Learning spanish and avoiding dogs

Trip Start May 01, 2005
Trip End Mar 25, 2006

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Reasons for taking a year off and travelling around South America on my own:

- I like getting a tan and not washing my hair much
- I don't want to work for a bit
- If I have to use London public transport any more, I may be forced to commit a serious offence
- I want to learn another language and meet new people
- I want an excuse to buy an iPod
- Because it's there?

Here's some excuses I made to myself:

- I'd miss my friends and family too much
- I'm 37. I like home comforts and I'm scared of being on my own
- I'm frightened of renting my flat out to someone who may set it on fire
- Let's not even think about what happens without my regular facials.

So I ignored the excuses, resigned from my job, rented out the flat, and here I am starting my year away (if the money, or indeed I, last that long) at a language school in Quito, Ecuador (or Squito as I called it for the first few days but let's not go there). I'm staying with a family in the north of the city, trying to improve my Spanish by asking questions such as "Why is there dried banana in my soup?" (seriously, there was). Quito has an old town (heaps of traffic, many churches, beautiful architecture) and a new town (heaps of traffic). There's a lot of pollution. There are also many stray dogs - the trick here to prevent molestation is to not make eye contact. If inadvertently you do, growl at them until they're convinced you are Numero Uno Perro and henceforth become your bitches (quite literally).

The school - Academia Latinoamericana de Espanol - puts on activities after lessons. Salsa, I have discovered, is a lot more difficult than Graeme Norton makes out, my God I nearly put my hip out. The lessons are good, although sharing classes with 22 year olds can be frightening. Asked the question (in Spanish) "what things do you hate?", the youngsters answered with things like "inequality" and "deforestisation". I said "cheese" and "dogs".

I'm trying to get used to wearing the same clothes all the time. Packing Rule No 1: do not listen to people who tell you to halve everything you want to take, they just want you to dress badly. Seriously, there are foreigners out there who think lots of Europeans are called Mr North Face.

So far, I like Quito. I've met some nice people - Ecuadorians, Yanks, Dutch, Korean - and have started to learn more about Ecuadorian culture and history. I may bore you with it next time. Plus my Spanish is not as bad as I'd thought. I've already managed to get out of the city too, to visit Otovalo, a town famous for its markets. If you haven't heard a pig sqealing at 6 o'clock in the morning, you haven't lived.

The current plan is to spend some time in Ecuador after my three weeks at the school, and then head to Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. iAdios chicas!
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