Where to begin..
My journey started in Atlanta. Where I met a man from Oregon. We were sitting next to each other at the gate to Ecuador, and we started chatting. It turned out he works for the dept. of defense, and is going to the jungles of Ecuador to work with large oil companies as a helicopter and aircraft mechanic. Before Ecuador he was working in the southern Philippines, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Peaking my interest we ended up talking for a while because right when we were about to board, the airline official announced that there was volcanic activity and an earthquake around the Quito airport so they had evacuated the airport and were inspecting the runway for damage. They started handing out free snacks and told us to sit tight..things looked ominous.
After talking with the DOD man (name purposely left out) about things such as American imperialism, third world countries and the Iraq (ongoing) war, I ended with an inquiry.. Who do you really work for? I asked.
He paused for a moment, and said that is complicated to answer because in places where he has been sent, everyone has their fingers in the local economy. The American government, oil companies, large automobile and aircraft corporations and the local bureaucrats.
Luckily we were only about two hours delayed and all was well as we headed out over the Gulf of Mexico to South America. My flight was filled with conversations with evolutionary biologists who were headed to the Galapagos to follow in the footsteps of Darwin.I also sat next to an elderly Ecuadorian couple, who instantly took interest me in when they saw me sitting by myself reading a Chilean novel. They first asked me where I was from in Ecuador, and when I responded I wasn’t Ecuadorian their eyes grew wide, and the husband looked me in the eyes and asked if I was Korean. The wife, Maricela slapped her husband on his shoulder when he asked. I laughed and said I was from Los Estados Unidos and they ooed and awed and instantly took me under their wings.
When we landed outside of Quito, around midnight I let out a gasp as the plane ducked below the thick clouds to reveal the looming Andes mountains snaked with the orange glow of winding roads. After going through customs, it was almost 1 in the morning. Me..being me.I had not taken the recommendations of the hotel to book a taxi beforehand. I was planning on taking a bus then walking! However at 1 am, to my dismay I discovered the buses were no longer running. Maricela and her husband, Francisco offered me a ride to my hotel. The hotel, turns out to be a beautiful, white barn renovated with tile floors and large sunny windows. The owner, is an American from Cleveland! He just moved here because he fell in love with it, and he is currently trying to convince me to do the same… it may be working.
I will try to paint a picture with my words, photos will be uploaded once I get to the islands tomorrow! I am an hour outside of Quito. Nestled in the Andes mountains. Surrounded by strawberry fields and coconut trees. In fact, I just bought a huge bag of fresh picked strawberries for one dollar. This small pueblo consists of a park, where I sat and read for about 3 hours today in the warm equatorial sun. I went on an hour long walk, was greeted by some stray dogs, and mooed away by some large dairy cows who were not happy with me taking close ups.
I had lunch with the manager of the hotel, the American who now lives here. We ate tamales and talked about South Korea and what a great place it is to teach English and Spanish! (Teresa you will be so excited when I tell you everything he had to say about it!) He told me that most people who are committed enough to live abroad for more than a few months, like me end up living here.. and I must say gardening, playing soccer and managing a small bed and breakfast where I get to meet travelers from all over the world, sounds more conducive to my personality than working in the USA at any job.
For the rest of my peaceful afternoon, I plan on buying more strawberries.. and writing more in my journal. There are also raspberry bushes lining the cobble streets, along with strange orange fruits that I cut open with a rock and just ended up with smelly sticky fingers. (Dan you would love the feeling of living off the land here and it is also the perfect spot for a garden!)
I have a ride to the airport tomorrow at 5 45 am! Off to the islands where I am told I have to find a captain of a boat on a large dock where I should take lots of motion sickness pills and expect a funny ride. I will send updates from the island in the days to come!
Missing you all! Besos y abrazos