Saturday, August 8, 2009

From trading animals to trading stories.

The cold morning made it hard to get out of the toasty bed, except for the whole full bladder thing. Unfortunately, in an attempt to cut down on costs we were in a room without a bathroom so we were forced out of bed to make the trek down the hall to the bathroom. I guess it was our bodies’ internal alarm clocks letting us know it was time to get to the market.

A hot shower later, we headed out of the town centre towards the animal fare. We started on foot but ended up in a taxi when we realized we weren’t quite sure where we were going. Good thing because we were walking in the wrong direction. When the cab got out on the road to the highway there was a steady stream of indigenous folks walking on both sides of the road and sometimes even spilling out into the road. The taxi driver let us out and pointed to the thickest part of the crowd. Immediately, we were surrounded by people, cows, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. Animals outnumbered people but were still being bought, sold and traded.

We worked our way through the crowds taking in the action. Adrian had to be talked out of taking home boxes of kittens, puppies and chicks. But it was also a little claustrophobic. So we walked up the hill and past the stalls selling breakfast, although not what you’d see on any brunch menu back home - suckling pig and a bowl of organs all accompanied with rice. It was only 8am so we passed and sat down to do some people watching instead. After our experience with (not) photographing indigenous folks in Silvia, I asked a few of the folks if I could take their picture. None refused however, they all wanted payment. Since our funds were light from our border crossing I only got a couple of photos (photo above) before our change ran out. When we’d sufficiently taken in all the sights and smells, oh yes, the smells, we walked back to town through the biggest shopping mall. The traditional animal market changed to a locals’ market and then to a tourist market, as we got closer to the centre of town.

We stopped in at the hostel for our free breakfast, but splurged for an order of the food of the gods – bacon! It had been months since we’d seen it on the menu let alone had any so we splurged and it was just as tasty as we remembered. Ah sweet, sweet bacon. Now it was time to fight the crowds of the tourist market. But first we slipped into an internet place (for the first time in ages, we were without wifi) to send out some requests for a room in Quito. That achieved we headed into the crowds. This time I was armed with a zoom lens so I could get some photos without having to pay. And I really wanted some photos because the indigenous population wore very distinct clothes – the women in particular had elaborately folded and piled headdresses although I noticed that many of the younger ones didn't bother. Unfortunately a zoom lens and crowds don’t mix. So we headed to the town square where it was a bit more open and easier to get some shots. Then it was back into the street market. But after two hours, claustrophobia kicked in again and we headed back to the hostel. We detoured into the internet place to check the response to my email request. The Blue House had a room so we booked it. That taken care of we went back to the hostel to relax and exhale.

A couple of hours later we headed back to the internet place. I was going to do some blogging. I opened up my email only to discover a message from the hostel. The room was no longer available. What the…!?! Grr and yikes. Adrian and I then spent the next few hours researching and emailing prospective places. While waiting for replies, we went for Mexican food before jumping back online a few hours later. Unfortunately, there were no answers. I was now a little worried. Quito is a big city and not known for being the safest. So we didn’t really want to arrive without a place to stay. Just as we were about to leave and the internet place was about to close, we received a reply from one place. It was expensive but it looked worth it – they even have a sushi restaurant/lounge (all you can eat for $13). With that solved, we headed back to the hostel, running into Nick on the street. He and Heather are sticking around town for a bit to volunteer and hike the hills. So we said goodbye but I’m sure we’ll run into them again.

We no longer had the company of Heather and Nick but at the hostel there was a new group of travelers to meet. Nena, Luba and Ben were from Israel, Matt was London and Vincent was from Montreal. We hung around the fire pit in the courtyard and chatted until Adrian and I headed out to try and catch some live music. We returned just 15 minutes later – all the places mentioned in Lonely Planet were no longer there and the buildings were abandoned and burnt out. Oh well, it meant more time hanging out and talking to the others. The Israelis were full of great stories about their time in the army and what that meant now. In case you didn’t know, Israelis have to serve in the army, women for two years, men for three years. After that the majority of them head out to travel the world before heading to university – and I do mean the majority of them. None of the three particularly enjoyed their time in the army but accepted it. Now they were just finishing up their big trip. Nena and Luba had been trekking in Patagonia and Peru but Ben had passed. “I did enough trekking in the army,” he jokingly explained. Both he and Matt had opted for less strenuous activities – although I’m sure their livers disagreed.

Vincent was here doing research for his doctorate in ecology or biology in Quito. He lived there with his Ecuadorian girlfriend and her family. It was a bit of culture shock for him and even though he’d been here for 6 months. Some things still took some getting used to, like Ecuadorian home life. When I asked him why he explained.

“Family is a completely different thing here. Back home I talk to my parents as equals and we have conversations and debates. But here parents are your elders so whatever they say, even if it’s ridiculous and obviously wrong, it’s right. You’re not allowed to disagree which means a very one-sided conversation. And the other thing I can’t get used to is, not being allowed in the kitchen because that’s a woman’s place. And I’m French, I love to cook. It’s killing me.”

Despite all that, he loved being here. This was his second long term stay and he wasn’t looking forward to going back. Like Matt, Ben, Nena and Luba, he was wrapping up his trip, while we were just getting to the heart of ours. Soon the conversation turned from the odd things they’d experienced in South American, to the things they were looking forward to when they returned – food, toilet paper you could flush, your own bed, clothes, central heating. And their reluctance to end their trips was replaced by excitement about what awaited them. What we had to look forward to was just as exciting. Quito.

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