Today was less than exciting, but I did buy an AMAZING cafe con leche on my way to school. They boil the coffee down to practically sludge, as is common here, and then add it to milk. Add to spoonfuls of sugar, and I am one happy camper. **Stop at Cafe Alhambra if you get the chance. It sounds like they have delicious food, as well. After class, Paul and I went to the cafeteria that I like for lunch. Unfortunately, my stomach became quite upset shortly afterwards, plus it started to rain, so I just came back to the house and blogged. Nothing very exciting to report, other than delicious coffee.
This was one crazy week… I’ve started buying a yogurt from the store on the corner, to supplement my breakfast and help keep my stomach stable. When I went into the store this morning, there was a man inside. No big deal, I got my yogurt and paid. When I turned around, he wasn’t there. Again, I didn’t think that it was a big deal, except that he was outside of the store when I left, and he proceeded to follow me 3/4 of a mile (my entire walk is 1 full mile), almost the entire way to school. Once I got close to the historical center of the city and started seeing police officers, he disappeared quite quickly. However, my goodness, did he scare me. I know that he was following me, because he watched me the entire way, even when I crossed the street.
Once I couldn’t see the man following me anymore, a (homeless?) man who I see often stumbled in front of me and almost ran me down on the sidewalk. I also thought that was bizarre, and it got even more bizarre when I saw several more intoxicated people during the remaining 1/4 of a mile walk to school. I realized that it was not only the summer solstice, but the night before had been a full moon, and it instantly made more sense to me… Additionally, another drunk, who had been passed out on the stairs to school, peed on the stairs…
After class, Paul and I are at one of the popular fast food restaurants close by: Texas Chicken. Again: a strange occurrence. A man asking for money is not unusual, especially in the historical center. They usually just walk by. However, today, this man asked me the equivalent of, “what do you have to say, white girl?” I don’t know why, as I didn’t say or do anything to him, but he was very angry with me for some reason. Luckily, he just walked away and I got to continue with my day.
After lunch, I decided that I had had enough, and it was time to return to the house, which I did quickly.
This day was better. It was grains day at school, and we had lots of people there, which made it more fun. It was me, Paul, and a family with 3 young boys, who were absolutely precious. Additionally, there were 4 professors there, making it the biggest group since I arrived.
After school, I took a taxi ($3) to the Museo de Guayasamin, the most well-known and respected Ecuadorian artist. I planned to eat at a cafe with great reviews that I found online. It was close to the museum, but when I arrived, the gate was shut. Following the instructions on the sign, I rang the doorbell, then rang again, and knocked, and yelled, but nobody came… I chalked the experience up to the weirdness of the week, and proceeded to the museum.
The museum was the most expensive that I’d been to yet, costing $8 for the two buildings. Disclaimer: I enjoyed the experience overall. However, I was annoyed that they practically forced me to take my tour in English, despite requesting Spanish to practice my listening skills. I believe that it was because there wasn’t anyone else visiting at the time who spoke Spanish and they didn’t want to bring out another tour guide, but I was given the option of Spanish or English, then put into a tour in English regardless.
The guide was very nice, and we began in the museum, which is in Guayasamin’s former house. He had collected art since he was 4 years old, and his house was absolutely incredible to see. Again, I genuinely enjoyed the house. The tour did move quite quickly, though, and there are parts of the house that are not shown on the tour, which was disappointing. The gift shop is nice, but expensive.
After that, I walked across the yard to La Capilla del Hombre, the Chapel of Man, where his art is on exhibit. (I’m not really sure why there’s a chapel on his land, seeing as how he was agnostic, but it was beautiful). Again, I got stuck with a tour in English, despite the fact that a tour in Spanish left 3 minutes after my tour… The tour guide was very knowledgeable and explained each and every piece of art to us (in broken and poorly pronounced English). The artwork is beautiful, and I truly learned a lot about the cultures of the different peoples in Ecuador, and other parts of the world. Leave lots of time if you choose to take a guided tour of La Capilla, as the tour is quite lengthy. You can also walk through it alone, but there are not descriptions of the artwork to guide you.
**Disclaimer: I don’t think I was supposed to take photos, based on what I hear from other students. However, nobody told me to stop or asked me not to in the first place, and there weren’t signs…
Overall, I enjoyed the two museums, but was frustrated with the tours. Afterwards, because it is a quiet and wealthier neighborhood, I had to take a private taxi. He charged me $6 from the museum to Plaza Foch, where I planned to eat (it was 4:30 by this point, and I was hungry). The taxi driver was a joy to interact with, and we practiced my Spanish and his English on the way. When I got to Plaza Foch, I walked half a block away and found a reasonably-priced Pizzeria, **No Se Pizzeria and Bar. I was the only customer at the time, as 4:30 is too late for lunch and much too early for dinner by Ecuadorian standards, and the manager/owner took great care of me. My mushroom pizza came out of the kitchen very quickly, and it was quite good.
For dinner at the house, we had soup with avocado (my favorite), rice, chicken cooked in sauce with CocaCola, and cucumbers.
At breakfast, we had uvillas. They are a fruit that tastes like sour tomatoes to me, and I have a hard time pretending to like them. I ate them all first, so that the other food was the taste that remained…
I feel like I hardly ever write about class, but I don’t have much to say about it because it’s such a normal part of my day at this point. Besides, I’m not sure anyone cares what tense we worked on in class, anyway.
After class, I went to the vegetarian restaurant and actually quite liked a kebab with tofu, potatoes, bananas, and green peppers. The tofu could have passed for chicken. Afterwards, I decided to get a manicure, since they’re incredibly cheap here and my nails needed help. For $1.5o, I got a pretty decent manicure. For US standards, it isn’t great, but I’d have paid upwards of $30 for it at home, so I’m not complaining. Then, I had a mission. This weekend, I am going to Otavalo, where the artisanal market is famous. I planned to buy not only my souvenirs, but Christmas and birthday presents for my family, as well. For this, I needed a big backpack to bring my purchases back to Quito, and back home on the plane afterwards. I asked Gisela where she bought the backpack that she brought on our trip during week 3, and she gave me directions. Unfortunately, the store seemed to be under construction, as it was not open. I walked around the historical center for what seemed like forever until I saw a store selling leather goods. A backpack caught my eye, and I figured stopping in one more store wouldn’t hurt, and they had the perfect backpack!! I bought it from the nicest indigenous woman, and walked out of the store into the rain. Luckily, I’d planned to take a taxi with my new purchase anyway.
Breaking my family pact to not start the new season of Orange is the New Black until I returned, I watched an episode and worked on my honors journal until dinner. My mom later confessed to starting the series, so we both broke the pact at about the same time…
After class, I talked Paul into going to La Mariscal to eat. I am getting tired of the typical food, not because it isn’t good, but because it’s almost all the same in the restaurants. I can only eat so much chicken, soup, and rice. We took the bus to Paul’s normal bus stop and planned to walk the 15 minutes to the restaurant I had in mind. However, it started raining. And it rained hard. After waiting 15 minutes under the awning of the Swissotel, we decided to go inside and look at the restaurants. Usually the rain only lasts for 20-45 minutes, but it did not seem like it would stop, and I hate walking in the rain.
We settled on a sports bar in the hotel that was reasonably priced, and enjoyed pizza and burgers. I then took another taxi back to the house and got overcharged because of the weather. The rain kept me in the house, so I watched more Netflix and packed my new backpack to go to Otavalo tomorrow. (Sadly, my picture of the delicious pizza I bought has disappeared. But it was beautiful.)
Dinner at the house reminded me of home… We had spinach and potato soup (very typical), but then we had rice, BEEF, and REGULAR CORN! They have so many varieties of corn here, but we ate (almost) normal yellow corn with butter, and beef instead of chicken. It was a lovely reminder of home.