After a fun week in Cuenca, we got back into Quito (after our plane circled the city for nearly 3 hours due to seriously rainy weather) on April 17th. It was nice to be back, however the rain was very intense, and our school had flooded. We arrived at school with bilge pumps running and people running around with squeegees. Unfortunately, the entire neighborhood was flooded under water – including the Cuba embassy, so there were nearly 200 Cuban immigrants milling around on the muddy street waiting for visas and a dry building. We definitely got to experience the wraith of an equatorial Andean rain storm, which even had hail-balls about the size of large marbles (yikes!).
Hail outside our window
We got back into our routine fairly quickly, and did another 3 weeks of intense Spanish school. It was a bit rough with the mold and cleaning equipment, but the school and the students made the best of it. The weather made for great study conditions! During our first week back, the country had their “Semana Santa,” which is a very intense catholic holiday. The mestizo interpretation of Catholic doctrine was so interesting, and truly endemic to the post-colonial Spanish world. Imagine 3,000 people in purple robes (very much like the KKK robes, of course no actual correlation) marching barefoot with heavy crosses, thorns, self-flagellation, candles, as speakers droned the Stations of the Cross every block. This was a very unique experience! More importantly during this week is the food. Ecuador has its prized fanesca dish, which is a creamy fish stew with 10+ different kinds of lentils, beans, corn and grains. Needless to say, its incredibly filling and hearty, and takes nearly all day to make (or multiple days!!). We helped a little bit by shelling the skin off of some of the beans (so its not as ‘heavy’) and did a little prep work. But in the Penaherrera household, Rosie and Lola and Salome did most of the grunt work on this special dish. Even more fun was sitting around the table with everyone and digging in to the dish – complete with fried plantains, empanadas, and other menestras. ¡¡Que Rico!!
Not your typical Friday afternoon...
Rosie and Lola hard at work
Closely followed by the fanesca and the parade was Kristin’s BIRTHDAY!! The weather was still pretty rainy, but we managed to get out to a big artesenal market and find her a really nice alpaca sweater. Kristin also scored a yoga mat to keep living the healthy life-style (much in contrast the ever-deteriorating Ivan…). It was a nice relaxing day, which was completed with a home-cooked Thai dinner by Ivan. It was quite the pig-out, and we even got Salome to eat some spicy coconut soup. Gabriel then handed Kristin a really nice purple shirt for her golden-year birthday. Such great friends (and wine!). The following day (Easter Sunday), the sun pulled-through and we walked through the park and watched spandex clad Quitenos pump some aerobics, and many artists doing demonstrations. Parque Carolina is really incredible when its in full-swing, and such a great place for 100’s of families.
Happy Birthday KK!!
The Birthday bakers
A bit later in the week, a really nice surprise was seeing our Canadian pal Fraser (see El Bolson blog) with his girlfriend Amanda. We met up one evening and went out with Nick for some good company, a couple drinks, and some dancing. Nick gave us the VIP treatment and we all had a blast in the Mariscal clubs. The following day we took Frazer and Amanda to some of the hot spots for tourist items and shopping in Mariscal. Eventually we said our good-byes and were sad to see them go.
A fun group!!
Throughout these weeks, we also did some day trips to museums and historical sites of the city. We went up to the Panecillo to get a phenomenal view of both northern and southern Quito (she has her back to the south though – intentionally…). The view was great and the weather was crystal clear (we could see the Cotopaxi volcano!!). Another stop we made were the colonial churches and cathedrals – some of the alters were even covered in gold leaf. The history behind these structures is fascinating, but also brutally violent.
Can you spot Kristin?!
Plaza San Francisco
Another adventure was going to the two Guayasamin museums – an Ecuadorian painter who portrayed the plights of the impoverished, and was very much into socialism and communism (he had lots of photos with Castro, Hugo Chavez, and many other typical leaders of this turbulent political ideology—made all the more interesting by the fact that he had loads of money, 2 Rolls Royce’s and a giant house… power to the people..!). His paintings are incredibly emotive, and even grotesque. We liked them enough, that we bought some replicas in the artesania market! Interestingly, he is buried next to his house under the Tree of Life. A very eccentric and popular artist.
The Potosi miners - not quite how we remember it... But very powerful painting!
One of our daily activities is strolling through Parque Carolina. This is a massive park across the street that houses soccer fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a track, museums, playgrounds, work out equipment, and more… One afternoon we visited the beautiful Botanic Gardens, we got lost in the depths of the Mediterranean gardens, the bonsai gardens, the tropical gardens and having a picnic in the sunshine. This park is a great asset to the city and a great way to spend a few hours outside.
She makes a sexy leaf!
Hand in hand with our experiences in Quito, we have continued to drink the worlds best coffee, chocolate, and fruit. We are both very excited for the arrival of Kristin’s father Steve tomorrow, and are planning some great adventures along the volcanic Andean landscape.
Below are some pictures from our delicious Mother's Day brunch. Yummmm!