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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4 responses to “10 Strange Things That Have Become Normal While Living in Quito

  1. I love #1 about the fireworks. I bet you its kids popping them all the time huh? When I was a kid and spent summers in Mexico that is all we would do. We would beg our parents for money and buy crap load of fireworks and then walk around town popping them. Ahh good times!!!

    • travelswithtavel

      Ha. Glad you appreciated that one! Unfortunately, last night the popping was actually machine guns. Ya never know in this city!

  2. marie

    OK, so now you have to be in the middle of a state of siege?! The biggest nightmare for any SA country! They make movies about this shit! What the hell else can go wrong there? Are you safe? Please tell me you are safe. So make your notes, take some pictures, blog your blog, and then girl, get your ass home! Do not pass GO etc. Just get the hell out of Dodge. Hear me? And don’t get sassy with those men with the machine guns…

  3. Pingback: Couped Up In Quito « Travels with Tavel

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