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Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador

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my week at a glance

Quito, Ecuador

Each day this week, on top of the usual workload and planning, I had other errands, classes or meetings to attend. It's been rather exhausting. Unfortunately, my weekend plans do not include relaxing.

Yesterday I went to buy my ticket to the Juanes concert. He's playing at Estadio Atahualpa, the olympic stadium downtown. I'm psyched. It was unusual though, because the place to go buy tickets is a department store. When we arrived there, we were a bit confused but followed the crowd and saw the line forming at a register downstairs. It all worked out.

In a few minutes I'm meeting up with my expedition crew to discuss the details for our weekend--ascending Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador. It's going to be intense and I hope I can make it all the way. I'm going with Felim, Phil and Mike; I should be able to keep up with the boys...I'm pretty tough. Though, I've never done such an extreme hiking trip. Granted, it'll only be one night/day, but geared up in many layers of warm clothes, cramp ons for my boots, and ice pick in hand. It'll be an adventure, that's for sure--and is one of the things I most wanted to do while I am here. So let's hope it all goes well, and actually happens. Currently the weather report for tomorrow is okay, but if anything changes, the hike will not be possible.

Cross your fingers for me!

permalink written by  Theresa on November 21, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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a day at the artisan market

Otavalo, Ecuador

The most famous artisan market in Ecuador, and a must-see for most tourists, is the market in the small town of Otavalo. This town is comprised primarily of indigenous people and I believe is the only town of it's size to have an indigenous mayor. For this reason, the artisan craft market is very important to the town and the money spent there actually goes to the people responsible for providing these goods and helping out with the town. It's great.

We hopped on a few buses and headed north about 2 hours to Otavalo, were dropped on the side of the road and proceeded to follow the many locals schlepping their goods to the market. Though I arrived with four others, we nearly immediately separated and went around the market in smaller, safer groups. I meandered through the market with my housemate, Megan. Stalls after stalls after stalls of goods, mostly the same things over and over. Alpaca sweaters, blankets, gloves, scarves, ponchos. Knit sweaters, ponchos, gloves, hats, scarves, slippers, socks, etc. Bags of all sizes, ranging from carry-on size duffle bags (in all colors) to tiny change purses (the size of a small matchbox). Instruments, gourds, carved figurines, ceramic teapots weaved into baskets (my favorite had a snake as the spout). Chess sets, crucifixes, pipes, jewelry galore. Panama hats, fedoras, leather cowboy/Indiana Jones hats, knit caps. Scarves of all colors, lengths, textures, materials, qualities. Hammocks, guitars, vegetable magnets, serving trays, table cloths, tapestries. Colors everywhere--it was intense. Also in tents. =)

Another common craft is reprints or artist renditions of the works of the world-famous painter Oswaldo Guayasamín. These are everywhere, and found in many places around Quito as well. This artist has many styles but the most commonly known are those that portray the suffering of Latin America's indigenous poor and their hope for a better future. These prints can be disturbing or deeply moving.

We had a busy day of haggling and shopping, bumping into others we knew along the way, and then losing them again. We even ran into our friend Felim's fellow volunteers when Meg and I sat down to lunch--they'd lost him nearly immediately after reaching the market, and we'd seen him briefly an hour previous. Meg also saw a guy with whom she went to university. Crazy.

Another fun part of this day, other than the extreme color stimulation and shopper's high, was running into some people from Ibarra. Meg and I were approached by a group of four students from an English school in their city, 30 miutes from Otavalo. Apparently, they come down each Saturday (the only day this huge market runs) to practice their English with tourists. We chatted for 15 minutes or so and were invited to visit them and be guided around at any time. They were very sweet.

After a long day of shopping, Meg and I found the bus station, hopped on, chatted for a while and took a nice snooze before we got back to Quito. A good day, overall.

permalink written by  Theresa on November 16, 2008 from Otavalo, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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crime on the rise

Quito, Ecuador

Going into this experience, I knew that Quito was not a safe city. But really, what city is truly safe?

Petty crime (mostly pickpocketing) is rampant in Quito. It's a known problem and has been for years. However, over the last month we've heard more stories of violent crimes. Each moment on the street I must have my guard up and am constantly looking around to see who my company is. Paranoia has taken over my life.

Also within the last week there have been too many experiences to relate of people I know being robbed, pickpocketed, assaulted, etc. It's not so much fun.

For any of you who are in Quito, or planning on visiting, don't be detered from visiting--this city has many wonderful things. Just be really careful. It gets dark at 6, so even though 730 seems like a safe time to still be walking on the street, watch your surroundings and take a cab if possible--it has proven to be unsafe to be on the street at this time.

For me, living in a city has many perks. I love being able to walk around and see what's going on in my neighborhood, or walk to the market to get my veggies or meet friends for a juice or coffee. But the security of a cab ride is preferable to a paranoid walk down the street with the same end goal. Plus, cabs are relatively cheap here--with a minimum of a dollar in the daytime (about a 5 minute ride costs a dollar) and a dollar-fifty starting at 10pm, it's a good choice.

The moral of the story: keep your eyes open, use your brain, and take a cab.

permalink written by  Theresa on November 15, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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Life Outside the City

Atahualpa, Ecuador

Last weekend I had a few outdoor adventures, and time spent outside of the city. I live for these moments. As many things as Quito has to offer, I don't think I'm quite this metropolitan. I love to be elsewhere.

So Saturday a group of friends and I went to TeleferiQo (the cable cars that bring you up Pichincha on the western side of the city) and from there we hiked Rucu Pichincha.

If I thought the weather varied a lot in Quito, it was even crazier here. When we first arrived on top of the mountain, we had to put on a few layers, but as we started hiking (with signs everywhere not to run--the air is a lot thinner so it's harder to get used to and do physical activity; you've got to be careful) it grew warmer. Though it was a cloudy day, since we were even closer to the sky as usual, it got hot. Eventually it cooled down again, and by the time we returned to the path to the cabinas to descend to the city again, it was beginning to hail and rain.

The hike was a lot of fun. I love being outdoors and seeing new things. The speed at which the clouds move up there was incredible and surprising. I took quite a few photos, so check out the complete selection on my webshots page. It's so strange though, because if many of the photos, I could see much clearer than my camera could capture!

On Sunday my housemate Megan and I visited the village of Atahualpa with Megan's Spanish teacher (who is also our friend), Christina. About two hours north of Quito, we left super early in the morning...I woke up at 4:47am to get ready to go--up before the sun. We arrived around 9am to Christina's family home, had a snack (including queso fresco Christina's mom María had made the day before from their cows) and toured their land and met some of the animals. Christina's mother, father and brother live and work their farm. They have 7 cows, 1 horse, dozens of hens, chicks and roosters, a handful of rabbits, a dozen or so guinea pigs, some other birds, a few dogs and puppies!!, and a cat. It's a busy place. They also grow 2 types of corn--one for the animals, and one for them.

Then we went out to explore the town. Every moment I was amazed by the beauty of this village. Natural beauty energizes me.

With greenery everywhere, trees, mountains, a river...pretty much everything I could ask for. We were walking toward the river when a pickup truck going in our direction offered us a ride--this is a primary mode of transport in town. If a truck is going in your direction, you just hop in the bed and hold on tight. We took a roundabout route to the river so we were able to tour most of the higher parts of town. It was so beautiful I wished I could sprout a third arm to take pictures while my other two were busy holding on, keeping myself in the truck. At times we stopped to pick up other passengers and it got pretty cozy back there.

Eventually we ended our joy ride and hiked down to the river, then descended the slippery, muddy rock face to get to the riverbed. Christina and Megan were adventurous enough to brave crossing the river, jumping from rock to rock, but I chose to take the high road--crossing the rotting fallen log bridge that lay across the river while documenting their progress. Christina was sure footed, but Megan fell a few times, ending up with drenched boots. She was a trooper though!

We arrived back at home in time for lunch: soup (with freshly slaughtered chicken on the side to accomodate my vegetarian habit--how sweet!), rice and broccoli salad. Yum. We also had fresh apple cider. Delish.

The reason we went home with Christina this weekend was because it was the beginning of their town's patron saint/virgin celebration. During lunch, the fireworks started going off to tell the townspeople the beginning of the fesitivities were nearing. The band had already begun to play and the procession in progress by the time we got there, but we joined in the parade of dance performers, band members, and virgen memorial carriers down to the town church and park.

Along the way, we said hello to each person we came across and greeted multiple uncles and cousins we ran into along the way. We then attended mass, to celebrate the virgen and officially begin the celebratory month. Afterwards there were dance performances by different classes in the local school, each performing a different traditional dance. It was great to see.

I loved this small town life! It was also great because Megan and I were to only gringas in sight for most of the day. A few others live there, apparently volunteering to support tourism (but they're not doing too great so far since we're the only non-locals they've seen since they arrived).

After the dances and music commenced, we met some of Christina's other family--her sister Anita and Christina's nieces, one of whom performed in one of the dances. After jovial conversation in the park, Christina, her niece Irma, Megan and I went to the cemetary to visit the grave of Christina's brother who died as a child. Unfortunately, the gate was locked. Instead, we climbed over the walls and went on with our business. Cemetaries in Ecuador are a little different from ones I've visited in the States. In this cemetary there was the traditional structure in which the remains are protected and each grave has a memorial window to give respect and honor to the deceased, sometimes with photographs or knickknacks, flowers or sweets. Things to remember the dead. Since el día de los difuntos wasn't long ago, most of the graves were freshly visited and decorated, though they may always be so, I'm not sure. There were also graves more similar to graves in the states, with the deceased buried in the ground with some sort of headstone. This cemetary also had a maze of carved hedges. It was beautiful and I enjoyed visiting it. By the time we left, others had entered the cemetary as well and we were able to borrow a key to let ourselves out, rather than hoist ourselves over the 6 ft walls again.

We spent a bit more time in the town center, playing fooseball in the street, eating ice cream, and socializing before the bus ride back to Quito. I had so much fun in this village, I didn't want to leave at all. All of Christina's family was so sweet and welcoming. The culture in this village was amazing. Everyone was friendly and interested in us and wanting to learn more about us. This is the Ecuadorian culture I was expecting all along, and I finally found it. Warm, welcoming, loving.

permalink written by  Theresa on November 14, 2008 from Atahualpa, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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Quito: the city of every season, every day

Quito, Ecuador

One time, my friend Laura had her class come up with slogans to describe Quito. My favorite was, Quito: The city of all seasons, every day.

This is true. It helps that Ecuador has only 2 seasons--wet and dry. We are now transitioning between the two seasons and the discrepancy between the two climates is huge.

For example, this morning when I returned from my morning class I sat outside in my yard to grade papers and then read for leisure. The sky was a brilliant blue, not a cloud in sight. The sun was strong and made it delightfully warm. From the hour or so I spent in direct sunlight, my shoulders burnt a bit and my arms got a bit darker.
This has been typical on weekdays--though rain and clouds in the morning also happens, usually on weekends (to ruin my plans, of course).

Afternoons are a different story. You used to be able to set your watch by the storms; come 3 o'clock, there will be rain. However, this pattern has been upset and now you never now when the rain will hit.
When I looked out my window at 3:15 this afternoon, the sky was ominously dark and ferocious looking clouds were littering the sky. I tried to gather my things quickly and get to school before the storm hit, but missed my window of opportunity. Literally as I was walking down the stairs to leave, the torrential downpour began. I put on my rain coat, clutched my bag close to me, and prayed my umbrella would keep some of the rain off me.

The walk to school is not long, but in this type of rain it's terrible. Not only were sheets of rain coming down, but there were also spurts of hail and thunder so strong it was setting off car alarms. Needless to say, I arrived at school soaked. Though my rain coat had protected me sufficiently, my pants were drenched and I left puddles in my wake.
However, I was not as bad off as a few of my students who had come without umbrellas today (why anyone would leave without an umbrella is beyond me--mine is my trusty sidekick). Soaked through, I sent them to the cafeteria to get hot drinks to warm up before starting class.

Soon, I look forward to returning home, getting some dry clothes (especially shoes) and having a nice evening with friends. This is bound to be a busy weekend...with a hike tomorrow morning and a festival in a town a few hours north of here on Sunday. I can't wait!

permalink written by  Theresa on November 7, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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a sigh of relief

Quito, Ecuador

I'd been hearing a lot of "Well, on Tuesday I'll know if I can ever go back to the States" type of comments lately. And the excitement and anxiety leading up to Election Tuesday was palpable. Here, nearly everyone I talked to about the election was for Obama, but I knew it couldn't be quite like that back in the States, and since I'm not there to see what's going on, I was nervous.

During my sub block, I was watching the first votes come in on cnn....thrilled to see Vermont give Obama his first three votes. Woot. Once work got out, I rushed home to continue watching the results with my roommates, and have some 2x1 Tuesday pizza. Sitting in the living room, watching more and more states report, I was a wreck. I couldn't stop fidgeting and I making cynical and bitter remarks. With the past election, I learned not to count my chickens before they hatch, so I was not going to make the same mistake again. I was doubtful of many statistics due to the low number of precincts, and wouldn't let myself get ahead of the facts. The whole night I knew I wouldn't believe anything until morning...I'd have to pinch myself to see if it were real. So eventually, I settled down and fell asleep with my computer beside my bed. At that time, Obama was practically there...I think I missed the "official" announcement by 20 minutes or so...but my cynicism wouldn't have let me relish in it anyway....they've announced wrong presidential winners before. However, checking the results was the first thing I did when I woke up in the middle of the night, and again in the morning before class.

My favorite fun election facts: Vermont came in 3rd with highest voting percentage for Obama at 67%, following Hawaii at 72% and DC at 93%. And (courtesy of Matthew), out of all of New England, there was only one county that Obama did not win. He got 66 out of 67 counties in New England. Woot. I'm glad that's what I call home.

Wednesday morning was a good morning. Everyone seemed to be in higher spirits. One of my students asked, "Are you having a good day?" and I responded, "Yes, everyday should be better now." I know change will take time, especially with how troubled the US is right now, left in shambles by Bush, but I have faith that Obama can make it happen...we just have to have faith and patience.

Other than politics, things have been pretty normal. Monday was a holiday here, because of día de los difuntos, so it's been a 4 four work week. And I've got to say--I'm really enjoying the shortened work week.

Today is also a beautiful day, a nice change from the chillier, rainy days we had all weekend. Three days of miserable weather, making it impossible to do any of the things I wanted to do around town. And with the more constant rain and clouds, the days have become chillier (by Quito standards) and my room doesn't get warmer than 59 degrees fahrenheit...even if there is morning sun streaming through my windows.

A few of my friends have only a few short weeks left in Quito so I've been trying to see them as much as possible, and we're making plans to finish up the necessary sight seeing and adventure having before they depart, inshallah.

Well, I must go and take advantage of some of this sunshine. Hope there's some sunshine over on your end as well. =)

permalink written by  Theresa on November 6, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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Happy Halloween!

Quito, Ecuador

During each teaching cycle, each class has two movie days. I had the pleasure of having my first movie days yesterday and today. With the holiday, I thought it was only fitting to watch a Halloween type movie, however still school appropriate--my students are 14+ in age. In my afternoon class yesterday, we watched The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (which still warranted screams from my youngest pupil); this morning we watched the original Frankenstein movie--and I must say, I prefer the book. I also shared some candy with my students and some history of our tradition--they were a bit more reluctant to share about theirs--Day of the Dead, but I know some will be celebrating it old style this weekend, or at least spending time with family.

Backtracking...last weekend I visited one of the must-see tourist attractions in Quito: El Panecillo (little bread loaf), where the Virgen de Quito statue is located. You can see the statue from the center of the city and it helps to orient us, knowing the statue is always south. However, once there, we realized there is still a large portion of the city south of this statue!

The statue is also much bigger in person. Obviously it has to be big, but she is massive. One serious Virgin of the Apocolypse. With Meadhbh and Ayla I ascended into the statue, taking in the history of the statue's construction through old photographs and written statements. There were also beautiful stained glass windows throughout the bottom portion of the statue--Earth. Though you couldn't climb inside the body of the beast or of the virgin, the views from the top of the world were wonderful. However, in my rush that morning I didn't bring my camera, so i'll pass some pictures along from my friends once I have them. Visiting el Panecillo for the views of the city was wonderful, and it was a gorgeous, clear day too. Perfect, really.
Getting to el Panecillo was not difficult, though not something we were entirely sure how to do either. So we rode as far south as we could on the Trole (which was really far--20 minutes further than I'd ever been before!) and took a 10 minute taxi ride to the top of the hill--it's a good idea not to walk up the hill because there have been many accounts of robberies and wild dog attacks. We thought we'd avoid that adventure for the day. When we left, we hopped on a bus headed to Mitad del Mundo and had the driver drop us off in el Centro Historico before hitting the highway. It worked out perfectly. I love that we're now comfortable enough to just go and not worry so much about how exactly we have to do things--we just figure it out as we go along.

One more thing, I've added a few photos from my canyoning adventure in Baños earlier this month. See my photo website for more shots of this day. We were very lucky that our guide had a waterproof digital and could document this awesome day. So cool. Though for some reason my facial expressions are sometimes unfortunate and odd--usually because the guide was saying something to me or I was reacting toward him in some way--we were very much like siblings in our interactions...it was unusual, and pretty cool. Anyway, check those out later if you're interested. =)

permalink written by  Theresa on October 31, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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optical illusions

Quito, Ecuador

It's strange. I know I've only been living in Quito for a little over 2 months, and that I've only been officially working for 3 weeks now, but life seems so normal. I am sufficiently adjusted I believe. Since my plan is pretty much the same from day to day, I'm finding it difficult to find things to write about.

My days consist of basically the same things: teaching, planning, grading, grocery shopping, running in Parque Carolina, running errands, cooking and eating. I've been spending more time with my roommates and see my other friends who live together in "the Embassy" throughout the week as well. I also started Spanish conversation lessons this week which I am really enjoying. Though I speak Spanish with some people in my house, at school I must speak English and most of my friends are English speakers so I've been having a hard time finding time and opportunities to practice. This is a wonderful beginning--but I still need to get out and talk to more locals.

I've also been keeping up with sports back in the States, watching most of the World Series and catching some Monday Night football as well. I am so glad to have such nice cable at my house! Of course the commentary is in Spanish, but that makes it all the more interesting!

Halloween is now upon us, as is the Day of the Dead. Halloween is kind of controversial here, depending on who you talk to. However, we're still getting all decked out for a Halloween bash my roommates are throwing. I also look forward to some of the local traditions and festivities. For example, only at this time of year can you enjoy the typical colada morada and guagua de pan--the first being a warm, purple, fruit drink, the second being a small bread loaf in the shape of a baby, decorated with icing. I believe I'll have to visit a cemetery on Sunday to get the full experience, though i don't want to be intruding on families visiting their families either. I'll have to tread lightly.

That's all for now. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

permalink written by  Theresa on October 30, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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adventures in teaching begin

Quito, Ecuador

Can you guess the category?
1) a man urinating on the sidewalk
2) a squished bird
3) a very dirty diaper behind the bus stop shelter
4) a little boy pouring his bag of chifles on the ground, staring at them, and then putting them back into the bag
5) sunshine, blue skies (usually mornings)
6) ominous clouds followed by sheets of rain and a drenched Theresa (afternoon and onward)
7) garbage trucks driving away while the collectors run after the truck throwing (most of) the trash into the back

The answer is, “things Theresa sees on her way to/from work.”

Week one is done, and I am feeling a bit more sluggish. This is definitely a new schedule for me, but I’m getting used to it. I am glad to be doing something again as well. Though I enjoyed my 2 weeks of vacation, I’m glad to have a purpose again—and that would be teaching English. I teach 2 classes: one from 7-9am, one from 4-6pm. Then I hang out at school for my third 2-hour shift as a substitute, to fill in for teachers in that building when needed, from 6-8. What a joy. I mean, I like getting up early, but having my workday so spread out makes me feel like each workday is really 2 days. I’ll get used to it though, and it does allow me to take advantage of the daytime hours so for that I am thankful. I just have to get around to actually taking advantage of these hours. Maybe next week, when I’m more used to this new life style.

I’m enjoying my classes and learning about all the protocol and processes in the English branch of the university for which I teach. It’s pretty crazy. This cycle (each year has 5 cycles of classes) the number of students skyrocketed. There are now over 4,000 students studying here, 40 new teachers, but all the same materials, classrooms and building staff (yikes!).

I teach in two different buildings and luckily am perfectly situated to have short commutes wherever I need to go. It’s less than 10 minutes walking to any of the buildings—there are four classroom sites that we work at. I teach on the university campus in the morning, and our English branch’s main building in the afternoon/evening.

Also this week, I attended some important events (at least for me). As usual, I went to the local Irish pub to watch the presidential debate. Usually, we'd go early to get good seats since this place is packed with USers on debate nights. But since I was working until 8 I didn't have this luxury. Luckily, not all of us work until 8, so I at least had a stool to sit on, even if there was no table for my dinner (potato wedges--not much vegetarian fare at this place). That night I also found out they'd be showing the "win or go home" Red Sox game the following evening. It was decided then and there that I'd have to return the next night. This time though, I planned ahead. I knew I'd be late for the game, due to my work schedule, and again starving, so I made extra lunch and packed it up for dinner, to eat during my sub period. Good plan, right? Wrong. You actually have to remember the plan before you leave the house to make it work. I forgot my dinner in the fridge, so another night of potato wedges for me. But the game was great. It was weird to watch it without sound, there were plenty of people there not for the game, but I was just glad to be able to see my boys play. =)

Alright, well I’ve got some planning to do for this week, finishing up 2 units and preparing for the first test (yup, a test already…students have tests every 2 weeks). Hope you’re all well. =)

permalink written by  Theresa on October 18, 2008 from Quito, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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beach, but this time with some sunlight!

Atacames, Ecuador

This weekend was the celebration of la Independencia de Guayaquil. This holiday, el 9 de octubre, takes over the country. Though Guayaquil celebrates hardcore with a 3 day long party, the other cities also take advantage of the holiday and there are a few days off work. Somehow, the ninth was my first day of work, so I didn’t get the whole holiday, but Friday I set off to the beach with Meadhbh and Ayla to take advantage of the three-day weekend.

The bus ride to Atacames was rather nice. Very comfortable bus, decent leg room, and a comfortable temperature—more than I can say for most other long distance rides I’ve taken. They also played two movies during the 6.5 hour ride. However, they were both a bit violent for my liking, so I stuck to reading, listening to music, and admiring the gorgeous scenery of Ecuador passing outside the window.

Once in Atacames, we took a rickshaw taxi to our hostel and checked in. Due to the holiday, it was a very busy weekend. Even though we’d reserved a room in advance, when we arrived, they’d already given out the room. The only room left was a tiny 2-bunk cabin, so Meadhbh and I shared a bed that night and we only had to pay for 2 people. When you’re on the coast, the main food group is seafood. This limits my menu considerably, but for my companions it was a chance to have fresh, local fare. While Meadhbh enjoyed her mystery fish, Ayla unfortunately got a bad shrimp in her mix and was sick for nearly the rest of the weekend. =( But she was a good sport and says she still had fun.

Meadhbh and I ventured forth to sample the abundant night life in Atacames. This city is one that lives off tourism. When there are no tourists, I’m told it’s a very different place. However, due to the holiday weekend, the city was chock full of tourists—most of whom were Ecuadorian. All along the beach were bars and restaurants, each blasting their own music, making an interesting soundtrack for the areas, blending many songs into one. Each place was packed with people of all ages. Even families were present. Fathers dancing with daughters, friends laughing and playing in the sand, mothers rocking sleeping babies (though how they could sleep through so much noise is beyond me), and new friends being made everywhere. We found a kind of quiet corner with a hammock in which to observe the scene and enjoy the local, tropical fruit drinks.

The next morning, after getting a quick breakfast with a delicious goblet of fresh juice (I drank more than my share of fruits this weekend), we all headed to the beach.

Though a bit overcast, there was still plenty of light and heat. Somewhere midday the clouds broke and gave us an hour or so of direct sunlight—you can definitely feel the difference! The temperature skyrocketed immediately and hoards of people dove into the ocean. The ocean was refreshing compared to the heat on the beach, but it was nowhere near cold. Some good waves though for body surfing, mostly made by the boats pulling inflated rafts and boats for visitors to ride. We did not partake. I was content enough to do a little swimming, bask in the sunlight, and read. This was a real vacation.

When we returned we switched cabins to a 3-bunk, more spacious abode though closer to the street. It was quite loud, as you could hear everything going on outside the walls. Ayla said it felt like “sleeping on the sidewalk,” but we managed it.

Eventually we made our way to lunch, trying out the local places, following the guide of “Trust Ecuadorian stomachs, if they eat there, you can eat there.” So we found some packed restaurant venues on the sides of streets and I inquired if they had vegetarian plates. My first response was “Vegetarian plate? What’s that?” So we moved on. Eventually we just sat down somewhere and I ordered rice, salad and patacones…knowing that these came with all the other meals so they’d have to have them for me too. Meadhbh braved the fish again, and it came whole and fried. Fried eyes look weird. We also had nice cold drinks courtesy of the wait staff that goes out and buys the drinks from nearby tiendas (stores/holes in the wall that sell you things…delightful) when you ask for them.

After lunch we read in poolside hammocks at out hostel and did some swimming as well. Ayla forwent dinner since she was feeling ill again, so it was just Meadhbh and I again. We chose a balcony restaurant overlooking the beach and then headed down for some live entertainment afterward. The first place we went had a dance troupe performing when we arrived. It was really cool, and I was sad when they were done, but there was still some entertainment. Instead of bar stools, this bar had swings. Other tables and benches were shaped like rowboats. It was quite unique. And I thoroughly enjoyed swinging there, but we made it an early night anyway—the strong sun that day definitely tired us out!

Sunday was more overcast than the day before, but that didn’t deter us—nor anyone else—from going to the beach. A bit chillier than the day before, and at times a misting rain, made this less than ideal for me, but “perfect beach weather” for Ayla. Both my companions were nursing sun burns from the previous day so they were fine with a little less sunshine. I just accepted it as it was, knowing it was more sun and heat than I’d have in Quito (and news was it rained a bit there this past weekend, so I’m certainly grateful for the beautiful weather I enjoyed in Atacames).

A quick walk down the beach, cleaning up and checking out of our cabin, we found ourselves on the street around 1, needing to entertain ourselves until our 4pm bus. We headed down to the beachfront amenities and had a few snacks and played some cards. We also ran into some friends stopping in to eat lunch on the way back from a more deserted beach a little over an hour south down the coast. It’s amazing—I really can’t go anywhere in Ecuador without running into someone I know!

A quick lunch, some snacks from the tienda for the bus ride and we were off, back to the sierra. However, this bus ride was not nearly as enjoyable as the last. The bus had a slight odor, it was unbearable hot at times, and there were many unidentifiable bugs scurrying along the floor, walls, seats, etc. Gross. Ayla squished just about every one she saw. I tried to just ignore them.

All in all, it was a wonderful beach vacation. Relaxing.

permalink written by  Theresa on October 14, 2008 from Atacames, Ecuador
from the travel blog: Adventures in Teaching and Living in Ecuador
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