Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Almost Time to Move On

It's hard to believe that it's almost time to leave Quito. Tomorrow is my last day in the capital city, and without exaggeration, the three weeks or so here have flown by. I've survived a bus hijacking and learned to live (at least very minimally) in a developing country. I'll be leaving very early Thursday morning for Cuenca and will be starting my classes on Monday, even though they've already started with a substitute teacher.

I've grown to really enjoy Quito, so Cuenca will have some big shoes to fill. It's obviously not the safest city, but I feel like I've come to know how to live here, at least as a novice anyway. I've nearly gotten used to having rice with every single meal, and having aji on top of everything at every meal. Aji is a spicy sauce, kind of like hot salsa, that is put on almost everything here.

When I first arrived it was entirely weird to not put toilet paper in the bowl, but rather in a basket next to the toilet bowl. But just yesterday I was mad at the jerk who went in the bathroom before me and put some toilet paper in the bowl. Probably some green gringo. I had to flush 3 times before the bowl was right.

I don't go anywhere without looking around and sizing up the people I see. Not to start a fight, but to see if they are sizing me up. To see if they are the people that will try to rob me on this occasion. It's just a part of life. It's not worth making a big deal about, but just something you do as a natural reaction, no different than blinking.

Quito, with it's beautiful mountains in the distance and it's disgusting pollution clogging the streets, where I'll always remember walking the same streets of gringolandia and riding the bus with the locals. Where we ate our almuerzos for $2 and laid out in the park to play cards before heading back for more lectures. Where we took over Hotel 6 de diciembre.

Where we haggled for a $4 taxi, letting 4 other taxis pass by before getting in, insistant on the price and finally getting it. Where we found 2 for 1 drink specials and made friends with the staff at Coffee Toffee, our favorite little gringo hangout spot near the Spanish school. The place where we could count on the same faces to walk by and greet us, and the new ones to look at us with intrigue and loathe, the foreigners that we are.

The very same city where you could experience all four seasons in just one day, and you better come prepared with sunglasses, an umbrella, a jacket, and some comfortable shoes. Every street corner with its tantalizing street meat, but of course the debate on whether or not it would give you the runs. Dodging cars and playing the advanced level of human Frogger as you crossed the street in a country with right of way going to the drivers who sped up as you tried not to get hit.

Everything negotiable. Nothing readily available without a little Ecua-whine. Somewhere in the thick of it all, we found a home. To each his own and to everyone a place of peace and mind. It's hard to leave a place you've gotten to know and like, but at the end of every road lies the next path, even if it's a dirty old patch of a trail that's barely been traversed.

So now I'm looking forward to Cuenca, and though I'll still enjoy coming back to Quito and remembering what went on here, it's time to start over again in a new city, with a new family, and make new friends. That's the way it is. But at the end of the day, end of the month, and maybe end of the year, I'll still have the fond memories of living in Quito, and that alone is worth the sour that comes with the sweet.

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