Old School


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, October 22, 2003 was originally posted on October 23, 2003.

DAY 4:  I woke up an hour before class and was off to take a shower, when I ran into Anna, this girl from Nebraska that I met in the TV lounge the night before.  “Wanna get some breakfast?” she asked.  I saved the shower for later and went out with her.

We went wandering for a really cheap breakfast place.  “Most of the places in the gringo district are pretty expensive,” she said.  “I’ve been going to places about four blocks away where it’s a lot cheaper.”  We found a small sit down restaurant where a full breakfast — including bread, eggs, coffee and juice — was only a buck sixty.  “It’s funny when you think a whole two dollars is too much for a breakfast,” she said.

Anna was blonde and really tall (perhaps 6’ 2”?), which here in Ecuador screams “rob me.”  She had been extensively traveling Latin America for a while, but the one time she let her guard down on the Quito city trolley, her passport was stolen.  For the past five days, she’d been trying to recover it, and for the most part it has been a nightmare.  After el desayuno, she went off to get a new passport photo while I went to class.

I had a different tutor this time since the one from yesterday, Carmen, had to tend to a special Japanese student.  No matter, I had Rosa, a Quito-native who actually thought the 70s-80s temperature was too cold for her.  The two of us had our four-hour session in a bigger interrogation room that wasn’t so claustrophobic.  We worked on more verbs and continued to converse — or at least tried to.  One conversation involved her telling me how she had parasites in her digestive system.  ‘Como se dice ‘That’s a little more information than I needed to know.’?

AFTER CLASS, I was feeling a little more confident about my Spanish, and so — by popular blogfan demand — I decided to call up Erika, the “hottie.”  I used the pay phone in the hostel and dialed the number she gave me. 

“Hola.  esta Erika?”

That was about all the Spanish I had prepared. 

The voice on the other line went off in Spanish like a rocket.  Now what I learned from this is, if there’s anything harder than trying to communicate in Spanish with people who assume you speak it in person, it’s doing it on the phone.  When it’s just voices, there’s no body language or frowns, or my stupid, confused looks for them to realize, “Hey, maybe this guy is deaf.”

I managed to realized that I wasn’t talking to Erika, or her husband, but her mother, which really spawned a tricky situation.  I didn’t know if I should have hung up the phone just then, but I tried to stick with it.  With the help of the young, bilingual hostel guy Carlos, I managed to give Erika’s mother the number of the hostel, and hoped for the best.

LARS THE GERMAN was in my room, just hanging out, looking quite bored.  He did a lot of that; he had been living in the hostel room for eight weeks, waiting on a job offer as a German tour guide, and was pretty much over all the touristy things to do.  He told me about the Old City, and so I decided to go there solo, to check out the vibe.  For an adventure, I took the city trolley, the same one that Anna got pickpocketed on.  I figured I could blend in better than any 6’2” blonde gringa.  However, I looked like a total dumbass when I unknowingly inserted my 25 cents in a newspaper vending dispenser instead of the turnstile.

The trolley was pretty much as crowded as a NYC subway during rush hour.  We were all packed in like sardines, and I could definitely see how easy it would be to get pickpocketed with all the pushing and shoving around.  I felt a tug on my bag for a little bit, but realized it was just a little girl playing with the hanging straps. 

THE OLD CITY (picture above) is the old colonial city of Quito, sandwiched in between two mountains, each with a grand religious artifact on top.  I went to the top of one mountain, the Basilica, an enormous gothic structure towering high above the city.  I bought an entry ticket and explored on my own.

I was all alone as I wandered the massive church.  I explored the mezzanine level, and went out to a terrace and accidentally walked in on a couple making out.  As I left to leave them alone, a clueless Japanese tourist walked in on them. 

On the third floor, I noticed an open door and a sign and pathway that led you over the old church stone ceiling.  The path was made of rickety wood, and the room was dark, and I felt like Indiana Jones at the third challenge in The Last Crusade.  I took the Leap of Faith — only this leap of faith had safety ropes.

On the other side of the Survivor challenge was a ladder that lead up to the roof, and on the roof, there were two more ladders that led up to the Bell Tower.  It was windy, and the ladder was steep, but I climbed on up, as acrophobic as it was. 

On my way back down and out the cathedral, I accidentally walked in on that couple making out again.

THE OLD CITY differs from the New City in that is architecture is more colonial Spanish.  Narrow cobblestone streets created many hidden alleys, and I could see why everyone suggests not to be there at night.  But, it was mid-afternoon, and I went walking around.  I saw the Iglesia de Santa Barbara, the Grand Plaza, and the Plaza Santo Domingo.  The Spaniards sure did have hard-ons for plazas. 

I HAD TO GET A NOTEBOOK FOR CLASS and so I went looking for a place where I could just pick one up, on my way back to the hostel.  I felt a little awkward about my Spanish, particularly in a neighborhood far away from the gringo one, so I was sort of nervous about asking for un cuaderno.  Every time I’d see a stationery store, I’d walk in, hoping the notebooks would just be in a pile where I could take one and go to the cashier without having to say anything, but all the stores I saw had all their notebooks behind the counter, or in a glass display case.  I felt as awkward as a teenage boy on his first trip to buy condoms.

The day was ending, and a lot of stores were closing and I still had no notebook.  I had no choice but to go to the next stationery store and get one, with awkward Spanish or not.  Luckily, I found a store where the supplies where out in the open and so, I only had to say three magic words:  Necessito un cuaderno.  It was an easy transaction — until the cashier needed a price check on a cheap pen I bought and I confused her all to hell with my Latino-looking gringo ways.

One day in the future, like the legend of El Mariachi in a Robert Rodriguez film, the people of Ecuador will speak of the mythical Latino Who Couldn’t Speak A Word of Spanish.

THE REST OF THE NIGHT was pretty chilled out.  I had dinner at my little local place that none of the gringos went to and had a HUGE two course meal for $2.50.  I hung out back at the hostel with the"regulars,” including Dave, this American guy who was in Quito for a while teaching English.  We all sat around and made fun of that movie Vertical Limit which was on TV.  I also got around to some homework with some help from Anna who, despite her 6’2” blonde gringa presence, was fluent in Spanish.

Erika the hottie never called.

If you’re diggin’ the blog, please let me know by posting comments below!

Next entry: Class Trip, Road Trip

Previous entry: Back to School

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Comments for “Old School”

  • call erika back and see if she or one of her amigas wants to make out in the basillica…that would make a pretty good pic…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  04:12 PM

  • erik, you’re livin’ the dream. i’m enjoying your global trip journal and livin’ vicariously through you. good luck with the hottie. -paul

    Posted by paul  on  10/23  at  04:13 PM

  • ?Cu?nto para el cerdo frito de Guinea?

    sans pix would be a crime.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  05:37 PM

  • for a guy who walked around in a nutsack outfit, you sure are hesitating about speaking up in spanish. who cares if you don’t pronounce it right, at least you tried. i am pretty sure none of those other tourists can do it either. if it comes down to hand gestures, so be it. the language barrier doesn’t stop immigrants in nyc, why should it stop you in ecuador? go for it and make us gringos proud!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  06:10 PM

  • Hope you remember to take a plastic grocery bag with you so you look like
    a local… From the sounds of it, you might want to look like a tourist!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  06:32 PM

  • WOOHOO, you’re book was shipped today from Amazon!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  06:42 PM

  • Quito looks amazing! When I get to South America, I’ll have to make it there!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  06:50 PM

  • don’t give up on the hottie, in some cultures, it’s a sign of respect for husbands to offer their wives.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  08:42 PM

  • I think you should try to hook up with Anna. She sounds hot.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  08:54 PM

  • Hah!

    You can travel around the world but you’ll find the same priorities everywhere :p

    Posted by mark  on  10/23  at  09:20 PM

  • yes.  call her again!  erm…“ll?mela otra vez”  (holler at my 9th grade spanish!)

    Posted by hanalei  on  10/23  at  10:28 PM

  • yea, ask Hottie out to lunch and get: una mesa para dos! a table for two… you know the rest wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/23  at  11:53 PM

  • so you’re traveling the world, blah blah blah, BUT YOUR going to MISS the SEASON PREMIERE OF 24! it’s THIS coming tuesday smile this thought just occured to me!!!

    now there’s a blog you have to keep up with wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  01:19 AM

  • erik…..go for the hottie….or someone for that matter….enjoying your blogs…sure puts you into a far off fantasy land .....definately better than painting this damn house…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  01:38 AM

  • Erik,
    Your Spanish is probably better than a lot of Ecuadorians’ grin.  Also make sure that you tell everyone that you think Peru is the best country on God’s green earth, it will make you popular with the chicks.

    Have fun bro.  Have you considered applying for work at Harcourt when you come back?

    Posted by RichCruz  on  10/24  at  02:15 AM

  • a week ago we were partying it up at GOOD WORLD! time flies.

    if anyone makes fun of your spanish… tell them they have parasites in their digestive system! that’ll show them! smile

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  04:03 AM

  • Like reading your blog. Run through the streets in your nutsack outfit. Watching I love the 80’s, Boy George is messed up. Still mourning over rerun from What’s Happening.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  04:47 AM

  • Anna already went her separate way towards the coast, entonces no es possible.

    As for the hottie, I’m not sweating it, I’m sure there’ll be others.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/24  at  05:43 AM

  • did go to the churches, cool the church San Francisco near the presidential palace is where they did a seen form proof of life, hey eric, did you go to La mitad del mundo? its the palce where the equalateral line crosses, it s a nice place to visit.  By now am sure they have esplained to u that quito is divided into tree places, el sur, el centro, el norte, you are living somewhere in el norte, by la amozonas right?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/02  at  11:35 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 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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Next entry:
Class Trip, Road Trip

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Back to School


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