Monday, October 27, 2008

Montanita...lifestyles & living condtions

oWe are in a small coastal town in Ecuador called Montanita. We originally came here for Brad to spearfish and I was going to go to school. However, the fishing fell through and the school is we are going to move on tomorrow. I spent the past day alone walking through is a lazy surfer town with tons of hippies selling jewelry on the side of the street. It is somewhat touristy and the prices are a little higher then the other towns we have visited. I decided to get out of the main drag and check out the local areas. I was able to watch a soccer match, see a child´s birthday party, and observe every day life of the Montanitans. It was refreshing to be in a completely different country, different culture and still see similar interactions among people, friends, and family. I saw a wife bantering with her husband over something and then several seconds later they laughed and were picking on each other and playing hide and seek. There was a group of older men sitting at a table enjoying beer and playing some type of card table game. I can hardly communicate with these people and don´t look anything like them, but still, as I walk and observe their town, most everyone will look me in the eye and smile.
Another thing that I wanted to share was the living conditions. Ecuador is a very poor country. I lucked out in staying in some decent hostels the past few places, but Montanita has been my first peak inside the poverty here. Our first night here we came in late and found a woman that would let us stay in her house for $5 a night. Literally, we stayed in this woman´s house, shared the family bathroom, and she said that all living areas were ok for us to use. The bedroom was basically two old beds with mosquito nets. Sheets were on them, but they did not look clean. The walls were not fully built and holes were everywhere. But it wasn´t the bedroom that really got me, it was the bathroom. Brad warned me about the bathroom when he came out which meant it had to be bad (since Brad could sleep inside a dumpster if it meant he would save money). First of all, you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilets here. No matter if you go number 1, 2, or have to put the paper in the trashcan. Well the trashcan in this bathroom was overflowing and the stinch of the room overwhelmed me immediately. The entire room from shower to sink was filthy. Hair and dirt was everywhere and remnants of soap and toothpaste were on the walls and sink. It was BAD...I had a hard time going pee and didn´t even wash my face or brush my teeth. There was NO WAY I was going to take a shower. Brad told me I needed to get over it bc there would be plenty of places like this on my journey. I agreed, but then told him that I was okay with paying a dollar more to have a clean bathroom....We decided to look for a cleaner place the next morning. We actually found a nicer hostel for only $3.50 a night and it was much cleaner then the other place. It wasn´t clean....just cleaner :) I was happy though. However, at about 9pm when the dance club next door opened, I soon realized why it was only $3.50 a night. For a somewhat cleaner hostel I had to jam out to dance music until 2am as I tried to sleep. I was totally ok with doing that too!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mindo Ecuador

The past few days have been a whirlwind. Quito is actually a dangerous city. Our first day Brad and I were exploring the city and decided to check out this statue on this hill. As we walked up some stairs, several locals warned us that it was dangerous if we continued. Brad said not to worry as they were just messing with us...I was feeling weary though (but didn´t want to overreact). We continued to walk and an older woman looked me in the eye and said ¨peligroso¨(dangerous) and then took her hand and acted as though she was slitting her neck. That is when I remembered reading in the guide book about some walk that was extremely sketchy because many gringos were robbed....come to find out, this was the exact walk. I told Brad I wasn´t going any further and he was glad I was with him or else he would have kept going.
Fortunetaly, we safely left Quito a day later and headed to Mitad el Mundo (the middle of the world). This is the town where the equator line runs through. There are 2 lines in the town that we visited. The first one was the line established by the French. The second line, 200 meters away, was established by the indigineous people of Ecuador many many years before the French. After the invention of GPS, it was confirmed that the line that the indigineous people established was actually the correct measurment. It is amazing that by studying the sun and seasons, they were able to determine the exact line of the equator well before any technology.
At the last minute Brad and I decided to meet up with some of his friends in a town called Mindo. However, we ended up missing the bus to Mindo bc it left early, so we had to hitch a ride to the next bus stop. There were 6 gringos in the back of this dudes truck, speeding through Quito and trying to catch the Mindo must have been a site, but we eventually caught the bus and made it to our destination.
Mindo is a very small town located in a cloud forest. It is way more relaxing and tranquil then Quito. I have decided I like the small towns much better then the big cities. Mindo is an adventure town. We all went zip lining through the forest canopies, rafting down the freezing rivers, hiking through waterfalls, and tasting a lot of great foods. The locals are very kind and seem to enjoy life. We met a gringo named Zac who has been in South America for 2 years doing the peace core. He was very helpful in introducing us to the town and giving us pointers. Zac also ran an organic restuarant where we ate most of our meals. Fried Yucca, organic coffee and amazing brownie desserts....mmmm it was yummy! Our hostel that we all stayed was like a treehouse overlooking a gushing river. The noise of the rain and river put me to sleep everynight. One afternoon I went shopping with a girl in our group and I managed to talk in broken spanish to buy a hunk of cow, veggies, and cheese. We grilled out on the river that night and feasted while we drank beer and exchanged stories. It was a wonderful evening.
We catch a bus at 4am to head out to the coast. Brad wants to spearfish and I want to start taking language classes. I think I will check out some surfing lessons as well.
So far I am enjoying the freedom of traveling. I have only been gone for 5 days and have already experienced a lot....I think I can get used to this :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Arriving to Quito Ecuador

So I had to get online to let my parents know I made it to Quito. Since I am here, I decided to write a quick post about my experience last night. Everything was going wayyyy to smoothly with my travels and it was starting to freak me out. I landed in Quito, got through customs and pulled out the instruction and directions that my hostel emailed me a few days ago. Hale a cab that has numbers in the window...this means they are legal cabs and won´t rob or kill you. And hand the driver these directions and you will get to the hostel safe and sound.
Well, my cab driver was this sweet old man that did not speak a lick of english. And as we all know, my spanish is not very good. So...we start cruising through Quito at about midnight and I am thinking everything is cool. After about 20 minutes though, I realize the cab driver has no idea where he is going. In fact, he can hardly read. He asks me to read the directions out loud and then read off the street signs as we pass them. Uhhhh seriously dude? Its freaking midnight in Quito and it doesn´t look like we are in the safest part of town. Finally, we pull over to the only store that is open and we get out. All I can hear the store owner saying is that she can´t believe I don´t speak spanish and this is not a good part of town for me. He cannot leave me here....hahah ok now I am nervous. I realize I have a phone number to the hostel, I give the owner .45 cents and pray that someone answers. Yes, the hostel mother answers and she exchanges words with the cab driver. I am thinking everything is cool at this point. We get back in the cab and come to found out, the poor old man still has no idea where he is going. We circle for like 10 more minutes and I am seriously about to grab my stuff and start walking. I see this woman in a long coat walking up and down the street waving at cabs. I realize that must be my hostel mother. We drive to her and she has it out with my driver....they start fighting over the directions. I get out...she hugs me and says she was worried I got in a bad cab at the airport and has been waiting for me. We walk to the hostel...she then unlocks this security gate and tells me to never go out at night around this part of town. My room is clean and nice....I can´t wait for Brad to arrive tomorrow morning. I put his M & Ms on his pillow to welcome him.

Friday, October 17, 2008

2 more days to stay out of trouble

My bags are packed and I have just been sitting around this week with my thumb up my ass. I took the last week off from work so I didn't get all stressed out. It is amazing how much you can get done in your life when you don't have to work everyday. Of course, by Tuesday I had done everything so the rest of the week consisted of me working out, sitting around, and drinking heavily with friends. I REALLY need to leave the country soon.
I am pretty sure I have packed a lot of stuff that I don't need and have forgotten some really important things that I will need. I am not too worried though, I am sure Quito has stores.
My dad is taking me to my last UT game more day of drinking and seeing friends. And then Sunday I am off to Ecuador. I am really looking forward to being outside, walking for miles around random cities, & detoxing my body from alcohol and queso.
My friend Carly and I joke because we have been using my "traveling for a year" as an excuse to act ridiculous this past month. Yes Carly, the time is here for me to actually leave. No more celebrations and acting like idiots...this is my final Goodbye..HAHAH (ok, maybe tailgating tomorrow will be our last Hoo-Raa together). 
Adios USA....Hello WORLD!