Friday, June 10, 2011
Quito, take 1
We finally met Jordana, the other exchange student living with us. Jordana is Venezuelan, but is in her fourth year of medicine in Holland. She’s fluent in four languages: Spanish, some dialect of Dutch that escapes me, English, and Dutch. I don’t understand how people do that. We learned that she just got engaged two weeks ago to her fiancé, whom she had been dating for four years.
Alissa, Carlos, Jordana and I started out the day with our ascent to La Virgen del Panecillo. La Virgen is on top of this really big hill/mountain, one of many that surrounds Quito. From the top, you get an excellent view of the entire city.
I’d been studying my trusty Lonely Planet all night in preparation for this journey, which said that you should not, for any reason, walk to the Virgen statue. So we jumped in a taxi, negotiated our $4 price, and were on our way. Twenty minutes later, we’d barely moved 5 blocks because of all the traffic. Our taxi driver said it might take all day to drive up to the top, so we should walk. Oh yeah it’s perfectly safe, he said (in espanol). Trusting tourists that we were, we paid him half the price of the trip, jumped out, and started walking.
The view from the bottom of the hill was amazing. Panecillo (the hill/mountain) was littered with houses, and each pocket of houses was painted a different color. Some were green, others orange or yellow. I was rudely interrupted from my thoughts by a construction worker, who was yelling something incomprehensible at me in espanol. I assumed he meant that we couldn’t take pictures. Right. Good thing we had Carlos and Jordanna on board. I guess he was yelling because he didn’t want us to get robbed of everything we owned, including the clothes on our backs. No pueden pasar. I’m so thankful for people like that in this country, who want to help you out even though you’re not one of them.
I’m not so thankful for what happened next. These other construction workers told us, roughly translated, “We rob pretty girls like you here. And we’re going to start with the Chinese one.” That rattled me a little bit. But it was a good reminder for me that I need to be aware of my surroundings. Oblivion might have been an annoyance back at home, but it can be dangerous here.
Our next taxi driver, thank god, was much better. He took us to the top of Panecillo in no time at all, and even gave us a little tour and waited for us to come down. Never go up the road leading to the top, he said. I want you to be safe, otherwise you might get a bad impression of Ecuador and never come back.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around La Plaza Grande. We took a tour of the president, Rafael Correa’s governmental building, which was not only free but they took a picture which you got gratis at the end. Dulce.
Much more of Quito to explore, more to come.