The Secret of My Success


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, October 29, 2003 was originally posted on October 30, 2003.

DAY 11:  I think that I’m learning Spanish a lot quicker than the other students in school.  I don’t know if it’s because I took French in high school and the language is very similar, or because I come from Filipino heritage and Tagalog borrows many words from Spanish.  All I do know is that most students I’ve spoken to are doing way more written exercises in class (and for homework), while I’ve moved on to more conversational work.

As the days go by, my tangents of conversation get longer and longer and get farther and farther away from the usual getting-to-know-you-traveler-chit-chat.  My Spanish has risen to the level where I can — very slowly mind you — talk with my tutor Rosa about such topics as the underground women’s liberation movement in Latin America and parapsychology.

“Did you learn anything new today?” I asked Pamela, an English girl, at our coffee break.

“I learned how to say, ‘Soy una tarta,’” she said.  “I am a cake.”  In Spanish, this is the equivalent of calling yourself a retard.

THE SECRET TO MY SPOKEN SPANISH IS SIMPLE:  when using a verb, always mumble the conjugation at the end and let the context of the situation define it.  In Spanish, its common to drop the pronoun (I/You/He/She/We etc.) in a sentence because the different conjugation defines it already.  Mumbling the verb is particularly handy when you ask your house host, ”¿Puedo lavar mi ropa?” (“Can I wash my clothes?”) and she hears ”¿Puedes lavar mi ropa?” (“Can you wash my clothes?”) and is kind enough to take your dirty socks and underwear and wash it for you.

AFTER A NAP, I went out for a walk.  It was a sunny day for a change, and I wandered the New City, near the Casa de Cultural Ecuadoriana (picture above).  I went out to a city park, where I just sat and read a book, while watching a couple of school boys play a game of soccer.  On my way out of the park, I saw three teenage boys peeing in a little ditch, right in front of everyone, without a care in the world.  And you thought America was free.

I wandered into the Centro Comercial Espiral, this shopping mall downtown that designed as a spiral.  It was sort of like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, only with stores that sold clothes, bootleg DVDs of movies that are still out in theaters, and those coin-operated kiddie rides you’d see in front of a WalMart — one of which took the form of an imitation Mickey Mouse bent over like he was in a gay porn, waiting for kids to “ride” him.

BACK AT THE HOUSE, I noticed my clothes hanging out in the backyard and mumbled to Blanca, ”¿Pued…ooesss… traer mi ropa?”  I said the last part of the verb like a tape recording gone bad.  It didn’t really work this time, but she led me outside where my clothes were hanging.  Half of them were still wet, so I left them.

At dinner, I met a new housemate, an Aussie named John, who was one of last week’s house guests back for an extra day.  His passport had been stolen on a bus ride and he just need a place to crash while he tried to get his documents together.  Blanca was more than happy to let him stay another night.

So far this has been the fifth case of theft I’ve hear on public transportation since I’ve been here.  But everyone that I’ve spoken to that got stuff ripped off always blames him/herself.  “If I had just locked my bag, it wouldn’t have happened” is usually the thing they say when slapping themselves in the face.  A lot of it has to do that they are gringos too I think.  Perhaps my looks will come in handy after all.

At night, Ani and I went out drinking with our new one-night Aussie brother.  We went out to some bar and met up with a new group of compadres:  Ani’s German friend Jurgen; Bettina, from Cologne, Germany; Tonya, from German-speaking Vienna; and a Russian girl who spoke German.  If there’s anything that Quito has more than Latinos, it’s Germans.  They are everywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I opened up a refrigerator and found a German guy in there passing me out a beer. 

John and I just sort of sat there while the German words flew, but luckily everyone knew English and we got along together.  I was thinking that perhaps after Spanish I should learn German, but then again, the only German you need to know to get by is “bier.”

Next entry: Virgin by Day, Witches by Night

Previous entry: My Big Fake Gay Wedding

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Comments for “The Secret of My Success”

  • go back and take of pic of the kiddie ride…i wanna see….have fun biking this weekend….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  10:15 PM

  • Happy Halloween! The parade in the city isn’t going to be the same without you!

    hey, are you even remotely excited about your trip yet?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/30  at  10:23 PM

  • ok so it wasnt just my imagination telling me that germans are EVERYWHERE in this world!  your adventures are kicking ass….i cant wait to hear about your journey to iquitos!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  12:19 AM

  • Are you still going biking this weekend? If you do, snap some pics!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  01:47 AM

  • HAPPY HALLOWEEN! how do you say that in spanish?

    just got in from the city.. went to the parade again. SOOOOOO FUN!!!  of course, w/out you & maurice this year, it wasn’t as NUTS! smile

    GUESS who i ran into while walking back to the path… kaity tong from channel 11!  superstar.

    any big festivities over there for day of the dead?? i don’t know much about that holiday. fill me in. i am cake. soy una tarta..haha! i like that.

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  06:58 AM

  • STAY TUNED KIDDIES…  i’m backed up on writing as I had a helluva day and a helluva night yesterday (halloween)...  all good stuff.  i won’t have time for updates until after i go volcano biking today!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  11:20 AM

  • Boo - Now I have to study since there’s nothing to read.

    Can’t wait to hear and see pics from your biking excursion.  Have fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  01:55 PM

  • Got my GlobalTrip travel mug!!!!! only thing is that there’s some kinda gunk under the cap… yuck!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/31  at  07:11 PM

  • transvesite hookers of avenida Foch
    this should be the title of your next entery- boy are they scary or what-especially on halloween night!
    hope you had a grand time volcano mtn biking. I actually woke up at 7 am & thought of joining you, but the bed was just too damn comfortable!. see you around gringo town ma?ana

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/01  at  01:50 AM

  • did u go to the other malls, el jardin, el bosque, CCI shopping, Equicentro shopping??????

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/03  at  12:43 AM

  • Awesome blog - I happened upon it from the bootsnall site and have been enjoying reading it! Have you used Let’s Go travel guides at all? You’ve mentioned that the Lonely Planet guides have had stuff wrong… I’m wondering about the Let’s Go Guides. I prefer them and am wondering if I’m smokin’ crack or something. Thanks for the stories - tres fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  07:59 PM

  • NOELLE:  glad to like you hear enjoy the blog… now fwd it to your friends!  Yes, i’ve used the Let’s Go books before…  they are just as good as LP… from my experience, don’t treat either of them like a Bible…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/09  at  09:21 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:
Virgin by Day, Witches by Night

Previous entry:
My Big Fake Gay Wedding


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