Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Cuenca's Independence Day: Part 2
We spent most of the time venting about the struggles and difficulties of teaching English and living in Ecuador, and how there were things we just hadn't been able to adjust to or accept yet. But we also joked about the good times and the funnier things. For the majority of the first afternoon, we spent the time drinking in my host mom's basement. It was a good break and necessary rest time, even though we were only piling on the fatigue that would later drain on me.
For some reason, it's sometimes incredibly difficult to just buy a beer from a store here. There's no deposit on bottles, and little tiendas won't sell you a bottle unless you bring them one in return so they can get the money for it. We had to go to two different stores before they would sell to us, of course on the pretense that we would return the bottles before getting more.
We could have used a little nap before going out to dinner, but we were having such a good time that we didn't want to break it up, so finally later on around 8:30 we met up by the university for dinner with all of the volunteers from our group in Cuenca. Annie had picked the restaurant, and it was one of the most expensive meals I've had in Ecuador. In Quito we had sushi on our last day, but that was worth the cost. Here at this meal, I only got a tapa, a small appetizer, of shrimp and some sangria, and it cost me $12. On average, between Monday and Friday I spend about $0-1, so I wasn't too upset about spending a little money this weekend, but my wallet was nearly cleared out as prices rose dramatically in the most expensive city in Ecuador.
I've asked some locals why it's so expensive, more so than Guayaquil or Quito, and I've been told that it's because a lot of Europeans visit the city, and their euros that they bring in have caused all of the prices to rise. It's not a dramatic increase, but it's noticeably more expensive than other parts of the country.
After the long, two hour dinner, we headed back towards the center on Calle Larga, a busy street with tons of bars, clubs, and people. We wandered around for a while trying to find a cheap salsa club to go to, but could only find $10 cover charges. Walking around, I was reminded of the image Hemingway portrayed of Pamplona during San Fermin, the running of the bulls festival in Spain. The streets were packed with drunken people, some slumped over laughing, others puking. Fireworks were being set off, occasionally shocking the nervous system. Groups were walking by holding bottles of liquor and passing it around, and as you'd pass by a wet spot on the ground, the smell of unrine was strong. In other words, it was a town in festival mode.
We settled on the salsa club we had gone to the night before for $5 to get into, but when we got in saw there wasn't much room to sit, so the girls went to the bar and the guys grabbed a small table to play some speed quarters. What we discovered, however, was that it was a dead table and that Ecuadorian quarters don't bounce as well as American quarters. The locals around us were watching as we played, slightly amused.
We played for a while, and the drinks started to kick in quickly. A table next to us was filled with 4 women and a man, and Russell was soon dancing with one of them. What we later found out was that the girl was 15, though we all would have guessed in her 20s. The man was the father and the women were his daughters and wife. They thought it was funny, but Russell was not happy, espeically since he'd given her his number. Casey and Lara left a little earlier than everyone else, and the rest of us were there until about 2:30 a.m. trying to settle the tab, which had risen to about $115 including the tax, which we hadn't seen coming. So as usual, one or two people had to spend much more than everyone else just to leave in one piece.
We went back home to pass out and wake up early to go sight seeing the next day. Finally, I would be ready to take my camera out with me and take some pictures of the city.
Continued in Part 3...
Above: The cathedral, slightly blocked by decorations, an indigenous woman (chola in Quechua), a large amount of people in the bed of a pick up truck (a normal thing here)