Back to School


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, October 21, 2003 was originally posted on October 22, 2003.

DAY 3: Yigal managed to leave for his 3am flight in the middle of the night without waking me or Judy.  The only thing that woke us up was the sun blaring through our window around 8am.

Judy and I had breakfast at the Magic Bean Cafe downstairs.  It didn’t occur to me until then that “Magic Bean” was a reference to the fact that it’s a coffeehouse as well, and I mean that in the coffee way, not the Amsterdam way, so there was no waking and baking.  I introduced Judy to Josh and Gordana, who were at the next table.  We all ate our free jugos, cafe con leches y “toasted bagels.”

KNOWING THAT I WAS SPENDING $160 ON CLASSES, I tried to figure a way to cut my day-to-day costs.  I went looking for a cheaper housing in the area (close to school).  There were tons of hostels in the gringo district, but none of them really shouted out at me, and in the end, I decided to stay at the Magic Bean because their price factored in breakfast which some others didn’t.  Besides I already had three friends there.  But when I went to extend my stay, they told me they were booked, and I had to check out, at least for the night.  Later I found I was replaced by a Swedish girl.

I wandered across the street to Crossroads (picture above), built out of an old Spanish colonial house.  It’s fairly nice, and all for $5/bed/night.  They have kitchen facilities for visitors, a TV lounge, and a rental library with fairly recent video releases for only 50 cents.

I bumped into Judy on the street who admittedly was looking like a total gringo tourist with her beach hat, stripped shirt, neck pouch hanging around her neck and a big map of Quito stretched between her arms.  I was expecting Chandler Bing to pop out of the bushes and say, “Could you BE anymore of a tourist?”  I told her I was moving, so we exchanged e-mail address.  She went off to shop for a Spanish school that suit her.

It was a beautiful day in Quito, the sun shining, sky blue, temperatures in the 80s F.  Funny, unlike America, no one was wearing shorts. 

I wandered around looking for an eyeglass case since I forgot one, and managed to use my broken Spanish at an optician’s store.  The guy there was also surprised I didn’t know Spanish, but I told him I was going to learn.  Or rather, I figured he was asking me, “Are you studying Spanish?” and I simply said, “S’.”  I pretty much say that word to answer any question.  If someone asked me in Spanish if I wanted to be locked in a closet with 100 rabid monkeys, I’d most likely say, “S’.”

I wandered around the city to kill time, stopping by the Iglesia de Sainta Theresa where I sat inside for a while.  I had lunch at some place with almuerzas, the “lunch of the day,” which many restaurants have.  Basically, for a buck fifty, you get a two course meal that they made for the day, no matter how random the combination.  I had oxtail soup, followed by a spaghetti dish with a sort of tuna casserole sauce on top, with a side of rice.  Random?  Sure is.  But cheap and filling.

I went back to my new dorm and met two new (German?) roommates: Lars, who was outside the room smoking a cigarette, and Matt, who came in and started talking to me in Spanish.

“Uh, no entiendo,” I told him.

“Damn, I was hoping I could practice my Spanish.”  He told me that Spanish classes are great, but you really need to live with someone for total immersion.  Hostels are full of backpackers who more or less speak English, French or German, and there is no practice.

The rest of the afternoon, I went to the Beraca school for my first four-hour class.  It’s not so much a class; it’s a one-on-one tutoring session.  My teacher was Carmen, the woman I had booked with the day before.

Each session is held in a little closet-of-a-room with plexiglass windows to help combat the inevitable claustrophobia.  Basically, it was a police interrogation room, and the interrogation began with the basics, ‘Como te llamas? and ‘De donde eres?

The one-on-one tutoring was great.  It more or less was structured like any old class — first salutations, then verbs — but it was very loosely structured, and Carmen and I went off in tangents.  Casual conversation spawned more vocabulary and more nouns, and it was a great way to learn.  In the end, I came out a lot more confident with the language, and just after the first day.  Another couple of classes, and I’ll be ready to call Erika (aka “the hottie”) and wow her with my Spanish.

During our fifteen minute break, I met another guy from another interrogation room, Sean, a Canadian from Ottawa.  He told me about his experience with his live-in setup by the school.  He said that if and when I decide to do a live-in, I’ll get to shop around for a family, interview them, and get to either deny or accept one depending on whether or not I like them.  (Having said that, I’m sure every 14-year-old in America with teen angst is looking up flights to Ecuador right now.)

I went back to my usual internet cafe, yard@net, where I bumped into Judy, who gave me unfortunate news:  Rerun from What’s Happening? died!  I chatted online with Scott, my traveling IM buddy who had been traveling through South America for the past three months, and he broke his unfortunate news: he was back in Wisconsin.  He was envious of me being back in Quito and told me about all the cool bars to hang out in. 

And so, the internal debate from years ago arose in my head again:  go out partying or do homework?  Yup, I’m back in college.

I decided on the latter because Scott also told me the importance of knowing Spanish at the border crossings — and messing around with immigration isn’t something I want to fuck up since I look Latino anyway.  I went back to my hostel to study — but ended up vegging out in the TV lounge with my roommates, watching Loco por Mary (There’s Something About Mary) on CineFOX.

Yup.  It’s just like college.

Next entry: Old School

Previous entry: The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo

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Comments for “Back to School”

  • School!??! noooooo. Man you should have told me your spanish sucked. I would’ve taught you everything you needed to know over a couple of red devils. Loco por mary? LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  08:31 AM

  • what’s happening?!

    i can’t believe rerun died. how’d you hear that all the way in quito?  sad.

    “tu es animal”...  that’s all i learned in spanish. 

    good luck w/the lessons. 

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  03:28 PM

  • Yeah, how did you hear about rerun, it was just in the news this morning!

    Start posting in Spanish so we can see how you’re doing. Plus you get practice verbal and written!

    Piensa usted que Elaine esta celoso?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  04:26 PM

  • los fotos son bonitos….damn it! dude, where’s my camera?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  05:19 PM

  • ?Tiempo espa?ol de la prueba!  Realmente tengo gusto de las fotos dentro en su diario diario, ?l ayudo a tener una representaci?n visual a mirar cuando usted habla de lugares que usted est? viendo.  ?Soy as? que celoso, deseo el tiempo caliente tambi?n!  ?Gu?rdese, yo est?n pensando en una buena misi?n para usted, quiz? algo con las SERPIENTES!   

    If you need the English version, email me.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  05:30 PM

  • How do you ask for a red devil in spanish?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  05:31 PM

  • oxtail soup??? man, you’d eat anything! Did they serve that w/ fried shrimp paste?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  05:32 PM

  • don’t ever buy those little conversation guide books… they seem like a good idea at the time, but when you’re actually IN a conversation, they never have ANYTHING you need translating..

    me gusta tus rabanitos!! (it means i like your radishes… but if you say it sexy enough it sounds like a come on)

    that’s one of the few things i remember from spain..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  06:28 PM

  • da me un diablo rojo ahora puta!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  09:47 PM

  • Thanks for the comments guys…keep em coming!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  09:49 PM

  • guess what?  it’s nothing new, terence is drunk at work again…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/22  at  10:56 PM

  • there’s only one phrase that you need to know… donde esta las chicas con pingas! wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  01:39 AM

  • love your blog…looking forward to all your adventures!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  02:35 AM

  • Thanks melisa, fwd the blog to your friends!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  03:49 AM

  • It’s past my bedtime, but I had to check to see how you were doing.  So far I can’t stop laughing.

    When in doubt,

    It comes in handy when speaking to the in-laws!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  05:45 AM

  • Hey ERT,

    I’m really enjoying your Blog! You ALMOST have a cult follower in me… I’m just missing the “Time warp, and the ladies underware!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  09:59 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 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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Next entry:
Old School

Previous entry:
The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo


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