Virgin by Day, Witches by Night

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This blog entry about the events of Thursday, October 30, 2003 was originally posted on November 01, 2003.

DAY 12: Spanish class with my tutor Rosa was going pretty normal — we reviewed some more helpful verbs — until she mentioned a card game called Cuarenta, which is Ecuador’s national card game — so much that every year there are championships for money.  For the whole second half of my morning class, I asked her to teach me, and we just sat at the table playing cards.  We got weird looks from the other students and professors who were still trying to figure out the difference between the two verbs for “to be.”  It was a perfect way for me to “learn my numbers.”

For our weekly Friday class trip, all the students and teachers from morning and afternoon, including Anita from Sweden and Pamela from London, hopped on a bus for El Panecillo, the big towering mountain in the Old City that overlooks all of Quito.  Mike, My Spouse In Air Quotes was there too, having enrolled at the same school for his first day, despite his attempts to find a Spanish school where you could learn new vocabulary while lifting weights.

“Dude, that girl is hot,” Mike said on the bus.  He was referring to a young-looking Ecuadoriana.  “What age would you give her?”

“Twenty-four?” I guessed.

“Ha, you’d give her twenty-four.  You want it to be twenty-four.”

“Yeah, it’s hard to say around here.  I wish I could give them all twenty-four — like those girls in Catholic school uniforms everyday at two.”

“I know!  And they travel in packs too!  It’s like a Britney Spears fantasy every afternoon.”


THE PUBLIC BUS DROPPED US OFF along its route about 3/4 up the mountain and we took a minivan taxi for the rest.  At the top of the Panecillo stands La Virgen de Quito, a towering statue that overlooks the city.  We managed to bargain down a group discount for entry into the statue, despite the ticketers disbelief that Navid was a student.  (His stammering in Spanish gave it away.) 

After taking pictures of the view from the highest point in Quito and a group picture, we toured around this exhibit on the mezzanine level about the history of the Panecillo and the Virgen de Quito.  The guide conducted the presentation in fast-talking Spanish, only to received confused looks and respectful “Si“s from the class.  After ten minutes, she opened up the floor to questions and I think I spoke for everyone when I simply asked, ”¿Que?”


WE ALL HOPPED ON A PUBLIC BUS back to the New City.  I sat with Pamela La Tarta, for whom it was her last day of school.  She told me her situation — the same situation of many that I’ve come across — how she was sick of her job around the age of 30 and just quit to travel for a year.  (Sounds familiar.)  She was leaving Quito and headed south, so we swapped e-mails and made tentative plans to meet up in Bolivia. 

Pamela and I were joined by My Spouse In Air Quotes for lunch.  We went to an Italian place in the backpacker district where Mike ate the unwanted crusts of pizza from my plate after his arroz con pollo.


I DIDN’T HAVE CLASS in the afternoon, but I went back to school anyway.  Rosa told me that she had the whole afternoon to kill in the city before hopping on a night bus for Cuenca, and that we’d try to get a game of Cuarenta going.  We played in the school lounge and got some other unoccupied professors to join in.  Not only did I learn how to play the four-player version, I learned from Fernando, co-owner of the school, how to play with style and how to use trash talk to psych out your opponents despite their pleas, “Pero, soy tu profesora!”


“WANNA GO MEET SOME ECUADOREAN GIRLS?” my Aussie “brother” John said immediately went I got home.  He was originally going to leave for Cuenca in the morning for Cuenca’s independence weekend celebration, but decided to stay another night for Quito’s Halloween festivities. 

“Sure.”  And the three of us left.

The Ecuadorean girls John spoke of were four girls he had met in the popular touristy city of Baños a couple of weeks before.  They were all law students at the University in Quito.  We met them at a cafe, where John immediately went to go help one of them write an e-mail in English to his buddy — leaving the other three with me and Arne.  (FYI:  Arne is the German “brother” formerly known as “Ani”; he read my blog today and corrected me.)  I suppose the natural course of Spanish language education is to go from verbs to flirtations, and we tried our best.  We got mixed results, but they liked us anyway.

My surrogate brothers and I took a break from the Ecuadorianas to go home for our family dinner with Blanca.  Arne ran into Luisa, the German-speaking Russian girl from the day before, and brought her along.  She wasn’t hungry, but joined in on the Spanish dinner conversation while sipping on a cup of colada morada, Ecuador’s traditional festive drink, a sort of thick sangria made with blackberries and other fruits and served hot.

After dinner, Arne went off with Luisa, leaving John and I to meet up with the girls.


HALLOWEEN WAS ADOPTED BY ECUADOR, solely as a reason to party and act silly like the Americans.  I mean, why not have an excuse to dress up five-year-olds as the killer from Scream and have them demand candy from door to door?

Earlier in the year, the president of Ecuador, in an effort of national pride, declared that Halloween was prohibited in the country, as it is the holiday of another country — the overpowering country that nobody likes that starts wars based on hunches at that.  But everyone in Ecuador made a fuss about the decree.  In fact, Blanca teaches eight-year-olds in the day and and thought a declaration to prevent little kids from having a little fun was ridiculous.  Mike once said, “What, they can adopt our money but not our customs?”

However, two days before Halloween, another branch of government agreed with the public and said Halloween was okay.  I suppose that makes it a “treat” and not a “trick.”

Halloween wasn’t nowhere as big as it is in New York’s big parade where you can dress up as a nutsack and give away peanuts, but it was a big deal nonetheless.  The sidewalks of Avenida Amazonas, the main street near the backpacker district, were filled with people in costume and vendors selling masks and those hairband things that make it look like you have a knife stuck in your head.  John and I witnessed all this as we made our way to grab a drink while waiting for the girls.  Two of the girls eventually came over and told us to meet them at the Mongolian grill down the road where they were still having dinner.

At the time that this blog entry was written, I didn’t recall the names of the girls.  I’m really bad with remembering names.  If you were ever introduced to me at a party, I’d most likely tell you right off the bat, “I probably won’t remember your name, but it’s nice to meet you.” 

One of the four girls went home, so I only had three names to hear and forget immediately.  No matter, it was Halloween and one girl was wearing all black with black eyeliner.

“Soy una bruja,” (“I am a witch”) she said.  “Somos las tres brujas.” 

For the purposes of this blog, I will refer to them as The Three Witches.


THE THREE WITCHES WANTED TO TAKE US OUT DANCING and lead us out of the comforts of GringoLand and into Quito’s real nightlife.  We walked to a nightclub district in another area of the city without a white person in sight.  John stuck out like a Big Mac at a vegan convention. 

We went to Papillon, a trendy-looking night club popular enough that there was a line out the door about 40 people long.  We managed to make our way to the front, where the bouncer checked our IDs.  He looked John and me over real quick and denied us.  The Witch In Black pleaded with the bouncer, but he said it was because our boots were too sporty-looking — even though he had this look on his face that said, “Dude, you fucking gringos don’t belong here.” 


SINCE MY FIRST NIGHT IN QUITO, there was always loud music emenating from a particular night club in the center of the backpacker district — til the wee hours of the morning on any day of the week.  The club is No Bar, and it is arguably Quito’s most popular nightclub whether you are a gringo or not.  I’ve heard it’s so good an any given night, so much that it should be called the “Yes Bar” if you know what I mean.

We waited on line for only about ten minutes and paid the $3.50 cover — which included a free drink.  Inside, it was a cross between a really wild frat party and a rave, all inside a space reminiscent of a VFW hall.  In the center of the club was a bar/stage where various bartenders in costume entertained the masses by throwing out prizes, juggling with fire and passing around a beer funnel.  (“Once it hits your lips it’s so good.”)  Girls dressed up in nurse outfits with garter belts danced on top of the bar and it was very much like Comedy Central’s The Man Show.  Coming from New York, the whole thing was no big deal to me, but I was wowed when they set the bar on fire.  I’m told this is a nightly activity.

John, The Three Witches and I danced the night away as the DJ spun a mix of every 90’s American hip-hop, Latin Dance, and trancey hard house.  Glow-in-the-dark light sticks were passed around and I broke mine to make a pen with glow-in-the-dark ink, hoping it wasn’t toxic.  (It’s not, is it?)  We drew hearts and shapes all over each other in the dark.  The Shorty Witch signed the breasts of The Witch With The Cleavage.

At the end of the night, The Three Witches walked us to the end of our block.  The Witch With The Cleavage’s Spanish was a bit too fast for my comprehension — or was it the beer? — but I managed to figure out by use of hand gestures that she wanted me to call her.  Either that or she was telling her right ear to hang ten.

John and I got back to the house as Gabi was just getting in from work.  I asked John for the number of The Witch With Cleavage, but unfortunately, he didn’t have it like I thought he did.

The next day, John hopped on a bus for Cuenca.






Next entry: Erik Vs. The Volcano

Previous entry: The Secret of My Success




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Comments for “Virgin by Day, Witches by Night”

  • are all ecuadorian girls law students? wasn’t erika studying law too??

    party! sounds like you had a blast w/those local witches.  if you ever find her #, you two can play cuarenta together!

    question…does your host family get paid or do they volunteer?? they feed you, do your laundry… how does that whole thing work?

    by the way, “My Spouse In Air Quotes” & “La Tarta” links brought up the blog & not the photos…

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  03:10 AM


  • How long are you staying in Quito?  And just wondering what’s next on your agenda?  I was checking out your itinerary but there are no names.  I’m bad with geography.

    Anyways, I think I just might meet u up in Morocco with Reese, if she’s down.  These adventures are too exciting to pass up.  smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  01:19 PM


  • Elaine:  “Play Cuarenta”...is that what the kids are calling it these days?  wink

    The links to the previous blogs are intentional, in case someone is new to all this…  send this around and get more people!  My Spouse in Air Quotes in the group picture; its hard to see, he’s in the back on the left with his face turned towards the right.

    Rina:  I am in Quito until the end of this week to absorb as much Spanish as I can before really starting my travels…  I won’t say where I’m going next…  it would ruin the surprise of the daily blog!  See you in Morocco hopefully!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  04:14 PM


  • “I see Blue, and he looks GLORIOUS!”

    I love the Old School ref Erik!

    Reminde me to hook up with the Three witches when I get to Quito… That night looked life fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  11:31 PM


  • This is turning out to the the most expensive dating service I’ve ever heard of.

    Posted by Matt  on  11/02  at  01:41 AM


  • Hey Erik!! good treking so far. Don’t forget to make a pit stop at the red light district to get cleaned up. ..LOL

    Posted by Allan  on  11/02  at  04:22 AM


  • That statue was in this great sweeping chopper shot at the end of “Proof of Life”. It looks so beautiful from up there… and the urban sprawl, wow.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  07:49 PM


  • Your eyes are lookin’ mighty low in the last pic.  How many beers are we takin’?

    Sounds like a good time for all.

    Cheers.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:03 PM


  • Christy: never saw Proof of Life…that was here? 

    Socalgirl:  ha…everyone thinks i looked trashed in that pic…thats me before beers!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:09 PM


  • Yep. Any Russell Crowe flick is a good flick in my book. That movie was pretty terrifying, tho. About your everyday guy who works for a big company, sent to SA to build a dam. He gets randomly kidnapped, and then the fun begins. Russell plays the daring and dashing negotiator, Meg Ryan the beautiful but guilty wife… wishing her husband was back safe, secretly hoping to boink Russell. Moral of the story… blend in baby, blend.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  08:37 PM


  • the virgin mary…......
    our statue of liberty, from my understanding, the area aorund the virgin mountain, is not such a great place to be at, especially at night…......always go in groups…......like in any place, there are some dangerous places, dont get me wrong, ive been there as well and nothing happend.  Dont know my ecuadorian history that well but el panecillo was a battle ground back when god knows, with la libertad, which was a fort or something.  U could actually see la libertad from the picture you sent of the virgin mary, its to the right hand side bottom portion of the picture, if u have a chance, go check it out, it gives u a great view from the south (el sur) of quito

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  11:27 PM


  • holler at at the shorty witch….she can be your ecuadorian alyssa milano from “Charmed”....

    no more istanbul in march…. voy al encierro en julio….algunos pescados quieren ir conmigo?  si ustedes quieren ir al encierro conmigo, entonces llevar sus nikes…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/04  at  01:23 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Erik Vs. The Volcano

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The Secret of My Success




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