Wednesday, May 31, 2006

the beginning of the end

the title is far more dramatic than real life; its my final week here in quito, my final week of work and my final week of lessons then i am free!
monday was fairly uneventful, i was invited for tea on tuesday by a woman i know from the hospital and some other volunteers which i hadn´t yet met (i accepted) and when i got to school, Jose, the director told me that i would be having a new teacher -Pablo, the oldest teacher in the school, rather odd and nowhere near as fun as my previous teacher, Vilma (worst luck). tuesday, i ran 12km in preparation for sunday, told Jose that i would prefer to have Vilma back as my teacher, he said only on the condition i help him out tommorow (more on that later) and then in the evening i went out for tea. It turns out the woman form the hospital hadn´t told the other 3 volunteers i was coming. so they were rather shocked when i turned up at their house, but were very welcoming. we went to a lovely restaurant and the conversation, half english- half spanish was flowing until we got onto the subject of why they all spoke such good spanish and which charity we worked for. it turns out that they had previously been missionaries in various latin american countries and so they are all here serving their church, haven´t yet put my foot in my mouth. and the conversation moves on, which church?- the church of the later day saints or mormons (oh thats why they´re not drinking beer with me); and so my questions (i just couldn´t help myself), what so you really believe in God? and is it true you can have more than one wife? didn´t go down too well. but all considered it was an interesting evening but they had to be home for 9.30, so it didn´t last too long.
wednesday, i had to arrive at school for 8.30 in the morning in order to help Jose. i hadn´t fully understood what i was to be doing, practising english with local students was as much as i had grasped the previous day, when he explained to me. 8.30 comes and goes, Jose is not at school, so i wait with Boris (the live-in attendant of the hostal) and an ecudorian girl who is also waiting for Jose- and who is getting increasingly angry that he is not here. when he finally arrives, it turns out that i should have left with the girl when she arrived 30 minutes ago! oops, she is fuming and doesn´t speak to me for the whole journey. We arrive at a lovely looking high school and i´m shown into a darkened room filled with (probably year 10 age) students all watching a movie in english. at the end of the movie the students are each given a topic and a short time to prepare, after which they must debate their point in front of he school and a panel of emminent judges (of which i´m appartently one!). the judges must question them on their understanding and then mark them on their pronunciation and eloquency of reasoning etc before choosing a winnner. the students were all excellent, and i was very impressed with the quality of the answers. i did however, feel slightly out of my depth in the questioning of them and among the other judges, who all seemed to work in government departments! it was a fun and different way to spend a morning and i enjoyed it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

a rather boring week

this last week and weekend i haven´t really done much, my training for the race has started in earnest (well, what that actually means is that i have run 3 times- with the longest run being 8km, and i didn´t feel to healthy afterwards!!) i´m not quite sure how i am going to manage 15km in the hot sunshine, but we´ll see. i vowed not to drink in the weeks coming up to the race, that lasted about 24 hours before i was in desparate need of a glass of wine (but i haven´t actually been drunk for 2 weeks). i have been to the cinema twice this week the first time to see the da vinci code- very good, go see it; and the second to see mission impossible III- mindless entertainment and a little unbelievable. this weekend was equally unimpresssive but at least it didn´t rain; sunday was the highlight, i went for a picnic in the park which was lovely. it is my last week at work this week, i´ll be a little sad to finish but i´m looking forward to starting traveling, my plan is to head south into peru for about a month or so before flying back north to columbia (which isn´t actually dangerous as you might think). anyway chao, i´ve got to go run somemore. wish me luck.

Friday, May 26, 2006

a weekend at the beach

last weekend in another atempt to search for the sun i went to the coast again, this time a little further south to a tiny village called Canoa, whick is known for having some of the best surf in Ecuador. i went with Griet who i met at school, she is here in Ecuador til september working as well. Canoa is quite along way from Quito [10 hours on a bus] so i have last friday off work so that we could travel down on thursday night, i know, i know its naught- stop tutting. The bus journey was not actually too bad except that it didn't actually take us to Canoa but to San Vincent about 15km away. So at 5.30 in the morning we got a lift in the back of a truck with a few other tourists and some freshly caught fish! The hostal, when we finally arrived was lovely, our room was at the very top and had only a straw roof and four posts where the walls would be. Very pretty but not ideal for sleeping when it is already light, so we just had a rest for a few hours before getting up to start the day. The beach was beautiful and completly empty- but this was probably more due to the large heavy clouds that appeared to have rolled in. Nevermind, it was still warm enough to lie lazily on the hammocks at the hostal, the sun did make an appearance that day and so we spent the rest of the day on the beach chilling out. the evening was also very relaxing, with a meal on the beach front and then only a couple of cocktails before bed as it had been a very long day. The weather on saturday was not great either so we hires some body boards and spent several hours playing in the surf, great fun but we both somehow managed to graze our chests and stomachs! The rest of the afternoon was spent in the bar of the hostal playing just about every board game possible (obviously i won most of them !!!?!), we had been told that it was also possible to 'follow happy hour' around town so at 5.30 we startedto drink cocktails. we didn't get very far however, and spent most of the evening in the first bar playing pool and practising our spanish with the locals. The end of the evening we decided to go to the one and only disco in Canoa, where i danced til my feet bled (yes, in real life thats true). Sunday we had to get up early in order to catch a bus to the next town, to catch a ferry across the bay, to catch the bus back to Quito. And suprise, suprise we missed the first bus so we decided to set off walking and see if we could hitch hike; well that was sucessful. Three vehicules passed by, the first full of a friendly ecuadorian family waving enthusiastically as they passed us, the second an old man who stopped to tell us he would call a taxi fir us when he arrived at the next town and the third was the bus, which did stop. We made the bus back to Quito by the skin of our teeth and spent the next ten hours festering in our hung-overness wishing we'd got up early enough to have a shower. Back in Quito i was supposed to go out with the hospital department, they had suggested i try the local delicacy here- guinea pig; being very tired i unfortunately had to cancel. maybe guinea pig next week.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

an unexpected day off work

last wednesday i found myself not in work, so mike and i went up the volcano nearest to quito which is called Pinchincha. the volcano is active (i think), the last activty was a while ago though so i wasn't in any immediate danger. the peak is at nearly 5000m above sealevel so even from Quito that is quite an ascent, but never fear we took the cable car- no walking! it was a beautiful day and from the top we could see 6 other of Ecuadors volcanoes, unfortunately the closest and largest, Cotopaxi was covered in cloud at the very top for most of the time, we did get a quick glimpse of the snow capped top when we were coming back down however. the views over Quito itself were also spectacular as it is spread along the floor of the valley beneath us. being at such an altitude did however make me feel a little peculiar and this may explain what i did later on in the day.... in roughly 2 weeks there is a huge sports event in Quito, a 15km race, which i have entered! so now my training will begin in earnest this week- i bought some trainers on friday. i'm not even sure i can walk 15km in my current state of fitness so it should be an interesting day! wish me luck.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


last weekend i went to the beach- this was the north coast of ecuador, a small town called atacames. i went with several people from school and one of the teachers, we actually stayed in the hostal belonging to his brother which was cool. the plan was that mike and would leave a little later because i had work in the morning and that the others would meet us at the bus statin in atacames when we arrived- simple, no? No, when we arrived there was noone we recognisedat the bus station, so having only the name of the hostal and little else we asked a taxi driver if he knew our desination, he did, great so on we hopped destined for the playa. (i should mention the taxis, are actually motorbikes with a wooden plank making two seats for passengers attached to the front (!) and nothing to stop you falling off the front but a little luck, i not even too sure how the driver was able to see what was in front of us!) as it turns out the driver had no idea at all where our hostal was and so after a bumpy ride to the beach and many stops to ask for directions we established that in fact it was back in town, so back we went. back in town we finally found the hostal, only to realise that there was in fact noone there; they had we were informed, by the friendly bar owner next door, gone to the beach to begin the evenings' drinking. our taxi driver helpfully told us he would take us back to the beach so we could look for them (i could see the dollar signs flashing before his eyes!), ok, so off we set again. as luck wouls have we ahd only just got around the corner when he screeched to a halt a pointed into the darkness ahead- "tus amigos!". and yes he was right our friends were walking towards us out of the darkness, they had it turns out just been to the bus station only to find we had arrived n hour earlier. so at midnight we check in and then head to the beach for some cocktails and salsa dancing! the cocktails go down very well, and even the dancing (following a few drinks) doesn't seem to go badly. we get to bed very late (or is that very early?) and the following morning i'm feeling decidedly worse for wear, a huge breakfast helps to cure this and we head to the beach and after little nap and a few hours lying down i feel able to face the day.unfortunately the sun is not really shining but thats not to important as our plan today is a bbq at an ecological lodge further inland (also belonging to paulo's brother). we set out, about 10 of us piled into his truck, most of us in the back travelling in the fresh air- good fun but a little damp due to the sea mist!
the eco lodge was really beautiful, set in pretty gardens with a large swimming pool (which curiously was green!). once we unpacked everything we set about preparing dinner, starting with more cocktails (!) after which preparing dinner became even more challenging than it should have done as we found out there was a problem with the water supply.....there was none!
nevermind, we managed in the end and dinner was cooked and eaten. after tea we had a swim as night fell and the huge orange moon rose above the trees (not sure how much of a good idea this was as for a few days afterwards i wasn't feeling 100%) when we all gotten wet and cold enough it was time to go home so back along the unmade road back to the hostal, after which i was too tired for more dancing and had an early night.
sunday, and today the sun is really shining, unfortunately we were catching the bus just after lunch. we do however had enough time for me to get just a little pink on my nose and mange to get sand in every possible area of my rucksack! on the bus we are treated to 4 (yes four) steven siegal films back to back, but the views out of the window as we rose back into the andes were spectacular enough to make it bearable.

Monday, May 08, 2006

a little indulgence

as i now have my camera back here are some photos of quito for you to peruse. no more boring stories i'm afraid i haven't done much this weekend just been hanging around quito. enjoy. mwah! ps i'm not advanced enough to rotate my pictures so just tilt your head please.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bird watching

Happy bank holiday weekend, how did you spend yours?
i went to a small town called Mindo with mike one of the boys i know from spanish class. Mindo is east of Quito between here and the coast and is famous for the many butterflies and birds that are endemic to the area. We left early on saturday morning as its a 2 and half hour bus journey, the bus was totally packed- this means people sitting in every available space as well as standing in the aisle. The weather when we left was looking very gloomy, the weather when we arrived in Mindo wasn't any better so we decided to have lunch before making any plans. After lunch we found a hostel to stay in, this was in a very pretty wooden, chalet style, building with hammocks on the balcony at the front. At checking-in the owner recommended a walk up the opposing mountain that gave pretty views over Mindo and also gave us the possibility to see some birds, so off we set up the mountain. In fact, no we didn't see any birds, along the walk we encountered 2 noisy dogs [which i was slightly scared of], a huge yellow spider that landed on my head [which i was a little more scared of] and some rain [which was just wet]. We were walking through the cloud forest, so rain wasn't entirely unexpected and it didn't spoil the walk, about half way through we reached a clearing in the forest where we had a wonderful view of Mindo nestling at the bottom of the mountain, the peaks shrouded in fluffy white cloud- very pretty. Back at the hostel i just chilled out on the hammocks, watching the rain outside.
After the rain had stopped we ventured out and had fresh fish for tea in one of the tiny restaurants. The weather here was alot warmer than Quito, a little like a summer evening we would have whilst camping in france. so after tea we wandered around, everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing and just hanging around having a laugh. We found a table football game and were soon surrounded by local children who all wanted to play with us, so after a few games and a toffee apple each we headed back to the hostel for an early night, as we had arranged an excursion at 6am the following day!! [i'm not sure what possessed me to do this]
Sunday morning arrives- its very early, very dark and there is no hot water, actually no water at all and no electricity so after a candle lit breakfast we set off with our guide Marcelo. The sky is still grey and i'm not hopeful the weather will be better than yesterday, but i'm soon proved wrong. We watch the skies clear and witness a beautiful sunrise over the mountains [i forget my suncream and by the afternoon am a little pink!!! suprise suprise] along the trail we see loads of cool birds, that are all in the most fantastic colours that they don't seem real- my favourite are the toucans, which have such large beaks i'm amazed that they can fly without being of balance. After walking for a few hours we approach the waterfall, which can only be reached by a many steep and slippery steps down the cliff face. At the bottom it is wonderful, a bit like a timotei advert. there's a large slide down into the pool beneath the waterfall which our guide persuades us to go down, its a lttle higher than i expect but lots of fun. The river, because of the rain, is fairly high and very strong i nearly get washed away and emerge looking a little bedragled. i also forgot my bikini so swam in my underwear to the amusement of the guides, at least it didn't actually come off! The walk back to Mindo was long and fairly tiring so when we arrived back all i was up for was lunch folllowed by frisbee in the park, again with the local children who couldn't throw a frisbee for toffee! The rain started again so we shelterd in a cafe eating cake and drinking tea until it was time to catch the bus home. i arrived in Quito very tired, muddy and still slightly damp but having had a good weekend.
ps to all those non believers, yes i really am going to start knitting!