Beloved diary,

I am really sad. I just got news about the equipment. It has obviously been delayed for an additional week for some sort of tax-form-stupidity! This even happened on the “International day of customs”! There actually is one and it was yesterday, the very same day it was supposed to be delivered! It didn’t help us much though appearantly. Since it seems like I am going to stay in Quito for an additional week doing really nothing I just might tell you a little bit about it.

Quito is a rather crowded city built in a couple of valleys just south of the equator. It is the second largest city in Ecuador and the capital, some guide books say it is the most beautiful capital in South America and since I haven’t seen any other (so far) I can only agree. The surrounding mountains are astonishing!

We went to a couple of viewing points last week and it’s too bad you couldn’t come with me because it was really nice. There is a large hill in the middle of the city with a huge statue of Virgin Mary (sent from France of course, like all big statues of chicks) from where you can overlook the entire city. In the middle there is the cathedral where you can climb all the way up the towers. In fact, the security precautions are not really heavy so you can actually climb out of the tower 150 meters up! I did that of course, just for the sake of it.

I believe the city is at about 2 800 meters altitude. It became rather obvious to me when I landed here, not only because of the sunburn. The little ball in my roll-on-deodorant literally popped up in my face when I opened it (change of pressure) and my sunscreener exploded in my bag. Almost the best thing is that the milk never boils over! I haven’t felt any altitude sickness though. It’s kind of hard walking the stairs sometimes but it would be unfair to blame that on the altitude 🙂

There are hardly any cafés with tables outside. It took a while until I realized why. I believe I mentioned the traffic here, right? It’s not very nice sipping your café en lecce when a 2000 kg bus rushing by you at 50 km/h leaving a big black cloud of pollution around you. The other reason for not sitting by the streets even on calm streets is that every five minutes beggar kids come up to you wanting to polish your shoes, sell chewing gums or just ask you for money. It might sound cute but it’s really not. Last night we actually did give some of our left-over kebab to a ‘starving’ kid, she immedately asked for the kebab sauce as well. I mean, eating a kebab without sauce would not be thought of! They all run around the streets rather happy and playing until they see a gringo and all of the worlds problems suddenly fall over them when they encounter you to ask for money.

A funny fact almost related to this is that there is a huge lack of change here. Ecuadorians are using the US-dollar but the real hard currency are the one-dollar-bills. If you pay with a 10-dollar bill they look at you as if you are crazy and look deeply into their register as if that would produce change. It’s not just that 10 dollars are a lot of money, it’s just that there seem to be more large dollar bills in the commerce than smaller dollar bills.

Another more pleasant feature of the streets are the ‘indigenas’, the indian population. They are the poorest part of the population and most of them seem to live from selling things on the streets (I’m just gonna ignore the fact that their kids are the beggars for now). They are often standing at highly trafficked streets, at red-lights and often with a kid strapped to their back in some sort of blanket tied as a holder for the kid. Sometimes you even see kids with kids on their backs. Yesterday I saw a five-year-old with a baby on her back! Anyway, these indigenas (especially the women) are still wearing their original clothing with beautiful dresses and very characteristic hats. Kind of the one Al Capone used to wear.

Another street occurance but not a very common one happened to us the other day. We sat on one of the few outdoor cafes when two men approached us with a video camera. They wanted to interview us, in Spanish, about the architecture or something. To be perfectly honest we never really understood what they meant and I think they never really understood what we answered. I don’t know how, when and if it will ever be shown on Ecuadorian TV but all I know is that I won’t appear like a Nobel Prize winner.

Right now, the people of Quito are very upset because of the political situation. There are smaller demonstrations and fights with the police every other day. It’s not because of our delayed equipment as you might have thought. It is because the former president, who had to flee to Panama because of the rage of the people, is coming back. He actually wouldn’t be able to come back, he has some sort of verdict on him that would put him straight to prison. However his buddy, the current president, did a little trick and fired all the judges of the supreme court and put his buddies in there so they could relieve the former president’s verdict. Dirty politics that is. On Tuesday it’s going to be a big strike. We’ll see what happens then.

Had a really nice last week by the way, did some shopping, went to some hot springs, had a dinner at TGI Fridays that costed 5 times more than a normal dinner, went out with one of room mates and spent the whole week writing on our thesis.

 

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