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The Kirwan Twins Adventures We've finally graduated, so we're setting off for three months to backpack around India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand before entering the "real world."

Just Another Local

ECUADOR | Wednesday, 3 October 2007 | Views [558] | Comments [2]

On day 19, it's clear that I've really just become another local in barrio San Juan, let alone Quito.  My proudest achievement thus far has been mastering the city's streets and transportation system.

Most mornings, I trek down to the EcoVia, the closest trolley line to my house.  Now, this "trek" is not your average stroll, but a meticulously planned descent that requires practice.  I usually leave the house wrapped in a sweater and fleece, only to find that the shaded, adobe-insulated rooms of my house are ten degrees colder than the streets.  With the sun pouring down and the altitude stealing my precious oxygen I quickly work into a sweat.  Mid-walk, slapping my feet on the cobbled stones dodging fuming piles of dog @#$%!, I strip off the extra layers and stuff them into my backpack.  Ah, that's better, big whiff of air…gasp!  The stench of urine curls my nose, but is rapidly erased by the pleasant aroma of the local panaderia.  I contemplate stopping for a biscuit or a bread roll, but remind myself that my family indulges in these delicacies for almost every meal, and yes, that includes my breakfast ten minutes ago.  Though the smell is tantalizing…ouch!  My knees are beginning to bear the burden of my flailing stride, so I adjust to a more quad-based descent and continue deliberately towards my destination. 

Snippets of conversation drift from doorways, the ever-present dose of gossip that keeps us from gossiping about our own friends and neighbors as country folk do.  The air swallows this dull chatter, but then a peculiar string of words stings my ear; "Que raro ver una gringita en este barrio!"  Well excuse me!  This sun-bleached blond with her Gore-Tex treads and polarized shades is no usual gringa.  She's a foot-stomping, bus traveling, Quiteno, and damn it, she knows where she's going!  I prance by, head cast to the sun and nearly trip over a mangy dog.

On the trolley, I am often plastered between schoolchildren with runny noses and businessmen who try to catch my eye beneath the armpits of busty women.  The problem is that I keep forgetting where to get off since my map has each stop numbered whereas they are actually labeled with names.  I try to peer at my map but the bus is too crowded, and I think my stop is approaching so I go for it!  Yes!  I've got it right again.  On the rare occasions that I'm mistaken, I wait patiently on the platform for the next trolley in the opposite direction, painfully aware of the odd stares from my fellow passengers.

On the way home, I usually opt for the bus over the trolley, which brings me closer to home and requires a shorter hike uphill.  The buses are less patient with passengers, as they run on a strict time schedule that is often hampered by traffic.  For youths, like myself, the bus slows down just barely allowing one to hop on before lurching forward into the nearest pole and fumbling towards a seat.  For children and senior citizens, the bus boy (who collects money and maintains the driver's schedule) feigns kindness out of urgency by nearly hoisting each cane-bearing elderly and toddler by the rear onto the bus, after which he leaves them to fend for themselves in the subsequent pitch and roll.

The ascent to my house is less colorful.  To begin with, the view is quite different.  Instead of crisp mountains peering over Quito and inspiring an I'm-so-lucky-to-live-here sensation, my inclined strolls consist of urine splashed steps and rugged roads garnished with litter and animal waste.  I would turn around to inhale the view, but there are just a few more blocks to go and I might as well wait until I've arrived at the comfort of my home and the views offered from the rooftop terrace or my bedroom.  Of course, when I have one more block to go my quads are burning so viciously that I begin to sway a bit and, today, even slipped off the sidewalk next to three shabby dogs.  Very cross that I had interrupted their naptime, the dogs began barking quite sternly.  Startled by this sudden metamorphosis from "cute and cuddly" to "pissed off" I jumped and staggered backwards, which the gang interpreted as a provocation and began chasing me at which point I was thoroughly panicked and on the verge of attempting to kick the leader which would only provoke his posse further, but no rocks in site to throw, and so I resorted to a lame "STOP!" at which point I realized I was in the middle of the road and should probably look where I was going.  My attention to the road must have comforted the dogs, and they abandoned their chase. 

Overwhelmed by the excitement in my largely uneventful neighborhood, I hadn't noticed the young man and perhaps his mother standing in the bodega across the street, looking on with passive amusement.  My embarrassed chuckles quickly turned to anger; "would they have saved me from the jaws of these manic, rapid animals?"  Flabbergasted, I marched past to my very local home and entered with my very own, local set of keys to recount this atrocity to my local family.  Their suppressed giggles only confirmed that I might need to wait until day 20 to become a true local.

Tags: Philosophy of travel

Comments

1

This is a great diary of your time there. Is today really Day 20? My, the time passes quickly!

  Fenella Oct 4, 2007 1:45 AM

2

Lesson for Emma:
an absolutely foolproof way to always get dogs away from you is to simply bend down and pretend to pick up a rock. Works everytime - try it out.

  Bobby Oct 23, 2007 1:37 AM

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