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Losing Our Way Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing. --------------------------------------------------------- Arundhati Roy (Indian author, advocate, activist)

quito (mi) belated post

ECUADOR | Thursday, 5 March 2009 | Views [1617]

Quito and the volcanoes it is nestled in

Quito and the volcanoes it is nestled in

Quito, Ecuador, population 1,400,000, elevation 2850m, is built up into the sides of Andean valley volcanos.  when considered individually, almost none of its buildings stands alone as special, but when viewed from one of the city's hilltop vistas, the collection as a whole presents a colorful tableau, offering an image of mountain sides that are put together like a puzzle of uneven rectangular boxes.  the city scene is topped by moving cloud-cover, and deservedly earns its place in a myriad of artistic replicas, each uniquely shaded – this one red, that one blue, another in browns.  they were formed by the recent hand of the dazzling Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919-1999), pintor extraordinario.  copies of his work decorate the city's boutique and restaurant walls, internet cafes and hotels; their presence calls back to life their maker's tussle with life and its complexity, its pains and its hope; they hang there patiently, daily and nightly for passers by - hoping to mirror his vision, whispering to them his uncanny prose. 

i could write to you for weeks about my experience in the Museo Guayasamin and its sister site standing a few blocks away: Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man).  suffice it to say it was such a worthwhile experience that if in my life i had the chance to purchase a ticket to Ecuador to visit only the two sites, i would have considered the exchange: Cost-for-Experience, a perfect one.

if you are interested in more, reading ivan's Museo Guayasamin, and scrolling through our Quito picture gallery will offer a fuller taste of our day's experience, and then, of course, there is the internet (www.guayasamin.com) .  if you're hooked by what you see, and you're into library books, this is one for which i'd recommend you to your local librarian.  a little research later and a couple of loaned books and you should be satisfied.  if not, we flew Delta to Bogota, Colombia via Atlanta, Georgia, and then bused it down here, but that's the long way and rather unnecessary for those of you in the states – there's quite a few airlines that do Seattle, Chicago or New York, all to Quito and all on a fairly regular basis.  the museum is in the neighborhood of Bellavista, outside both Quito's Old Town and New Town.  the address is Calle Bosmediano 543; hours are 9:00am-1:30pm, 3:00pm-6:30pm Monday-Friday.  admission is $2 for each of the sites.  we took one of Quito's 3 user-friendly bus lines for a 20 minute ride, which cost us each the standard 25 cents, then hiked up the remaining blocks off of the busline which took us about 15 minutes or so, but there's also the option of taking a taxi from the city which should only cost you another $2.  since staying at a very basic hotel in Old Town will run you about $5 a night, a week of only Guayasamin site seeing shouldn't be too bad.  i mean, other than the flight of course.  if you're careful, you can keep your meal budget to under $5 a day as well, or under $10 if you splurge for dinner.  you don't even have to exchange money at a loss, because since the year 2000, thanks to an overambtious ex-president Mahaud and his successor Noboa (who was reportedly given power after Mahaud's forced resignation over the issue of dollarization), Ecuador runs on the American dollar.  (yeah, i didn't even know you could do that.  i'm going to start my own country and just start using american dollars too.  or, having learned from the gamble of Mahaud and company and choose the british pound or the euro instead).  anyway, shoot us an email if you are heading out, and we'll shoot you back some restaurant options.  we'd recommend steamed humitas and fried empanadas de verde, thick fried portions of sea bass, spic'd cilantro'd and citrus'd ceviche, any of the fresh juice shakes and table salsas, all of which Tangelo really really enjoyed.  life was good to Tangelo in Quito. 

and while tangelo was gorging fishself on ecuadorian fare, i was and still am swallowing up the basics of the country's history and as much of its present as possible, as chronicled in news both new and old: 

the tens of years old - but still open - class action suit by tens of thousands of Ecuadorians vs. Chevron Texaco for unrepaired damages to Amazonian water sources and destruction to whole indigenous groups (oil profits never looked so Corporate).  found stone age tools from as early as 9000 BC.  the expansion and fall of the Incas in Ecuador.  Colonial era and the Escuela Quitena (Quito school of art), a unique blend of Spanish and indigenous art.  independence from Spain.  forced labor of the indigenous and mestizos (people of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) and uprisings, African slaves and inhereted Afro-Ecuadorian culture.  a very short lived Gran Colombia - the combining of multiple South American countries.  multiple wars with Peru.  lots and lots and lots of presidents all in this one most recent decade.  a host of environmental issues including deforestation, with conservation groups battling foreign corporations for the environment that sustains the indigenous groups living within the forests of ecuador's highlands, its western coasts and its deep eastern jungle, and the terrain and resources that sustain the country and affects us all. 

and spent 5 wonderful days walking through pulsing Quito life....

archeology, architecture, peoples and politics, i turned through the city's streets with ivan, weaving in and out of churches and museums and modern day markets.  we were charmed quickly by the city, especially Old Town.  its sky high basilica with its freaky gargoyles that ivan climbed to taste the rafters of the church and wave down to me from its heights and capture pictures for our scrapbook.  San Francisco Monastery and Museum, where we stumbled upon the monks amd their manicured courtyard (parakeets   included).  there in one of the museum's corridors where immense oils crowned in thick gold frames and larger than life painted statues were lined up in display, we found an old man with his arm outstretched and holding onto a statue of the Christ, crying soft prayers and pausing only to explain to a passing scowling tourguide that he needed to touch the statue.  miniature cobblestone hills, almost too narrow for the innumerable scurrying taxis invading them from all departures toward all destinations.  pristine Plaza Grande with its banks and its Palacio Arzobispal, a cavern of shops, internet cafes and restaurants, where i savored coffee on several mornings, and ivan tasted hot wine with cinnamon one evening (is that mull wine?) while we maneuvered the oh-so-slow internet to check in with our families and post our most recent pictures.  it was a restaurant in the Palacio where we treated ourselves to our farewell Quito dinner - one of the best dinners in the city – the details of which, except for the name, i remember vividly - La Fraille del something or other (i wish i had written it down, but you can find it on the second floor of the Palacio!) where the creamy cheese potato soup garnished with avocado slices soaked our appetite, and the fishsteak drenched with herbs and cooked in its own steam practically melted off the fork.  we ate couched between the white stucco walls and dark wooden country antiques of the restaurant to one side, and an open air view of the inner courtyard of the Palacio to our other.  and we were covered by the sweet and heavily-accented english welcome and attentive and spacious service by the owner's brother.  we toured the Museo Camilo Egas.  we browsed through the handicrafts market at Parque El Ejido.  we walked over our own tracks through the focal point of New Town drenched with karaoke and sports bars and free wi-fi zones – the Mariscal Sucre neighborhood.  there we shopped for mosquito nets for the month to come at La Hesperia, biological station, first of the volunteer experiences to come.

we walked and ate and walked, for 5 days we walked and explored.  and fell for the charm of Quito...

and then we packed our backpacks and headed west outside the city, to kilometre 58. we bounced off our transport, grabbed our bags from the compartments under the belly of the big red bus, and hiked slowly up the windy cobblestone trail and into the ecuadorian cloud forest to introduce ourselves to Juan Pablo and Alexandra, and their staff at La Hesperia....


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