Monday, February 1, 2010
Mitad del Mundo!
The awe-inspiring Basilica
Sebacho and I on a mountain looking down at Quito
I had a college interview in Quito, so you know what that meant: road trip to the capital of Ecuador! When I came back with the Morochos from Cuenca, I met Johnny's aunt and cousin who are from Quito. We talked to them to see if we could stay in their house and they said it was fine. Johnny and I had this big plan to go to Quito, have my interview, and stick around to get to know the city.
I went back to my Puerto Bolívar house Monday morning after staying the night in Pasaje (from the Cuenca trip). I had to go to Guayaquil for the flight and I learned that my mother was going to Guayaquil that day. I was at the house for two hours (one of those hours was spent frantically running through the house getting packed and sweating). On the way up, Johnny called me and told me he couldn't make it to Quito with me because he had to matriculate for university. Then I was a little nervous about going to Quito alone, but he said his family would still take me. We dropped my mother off for her flight to Quito, and I went to a mall with Marilou and Wacho to eat. I tried to book a flight there on the internet, because I hadn't done that yet, but it wouldn't let me. We went to the apartment and made some calls to get my ticket. Phew. We picked up my host mother from the airport because her meeting with the President in Quito was changed when she arrived.
The next morning I left with Wacho to the airport (there was traffic so I was pretty nervous about arriving on time). I got on plane and went to Quito! Johnny's cousin Sebastian (19 years old) and his uncle was there waiting for me when I arrived. We hitched a bus and went to a couple malls. We almost got robbed! How crazy is that? My first day in Quito. There were two guys and a girl (around our age) who started talking to us on the sidewalk. Friendly small talk followed, and they eventually asked to see our phones to look at our "pictures." I even had my camera. Luckily, Sebastian told them that I had nothing and I'm just an exchange student. They did get their hands on Sebastian's phone and started looking at it. They tried to get us to go inside a store while one punk would stay outside with the phone, but we didn't leave. Sebastian kept talking to them, and they threatened to smash and step on his phone, but they then just gave it back. We hurried inside to the mall then and relaxed by the ice rink. Sebastian thinks that they were in a gang because they had some tattoos. We then went to the Teleférico where we rode a cable car up to the top of this mountain on the side of Quito. It was such a beautiful view of Quito. It was colder and windier too. We walked along the paths and got so worn out because of the altitude. We spent quite a while looking around, then went back down. We wandered through a desolate amusement park, ate at the mall, and took a bus back to the house.
I got up early and worked on an essay while Sebastian slept. We (Sebastian, his parents, his neice, and I) ate lunch at Sebastian's sister-in-law's house. We drove around a little then went back to the house. I got ready for my interview, and the family dropped Sebastian and me off. I had the interview with two grads (it took maybe forty-five minutes), and when I finished, Sebastian was outside waiting for me. How nice. Sebastian wanted to practice English, but I told him that I wasn't sure if the interview would be in English or Spanish. Because of that, we spoke Spanish before the interview. On the walk home from the interview, we spoke English. Later that night, we talked for a long time to the neighbors (until 2:15 a.m.) in the cold!
I went early with Sebastian to his university because he had to matriculate. I met some of his friends. He took especially long because the computer malfunctioned and he had to ask for more time. We went to the mall with his family and ate there again. Sebastian and I went home so I could finish the essays. After that I went with Sebastian, his brother, and his mother on a tour of Quito's downtown. We passed a bunch of churches and walked a historic, little neighborhood. We then went to eat shawarmas - and I didn't get sick.
Got up early to see the touristic sites of Quito. I went with Sebastian and his mother first to the Basilica of Quito. This was absolutely amazing! It was so big. Sebastian and I climbed to the top (we had to pay but with my ID, I was an Ecuadorian!). Sebastian is a little afraid of heights, but I kept going up, so he came too. We went back down and went to the President's palace for a tour. The current President doesn't live there, but I think every other one has. We went to a wax museum and then to numerous churches, all lined with gold on the inside. It was incredible how intricate the architecture was. After that, we drove to the "Mitad del Mundo" (Middle of the World) - which I hear isn't the real middle of the world, but that's where the big monument is. We took a ton of photos - of me "holding" the giant orb, standing on the line, climbing the monument, etc. - and went to check out the museum under the monument. We went to Sebastian's relative's house because his cousin married a Swede and her family was touring around Ecuador (pretty random that I was there). We went back to the house and talked with Sebastian's neighbors - this time until 4 a.m.
I was going to go back Saturday morning, but Sebastian's cousins were going to play paintball, and they invited us. So we changed flights and put on old clothes, not knowing really what to expect (this was my first time ever playing). We got there (there were about six of us), and the place rented out suits, guns, and masks. We got colored straps to put on our arms to tell teams. There were two fields: one big one in the woods, and a little one with stacked tires. The first round we played was in the big one. We split up, and I took the upper route. It was really wooded where I was walking and there was no one else, but I kept on going. Since there was so much brush, I couldn't see the ground very well and I fell about three feet into a ditch. It took me five minutes to get out from the stupid ditch covered by prickly brush. I kept going and was at the other end. I shot a couple paintballs, sat trying to clear my mask off, and then heard the other team saying it was over. I came down and they looked at me strangly because I wasn't from their team. Turns out I was out-of-bounds, and they had won. No wonder my "upper route" was so dang hard. We played a bunch of other times, switching off with a group of twelve-year-olds. The worst part was that the mask kept fogging up so it was so hard to see. Other "regulars" kept coming and played with us. Whenever we played with them, Sebastian and I would get worried because they were decked out with extra rounds, walkie-talkies, and their own guns. I got hit a couple times - the worst one being right on the top of the head. It was a pretty fun time. We went back and I ate some typical food from Quito with Sebastian: yaguarlocro (a soup) and fritada (pork). I packed up, and Sebastian and his brother took me to the airport. I missed the first flight but got one for an hour later. The view from the plane was stunning because it was right at sunset, so I saw the lit city of Quito, a layer of clouds, and above the clouds, the sun going down. I made it to Guayaquil (in the heat) and my cousin picked me up.