Week 3 Update: Elections, Volanoes and Salsa Oh My

Trip Start Aug 23, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2006

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Hola amigo´s. Week three has come and past and there are more stories to tell and a hell of lot more Spanish for me to learn. This week has been the worst yet with school with more irregular verbs and now...verbs in past tense...THE HORROR!!!! Serriously...I have to think so hard just to get one sentence out and even the simplest exchanges involve me looking like a goof ball. I´m managed to memorize one very useful sentence in Spanish that basically me asking whoever I´m talking to to please speak to me like I am a 6 year old little boy. That seems to work and I can have some form of useful conversation. One important lessons learned...AÑOS (with the little mark over the Ñ) means YEAR. With out the tilde and mispronounced means the hole off your ass...a very important distinction when you´re trying to tell people how old you are (I am 35 ass holes old).

Anyway..back to the week in review.

1) Yay...there´s a new student in mi casa! Damn...she only speaks spanish! Yay...she´s sort of cute!! ;) Only teasing, relax everyone. Diane has arrived back in mi casa where she has been living with Inez during the school year for the past 2.5 years. Her family lives in a town called Santa Dominingo which is a few hours from Quito..yet she attends university here in town. She´s got loads of friends in Quito she and invited me last Tuesday (week 3) to go out Salsa dancing...or so I thought. We end up in NoBar...the same infamous bar where me and my amigos from class went last Saturday. It appears to be a very popular bar with the locals on Tuesday as there is no cover charge. Turns out it wasn´t salsa, just some good hip hop, pop and regaeton. Good stuff. We danced until 1AM and then caught a cab home. She´s a nice girl (albeit young...story of my life) and I can see us spending some more time together over the next few weeks as she`s a great tutor for my horrible Spanish.

2) Thursday night out for Silvio´s last night in town. Silvio the Swiss guy from school is in his last week of classes...so a group of us went out that night for steaks and some more mischief. Good steaks can be had in Quito in less than $10 and we gorged ourselves at a local restaurant. Afterwards we hung out in some very strange locals-only bar where the locals were drinking some sort of blue concoction which they gladly offered us. I took a sip after I saw one of them drink from the same glass...safety first...right. :[ They were good kids and ended up dragging a few of us on the dance floor with them. One of Claire´s (the other US student in my school) friends from back home was in town and made friends rapidly with a local girl (not cute)...she said we should check out Club Level...so at 11:30 we made our way over there and it may now be my favorite hangout in town. Good music, good stiff drinks, good mix of locals and gringos and just an overall fun place. In the group that made it that far was Claire, Harry, Silvio, Claires friend and Hanna...Hanna is one of those cute German girls I mentioned in a earlier post...she´s scary cute. We all danced until 1 and then Hanna and I left Silvio there alone (more on that in un momento). I made sure Hanna got into a cab safely and then I took off as well. Only the next day did we find out how Silvio´s night went. Silvio was rather drunk as it was his going away party and showed up to class a little late on Friday (with a bit of the chuchaci---spanish for hungover). Anyway...when we left Silvio, he wasn´t really alone, but dancing with a local chica so we figured he was in ok shape. He seemed to think things were going very well with her...that is until she asked him for money to continue their little adventure. Poor Silvio! Good story for the next day nonetheless.

3) Weekend in Baños. That is Baños the town...I did NOT spend a weekend in the bathroom (which is also called baños). So much to say, so little time to type. We had an extremely large group of gringos include Claire from the US, Harry from the UK, Silvio the Swiss guy, Anabel from the UK (who is done with school but volunteering in Quito), Steene from Denmark (that´s a girls name by the way), Paola her Danish friend (another chica)...and we met in Baños Lis from N.Z. (also former student), Steve from the UK (from the birthday night out fame), Stassie the Aussie and Peter from Dane. Altogether 10 gringo´s in Baños. We were all staying at the same hostel which ended up being very cool. It was called "Plantas y Blancos" or "Plants and White"...you figure out because I have no effin clue. After a 4 hour bus ride from hell we arrived. Important note: Baños has had some recent volcanic activity lately and is very close in proximity to the erupting volcano Tuluchuga. (much more on that later). After arriving late in the evening, the group from Quito went out the dinner and were sad to discover that as a result of the presidential election, nearly every bar in town was closed for the entire weekend. In Ecuador, it´s illegal for locals to drink during the 3 days proceeding the elections...sucks for us gringo´s as the bars were all closed. Fortunately, the stores still sold booze and a few dollars poorer, we went back to the girls room with mucha cerverza and two boxes of very shitty Argentinan wine. That night was fairly laid back with a couple of fun moments, but as we had a big day planned for Saturday, we all turned in by midnight. On Saturday, we met up with the group already in town on our hostel´s terrace for breakfast. Our hostel has a great terrace and I really wish I took more pictures of the views from it...waterfalls, mountains, etc. A very good $2 breakfast/dasayuno later, we walked down the street to rent some mountain bikes for the 60K ride to Puyo (only two of use made it the entire 60K....no big surprise there). Once we all got settled with our bikes and I had my bottle of Gatorade and one can of cerveza we were off. We past some great scenery on the way including several waterfalls. We were able to take cable car like thing over one of the falls...and at our lunch stop, we actually were able to go down to the bottom of a waterfall called the Devil`s Nose. It was a long hike back up to our bikes where all of us except AnnaBell and Peter decided to call it quits. Those two went al the way to Puyo in the pouring rain, while the rest of us went back to the hostel to get cleaned up (read: start drinking). We all went to dinner around 8 and then back to the girls room where Harry and Steve did an incredible redention/reenactment of a favorite British childrens nursery rhyme entitled ¨There was an old woman who swallowed a fly...¨. You can view the entire rhyme by googling it...and then imagine a very drunk Britt acting out the entire thing. I wish I had my camera...c´est la vie. The next day the girls got up early (which means we all did as they came a knocking on our door) and after breakfast, Claire, Harry, Stassie and I decide to do some post-hangover hiking to try and see this active volcano. After a nearly 3 hour very steep hike we were rewarded with clouds...crap. Claire and I waited a bit to see if the clouds would lift...Harry and Stassie started back. On the way back, Claire and I were exhausted and flagged down a banana truck who gladly gave us a ride in the back of his truck. We passed Harry and Stassie and waved... :) Back in the hostel, I had a quick shower then met up with the rest of the Quito gang to get our bus back. Just as we started to leave Baños, something started happening in the river as everyone in town started to run over to the bridge and look down. I assumed someone jumped (morbid, I know), but it turns out it was some volcanic activity. AnnaBell is the geologist in our group and she explained it...but I forgot it`s official name. Essentially it`s an underground mud slide started by volcanic pressure. The pictures don`t do it justice...pretty cool end to a fun weekend.

3) Elections in Ecuador. On Sunday the 15 of October, the Ecuadorians go to the polls to elect their 8th president in the past 10 years. Their last president was forced to flee the presidential palace last year via helicopter. You may have read in your papers on Monday the 16th that the elections on Sunday only narrowed it down to two candidates which will have a run off election in late November. In one corner we have one leftist Hugo Chavez ally (Rafael Correa) and in the other corner one billionaire businessman (Álvaro Noboa). Noboa has spent the past few months criss crossing the country handing out computers, food and cash...while Correa has spent his time bad mouthing the current Ecuadorian political system and praising George Bush´s best friend...Mr. Chavez. Depending on who wins in November, we can expect big changes in Ecuador...and possibly changes in the U.S./Ecuador relationship.

That´s all for now...I`m going to post this first with no pictures and then add pictures later (Thursday or Friday). It´s currently week 4 and Spanish is as difficult as ever. The only major activity this week is Thursday night we´re all going out for Annabell`s birthday. I`ll try to post about it this weekend, but it might be over a week until my next post as I`m spending my entire 5th week in the jungle. That`s right...the jungle. My school has a location on the coast and a location deep, deep in the jungle (10 hour overnight bus ride followed by a long boat ride up a river). For some odd reason I chose mosquitos and humidity over beaches and cold beers. It should be quite the experience.
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