We were not in a rush to do anything today. Everyone has a little bit of travel fatigue setting in. Today’s plan is just to get to our hotel, where we will meet up with our Me to We facilitators, and have a down day.
The home where we have been staying in Quito is owned by a lovely couple. The husband is a retired paediatrician and the wife has a hair salon in the building. Zev and I decided to tame our “fros” before heading into the Amazon. Ten dollars later, we both have extremely short hair and are both happy with our results. In addition to his office and her salon, their home has room for their two-storey apartment, an upstairs apartment for each of their two sons (although one lives ten months of the year in Miami), and the last apartment they rent out ever since their daughter married and moved out. Maria, and son-in-law Fredy, have been our tour guides for all three of our Quito-based trips. Our kids have had fun playing with the six grandchildren staying here. While Aubrey and Koren were packing up, the kids went to the neighbourhood park to play soccer. And the paediatrician reviewed Teva’s numerous pock marks and agreed they were bites.
Finally it was time to leave. We took our 6 small backpacks and walked about 15 minutes to the bus terminal, where after a bit of wandering around and asking different people directions, we found the bus going our way. Riding the bus was an experience. First, you always pay when you get off, not when you get on. There is one person whose job is to jump off the bus right before the stop, announce all the places they are going, punch in some type of time card at a nearby store or kiosk, and take money from people as they get off, providing change when needed.
Sometimes when we stopped, 2 or 3 people would hop onto the bus, trying to sell refreshments like chips, dried plantains, fresh fruit, beverages, and newspapers. Once, a man came on the bus, possibly to solicit money. Our Spanish is very rough, but it seemed he was sermonizing, something about having the love of God in your heart and pleading for money.
The staff on the bus were helpful, and told us which stop to get off. The ride was about an hour and 15 minutes, and it cost $2 total – for all 6 of us. Sure beats having to pay for two taxis to take us there! It could be said that one of the best things you can do to really get a sense of a place is to ride the local bus. The people watching is ideal, as one certainly gets a sense of what is normal in town. We especially enjoyed seeing the different towns we passed through on the way to our hotel stop. Because it is Saturday, we saw that some places had open air markets, selling food and clothing. We also saw people dressed up nicely, carrying bouquets of flowers, perhaps on their way to a family gathering. We even passed a wedding.
We made it safely to our hotel. It is very nice: Impeccably decorated, and the front staff presented us champagne flutes of refreshing narijilla juice blended with basil while we were checking in. We settled in, ate some of our packed sandwiches and then explored the facilities. Erez and Zev played 3 rounds of pool, while everyone else took advantage of the outdoor swimming pool, sauna, hot tub and steam room. While we were in the pool, many people dressed in fancy clothing walked by. This is when we realized the wedding reception was about to start. It was a bit awkward. The guests congregated in one area for appetizers and then, while our kids were still splashing in the pool, 120 guests walked by. We were a bit underdressed in our swimming gear.
A little while after the mass migration, a large family grouping started flooding the common area. They were swimming and singing Karaoke. Badly. Suddenly we did not feel as bad about making noise that could disturb the wedding. Aubrey stayed and finished his book in spite of the karaoke. Koren found a quieter place to hang out, amazed he could tolerate the off-key noise.
Our facilitator, Kristin, found us while we were playing pool. It turns out her family will be accompanying us on the trip as well – her parents, 21 year-old brother and 9 year-old sister. Our group has now grown to 14.
We opted to eat dinner in the hotel restaurant. It was delicious. The wedding reception was going strong next door. Suddenly, a band marched into the wedding – a snare drum, a bass drum, two trumpets and two saxophones. It was amazing. Then the band led the guests outside so they could set off some fireworks. They danced outside for awhile and then came back into the reception area. We figured that if we had brought something other than quick-dry clothes, and brushed up on our Spanish, we could have crashed the party.
Later we bumped into the third family on the trip, who are from California. They have a 9 year-old son and a 12 year-old daughter. Now we are more excited than ever to start our adventure in the Amazon. It looks like we will have a great team to work with. The itinerary looks fun-filled and fulfilling. We will be sure to keep track but won’t have access to Internet to upload our blog for the next week.