Sunday, August 31st was the day we were going to Quito. We spent the day packing and getting ready for the trip. We had made arrangements to meet Colon and Olayita for dinner, because the bus was leaving at 11:30 PM and we needed to have something to do in Portoviejo at night because the last bus is at 8:00 PM. from Crucita. The day before the trip Colon called and said Olayita’s step-brother had died and the wake was on Sunday. They said we would go to dinner and then go to the wake. At 11:00 Colon would drive us to the bus terminal. We went to dinner at a great restaurant. Here they have what is called, Parrilla, where the meat is grilled on a charcoal grill. The meat is marinated in a delicious sauce. At this particular restaurant, they brought a little grill to the table with a couple’s portion on the grill. There was steak, chicken, pork, liver. sausage and cow utter. Of course, I tried the cow utter, and although it tasted good, I did not like the texture. I feel the same way about liver. The other meat was delicious. Before the meal they brought bread and plantains and three dipping sauces for them. We had sangria to drink.
Afterwards, we went to the wake that had already started. It is not exactly like our wakes, but similar. There were about 200 people there. They stay there in chairs and talk to each other. Since we were late, we had to sit outside with about 100 of the people. Inside they served coffee and sandwiches. The people from the outside can go in and get the food, too. The casket and the flowers are all up front. There were singers, who sang songs. At one point late in the evening because it was getting cold, I went in with Olayita’s sister for coffee, Olayita came in too and I saw Marianna, Olayita’s mother who I kissed and said, “lo siento mucho”, an equivalent to, “so sorry for your loss”. Olayita’s brother-in-law talked with Leo and Leo translated for me. Her brother-in-law, Patricio is an oncologist. He said, “I hope you never need me, but if you do need another doctor, I will help you find a good one.”, which was very good for us. The family and some of the people will stay there until 5:00 AM. At about 11:00 PM Colon took Leo and me to the bus terminal. He stayed there until we left and then he went back to the funeral parlor.
I was kind of dreading this bus ride, because I knew we were going through the Andes. You know how I was on the smaller mountains, how could I endure some big mountains. We were on the driver’s side, but in the middle. I brought a sleep mask that I had been given on the plane to Ecuador.
It was my intention to sleep during the ride since it was late. This bus ride was scheduled to take 8 hours, which meant we would get in about 7:30 AM. Right from the get go, I could feel my body swaying from side to side as we went around curves (mts.) I was so scared. I actually had to pray to give me peace, which I got in about 1/2 hour. My mind just switched and I was OK. I slept off and on and the time went pretty fast. In fact when we got to Quito at 5:30. I remembered that Josue had told me it goes faster at night because the bus driver can go faster-not sure that was reassuring except we were there safely. We knew it would be colder in Quito because of the high altitudes, so we brought a sweatshirt and corduroy jacket. When we got inside the bus terminal, we were still freezing. People were dressed with blankets around them. We used the bathroom where we had to pay 10 cents if we wanted enough paper to urinate, and 15 cents if we needed more. In Ecuador there is a line at the ladies’ room like in the USA. When I finally got in, there was no toilet seat. People steal toilet seats in Ecuador. Then we buzzed around the terminal to find the cabs. The terminal is very modern and pretty, but cold. Finally we found the cab stand and got a cab to Old Town where our hotel was. When we got to Old Town the cab driver just let us off in some square and said we had to find the hotel. Luckily, Leo could ask people where our street was and we walked with our luggage a few blocks to the hotel. I had read previously that Old Town at night could be dangerous, so take cabs. I guess the cabs don’t like to go there either. Luckily, it was light out then. We found our hotel, but could not check in until 12:00. We got breakfast with our stay, so we ate at the restaurant in the hotel for an added fee since we were early. We had a nice breakfast. We made toast, had coffee and fruit. Then a guy came out and asked us how we wanted out eggs, so we got scrambled eggs.
We were on the 3rd floor of the hotel, so we had a good view of the surrounding mountains and houses on them. We took some pictures.
We did go for a short walk just after breakfast. At this point we saw all the kids going to school. That was Sept. 1st, the first day of school. It was fun seeing the kids all dressed up in new uniforms and shiny new shoes, new haircuts and smiling faces ready for the new year. Some kid walked with their mother, some older ones walked with friends. I felt that same energy around us that I felt the first day of school in the US, which I found interesting.
We were so tired at this point that we asked if we could go into our room early. We could for an additional fee, which we gladly paid. We went upstairs and slept until noon. We went downstairs and toured Old Town. There are quaint shops. I found a fabric store with outdoor fabrics that I wanted for our wicker furniture, an import store with cheap picture frames ($2.00 and $3.00) and a video store with a big selection. We took note and planned to go back before we left Quito. We walked towards the bus stop and stopped at a restaurant near our hotel for “almuerzo”, good cheap lunch, which was $2.25, cheaper than we have seen so far, but lots of competition that I guess brought the price down. We had a great lunch considering we were taking pot luck.
OLD TOWN, QUITO
We got to the bus stop, a main hub, a few blocks from the hotel, but at the bottom of Chile Street, a street that went straight down. It was not too bad walking down, but I was not looking forward to walking back up at the end of the day. Leo had to ask questions about where to stand to get the bus, where it went and how much to ride.
We were going to the Military Academy to see volleyball games. Leo’s former volleyball player from Venezuela was coaching the Venezuelan Military Team. They haven’t seen each other in years, so Leo was looking forward to seeing him. We had to take 2 buses to get there. The bus driver has a helper on each bus to take the money, so Leo gets that person to tell him when we are at our destination. They were always very helpful to us. This day we were lucky to get a seat on the bus. When we got to the military academy we had to give our passports to the guard at the front gate. We walked to the gym which was a healthy walk away. The team that was playing against Venezuela was Kazakhstan in Europe. Venezuela won in 3 games. I was surprised that there were about 8 people from Venezuela cheering. We sat with them and cheered with them.
After the match, we took Vicente, the coach, to dinner. He suggested the Mall nearby, that always has restaurants. We went outside the gate and waited for a bus. While we were waiting, a man stopped and asked if he could give us a ride. Vicente was in his volleyball coaching uniform, so the man really stopped for him. He took us to the Mall and talked with Vicente about the games. We walked around the Mall for a while. Leo and Vicente talked, while I looked around. Like at home, most of the Malls have the same stores. I went in the home store, but it didn’t have anything I hadn’t seen in the other Malls. We ate at Tony Roma’s. I had BBQ chicken. Leo and Vicente had pasta dishes. They talked with each other. Leo translated when Vicente was talking about his life, but once they started on volleyball they talked for hours while I just sat there. Believe me, I didn’t want a translation, I have heard it all a time or two before. I was very tired from the trip and lack of good sleep, so I was a little cranky, so sitting there was a bit annoying, while at the same time I was glad Leo could talk with his friend. Finally, we said our good-byes until tomorrow and we got a cab to the place we usually change buses, the Ofelia terminal. We got our bus back to the Old Town terminal. It was dark at this time, so we hailed a cab to take us a few blocks. And besides, I was very glad I did not have to climb Chile Street. When we gave him the street name and hotel, he acted stupid and didn’t know where it was. Luckily Leo has a good sense of direction and he remembered street names from our walk, so Leo said he would tell him where to go. We quickly realized that the guy knew where to go. He let us off at the end of our street and we walked a 1/2 block to our hotel. Now after two cabs not wanting to take us to our hotel, I was beginning to get a little worried about our safety. We had a very good, but tiring day on our first day. We went to sleep very quickly.