Monthly Archives: September 2010

10 Strange Things That Have Become Normal While Living in Quito

Yesterday, while I was walking to work, I had a thought: You know what TwT needs? A LIST. That’s right. A top 10 LIST.

The truth is, I don’t feel like the other “travel blogs” out there. They all have tips and advice and top ten lists and contests. I don’t know. I just feel… a little different from the others. My blog is a little more personal, a little less aggressive, less deliberately didactic or authoritative perhaps. I think it is more of a memoirs-meets-travel adventure-meets-here’s a random fact about a cool place I visited-meets-I had a parasite in Ecuador-meets-here’s some travel advice – meets – oh, btw I’m Tavel, and I’m not famous or important or anything, I’m just me. But, I kind of like it that way. For now.

That said, sometimes I just can’t resist a top 10 list. Lists provide instant, fine-tuned gratification. It’s like pouring a bowl of Lucky Charms as a kid and having someone else pick out all your favorite marshmallows (in my case, the rainbows), then watching them put it on a big spoon, lifting it to your mouth, and asking you to open wide. YUM! I literally eat Top 10 lists for breakfast, but I rarely create them myself. That’s about to change.

10 Strange Things That Have Become Normal While Living in Quito

Foot in typical Ecuadorian soup. Photo by Desiree A.

1. Fireworks. At first, I thought it was a May-thing. Then I thought it was a June-thing. Now, I see that it’s an every single night thing. I have never seen so many fireworks in my life. Every evening, I hear them… They start popping, and, although I can’t always see them through the fog, I know they are there. For holidays, soccer games, festivals, and just plain old who-knows-what? This city gets the pyrotechnics poppin’. It’s always a relief when I realize they aren’t gunshots.

2. Snow…on the equator. Every morning, I walk to work. Usually, mornings here are bright and sunny (they often turn into thunder or even hailstorms in the afternoon). As I walk the 25 minutes to work, the sun begins to hit harder and harder, and I LOVE it. Meanwhile, the nearly 16,000-ft high Pichincha Volcano stands to my right, its peak covered in snow. This juxtaposition always fascinates me. It’s like walking through all four seasons every day.

3. Paranoia. The other day, I got in a cab. The driver started talking quietly on a walkie-talkie, then he received not one but two phone calls, and he kept telling the person “I’m stuck in traffic!” I quickly put a $5 bill and my cell phone in my sports bra (I had just left the gym). I accepted my iPod might get stolen and I might get pepper sprayed. I memorized the location of the door handle. I memorized his Taxi number. I thought about getting out in the pouring rain and getting a different cab, but trusted my gut. When we got to my apartment, a car pulled up behind me. I paused before getting out and unlocking my first of 4 doors. A child jumped out. He lives in my building. Whew. Another close call! Or…has this city made us all paranoid?

4. Ponytails and braids…on men. Maybe I kind of like a man with a long black braid these days. When in Rome…

5. Parasites (and stomach aches). “My stomach hurts.” “Awe, I’m sorry. Mine has been hurting for like a month.” “Ick.” “Yeah.” “I have a parasite.” “Oh yeah? I had one of those. What’d you name yours?” “Juan because, you know, it’s one of the most popular Ecuadorian names.” “Nice. I called mine Hugo. Hey, are you going to salsa night tonight?” “Yeah!” “OK cool, see you there.”

6. Paying less than $2 for a three-course meal. Who cares if there is a chicken foot or spinal chord from a cow floating in your soup? That’s what I call a deal!

7. Children playing in traffic. I’m sorry, but there is no way I am going to give a toddler less than three feet tall any money, even if he is juggling four swords. And no, if I am wearing flip-flops, I do not need my shoes shined. But thank you. (Yes, it’s actually really sad, but I’m going to try and stick with being funny-ish.)

8. Public urination. If I see one more Ecuadorian man using a crowded pedestrian street as a urinal, I’m going to… Sigh. Yeah, that’s just it: I’m going to. Gross.

9. Weekend grocery shopping/weekly preparation for the Apocalypse. Every weekend, Ecuadorian families (yes, this includes grandma, uncle, newborn baby, teenage son, etc.) flock to the biggest supermarket they can find, grab two of the biggest shopping carts you have ever seen, and they stock up for what appears to be three years. Either they all own restaurants, or the average Ecuadorian family can eat 50 papayas in one week. And yes, I’m always right behind them in line, with my 15 items, waiting patiently.

10. Andean pan-flute bands playing Simon & Garfunkle’s, “The Sound of Silence.” I’m not kidding. No matter where we are, if a bunch of Ecuadorian guys come in with drums, pan flutes, and other instruments, it is only a matter of time before this ditty comes on. My coworker Desiree gags every single time. I don’t care what ANY of you say… I LOVE a little pan flute in my life (the gringas here hate it. I think it’s because of my Latin blood. Maybe it’s because I grew up listening to it. Who knows?). But I prefer non-covers, with a little more action, like this or something with a lot of drumming. Why do I feel like I’m alone here? Heh.

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Gone ‘Til November

Life in Quito is about to get VERY busy.

For those of you who don’t know, I am coming home in early November. There is so much more to say about that, but there will be plenty of time to GO THERE, so to speak, later on. All I can say is that, when you decide to come home, everything becomes more wonderful wherever you are about to leave. It’s already becoming bittersweet, and while I don’t doubt the decision at all, I am afraid this next month and a half is just going to FLY…

Ecuadorian woman in indigenous garb. Otavalo Market, Ecuador.

Man, what have I been up to?! SO MUCH!

Over the weekend, I ventured to the famous (and overwhelmingly colorful) Otavalo Market. I am NOT a big shopper, and if I do any kind of shopping, I usually prefer to do it on my own and fast. I have to touch everything, and I’m in and out (uhhh, still talking about shopping here). I especially am not into shopping in the scorching sun (as much as I do love the sun, this whole Equator thing is very real), and I am not into being grabbed and lured into every single little tent when I’m just trying to look around. But, that said, it was a very nice trip and a good experience to get out of the big city and over to Otavalo. I had big hopes and dreams of getting friends and family members all sorts of easily-packable presents, but somehow I ended up with a bunch of random wall-hangings (for an apartment I don’t have, mind you) and one necklace of the Inca sun for myself. Oops!

Pile of Yarn and Gringos. Otavalo Market, Ecuador.

After the Otavalo market, we headed to Cotacachi, a place known as “the leather town” here. Now, I usually just stick to Argentina when I want something made out of leather, but this adorable little town in the middle of the Andes also cast some sort of spell on me. I had NO intention of buying anything in leather there, and only had $60 remaining in my left shoe (I had already gone into the right shoe for my other $60 while in Otavalo). Well, we walked into a store, I immediately saw the kind of leather jacket I’ve been looking for for years (a dark brown leather bomber), I tried it on, it fit perfectly, my friends encouraged me to throw down for it, I said F-it, I’ll take it, and that was that. The owner told me it was $78. I told him I had $60 in my shoe (visiting these places, bargaining becomes like a game). I found a couple more scraps of dollars in my bag, and it became mine for $70. Excellent.

Cotacachi Street. Cotacachi, Ecuador.

With only about a month and a half left in Ecuador, I am going to have to be very productive and efficient. I absolutely cannot leave South America without going to Colombia, and yet how can I leave Ecuador without visiting the Galapagos Islands?! I can’t afford either trip, especially with no job lined up for when I get home (YET! Anyone, anyone?! I’m available and on the hunt!), but let’s be honest: it’s not like that has ever stopped me before.

Here’s a song to match my current mood.

Basically, I’m in a good place. I am feeling great about being 27, about still having over a month of South American living, of speaking Spanish, of putting together an Argentina guidebook before I leave (this involves reading over 900 pages of writing in the next 2-3 weeks and cutting it down to about 600 or so), about things I’ve learned, adventures I’ve had, trips I still plan to take before I go…

Man on a bike. Cotacachi, Ecuador.

Some people have said to me, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out” because I am not staying in Ecuador the entire year. Look, that is absolutely NOT the case! It’s hard to explain this, but all I can say is that this trip has absolutely worked out. It hasn’t been about getting exactly what I want out of it (I didn’t know what I wanted), it’s been about taking everything I DO get out of it along in my little life suitcase. I came here with no idea what to expect, and that is exactly what I got.

With only about a month and a half of Ecuadorian adventures left, I’m going to have to try not to blink. It’s funny how deciding to go home can make you love that you aren’t there …yet.

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Taxi!

After being here exactly four months now, there are a few things that have become a part of my everday life here in Quito, and one of these things is: the taxi.

Taxi in Old Town Quito.

As most of you know (I may have mentioned it once or twice… yes that is sarcasm), I am a New Yorker (speaking of, I was trying to teach an Ecuadorian how to say and use “OY” yesterday… hehe. It was pretty funny, and I think I left him totally confused). I’ve been hailing taxis since I was in fifth grade. In normal non-Quito life, a taxi can be one’s refuge on a cold, rainy night. It becomes a yellow beacon of hope when you are tired, alone and tipsy in the wee hours of the morning. Taxis can be the hero that swoops in and saves you when your feet are killing from a cute pair of shoes and your legs have danced all they can dance. When the first flurries of winter begin to fall and that chill writhers down your spine, or when you get caught in summer’s first flash thunderstorm wearing just a white tank top, a taxi can come to the rescue.

Ahhh, but everything you knew and felt about taxis changes when you get to Quito.

It’s a catch-22: most people know that, in Quito, it is way too dangerous to walk ANYWHERE at night, especially alone. People are instructed by every guidebook and website to take a taxi to their destination once the sun goes down, even if it’s only a few blocks away. The irony is that we are also warned to be extremely vigilant and cautious when it comes to taking a taxi here. Like in many other cities, there are official cabs and then there are unofficial cabs. The official cabs are yellow with a cab company name on the side of the door and a license plate number on the front windshield. These taxis, we are told, are safe.

Of course, some criminals are very clever. There are plenty of impostor taxis that mimic the official ones; they are yellow, with a cab company name on the side, and they have some numbers on the windshield, or on the side door. While often, these are just people trying to make a few bucks, they can also be dangerous thieves waiting to rob you, or worse. Then, there are the normal cars that drive around the city with a home-made TAXI sign, which they only whip out when they see you waiting for a taxi. We are strongly discouraged from using these cabs, but sometimes, when you are standing on a street corner at night for the 20th minute, unable to find an official cab, and there are sketchy men trying to talk to you, you just get the heck into the car. It’s really just a gamble. Most of the time, I’ve found these guys to be the most polite and kind (there is definitely grumpy cab driver syndrome in Quito). I usually judge the safety of the driver the moment I get in, and I am not afraid to get out if some red flag goes off. Usually, I see how they greet me . When they say “Good evening miss, how can I serve you?” which is usually what the nice ones say, I go OK… Green light. I also give them my address, which is quite a mouthful, and most cab drivers don’t know where it is so I always have to direct them in the car (“No pasa nada, puedo avisarte…”). If they listen carefully, they actually want to know where I am going and are planning to take me there. If they don’t respond — sketchy. If they ask questions on how to get there, even better. This is usually what happens, and it gives me comfort.

Taxis in Ecuador.

Hailing a cab here is quite the ordeal. I have never seen such pushy people in my life (ok ok, not all Quitenos are like this, but I have definitely encountered one too many!). During rush hours, it is VERY hard to find a cab, and Quitenos are ruthless. There are some official cab stands, and they will literally walk past the line, cut everyone, and try and hail the cab twenty feet before the line… shamelessly. They will also steal your cab, if you aren’t careful. Pull that shit in NYC and you will get verbally punched in the face, if not physically. Nothing makes my blood boil like trying to be a good samaritan in someone else’s country, and watching them walk all over good people. It’s just wrong! We have to work together in this world, and if you start cutting the taxi line where little old ladies and tired gringos with parasites have been patiently waiting for a taxi in the cold, then you are an ASSHOLE. There. I said it.

Why are these taxi precautions necessary? Well, there are a lot of horror stories out there. One common occurrence is something known here as local kidnappings. Yes, these happen. And often. Basically, a person hails a taxi — an official one even. You get in, say your destination, and then head off on your merry way. At some point, the driver takes a wrong turn. They pull into some dark alley in the middle of nowhere, some guys pop out of the darkness, pull you out of the cab, rob you of everything you’ve got, and abandon you there. Then, there are the stories I’ve heard of people getting into a cab, the cab pulls up somewhere, two guys get in each side with either a knife, screwdriver, or gun digging into you. They rush you somewhere , take everything, punch you in the face or whatever they have to do, and leave you with nothing.

This past weekend, two of my good friends were robbed this way. It’s not just stories you hear about friends of friends of friends; these things happen to your friends, and to you. They are very real and there is a new horrible story every week. I feel particularly guilty about this one, because my friends happened to get robbed after leaving my birthday party. Basically, they live in Tumbaco, a town 30 minutes outside of the city (where I spent the weekend just before I ended up in the hospital with the parasite for the first time). They found what they thought was an official yellow cab at two in the morning, got a good price to get to Tumbaco (every time you get in a cab here, you have to barter with the driver for a price. I’m quite used to it now and definitely wear the pants and get my way almost every time. Or, I get out, at which point they beg me to get back in and take me home.) The driver made friendly conversation with them and they watched carefully as he took them the right way. Then, when they were almost home, he took a wrong turn. They were a little confused and tried to redirect him, but he ignored them. Suddenly, he stopped the car. The driver pepper sprayed them in the face as two guys yanked them out of the cab and demanded they give them everything they had. The thieves kept saying “we aren’t going to do anything to you, just give us your money!” so they gave them their cell phones, their cash, and their change while stunned by the pepper spray, and the guys drove off… leaving them in the dark with nothing and no idea where they were.

Taxi in Old Town Street. Quito, Ecuador.

They couldn’t see, but they heard music so they followed the sound until they arrived at someone’s doorstep. Some very friendly people let them in and told them the only way to get rid of the burning was to blow smoke in their eyes, so they took turns puffing on cigarettes and blowing smoke into my friends’ eyes. By now it was almost three in the morning. They walked them to a police officer down the street, who eventually drove them home. Luckily, the robbers only took one of their sets of keys; one girl managed to keep hers, so they could get home. They spent the next hour drinking peach schnapps and trying to calm down. But they were ok.

Just another weekend in Quito.

Usually, you get a cab and you feel safe. Here, it’s different. Most drivers have rosary beads dangling from their rear view mirror, and a Madonna statue perched over their dashboard. They have these things to protect them on their journey. What do we have? Common sense? Street smarts? Experience? Gut instincts?

Unfortunately, none of these things promise you anything. Taxis are part of my every day life here; to me, they used to symbolize safety, relief, and an escape route from danger. Now, I know that each one comes with a risk. But that’s life here in Quito. And sometimes you’ve gotta take risks to get where you’re trying to go.

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An Ironman

I want to do something a little different today.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Zach P. competed in Ironman Canada. For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m fascinated by Ironman competitions (and Ironmen… allegedly… heh). Not that a marathon isn’t an accomplishment, but I find it hard for many people to grasp the actual physical challenge of an Ironman which, for those who don’t know, is a super triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run/marathon). For a race that long, it is as much physical as it is psychological (or way more psychological?). Sure, you need to be physically prepared so that your body can handle the intensity and endurance — but, like many competitions, it’s our minds that usually get in the way.

I always LOVE reading the post-Ironman race report that my Ironman friends share afterwards, in an attempt to capture some of the pain and euphoria of completing this bad boy. And while I have never raced in anything even close to an Ironman competition, for some reason, as I read Zach’s race report this year, I felt more connected to the experience than ever.

I just thought I would share what Zach wrote, because somewhere in his Ironman saga, which involved travel woes and feeling like death, it reminded me of life in general. My life, maybe. Even though most of us cannot relate to the physical pain and mental determination it takes to complete an Ironman, I think we’ve all had our own “Ironmans” to get through. Some of us are in the middle of one right now.

Zach P.

Here is Zach’s story:

***

The Saga That Was Ironman Canada

Here we go!!!

On Wednesday I left the apartment and headed out to LaGuardia Airport at 10:30am in order to get there with enough time to spare for my 1:30 pm flight.   I checked in and got through security with ease.  I always love to get to the airport early so I can watch all the large planes take off.  My imagination soars away with the planes as I wonder where those lucky people will land at the end of their flight.

It was raining out and several Air Canada flights had been cancelled, so I started to sweat.  Then of course I hear “the 1:30 pm flight scheduled to leave for Toronto has been moved to 3:30 pm.”  Uh Oh!  That means I will miss my connection from Toronto to Vancouver and my third flight from Vancouver to Penticton.

I went to the kiosk and they re-booked me to Penticton but told me that I needed to re-tag my bags when I got to Toronto.  What?? Never did that before, but I didn’t think much of it.  I mean, I’ve traveled to many different far off destinations, missed connections and never had to re-tag my bags.  Not going to worry… (Infamous LAST WORDS!)

When I landed in Toronto I learned that I had 55mins to de-board, go through customs, grab my bags and clear customs again before dropping them off, getting through another security check, and then running to my gate.  AHHHH!!!!  I’m doing an airport Ironman and my transitions have to be lightening quick!!

I somehow managed to do everything and get to my gate as they were preparing to board…..BUT……..WAIT…..they have canceled my flight due to mechanical problems.  Our flight was now going to be two and a half hours later.  Wait, that means I will miss my flight to Penticton. Yep, it will according to customer service, but DON’T WORRY they will book me on the next morning’s flight and give me a room in a hotel, but THAT will have to be decided by the gate agent when I get to Vancouver.  WONDERFUL, I am at the discretion of some tired agent in Vancouver who couldn’t care less about annoyed patrons. Ok I told myself, it could be worse.

I then told customer service that I didn’t re-tag my bags cause they gave me absolutely no time to figure out what the hell I was doing with the bags before needing to board my flight.  “Well that is not our problem” said the French employee “however you have such a delay that I wouldn’t worry about it, they will be on your flight.”  Ok I said, and on I went to wait for my next flight.  Somehow I was upgraded to first class!  Free baked cookies and ice cream! Nice flight over to Vancouver besides sitting at the gate for an extra hour as they off-loaded all the checked bags because someone decided not to fly.

Upon arriving at Vancouver, I waited at the baggage terminal for my bags not to appear. I was not alone; a woman who I swear looked like a PRO IRONMAN woman looked pissed off as well.  We both trudged over to Air Canada baggage service.  “Oh, we have your bags already checked through Penticton, I guarantee it. They will be there when you arrive tomorrow” a tired spokeswoman stated… Infamous last words, take two.

I headed off to my hotel, which turned out to be a suite, NICE!!! Two stories in fact, phantasmagoric!!!

The next day I flew out to Penticton, and on our arrival I saw the swim course and people swimming.  Goosebumps appear.  This is really happening!! I am here!

My happiness fell flat when I saw that my bags were not there. Where the F*&$ are they?  I have had enough of the S#$% service Air Canada has been providing.  “We don’t actually know where they are, our hunch is they are in Vancouver waiting to board the next flight this evening” the gate attendant said. At this point I was so mad that I told her, “ your fucking company has had me flying for over 24 hours and you are leaving me sitting on my ass in the middle of nowhere without anything in my name. All I have are these shorts, shirt, a computer and a dead phone.”  The woman I saw the night before said that she was missing a bag too, but then they found hers.  I could have sworn she looked familiar…. Who was she? Ha ha.

I went outside, screamed and threw my binder of files into the wind.  The next two days were full of ranting and raving about not having my bags.  All I was able to do was register for the race and sit around whimpering while all the other tri-hotties rode their bikes around. Finally I gave in and bought some gear so that I could swim and run, to rid me of my anxiety of having to race and not having gear with which to do so.

All this training and literally nothing to show for it……Why now?

I felt like I was on a show; I had been dropped in the middle of nowhere and it was my task to get back to civilization alive and healthy.

On the bright side to all of this, I had the pleasure of speaking to Paula Newby Fraser—-the queen of Kona Hawaii Ironman and she gave me her cell number telling me that everything would be ok, and that I would be racing on Sunday.  If anything went wrong, I could call her. WOWZIERS I am still in shock… A goddess of Ironman was speaking to a mere mortal such as myself.

Finally Air Canada found my gear…….in Sydney, Australia.  It would come to my doorstep, hopefully, the Saturday afternoon or the day before the race.  Well at least I would have something.

The bags arrived and I was ready to set up for the race. Yikes….it’s here….IRONMAN CANADA.

Oh, and by the way, the woman I thought looked familiar on my flights was Tereza Macel, last year’s winner in Ironman Canada for the women. She finished 4th in Hawaii… A budding GODDESS. He he.

At 1 am I got up to eat and drink around 1,500 calories of food that consisted of peanut butter, a banana, Gatorade, water and tomato soup.  I headed back to bed, but couldn’t sleep — nightmares.

5am came and THE DAY HAD ARRIVED!  2 hours before the canon blew.

I checked in, got body-marked, put on my wetsuit, checked my bike and gear, and headed down to the swim start.  I wanted to start on the outside, away from the main pack of swimmers. It’s not the straightest line but I felt that I would make up for lost time on the outside by not being kicked in the face by the main pack, who had a straighter line.

2,900 athletes lined up for one large mass start. I had goose bumps and everyone started talking about how nervous they were.  I was nervous but I wanted to get the show on the road.  The gun went off, and everyone started to swim!!!

I got around 500 meters into it and started to see swimmers who looked like seals with their suits all around me, and I began to hyperventilate for some reason. I kept saying to myself “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”   I began to breaststroke.  I told myself “ I have trained for this, I have trained for this” over and over.   I started to get into a zone again and continued on.  The course was an out, over and back in a semi rectangle….a perfect course.  On the way back to the shore, around a mile into it, I started to get VERY cold and I felt like I was going to freeze to death. I actually felt myself shivering. Finally the shoreline came up and people were walking up to the transition area.  I looked at my watch, 1:07…YES!! My goal was 1:10 for the 2.4 mile swim.

Swim time 1:07:10

In transition I saw that my hands were blue and I was shivering. A fear set in that I wouldn’t make it out on the bike, that I was too cold. But I decided that there was no way in hell that I came out here to do just a swim. I would rather be pulled off the course by officials than give up.  I got dressed and got on the bike.

Transition 1 time: 8mins 29 secs

The 112 mile bike:

I quickly settled into a rhythm on the bike and started to warm up.  It was sunny out but a little windy and definitely not warm.

The first 40 miles were mostly flat and I felt great; my heart rate was easily under my 145 beats per minute target.  Up comes Richter Pass, a significant 10 miles of climbing.  It went pretty well. There were thousands of supporters forming funnels on the toughest parts of the climb — AWESOME!! So motivating and positive during a tough time.

The middle part of the bike was rolling and WINDY! Headwinds, tailwinds, side winds, under winds. Wind wind wind.

I made it my goal not to stop on long bike rides for fear of cramping, but I had to in the middle of this one. I couldn’t help it!! The stop took 5 minutes or more — not a great thing because I had to wait in a line. Yuck.

The rest of the middle section of the ride went well. I kept under or at 145 bpm for the majority of this section.  I also hydrated and had pretty good nutrition, eating my 200 calories per hour and around 800-1,000mg of sodium per hour.

THE RIDE WAS VERY BEAUTIFUL, MOUNTAINS EVERYWHERE.  I felt like yodeling during many parts of the race

Then came the third and last part….Yellow lake, another huge climb.

All of a sudden a gale force wind hit us like a truck and the clouds that had formed above us began to lightly open up dropping rain. Having to climb a large grade on wet roads and heavy wind equaled my first feelings of personal hell.  I felt like I wanted to die and I still had to get to the top of a mountain.  The only way I did it was with the amazing crowd who again formed funnels around the course, even though it was raining.  Thanks crowd!!

Bike time 6:10: 56

I finally got back to the transition area feeling ok. I changed, use the bathroom again, and off I went onto the run course.  I felt good and I started to get emotional because I didn’t think I would feel this good on my tired legs.

Transition 2 time: 7mins 29sec

26.2  mile run (aka, marathon):

I ran the first 12.5 miles and then began to run/walk, which is what I planned on doing if I made it to the halfway point feeling ok.  On the way back I started feeling very, very bad, and the only way I made it is through was with Pepsi and warm chicken broth soup.  Honestly, all I can say is that I felt like death, but had to keep moving.  There really isn’t much to say besides the fact that personal demons come to mess with your psyche halfway through an Ironman marathon… At least for me.

When I finally made it back into town, around the last corner, a mile from the finish, I saw that I might make it under 12 hours!  I ran like a bat out of hell!  My dad was cheering me on and I sprinted to the finish line to cross in 11: 59:55.  It was an amazing end to a windy and rainy day. I wouldn’t trade this race situation for any other.

Marathon time 4:25:57

Thanks for reading.

***

Hey Zach… CONGRATULATIONS (again).

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Filed under Contributor, Travel Disasters

Quick Plug, Another Bug

I’m not going to write about how, this weekend, I got the horrible stomach ache that I have learned to recognize and dread here, and how I had to go to the doctor on a Sunday for immediate testing only to find out on Monday morning that Juan the Parasite still lives (which I knew the moment I woke up Sunday to the now all-too-familiar painful cramping), or how I found out that, not only do I have a parasite again (still?), but I also have a bad bacterial infection again (still?). I probably should have realized this while I was dancing my butt off on Friday and Saturday nights, or around the time someone tried to slash my bag strap for the third time since I’ve been here while I was shaking it at a sketchy dance club called Bungalow surrounded by about ten friends. But I didn’t. And for some reason, it was still an amazing weekend, for reasons I can’t fit into this blog entry. I guess I am unfazed by all this stuff now — the infuriating bag slashing attempts, the persistence of my unwelcome parasite (it’s been three months of having a parasite and bacterial infection now — what is going on?!). I’m on my third round of Cipro since I’ve been here, combined with bacteria-killing drugs, and I’m just tired of being sick, tired of taking medicine that makes me feel worse, and tired of not being able to be free of caution. But, like I said, I’m not going to write about any of that.

Horse Encounter in Papallacta, Ecuador. Photo by Libby Z.

What I do want to focus on is a little positive somethin’ somethin’. Strangely, I think I’m the happiest I have been the whole time I’ve been in Quito! I am really enjoying myself, and really glad I’m here. I’ve met a bunch of new people, hung with several great Ecuadorians, and begun to consider other options for when I come home… Many things are making me happy and optimistic right now, and as I wake up to the first day of September (my birthday month — the big 27 is just around the corner!) I feel GOOD. Well, my stomach hurts, but besides that… I feel GREAT. I know what I want more than ever, and I’m going to go for it.

To celebrate, here is a little shameless plug that makes me proud and gives me hope. If I’ve learned anything from being here (well, I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned — it’s a LOT!! We’ll get to it all another time), it’s that I want to write. I LOVE writing. And, no matter what, I am going to write. So, any little encouragement I get is appreciated.

A few weeks ago, I contributed to a South America ex-pat blog called Expat Daily News South America (my little article can be seen here). Then, yesterday, I found out I made this list of the Twitter Ten, or the top ten articles tweeted last month (as chosen by www.the-working-traveller.com).

I know this isn’t a book deal or a Pulitzer Prize, but hey — as they’d say on “The Jersey Shore” (ah shit, I’ve blown my cover by referring to that show TWICE now on TwT), I’m just doing ME. And even if “doing me” comes with three rounds of parasite pain, three attempted bag slashings, and several Quito ups and Quito downs, people out there keep reading about it. That is my little TwT victory.

View from my apartment, with clouds. Quito, Ecuador.

Shoot, it’s 8:20 am. I’m taking Juan the Amoeba to work now. Outside, the clouds are crazy.. I can pretty much see the entire city of Quito from my apartment, and right now — with the clouds this high up — it looks like half the city is on fire and full of smoke. But I definitely see some blue sky peeking through…

HAPPY SEPTEMBER!

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