16 January 2010

¡Ecuatorianamente Refrescante!

Besides the $10 rip-off taxi ride from the airport that should have been about $4, it was really really nice to arrive in Quito. Especially coming from Lima! The air was clean and the sky was clear and blue.

I was going to visit Dr. Gustavo Lovato, a friend of mine from AGES ago at the University of Alabama who is now the director of the Casa de la Música in Quito. I would say the last time we saw each other was probably May of 1997. The staff in his office knew I was coming and greeted me with great hospitality. The first afternoon I was there I sat in on some auditions. There was a man playing guitar and harmonica or singing pasillos and there was an Ecuadorian girl studing in Chile who had the most beautiful voice. The operation seems like an excellent venue for musicians to promote both Ecuadorian and European music.

Although I no longer remember the name of the place we had dinner that first night, I know it was in the old part of Quito and has outdoor seating and live music on the roof. This was one of those meeting of several worlds and several times dinners. Gustavo and his wife Nancy (who I hadn’t previously met) were going with me to have dinner with two friends from Seattle, Phil and Jeff, who were wrapping up a few weeks in Quito. I love reunions of this sort, where you meet people you know from one context in an entirely different one. This was somewhat reminiscent of coincidentally being in Tokyo a few years ago at the same time as my friend Yvette (also from U of Alabama days) for an early morning fish market stroll and sushi for breakfast.

The señora del desayuno never disappointed: my breakfasts at Gustavo & Nancy’s were delicious. There was a lovely plate of fresh fruit, fresh juice, and tea. It was in Ecuador where I started to understand the importance of the blender, which I suppose I instinctively was aware of already, given my family’s “beach and blender” nature.

I had an opportunity to go with Gustavo to the Universidad de los Hemisférios where he teaches. And I even got to sing. Being with Gustavo and thrown into the world of music and musicians reminded me of a world I love and miss, reiterating the importance of music in my life.

Gustavo and Nancy have two polite and apparently well-raised adults. Their 19-year-old son Estéfano, also a musician, offered to show me around. We went up the teleferiQo toward Rucu Pichincha (but not to the crater, since it was getting late and cold). We shared a combi with three Argentinian college girls to La Ronda in the center of the old part of the city and strolled around. There are so many churches to see. They’ll pretty much all have to wait for my next visit to Quito. Estéfano and I sat in the Plaza del Teatro (@ Teatro Sucre) and had a beer and empanada de viento. After getting back home, Gustavo, Nancy, Blanquito (super loving dog they adopted), and I had wine and tostados (toasted corn) and other snacks. Well, I guess Blanquito didn’t really partake.

After a breakfast that was fruit-rich and included “algún huevito”, the four of us left for Otavalo, where there is an incredible textiles market every Saturday at the Plaza de Ponchos. Our journey included travel by foot, taxi, then my first experience on a public bus in South America. It was pretty crowded, but I imagine it could be much more so.

We went first to have lunch in Cotacachi then moved on to the beautiful Lake Cuicocha for a while before hitchhiking (got in back of pickup truck) to head down to small town near Otavalo, where we got on the bus to Otavalo. The Plaza de Ponchos Saturday market was awesome! I did buy some stuff but definitely wanted more. Without a doubt, I would certainly go back there. Although I intended to make gumbo or jambalaya for dinner, we got back to Quito too late to go get stuff and make labor-intensive southern louisiana dish.

Fortunately we weren’t famished because, en route back to Quito, we had bought and consumed some biscoch[oe] de Cayambé from a vendor who came onto the bus. Since I was off the hook for dinner, la Señora de la Merienda/Cena made hamburguesitas w/ mashed potatoes, salad, and jello. Just like that. It was my last night there that I finally got an opportunity to meet Gustavo & Nancy’s lovely daughter Valentina and seven-year-old granddaughter Ashy. Ashy was adorable! After we ate, Gustavo sat down with her to teach her about chess. Meanwhile, I squished stuff into bags and eventually went to sleep so I could be ready for my travels to Galápagos very early the following morning.

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