Saturday, December 20, 2008

What the Smell Is Goin´On?

No doubt, this is one of those rather random blogs that may just leave you shaking your head after you read it...for such as life are those moments that don´t necessarily leave us affected in any other way, only in the occasional moment that hindsight comes again to remind us of why we took the time to write about it in the first place, or in this case for the reader, well, maybe I´ll let you choose the appropiate word. Yesterday, as we were preparing to ready the kitchen for another night of dishing out burgers, booze, and music to the plethra of tourists that would soon make their way through the doors, Jacob, Joel, Xavi, and I noticed a rather odd, and somewhat disconcerting smell making it´s way through the entire hostel. Now, moments earlier, our resident Spanish teacher, Maribel, had commented that she noticed what she thought was the smell of marajuana lurking about, but when we investigated, we all decided there was something else definately a´foot´making itself known. Then we realized that her Belgian student was conviently around every time we noticed the odor. After some more investigating, we finally all figured out that it was him....more specifically, his socks! Apparently, he´d been wearing the same pair underneath a pair of sandals(another no-no), for more than a week, and no intention of changing them any time soon. Eventually, we may have to start fining him daily if things don´t change. Now, because I am writing this in my blog, I had to give him an alias, just in case he tries to add me on facebook, in which case he will certainly find this entry. So, if a Belgian guy with sunburn, and a bad case of style and sock odor asks...My name is Paco Van Sustran, and I come from Iceland on a scientific mission to study the problem of Volcano water evaporation. I´m hoping this is enough to through him off my cybertrail. Thankfully, he hasnt asked what my name is yet!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Salsa Is To It

So, last night, the gang from our hostel where I am working all got together and went to a local salsa club to have a little fun, and teach the local girls a thing or two about salsa dancing. We all had a great time, but it turned out none of us actually knew HOW to salsa dance. No one was more shocked than I was. But we still had a great time dancing with the locals and just enjoying ourselves. Many of the girls tried to teach Jacob, Joel, and myself how to learn some moves, but it was not going so well, and in the end there were three injuries. Nothing serious ;-). One girl, Carla, was very sweet, and danced with me for a good 20 minutes or so, and I managed to learn some basics. Maybe I´ll try them out next week, we´ll see. Anyway, by the time we left, it was 3am, and most of us were exhausted. But we couldn´t go back until we all had a shwarma from the local place next to the club that stayed open until 5am. Sleep sure felt good that night!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Helping Hand

Today was an interesting day in that even the unusual can sometimes be usual, depending on where you are at. As I was walking back from the internet cafe, a place where the internet speeds are so slow, that checking your email can cost about $2.00, which by the way, I find extremely convienent for the folks running them, I entered into a strange course of events. While crossing a small square near our hostel, I noticed a man laying on the grass unconscious surrounded by two uniformed police officers. At first, I thought he was dead, but then soon realized after listening to the police that he was merely the victim of too many cocktails. Just as I was about to continue on, one of the officers glanced my way and seemed to motion for me to come over. As I approached, I asked him if there was something he needed, and he nonchalantly asked me if I would be willing to help carry our annebriated amigo to the police station. I nodded my approval and began to hoist him up with the help of both cops onto his feet. We then proceeded to carry him about 50 yards uphill to this small doorway that lead into a strangely lit, and cramped room, where we laid him on the floor. The officers then thanked me for my help by offering me a strange, and somewhat awkward 'high five'...something they apparently learned from their years of dealing with American tourists. I left not quite sure of the future fate of our drunken friend, but decided that he was probably better off with two cops then on the ground sleeping the day away. I could be wrong.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Canoa the feelin´

Well, today I take the night bus back to Quito after 4 days in the sun in a town called Canoa. Leaving this place is a little bit of a downer, because it may be the nicest place I´ve been to in quite a while. It was a little like taking a vacation on Gilligans Island, except that they actually had telephones, eliminating the need to talk to my friends through a coconut. The people were very friendly, and they´re were not a lot of tourists. It was a great place to relax and just enjoy the weather. The water was amazing and my friends and I spent much time bodysurfing and boogie boarding. Jacob even tried surfing but that didn´t go so well, but it was fun to watch...sorry Jacob. Another interesting thing about Canoa, is the fact that there are more dogs than people..especially at night when they roam the streets lookin for trouble and a possible one night stand with the mutts from across the way. Jacob, Joel, and I stayed in a hostel called Bambu...and it was great. Hammocks all over the place, and great views of the ocean. Happy hour was from 5-6, and they had some really great food at the restaurant. Who would of thought you could get a great pasta dish in a remote resort beach in Ecuador:) Anyway, not much more to write now, but it´s back to Quito where the journey and adventure continues until we head off to the much delayed trip to the jungle, hopefully within a few weeks. You haven´t lived Ecuador until you can stare a 20 foot Anaconda in the face, and live to tell about it! lol
Caio´for now :)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Behind Bars

Well, today was one of the more difficult days in my life as far as experiences go. My friends Jacob, Joel, and I visited a womens prison here in Quito. Things are much different here than in the US. We arrived at the prison with a bag of clothes to give to the prisoners there. We had no idea how bad things were, and I guess we were slightly unprepared for what we saw. The clothes were accepted with more gratitude than we could have imagined, but we sonn started to hear the stories of the women staying there. In Ecuadors prison system, you must pay for everything you have in the jail. If you have no money or no family to give you money, you have no bed, covers, soap, etc. NOTHING...the only thing you get for free is three bowls of rice a day, with a tiny portion of chicken. We talked to one girl who was from Estonia and was in there for 7 years, because her boyfriend planted a small amount of marijuana in her bag. Most of the women in there were in there because of drugs or prostitution, and were serving multiple years. If you have money, things are much easier, but those without money are left to basically fend for themselves. It´s a terrible balance that exists, but justice is a much different word here. The other problem is the massive corruption among the prison guards..Its even so bad that the poorer inmates often serve lengthier sententces just because they lack the funds to bribe the proper offiicials. We are taking a collection of money, clothes, and bathroom supplies at the hostel here, and are making a return trip next week to bring them some more items, hopefully to brighten there day if only a little. We are also planning a trip to the mens prison in the near future, and from what we here the conditions there are even worse. I just wish there was more that we could do. It really makes you appreciate the freedom you have, and the simple things in life that they may never get to experience again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hail Yes! as I am writing this, I am witnessing the biggest hail storm I have ever seen! Hail pellets the size of marbles, and I fear that if I go outside I may be killed or maimed. That said, I shall regress to earlier yesterday to tell you about a very cool trip to one of the larger parks in Quito called Parque Carolinas. It was huge, and it took us a good 30 minute walk to get to our intended destination...a reptile house full of all the creatures we love to hate. Nothing but snakes, turtles, frogs, lizards, etc. It was really neat, and I got to learn all the Spanish names of all my favorite snakes. Something else that was a little humorous was that at the time we were there, a local upper elementary school was having a class trip, and the place was loaded with about 30 students, alll in perfectly pressed uniforms. Here´s the humorous part. Everyone of them was more interested in us than in the displays. The teacher was obviously frustrated, and tried numerous times to get their attention, but all they wanted to know was why there were 3 gringos hanging out in a local reptile house in the middle of a park. And for some unknown reason, they were convinced that I was an American police officer, and my friend Jacob was a famous Reggae singer..(he has dreadlocks)...anyway, we had a good time and got some nice photos of the park, which I will post later. Oh, and also, along the way there we encountered 3 girls from a school nearby who were doing a class project and wanted to interview us..not sure why, they just wanted to know what we were doing in the park...(again with the strange Gringos hanging out of place) it was funny though..I told them I was thinking of buying the park and turning it into the largest McDonalds in Ecuador...they weren´t sure if I was joking or not..what a fun day we had! Caio´for now!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sick in Quito!

OK, so one thing is for sure. Getting sick in a foreign country is not something I would recommend. Actually, it comes right after getting mugged by a gang of angry girlscouts on the list of things one should never have to experience. To make things worse, it may have been one of the most incapacitating colds I have ever had. By the second day, things were starting to spiral downwards. If you can imagine a sore throat so bad, that every attempt to swallow was first prepared for by bracing myself against the bed as if I were in a Boeing 747, and the pilot had just announced to prepare for a crash landing. If that weren't bad enough, I was so severely congested that those two little portholes to respitory freedom, might has well of been for asthetic purposes only. Of course, this just forced me to breath through my mouth, which caused it to dry out even faster, and thus, making the countdown to the eventual swallow come even excruciatingly quicker. Throw in a headache that even makes an entire bottle of Tylenol look appatizing, and three nights of sleep totaling about 17 minutes, and hopefully you can get a little bit of an idea how this going. By the third day, it was time to make a trip to Quito's Military Hospital emergency room. Surprisingly, this was one of the bright spots in my little adventure. I walked up to the window, gave them my passport, paid $12.00, and waited about 30 minutes to see the doctor. He was a very kind man, who took the time to really look me over, take some tests, and make sure it wasn't anything more than a cold. He gave me a prescription for a combination of 5 different drugs, that I took to the pharmacy on the way home. The total cost for all the medication...$26.00 dollars. This all happened yesterday, and today I am feeling much better, just as the doctor promised. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I'll be as good as new. Now, I just hope that this is the last time I have to go through that again. The lesson learned here is that when I am in America, and I get really sick, I 'm going to fly to Quito, and save a couple hundred dollars or more!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Last night was the 'official' grand opening of the new restaurant here in Quito. I served burritos con carne with rice, beans, and guacamole. Tonight we are having Vodka ala Penne with marinated chicken breast. For dessert, homemade brownies and ice cream.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My New Job

Wow...I can't believe it's been almost a week since my last post. Things have been so crazy here, just adjusting to all the new surroundings. I am starting to get used to and enjoy the local foods and quisine. One of my favorites is the local lunch cafe that serves a nice portion of chicken and rice with beans for only $2. After one week, the surroundings are becoming more familiar, and I am able to cruise around town without getting lost..Yeah! The local buses are great, and they will get you to just about anywhere in Quito for about 25 cents. The funny thing is, that during certain hours, the bus becomes so crowded that people are literally pressed up against each other like sardines. What a way to emerse yourself in the culture. So, anyway, I start my new job officially tonight as the cook in the new kitchen at the hostel where I am staying. It works out good, because the room and board are free, and all I really need money for is basic transportation, and extra curricular activitities. I've met a couple of nice guys from Sweden who I plan to go to a salsa bar with tonight. The local women love to dance with the Gringos, and try to persuade them to buy drinks for them all night. How can you pass up on that offer. Spanish classes are going very well, but 4 hours a day, and a couple hours of homework each night can be a little daunting, but fluent Spanish is just around the corner! Yo espero estoy listo in un poco semanas! OK..time to sign off...see ya soon!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Otavalo Market

Yesterday we went to the largest market in South America..It was an awesome experience. Mostly indiginous people selling their goods and milling about. It took 2 hours to get there by bus, but it was well worth the trip. I went with my friends Jacob, Joel, and Maggie, and we spent the entire day there, and I cooked an Italian dinner at the hostel when we returned. Tonight, we are having a Reggae party on the roof of the hostel, and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes until after midnight.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time For Spanish

If you happened to read my last entry, you saw that I was planning to go to the city Banos. Well, I am still going, but I have rearranged my schedule. The current plan now is to stay in Quito for one month while I take advanced Spanish classes. My class starts tomorrow, and I will be attending for 20 hours per week for 4 weeks. The goal is to be perfectly fluent by the end of the classes. Communicating at this point isn't too bad. I am much better at speaking than comprehending. Even though I am comfortable in conversations, my vocabulary is somewhat limited, so I find myself missing a lot when I speak with the locals. At the end of the month, I'll head to Banos for at least 2 weeks. I'm finding out there is even more there than I thought. You can rent a bike for 5 dollars for the day, and just cruise around the mountains, and explore in complete safety. And because of the altitude, and relatively small size of the city, it's nearly impossible to get lost, but I plan on testing that assumption. They also have this bungy jump thing that flings you across the lake and into the thermal HOT springs. These springs are heated by the volcanic activity around the city, and remain at a constant 95 degrees. You can pretty much soak the day away. They even have a cable car that goes between the two mountains..not so sure about that though..ugh! Oh, I forgot to mention, today I climbed to the top of this clocktower in the heart of Old Town. It's one of the oldest churches in Quito, and offers incredible views from the top. It was only 2 dollars, and I hung out for a couple of hours, and had a little lunch there. It was really cool. The photos on this post are the ones I took there. Bye for now :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Add VideoWell, after a couple of days of unwinding in the capital city, I am planning to head out tomorrow to a city called Banos. It's probably the most beautiful, and safest city in Ecuador. There are plenty of trails available for hiking, and the thermal springs offer a place to just soak in hot water while waterfalls cascade over you. Not so bad. I've been told it takes a couple of weeks to really explore everything there, so after this week, I may book a week stay there and just relax and take my time and enjoy it. You can take a 3 hour bus ride there for about 3.50. I'll make sure to get some pictures. Bye for now :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Starting Out In Quito

Well, even though there are 2 other posts on this blog, this is my first post from Quito, Ecuador itself. When my plane landed and I got into the airport terminal, I really thought that I had arrived at the craziest, most chaotic terminal I had ever been to in my life. You would of thought that people were evacuating a major catastrophe. Maybe they were and I just haven't found out what it is yet. After about an hour of terminal torture, I finally made it to the taxi line, and took a thirty five minute ride to my hotel for only 8 dollars. The same ride in the states would have cost about 25 or more. By the time I got to my hotel, it was almost midnight. (My plane landed at 11:00pm.) It was a little disconcerting when the reception didn't answer right away, and I was left standing in the middle of a strange city with three bags and no bed, but thankfully after another buzz on the door, she finally came to my rescue. The room was really nice and quaint, and very comfortable. The downside is; one channel in English, undrinkable tap water, and the very infamous inability to flush toilet paper in any toilet in South America. They just stick a wastebasket by the comode..I'm sure you can do without any additional commentary on that subject. But the good news is I get to watch "The Simpsons" in Spanish. The voice overs are hilarious. Anyway, tomorrow I will probably head to the BIG market and stock up on food. They have a nice kitchen here where you can keep your food and cook whenever you want. It's really convienent. Well, I have to sleep now, and they shut off internet at 11:00pm anyway. Bye for now :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

International City Cost Guide

Thought this was cool...some of the current food prices in Cuenca, Ecuador. If I eat nothing but beans and potatoes, I may be able to survive a few years on $100.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Getting Ready!

If everything goes according to plan, I should be leaving for Ecuador around November 2008 :)

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