Tag Archives: Quito

Purple Thread

It’s been a rough week here in Quito. Rough, because I found out the parasite I had six weeks ago most likely still lives, and I had another slashing attempt on the Ecovia last Saturday. I did get paid, but even that moment is a bit lackluster. I’d be lying if I said that this week didn’t make me think twice about what I’m doing here, and what is best for me, but don’t worry (as if one of you really is)… It takes more than that to break me.

I’ve been frustrated lately. That’s the truth. I could sit here and tell you living in Ecuador is a constant dream come true but it’s not. It certainly has its moments, but this week has been more about getting by and getting through it than dreaming. Sometimes I fantasize about buying a plane ticket home, and saying I did it, hugging my now sixteen-year-old brother (I missed his birthday last month) and getting back to life as I like it. But I’m not there yet. Maybe close, at times, but not close enough.

Beginning of a tough hike in the paramo of Papallacta. Ecuador.

I think the 2.5-month mark is one of the most difficult when you are anticipating being somewhere for a year. It’s like entering the second quarter of a race, when the adrenaline begins to settle and you can no longer count on the rush to get you through the next three quarters. It’s the time when you know you’ve got to find a comfortable place to settle; you must pace yourself, accept where you are at and how it feels, but you still want to rush through this part and get to the more thrilling home-stretch. The race always looks the longest from this vantage point. This is when it becomes mental more than physical. You can’t tell if you want the finish line to get there immediately or not, but either way it looks very far off, and it is in that space between where you are and where it ends that the race will be made, that some lesson will be learned.

I feel like the end is very far away at this point, and I want to be here, in the moment, 100%, but I keep catching myself trying to sneak a peek at the finish line. Actually, I can’t get the finish line out of my mind. That never makes for a good race. I know that much.

Last night, I decided to stay in. A couple friends went to a place called Banos (with a squiggle on the n, can’t type it) for the weekend, but since we are going to a beach town called Canoa on Wednesday night (AHHH, HOW I NEED AND WANT A BEACH GETAWAY RIGHT NOW!), I decided that two long trips that close together was a bit much. Plus, I am constantly scraping the barrel with my salary here, and it wouldn’t hurt to save a little money when I can.

Instead, I decided I would swing by the MegaMaxi, which sells everything from ellipticals to guanabanas (a sweet white fruit that looks like a melon covered in spikes), to pick up the ingredients for coconut chicken curry — something I’ve been craving lately (what I’d give to be able to order the massaman curry from Thai Market on 107th and Amsterdam… siiigh). I had the perfect night planned: I was going to do some writing, cook something delicious, and then watch a bootlegged DVD in my US Rowing sweatpants.

Of course, this ENORMOUS Wal-Mart-sized store had run out of coconut milk, and my coconut chicken curry cooking dreams had been shot. I settled for something else and went home, determined to have an incredible night by myself.

Inside the clock tower of the Cathedral in Old Town Quito.

This is the part where I could easily lie and save myself some slack, but the truth is, I had seen some New York Times article recently about the new season of the Jersey Shore starting (I know, right?), and I was kind of intrigued… So, I — a 26, almost 27 year old travel writer living in Ecuador, smart (I like to think), cultured… — went to MTV.com, and watched the first episode online.

As I watched, I ate my dinner, followed by a gooey passion fruit, and eventually a third of a bar of single origin organic Ecuadorian chocolate (75% cocoa). As unfortunate as it may be, I enjoyed every second of it.

When the first episode was over, I had a choice to make. It was about 8:15 pm on a Friday night and there was another episode available. I was in my sweats, I had a little more chocolate to go, and I didn’t really feel like writing at that point (maybe the Jersey Shore isn’t the best way to get inspired). So… I went ahead and watched another episode; it was equally delightful, in a sick, mind-numbing way.

Then I had the urge to do something I had been thinking about doing all week: I was going to sew the bag that had been slashed by a thief on the Ecovia back together. I hit some perfect mental state when “Wake Up,” by Arcade Fire, came on my random shuffle. The lyrics spoke right to me at that moment, and blasting this song while I sewed felt good. Real good.

I sewed and I sewed my big purple bag, empowered by some sort of resilience to the hits Quito has kept throwing at me. When I was done sewing and purple thread was tangled up on my table, a new song had started playing (“This Tornado Loves You,” by Neko Case, to be exact). It spoke right to the other side of stuff I’ve been feeling lately, and I just felt happy. Understood, in a strange way, better by my very own iTunes random shuffle than anyone else (even myself) lately.

When I was done sewing the big slash in my bag back together, I turned my purple bag (which I got at an artisan market in Buenos Aires) from inside-out to right-side-in, and took a look.

It was perfect. It gave me a rush. After a week full of frustrations, disappointments, friends saying “come home!” and friends saying “you can do this – stay!” I finally felt empowered again. Fuck you Quito. It was the best I had felt all week (some weeks are just like that, right?!).

And now, I have finished up my coffee, read the New York Times, and eaten some breakfast. In a few minutes, I will get back on the Ecovia and take my damaged bag with me to the gym. Damaged, but repaired. The hole has been sewn back together and I will carry it with me like a battle wound — one of the many I have accumulated by trying to do what I think is right for me.

If only everything was a bag that I could sew back together when someone slashed a hole in it. If only all it took was some purple thread…right?

Well, that’s a whole other story.


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Alemania Mania

Well, it’s over.

Both the US and Argentina are out of the World Cup, and I must retire my Lionel Messi jersey (and my World Cup dreams) for another four years. Argentina had a disappointing — and dare I say embarrassing? — finish, and their 4-0 loss to Germany did not do me much good when I found myself sitting in a plaza in Ecuador, surrounded by a healthy mix of Argentine and German fans, with the losing team’s jersey on my back.

I watched the game in disblelief. I knew there was a very good chance that Argentina could lose, but I really didn’t think it would happen. Not like it did. As each goal seemed to putter past the Argentine goalie (who I still think looks like a My Little Pony), I couldn’t do anything. It was like watching a dorky kid get kicked by a big bully over and over again, and watching him just take it; I sat there wondering what they were thinking, what they were doing, why Argentina was playing such a bad game when I was certain they could do better? Why throw it all away? Why cower to the German giants, who robbed them of advancing to the semi-finals the exact same way four years ago? Ah, but it’s Argentina. We’re used to this sort of thing.

The fact is, the Germans played better. They were stronger, faster, surer of themselves, and more confident. They won because they outplayed Argentina, and there isn’t much more to say about it.

When the game ended, the concentration of people with Argentine jerseys began to dissolve. Germans started to pour out from different watering holes and cafes, with that mean looking flag of theirs flying around at every turn. Suddenly, there was singing, chanting, screaming in German. You would have thought they won the World Cup final by the way they were celebrating. Cars started honking, they would jump on the back of pick-up trucks that drove by, cheering and swigging their beers. I was told there were a lot of Germans in this town; now I believed it.

Germans celebrating their victory in Plaza Foch. Photo by Desiree A.

I went from feeling like a confident half-Argentine to feeling like a lamb ready for the slaughter. As I watched the players hearts break on the tv, I knew it was a matter of time before I had to get up and walk-of-shame through the rest of the day. Luckily, I had a complete Viva Guides posse with me.

I decided I needed a sad photograph with the Germans celebrating behind me, so my friend Desiree and I decided to brave the enemy celebration for the sake of one photo. I walked cautiously to the center of Plaza, where the Germans were getting rowdy. My blue and white striped Messi jersey stuck to me like I was wearing a Jewish star during the H0locaust (sorry, couldn’t help the reference!). I expected to get made fun of, to be taunted, laughed at… But I knew I had to brave the situation for the sake of a funny photo.

Sad Tavel, Happy German. Photo by Desiree A.

Just when I got close enough to the celebrating Germans, I did my sad pout and Desiree got her cell phone camera ready. Then, much to my surprise, a large German guy who had been dancing around just a second ago saw my sulking face and gave me a big hug. Without speaking, he just put his arms around me and patted me with pity on the head, beer in hand. I made it out alive, and I realized that maybe these Germans weren’t going to be so mean afterall.

A couple hours later, after killing some time before the next game, my Viva posse and I decided to get some food. We found a nondescript burger place that was mostly empty, and took over two large tables where we thought we could eat in peace.

Sure enough, a few minutes after ordering, I heard the familiar chanting of happy Germans. And, just my luck, in walked a crowd of about 10 smashed Germans, screaming and singing with facepaint nearly dripping down their strong cheekbones. The women were double or triple my size, and looked like they could eat me for lunch after throwing me around like a rag doll.

Of course, there I was, still in my Argentine jersey, deflated from the game and looking all pathetic against their black, red and orange stripes (thanks Maradona, THANKS). It didn’t take long for them to notice me. Immediately after walking in and seeing my Messi jersey, the heckling began… “MESSI! MESSI! WHO THE FUCK IS MESSI!?!” They surrounded me, screamed at me, chanted in my ears, danced around me… My poor coworkers just looked at me, embarrassed, wondering why the hell I didn’t bring a change of shirt. I knew they had my back, but sitting on a little bench with 10 enormous, drunk, Germans screaming and singing and cackling behind me was a little scary… Not gonna lie!

Me getting heckled by Germans, post-match. Photo by Desiree A.

Luckily, I made it out alive. You win some, you lose some, and sometimes all you can do is accept your defeat, take a photo and write a blog about it. My Argentina jersey has officially been put away this World Cup, but the real fun begins now. As we approach the semi-finals and eventually the  much-anticipated final, we’ll see who is celebrating in the end. No matter who wins, I have a feeling it will probably be me.

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