Ecuadorean Jedi


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, November 05, 2003 was originally posted on November 06, 2003.

DAY 18: Back in the days when I had a 9-5 American corporate job, I was only allotted the miniscule vacation time of two weeks.  Two weeks, compared to other countries, is an embarrassingly short period of time and I would always use these two weeks to rush through a destination, doing one thing after the other after the other to pack it all in.  I slept very little in attempts to make two weeks seem like three.

But there was always a guy in the hostel dorm who would never been in a rush.  Usually it was a British or Aussie guy travelling for a year or looking for work, and some days he’d just sleep in or just run errands in the day.  I never understood how he could do that — there was so much to do!  So much to see!  So much to experience!  My God I’ve wasted too much vacation time wondering about this guy’s situation! 

However, now that I am free from the cruel, American two-week restriction, I can just sleep in or run errands while I’m away.  I’m THAT guy. 

SO, FOR MY LAST FULL DAY IN QUITO, I just took care of some unfinished business.  I spent a couple of hours in the German computer nerd’s internet cafe, uploading a video file for a client in New York that had been rendering on my laptop the entire week before for 170 hours.  Then I did some research on programming Cascading Style Sheets for another project I have for a client in Boston.

I was walking down the Avenida Rio Amazonas when I heard whistles coming from above.  It was Rosa and her fellow profesora Areitha sitting out on the school’s terrace, enjoying the temporary sun.  “Ey, chico!” they called.  I went upstairs and joined them.

In just 40 hours of class time — and 10 additional hours playing Cuarenta — Rosa and I had become friends.  We sat and talked on the terrace and it was just like our friendly conversations in class, only for free and without the annoying interjection of verb conjugation charts.  Rosa and Areitha vented about their jealousy of foreigners, how they can travel whereever and whenever, while most people in Latin America are stuck, having to worry about visas and the like.  I almost felt ashamed of myself for being so lucky.  However, they did speak of their positive influences of all the foreigners they teach.  Foreigners showed them that unlike Latino families, it’s just not cool to live under your parents’ roof until the age of 40, labeling the orange juice in the fridge.  Rosa thought it was important to find yourself in your twenties, and felt like she was on some sort of a crusade to change the Latino mindset.

I WENT SEARCHING for an adapter for my digital camera’s MemoryStick, so that I could use it in a standard 3.5” floppy drive.  I’ve discovered that not every internet cafe has an available USB port, so I thought it was best to get one before moving on.  I searched all over, looking for the “Centro Comercial” that Blanca had told me about, only to realize that “Centro Comercial” wasn’t the name of a particular mall, it simply means “mall.”  In a city with five or six of these, simply asking around for the “Centro Comercial” was like asking “Where is the mall?” in the northern New Jersey or Los Angeles suburbs.  The only thing more inane would be asking “How much is this?” in a 99 cent store.

I eventually found Orve Hogar, a electronics superstore that had what I was looking for.  It was behind a display case, so I had to get a salesman to help me.  At over $100 — which is like being $500 — the salesman was confused as how a local kid who looks like he’s in high school could afford such a thing.  Everything became evident when I stammered in my Spanish and flashed my American passport for the credit card check.

ORIGINALLY, I DIDN’T PLAN ON SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN QUITO, but it seemed to be the perfect training ground to acclimate to the South American language, culture and food before really starting to travel.  As this was my last full day in Quito, I decided to challenge myself with the ultimate test:  take a public city bus by myself without the help of a professor. 

The buses are confusing since there are so many that go to different destinations, but all stop at the same stop.  It’s even more confusing when you don’t know exactly those destinations are and you still can’t tell your left from your right without having to thinking about it, even in English.  Most of the gringos avoid the bus because its confusing and just hop in a cab.

But I managed to find the right bus, pay the fare, and sit next to a local guy, without any strange looks.  I felt like I had just completed the training with Yoda on Dagobah and was ready to move on.

I stopped into school for a quick game of Cuarenta (picture above), and then bid Rosa goodbye with the traditional kiss on the cheek.  The apprentice had left his master.  I had gone from Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo to Ecuadorean Jedi.

ARNE WAS NOW LIVING IN A HOUSE HOSTEL with a Texan guy he knew, who apparently was a super stud and knew everyone around — including all the chicas that knew how to party.  He had been described to me as the type of guy where if you’d just mention his name, you’d be an honored guest just by knowing him.  He’d been living in Quito for two years, of which a good majority of that time was, as Arne described it, spent “drinking and fucking.”  If there was any one way to party your ass off for a final night in Quito, it would be with this guy.

I went over to the hostel/house where Arne was staying at.  Forrest, the Texan, was sitting in the living room just chilling out watching MTV-Latino.  “Hey man!” he said in his native Texan accent.  Arne did the introductions and Forrest, a ball of Texas energy, went off about this and that and how are you and where you been and yadda yadda yadda.  If English wasn’t my first language, I probably would have only caught about three words of it.  He told me the tentative plan, how we’d meet up at some pub called The Turtle Head to meet up with people before heading out to a club at ten.

“There’s gonna be some Dutch girls and some girls who just came down from San Francisco and some Ecuadorean chicks too,” he said like a pimp.  “It gonna be a good time, man.  Hold up, lemme call my boy.”

He picked up the cordless phone, switched to Spanish in a Texan accent and tried to get his friend to come out and party like Vince Vaughn in Swingers. 

“Bullocks!” he said, using the British expletive in a Texan accent.  “He’s down in Argentina.  It don’t matter ‘cuz my boy is coming down after class, and it’ll be good.  You guys hungry?  ‘Cuz I can just call my boy up and he’ll send stuff over, no problem.  Cheeseburger, double meat, double cheese, double bacon, whatever.”

“I’m okay,” Arne said.  I explained that I was still having dinner with my family.

Forrest dialed a new number.  “Hey man! I’m getting hungry over here, send me over something to eat…” 

I wasn’t sure if I had to kiss his hand and call him the Don.

Forrest gave me the his phone number and told me to call him up later after I had dinner.  I went back home just in time because Blanca had locked herself out.  She had been in a conference all day discussing the teacher strike and was running late. 

For The Last Supper, we had corn and potato soup followed by baked fish.  Gabi had gone out to a concert with her friends, so it was just me and Blanca.  For our final dinner conversation, she told me about the one time a Japanese student lived at the house and introduced her to wasabi, of which she spread on like ketchup while the guy was in the kitchen.  Needless to say, she is no longer a fan of Japanese cuisine.

I CALLED UP FORREST but he wasn’t there.  So I just walked down to The Turtle Head, a couple of blocks away from GringoLand to see if they had gone there already.  I walked into the Scottish pub and was surrounded by gringos.  Surprisingly I fell out of place.  Who was this local boy coming into the bar?

I broke the mystery when I just spoke in my regular American accent.  “You know Forrest?” I asked the barkeep.  He was a tough looking Scotsman with his arms crossed.

“Forrest? Forrest Gump?” he said in his heavy Scottish accent.  I smiled.

“Nah, Forrest.  Guy from Texas,” I said.  Surely just mentioning “Forrest” would get me somewhere.

“Ha ha ha… Run Forrest, run!” the Scotsman said.  Let me tell you there is nothing more entertaining that seeing a big burly Scotsman making himself chuckle by saying “Run Forrest, run” in a thick Scottish accent.

“I think I know him,” a nearby barmaid said.

“You seen him around here?”


I walked back to GringoLand.

JURGEN WAS STANDING ON THE CORNER of Calama and Mera in front of, looking as confused as a long lost German shepherd — one with a ponytail at that.  “Have you seen Arne?” he asked me.

“Uh, I think he went out with the Texas guy to a club.”

“Oh really, he told me that would meet here around ten.”  It was 10:05.  “I was hoping there would be live music at the bar over there, but nothing tonight.”

“Oh, I don’t know then.  I’m pretty sure he went out with the Texas guy.”  I explained how I had just come from The Turtle Head and couldn’t find him either.  I went into to check my email while Jurgen stood out there on the corner some more, waiting for Godot.  After about ten minutes, he came in and told me he was going out for a beer.

Realizing that we had both been stood up, I joined him.

We went to Choco Loco, the bar we always went to since it had the cheapest prices on beer in the neighborhood that we could find.  We sat over a couple of Pilseners in the brisk, cold evening air.

“I don’t think they are coming,” he said.

And so, for my last night in Quito, I just hung out with Jurgen in a bar.  I didn’t know much about him anyway since he was always just speaking German when Arne was around.  We talked about travel and such. 

“In Germany, we only get four weeks of vacation.  Four weeks is nothing,” he said.

“We only get two weeks.”

“That’s less than nothing.”

Around midnight, all the bars in GringoLand were closing.  This surprised me because weeks before, all the bars were open all night and every night was a party night.  I thought that perhaps it was the sudden drop in temperature at night, or perhaps too many people back in school or something.  Quito nights were over too.

I bid Jurgen goodbye and walked back home.  I worked on a bit of freelance work before turning in.

Next entry: Movin’ Right Along

Previous entry: Everything That Has A Beginning Has An End

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Comments for “Ecuadorean Jedi”

  • Forrest sucks as much as Texas….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  04:50 PM

  • I want to be “THAT GUY!” but i just signed up to sit in a cubical and get a measly 2 weeks vacation :( it shouldn’t be too bad tho, I did tell them that I needed 2 weeks off already!!!

    I liked your stories in Quito, I’ve told everyone here in CO. cannot wait for the next adventures! N:)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  05:18 PM

  • sometimes.. there’s just not enough rocks..

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  05:24 PM

  • Good bye Quito. I feel like i know you personally.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  06:55 PM

  • ahahaha….Choco loco bar, funny.  My email address in yahoo is chocoloco7.  grin 
    Hey, you should post more pics!  I’ve been saving some (from your biking trip) for my screensaver! 
    So where you off to now?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  07:47 PM

  • Erik, I know I’m the last person you probably thought you’d see a comment from.  But damn, nice job dawg.  This will probably be one of your best experiences as a travel writer.  Dude, I’ve gotten heavily into writing…...poems still.  I’ve been chilling with a writer friend of mine.  She’s really good.  We been doing daily writing exercises and all.  I sorta wish I had listened to ya before we lost touch.  Update from the U.S.  The Matrix 3 - only comment:  Matrix 1 would’ve been enough.  SOCOM 2 is out, but of course not into it.  Yo, I’m sorta in a band.  I’ve been writing songs too man. Hey, enjoy your experience dawg.  Writing is a beautiful thing!!  Peace out.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  08:45 PM

  • it?s choclo loco, that means crazy corn. m?s o menos. well, it was a nice evening anyway. cu

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  08:54 PM

  • So the gang here at PH is wondering where you’ll be off to next… the addiction is growing, Warren & I are hooked and passing you around like dubage. Oh, your travels will be like a box o’ chocolates… just don’t get hit in the buttocks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  09:43 PM

  • just saw the elf…go see if you can on the road…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  09:55 PM

  • more pictures of girls, please

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/06  at  10:08 PM

  • Hey Erik,

    Great site, I just caught up with all the blog entries. I have gotten a few people hooked on your site too.

    I always knew you would go places!

    Posted by Warren  on  11/07  at  12:20 AM

  • More girls please. And yes, I feel like you’re bidding farewell to a long time travel buddy (Quito). Having been to South American with ya, I can almost imagine what it’s like taking a stroll down Avenida Rio Amazonas. The adventure continues…

    ps. You name your backpack yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  12:49 AM

  • Can’t wait for the next stop!  It’s addictive - 74 hits so fat today.  Don’t like the first set of summaries and averages - too complicated.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  02:38 AM

  • hey erik hope your trip down to Ba?os was fine. just hanging out at papaya’s. hopefully will catch up with you sometime ma?ana. see you in Ba?os

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  03:13 AM

  • awwww.. bubye Blanca y Quito! Off to ‘our’ next adventure! Gonna go diving in the Galapagos!?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  03:19 AM

  • no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers & dirty looks… translate that into spanish! so school is over & adios to quito, huh? i wonder where you are off to next…

    your first two paragraphs… THAT SOUNDS TOO FAMILIAR>> I HEAR YA!!!!! wish i was THAT girl. teach me your tricks…

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  03:36 AM

  • Wait, when did you have a 9-5 American corporate job?  I mean, I was your boss for a time there and I didn’t come in until 11 or so.

    Posted by Matt  on  11/07  at  07:06 AM

  • Texas is a no-good state. First they give us the Bush family, and now this “Forest” mo fo that stood you up. Stupid Texas.

    Hey Erik - Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is having a media BLITZ lately - the album/dvd came out this week and he seems to be on tv everyday - I’m going to try and digitize some of the stuff I managed to record so you don’t miss out.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  11/07  at  08:07 AM

  • thanks for the comments guys…

    i hope to keep up the steam…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  02:22 PM

  • This comment posting thing is a bit weird. LOL.  Ok, what I was trying to say was: My last day in corporate America is Wed. Quit my job to do freelance writing/photography.

    One step closer to seeing the world!

    Posted by Christy  on  11/07  at  03:05 PM

  • Oh and I found this site because a friend posted a link to the “would you” video on a photo board.  It was awesome.  And YES I WOULD!

    Posted by Christy  on  11/07  at  03:08 PM

  • I’ll miss Quito and it’s characters…
    Blanca, Gabi, Arne, Rosa, Navid, spouse in air qutoes…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/07  at  09:56 PM

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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.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Movin’ Right Along

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Everything That Has A Beginning Has An End


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