The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo


This blog entry about the events of Monday, October 20, 2003 was originally posted on October 21, 2003.

DAY 2: I actually slept for a good nine hours, three times more than my usual back home.  Outside I could hear the pitter-patter of rain and cars and trucks whizzing by.  I just laid there for a while until I leaned over and noticed I had a roommate in the lower bunk across the way.  “Hello,” he said.

His name was Yigal, and he was an Israeli — and an almost dead ringer for Steven Spielberg — who had been traveling through Ecuador for the past month.  Ironically, my first day was his last day.  We went down for our complimentary breakfast and talked about our travels.  He told me about his past travels in India and Nepal and raved about the Galapagos.  He suggested the cheapest way to see them, is to just fly to the main island and book from there.

It was raining pretty steady, so I decided to stay in and chill out and acclimatize to the altitude.  Quito is about 9,350 ft. above sea level, and I didn’t feel like risking altitude sickness like in a previous rushed trip to Peru in 2001.  I vegged out for a couple of hours in an internet cafe down the block and wrote the previous blog entry.

The rain was slowly dissipating, so I headed out to the streets to explore.  Quito is divided into the New Town and Old Town, and I just walked around the New Town for now.  It was more of less a modern town, business buildings erected in the middle of old Spanish colonial ones, complete with plenty of air pollution.  It wasn’t helping my acclimatization very much.

After about half an hour of aimless wandering, I gave myself a mission:  to find the Continental office and get my ticket refund.  I asked for directions in a Hilton hotel, but I didn’t understand any of it.  I asked the man to write the address for me, which he did.

I wandered without a map, following street signs.  I saw many parks, churches, office buildings, a political protest rally…you know, the usual South American things.  I stopped in at a “Fono Pollo,” which seemed to be an Ecuadorean version of America’s Ranch 1 chicken stands.  I saw a poster that an arroz con pollo was just 99 cents and went to order it.  The cashier said something in Spanish that got me totally confused, but I tried to play it off like I didn’t understand because the baby nearby was crying too loud.

I wandered around some more, cluelessly looking for Continental Airlines’ office like a mouse in a maze.  I asked for directions and never understood what people told me, so that was a big part of it.  But I managed to figure out through body language, where it was.  And luckily for me, the Continental agent spoke English, and she refunded my credit card for the full amount.

Then I got lost.  I wandered and wandered just to see things an explore the New Town.  I walked and walked and walked, up hills, downstairs, through parks, passed stores — all while adjusting my lungs to the unavoidable bus fumes.  Pretty soon, it was getting darker and all the shops were closing.  I looked at my maps and couldn’t figure out where I was and I got lost some more.  Well, I thought I was going in the right direction until I noticed the same part three times and realized I was going in circles.  Luckily I found a trolley stop and figured that I was in a neighborhood way off the map in my guidebook and found my way back to the gringo district.

Throughout the afternoon, pretty much everyone I asked directions from was confused all the Hell why a guy that looks like me doesn’t speak Spanish.  I can only assume that in all my constant sayings of the phrase no entiendo (I don’t understand), people must think I’m deaf or a retard or something.
So there was a building for a Spanish school on my way back the hostel, and I went into check it out.  I figured if I walk the walk, I might as well talk the talk.  The woman there explained the way it works: $4/hr for one-on-one sessions, complete with homework and books, and a free total Spanish-speaking workout during a city tour.  I have the option to live in with a family for total immersion at night.  And, if I buy 20 hours, I get free laundry service! 

With that said, I signed up for 10 day course, four hours a day, with flexible days.  At $160, it’s a budget breaker, but a total investment since I’ll be in South America til March.  Plus, someone else will get the honor and privilege to wash my dirty socks and get rid of all my shit stains in my underwear.

BACK AT THE MAGIC BEAN, I was walking to my room and met a Swiss woman named Gordana who has just arrived and was looking at the flyers for things to do.  I ran some errands for a little bit, but then ran into her at the cafe downstairs, who was with another traveler from Chicago named Josh, who was waiting around in Quito until he got word via e-mail that his service work in the Galapagos would start.  I went and grabbed Yigal, and we all went out looking for a cevicheria for dinner.

Gordana was obsessed with her Lonely Planet guide and was determined to find one of the recommended places.  We wandered down the streets and kept on getting lost with her directions.  And whenever we’d finally find a place in the book, we’d find out it didn’t exist anymore, or that it was closed for a private party, or that it had become a furniture store.  “Great, we’ll just eat office furniture for dinner,” I said. 

Eventually we settled on any old cevicheria — which was nothing shorter than the truth, because it tasted like old ceviche.  I ate it anyway realizing that most of the food was actually cooked by heat.  (Ceviche is a popular South American dish with raw seafood that is “cooked” by the acidity of lime juice.)  The four of us spoke of our travels around the world — each of us had already done some extensive traveling.

Josh and I hit, this weird blend of a bar/coffee shop/club/internet cafe, to do some work.  Basically, they play loud techno clubby music while people check their email and drink, which is quite a concept.  But I couldn’t hook up my camera and went to my regular spot.

Back at my hostel, I was more or less going to chill out in the lounge.  There I met Judy, an American girl from New York who had also just left her job to travel, right after her birthday.  Small world.  We got to talking about this and that until she was ready to pass out from her crazy three layover flight.  Her bed is the lower bunk underneath me, and she warned me about her snoring.

Next entry: Back to School

Previous entry: The Ups and Downs of Air Travel

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Comments for “The Ecuadorean-Looking Gringo”

  • hola:)

    wow! what a deal.. spanish lessons AND laundry. what kind of combo is that?? do they test you?? if you get a word wrong, do they only wash one sock, or something? ESO SI QUE ES? hahaha!

    hasta luego…

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  07:31 AM

  • Then I got lost. I wandered and wandered just to see things an explore the New Town.

    “an” should be “and”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  08:50 AM

  • Ok, glad you got the $$ back.  It would have pained me if you didn’t. 

    Good posts so far!!

    PC, Ant, and Dusty

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  05:51 PM

  • 2 days in and still no postcard!

    The familya sez hola!

    btw, is Dora the Explorer popular down there?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/21  at  08:12 PM

  • I have not watched any television so far.  I did see people watching the World Series in a gringo bar on a big projector screen though…

    Posted by Erik  on  10/22  at  03:05 AM

  • hey, try not to get too lost, always be careful….......i know of papaya net, i used to go across the street from it to use the internet. it was called el maple…......

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

Previous entry:
The Ups and Downs of Air Travel


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