lacy white blouse with red embroidery, strands of gold bead around her neck, and long black hair in a braid down her back. (The gold beads are glass Christmas tree strands from Czechoslovakia.)

I've spent the past 2 days wandering up and down the (quite steep and hilly) streets of Quito, and then I'll duck into one of the churches and catch mass. It's not that I'm so religious, but the 20 minute break is refreshing and it's a nice way to view the churches. Not all of the gold in the New World made it back to Spain. One church, La Compania, is supposed to have been gilded on the inside with 7 tons of gold. It certainly looks like it -- almost every inch seems to be covered in gold leaf.

Can you believe that I was in Quito and went to the Pizza Hut?! (I don't even go to it in the states.) At least I didn't go to Kentucky Fried Pollo! There's a theater next door. That Police something movie with Leslie Nielsen is playing Should i go see that or go to La Casa de Cultura? I wonder if the movie loses anything in Spanish? Well, if I'm going to La Casa, I should do it now, because most museums close between 12 and 3. (p.s. I eventually went to the movie and it was in English with Spanish subtitles.)


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