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La mitad del mundo

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

On Tuesday I took my first Spanish class with Diana, a native quitena. We walked for about fifteen minutes up the stairs at the end of the street where the hostel is (which is no easy feat at this altitude) to have our class in the Parque Ichimbia, which has an amazing view of all the city:


Although Quito apparently means “center of the world” in one of the indigenous languages spoken in Ecuador, the real center of the world is located about an hour by bus north of Quito, where there is a monument to the equator (and one that designates the fake equator, but more on that later). Yesterday I made my way there on Quito’s public transportation system, passing one of Ecuador’s more unfortunate imports along the way:

Lies lies and more lies.

Although I got on the bus at a marked stop, the further north of the city you get, the more the driver is willing to stop for random people in the street: mothers with babies strapped to their backs, snack vendors, and some guy trying to sell little cards for political gain.

When you arrive at the mitad del mundo site, you are deposited outside of the entrance to the fake equator–the one the French “found” a few hundred years ago, but which is really about a five minute walk into the southern hemisphere. I still found it necessary to take a picture there:


At the top of the monolith at the fake equator, I met a random French guy and a friendly Ecuadorian family who wanted to take a picture with us:


Next I made my way to the Inti Nan museum which is at the real equator, a fact the guides prove with all kinds of cool tricks, such as water going straight down the drain rather than swirling in either direction.

Here I am at the real equator:


And here I am balancing an egg on a nail right on the equator line, a feat for which I took home a signed certificate. Apparently this could theoretically be done somewhere that is not the equator, but it would be a lot more difficult.


Here’s me receiving my egg on nail diploma with the Frenchie:

In addition to cool equator tricks, the museum had great examples of indigenous lodgings. Apparently in addition to eating guinea pig or “cuy” (no, I have not worked up the courage), people lived with guinea pigs in their houses in olden times, thinking that the animals were very sensitive to the energy of human beings. You weren’t allowed in the house if the piggies started to make noise when you entered. I just think that they are way too cute to eat:


Here I am pretending to be an indigenous house wife working in the kitchen:


The guide at the museum also showed us a collection of other cool stuff like shrunken heads (too graphic to post), a practice that only ended about 50 years ago among some of the groups in the countryside. There were other fun collections of anaconda skins and boa constrictors, as well as a jar showing the infamous fish that swims inside of you if you pee in the river in the jungle, quickly destroying your insides if you don’t act fast. I am still contemplating if I can handle a few days in the jungle after seeing all the nasty beasts that live there.

Besides the lecherous cabbies constantly asking me why my boyfriend let me come to Ecuador alone and would I like to get to know Ecuadorian men better, there have been minimal complications with the trip so far. I continue to avoid ice and uncooked vegetables, and am learning to carry toilet paper with me, as some places don’t carry it all. But aside from these little tidbits of culture shock, I am really enjoying my time in Ecuador. Apparently it’s the place to be right now; the Discovery Channel travel team has now shown up twice in places in or around Quito that I’ve been.

Quito – Day 1

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I have to be careful to write this entire entry without using an apostrophe as I have yet to figure out how to get one out of the Ecuadorian keyboard. I arrived at the Secret Garden last night and was pleasantly surprised to see that it actually resembled the photos I had seen online. Beds were pretty comfy and the other 6 people in my dorm seem agreeable. The best part of the place is the roof terrace with a stocked bar and hammocks. Check out the view here:

View from Secret Garden

This morning over breakfast I met two girls speaking French and they invited me to go explore with them. My French at this point is better than my Spanish so it was fine, although I need to force myself to speak Espanol. We mostly walked around the colonial part of Quito near our hostel, which is gorgeous:

Colonial Quito

Colonial Quito 2

Now headed to dinner up on that terrace. There are little things I miss, like being able to write apostrophes or throw paper in the toilet, but otherwise I am pretty taken with this country so far. More to come…

Greetings all!

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
Here I am saying goodbye to lovely Santa Monica. By the next time I post a picture I'll probably look a bit more haggard, but who knows, maybe the malaria pills will agree with me... Ariella  ... <a href=[Continue reading this entry]