Mon 20 Jul 2009 27 °C
We returned to Quito after thoroughly enjoying our Galapagos tour, ready for a rest and also sick and tired of traveling. It was rather strange actually. We were both completely fed up with the tourists we were meeting and we were both dreading continuing our travels through Ecuador and into Peru. You see, Peru is a gringo hotspot because it’s where the infamous Machu Picchu is found. There are zillions of tours that travel throughout Peru and we had encountered many tourists who told us of the inflated prices and infestation of tourists found in cities such as Cuzco (the start off point for many Machu Picchu tours). As it was, we couldn’t walk more than two blocks in Quito without running into other tourists.
Luckily we were staying in a lovely hostel where we could rest and take our time deciding what we wanted to do next. That’s when it came to us: Our decision. We looked into our hearts and listened to our guts and realized we didn’t care if we traveled more in South America – especially in Peru. More important than that, we realized we were missing Tango and wanted to return to Buenos Aires to dance. However, we ARE loving the warmer weather found in this part of the continent (Buenos Aires is in the midst of their winter) and we had read that Ecuador could be a good and cheap place to study Spanish. With that, we booked a flight to return to Buenos Aires on the 5th of August from Lima, Peru and we researched Spanish schools found on the coast of Ecuador. A last minute decision brought us to Manta (pop. 230,000) for a little over three weeks.
Before we continue with our current events, let us tell you what felt like a life-threatening moment. We woke up one morning in Quito and Jorge kept rubbing his neck. He kept repeating, “I need to take a pill.” K said, “Stop rubbing it. It’ll be fine.” K was thinking about Ecuador and the weather and said, “Isn’t it strange how it’s the dry season, but it’s completely cloudy every day?” Jorge didn’t understand so K repeated again. When Jorge still didn’t understand what K was saying, K got really worried. The worry intensified when Jorge was still rubbing his neck, but kept saying, “My leg hurts.” He looked very confused and wasn’t speaking properly or with ease. At this point, K started crying and became extremely worried. She went downstairs, crying, to ask the hostel owner for help. He called a taxi to take us to the hospital.
We were very fortunate that we did not have to wait to see a doctor in emergency (completely unheard of eh?!). The doctor performed many simple tests to check his motor skills and then decided to give Jorge an I.V. drip to replenish his fluids, plus a pain killer for the neck ache that was becoming an intense headache, and a head scan/x-ray.
We spent over 5 hours at the hospital (the bag for an I.V. drip takes a couple of hours to empty) and were very happy to find out Jorge was fine and ready to go home. Nothing was found on the scan and Jorge was no longer having problems thinking and speaking. The doctor was fantastic and we were very happy that we were able to understand and communicate a little in Spanish or else this would have been an even more terrifying experience than it already was. It’s possible that Jorge’s symptoms were a predecessor to a migraine (which never came), related to the altitude (2800m above sea level), or related to being somewhat dehydrated. Whatever it was, it was extremely frightening for K (Jorge claims he wasn’t scared at all, but was more upset by how upset it was making K). K has never felt such raw thoughtless emotion in her life and she still has difficulty thinking about all of it without beginning to cry all over again.
After that experience, we only felt more certain that our decision for the rest of our travels was the right one. So here we are in Manta taking Spanish lessons for three weeks. We have four hours of lessons per day, five days a week, from 1.30pm to 5.30pm that we take together (this is considered a group class and ends up costing us $4USD less per hour). Most people take 1-on-1 classes, but we like this format since we can bounce things off each other and be more entertained. We were provided with a (slightly) furnished apartment one block away from the school that we share with one American guy. The apartment is very roomy and airy, we have our own bathroom in our bedroom (with hot water), a decent kitchen area, and a huge balcony. The main negatives are that our bathroom stinks (what else is new in South America?!) and it’s a very loud area (every car driving by sounds like a huge truck). However, we really like it and we especially love that there is tons of space to dance Tango.
Every day, we ATTEMPT to wake up at 9.30am, enjoy a slow filling breakfast, and have the option to walk 20 minutes to the beach, spend about an hour there, walk back, get showered/dressed, and head to class. After class, we can go eat dinner or go buy groceries. After that, there’s nothing much to do in this ghost-town (nor is it safe to be out at night) so we relax and watch one or many of the TV shows/movies that a friend/co-worker was so kind to copy over unto our computer (you rock K.S.!).
The weather is perfect here. It’s actually really hard to believe we’re at the equator because it isn’t boiling hot. Every day is basically the same: 27 degrees, with very little humidity, and cloudy. The sun may come out for a bit in the afternoon, but never lasts all day. This means we can wear summer clothes all day but never get sweaty. It’s the first time in K’s life she hasn’t been cold at any point in a day! It’s awesome!
Manta is a sprawled out city that feels like a ghost-town. It’s not pretty at all, there are more closed-down stores than open ones, and the only saving grace for us is the really big and wide beach (there’s also an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool we want to check out). On our first full day here, we were almost mugged in broad daylight. We were on our way to see the beach and started to walk down a quieter side street. We noticed two guys who obviously knew each other, nod to one another, and split apart. One of them began to walk quickly to get ahead of us while the other stayed behind us. We immediately crossed the street and they both began to follow us across. At that moment, we both spun on our heels and walked the five meters back to the main road. Jorge even noticed the front guy start to pull something out of his pocket (a knife?). This was definitely one of those situations we feel very thankful that we were able to avoid. This was the most threatening situation we’ve been in (far more so than the two guys who were trying to open/take K’s backpack from under her seat on the bus here from Quito), plus this time Jorge had his camera equipment with him. One of he main reasons we were able to avoid it so well was thanks to an American we met in our hostel in Quito. He had told us about being mugged in that exact way in Chicago.
We hope we’ll be able to keep all our things safe in our apartment. We trust our roommate (we think), but we definitely do not trust his judgment. Our second night here he went out and brought home a local one-night stand. We trust no one here and we know that the majority are opportunistic thieves (like the guy at the store last night who decided to jip us 10 cents in change for the popsicles we bought). We talked to our roommate and told him he simply can’t be bringing locals and people we don’t know to our apartment (it’s our request, but it’s actually a stated rule for living in the apartment). He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again… and if it does, we’ll go straight to the school director and we think he’ll be kicked out immediately.
We’ll be here until the 30th of July when we’ll head to Guayaquil for 2 or 3 nights. From there, we’ll take a direct bus to Lima (our LAST bus ride – 24 hours), spend 2 nights there and then fly to Buenos Aires!!!