Sunday, 3 June 2012

Quito Trip! (Long Post, Dig In)

Abby’s two week stay here was now officially over which meant Kelcy was heading to Quito to drop her off at the airport. At first, I did not want to go at all mainly because a 4 hour bus ride both ways for one day in Quito did not sound much fun. However, after considering that Kelcy would have to do it by herself and honestly, I wasn’t doing anything else with my Friday and Saturday, I decided to accompany her. It was a good decision and much adventure followed.

After dinner and youth group on Friday night, I quickly cleaned my entire apartment and packed my bags ready to move out. I was not yet sure where I was moving too, all I knew is that a new team was coming in on Saturday and a couple summer staff girls were taking my current domain. I had everything clean and ready to go for the arrival tomorrow; I even took a shower to clean myself haha. Once all was done, I packed a quick bag with a couple things for Quito and then Kelcy, Abby, and I headed out for our adventure. It was around 10 o’clock when we boarded our first bus. This one was headed to Ambato which is a town about 2 hours away from Quito. We chose to take this route because we thought it would be easier to catch a bus from Ambato rather than Shell.

We were correct about that but did not think that we would have to stand in the rain in Ambato waiting for 45 minutes for a bus to arrive. No worries though, it was fun bonding time and sure enough, our bus did come eventually. We loaded the bags and now around 1 am, I fell right asleep.  I had slept a little on the first bus ride too so by the end of our riding; I had a total of about an hour and a half of on and off bus ride sleep (not the best kind). Upon arrival to the bus terminal in Quito, we then grabbed a taxi and took our 30 minute drive to the airport. I really enjoyed getting to know Abby these past two weeks and it was a sad moment for us when she had to leave but since we could not pass through security with her, the drop off was rather quick and painless. She said goodbye, took her bags and was in.

Now the adventure begins! 

So after dropping off Abby, Kelcy and I now had a few hours to kill before the new team came in and took us to Shell with them. They weren’t flying into the Quito Airport until about 10 on Saturday night and since it was only 3 o’clock in the morning on Saturday morning, we decided not to stay and wait. Instead, we decided to start walking . . . (This was probably not the best decision once we realized we had no idea where we were going). We decided where to go by playing a game (my idea). We started with my name: C-A-T-O- and since C was closer to the L in Left rather than the R in Right, we took a left and then since the A was also closer to the L in Left, we took a left at the next street too. This game, which was very short, lived by the way, lasted until we were quite a ways away from the airport and walking through who knows where in Quito at 3:30 in the morning.

We were now lost, not that that is any worse than being at the airport because there we were lost too. Kelcy said she knew her way around a tiny bit but that was only if we started at a place she already knew, which the middle of random streets a 45 minute walk away from the airport was not one of those places she knew. We found a really nice guy walking along the street and asked for directions to anything that was open. He gave us some directions that neither Kelcy or I understood but he did tell us the name of a place in down town where we could go. He said it was a long walk so we should probably get a cab but we were into walking so we did. We kept walking for a while, still lost until we decided to ask some other people for directions. This time, we asked to middle aged guys sitting in a dark alley smoking at 4 in the morning. Haha, they were super nice and told us we had to get a cab because it was way too dangerous to walk.

We graciously said thank you and then finally did decide to get in a cab. After some short debate with what the price of the cab should be, the driver finally agreed and took us on a 30 minute car ride to the middle of down town Quito. We were so far off from where we were trying to get, it was embarrassing. Anyways, the place he took us was a big square with places on all corners and streets. Nothing was open except a really cool coffee 24 hour coffee shop. Since that was the only open place, we decided to eat some early morning breakfast. So around 4:30, we ate a good breakfast and then decided to go find another place to explore. There was really no place open but there were people out walking around.

After we walked around several blocks and was offered some cocaine, we turned the corner to a guy getting mugged. They were about a block in front of us and there were four guys kicking and punching this other guy. They all looked Ecuadorian I guess but the four guys were totally ganging up on the one. We stopped for a second as my first instinct was to run and stop them. 4 on 1 was not fair at all and my sympathy automatically went to the 1. Kelcy asked if I should go help too but once I got past the unfair numbers, I quickly made what I think was a wise decision. I decided that although I was bigger and stronger than the guys doing the jumping, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to get involved. I just imagined for a moment what would happen if 5 guys were in a fight and all the sudden a gringo came running in punching people not knowing how to speak Spanish. Haha, that would have been a disaster. I thought of it if it had been turned around and I was in the states. If some random foreigner came in punching me and my friends and yelling random non English words, everybody in the fight would probably just start punching him, hahaha. So I just said no, let’s turn around and go back the way we came.

We did and after that, we decided maybe it was a little smarter to stay in a more public and well lit area. We then saw some motion up in some windows that looked like an art gallery. It looked like they were having a party, like a party where only super rich people are invited so we tried to play the gringo card and invite ourselves. They did not buy it and kicked us out, haha. So then, we went back to the coffee shop and found some guys standing outside working. We asked them a few questions of things to do and they were so helpful. They told us nothing was open, which we had already figured out, but then they said that anywhere we would go would be way too peligroso (dangerous) so we should just stay there. That was way too boring so instead we decided to grab a cab and go to the Equator. The working guys standing their heard us trying to describe to the cab driver where to go so they helped us out and made sure we got to the right place.

The cab driver dropped us off at a corner near the metro station which didn’t open until 6. It was now 5:30 so he yelled out the window to a guy selling tea on that corner and asked him to watch out for us until the metro opened. They guy agreed so we got out and waited. The cab driver left with wise words to not go anywhere because we would get mugged, so we didn’t.  Once the metro opened, we paid our 25 cent fee and headed to the town where the Equator was which was about an hour drive. Too bad the actual Equator tourist spot didn’t open until 9, haha. So we walked around the town there from about 7:15 to 9 just looking around and talking. It was light now and we were no longer in Quito so there were no worries at all about getting mugged there. We stopped in for our second breakfast at a small restaurant that was really good and then returned to the entrance at 9. While waiting for them to open the gates, we met a Chinese guy and got to know him for a little.

Once the gates opened, we walked in took our pictures straddling the line and then headed back to the metro. By this time, we had been up all night traveling so once we got back on the metro to head back into Quito, we both fell asleep. Unfortunately for us, we passed the point where we were supposed to get off. We were looking for the big market so we could do some shopping but we had passed it by a long shot. Kelcy asked around how to get there but nobody was giving the best directions so we finally got off and asked some cops. They told us of a better market (not even close though) that was nearby so we walked all around Quito for the next 2 hours trying to find it. We never found the market we were looking for but we did find a couple other markets. We found shoe heaven! It was like 37 different alleyways all covered and turned into shoe vendors. There were literally 500 different vendors all side by side packed together each with about a 10 foot by 10 foot space lined with knock off shoe brands. Everything from 100 dollar fake Nikes to little plastic shoes for 5 dollars. We got lost walking around there and once we finally got out, we decided that the market we were looking for had to be far away because nobody could direct us to it. We grabbed lunch at this huge fresh fruit and veggie market and then headed to the metro again to head back the other direction.

Different people told us different things of where to go but to make a long story short, after a lot of confusing directions and help from the police; we got on the right bus and headed back into down town. Once we thought we were close, we hopingly hopped off the bus and to our surprise, Kelcy saw the market. Praise the Lord, we had found it. So we spent the next 2 hours from there bartering which was soooo much fun. I loved it. My parents always told me I would like it because I like arguing, I always laughed but did not realize how much I would like it. I bought a lot of stuff and although the ending prices we got down too were still probably more than what it cost to make them, it was way less than they asked and still way less than I would pay for in the States. It was just fun piecing together the small
Spanish I knew to act super offended at certain offered prices. I liked arguing only with numbers then walking away and getting urged to come back and keep going. The day was a big success as far as shopping goes and I got a lot of stuff for very little money.

One cab ride later, we ended up at a big very Americanized mall. We ate dinner at a Sports Planet (very similar to Applebees), got  Tres Leches for dessert (a very Ecuadorian moist cake) and then watched a Spanish Subtitles movie at the theater. We watched Snow White and the Huntsman which was pretty good. Then again, anything would have been good because all I had to compare it to was Milo and Otis on my computer hahah. After the movie and some more walking around, we headed out of the mall to another Americanized restaurant called Old West. We had just eaten like 3 hours ago so we weren’t that hungry yet. Ecuador was playing Argentina in soccer though so we sat around drank some fresh juice the restaurant had and cheered for with the locals for Ecuador. They lost 4 to nothing. By the time the game ended, we were hungry again so we ordered a Billy Bob Pizza and chowed down. 

After all of that, Kelcy and I were so tired but since I had two huge glasses of fresh juice (Mora and Coco) I was on a sugar high. That quickly ended once we got to the airport around 9 to wait for the team. We found a nice poll to sit against and just sat for an hour almost not moving or talking haha. Finally, around 1020, the new team from Tulsa Oklahoma arrived ready for their week in Shell. Also, Heidi and her friend showed up ready to escort us and the team. Heidi has been here before apparently and was in Quito for a week before meeting us at the airport. Heidi and her friend were the ones moving into my apartment. Status update on that by the way, we couldn’t find me another place so we ended up staying in the apartment I am in and just locking a door in the middle to make it two apartments instead of one big one. I am still in the same place, just a different room now. The girls and I share a living room and kitchen but I we have separated rooms and bathrooms so it ended up being nice that I didn’t have to move all my stuff completely.

We met the team, all became friends, got on their privately rented bus, stopped by McDonalds on the way and then continued to Shell getting in around 4. We dropped off the team and then Heidi, her friend, and I all went home. I showed them around, took a shower and was in bed by 5. More will come on the team later but for now, I just want to give God thanks for how much of an amazing day it was. I was so glad I went. I had a blast exploring, eating, walking, and talking in Quito. Kelcy was fun and put up with me the whole time which is very impressive by the way. No, just kidding, we had a great time and more than anything, I want to thank God for keeping us safe. We met so many people and openly talked to everybody. We got lost, got offered drugs, saw a mugging and through everything, we were always protected. Everyone we talked to was super helpful and friendly, even the two guys smoking in the dark alley at 4 in the morning. I know the whole day could have turned out so differently but God watched over us and I am thankful.

We were never scared either which is another thing I want to thank God for. In my devotional this morning, I read Romans 8 and in Romans 8 I think verse 31, it says if God is for us then who can be against us. That truth is what I felt all day and night walking around Quito. I don’t care where I am or what I doing, I literally have no fear and that is only because God is for me and nothing else matters. Thanks God for an awesome day. I praise you for your promise of always being on my side. Thanks for keeping us safe amongst not so wise decisions maybe and thank you for letting us have fun. I praise you in Jesus name. Amen

One quicker story before I end this three page monologue. For our lunch at the fresh fruit market, we sat by a really old Ecuadorian couple who we talked to for a little before we ate. They were finishing as we were sitting down and after we prayed for our meal, they stopped and prayed with us. I prayed in English so they didn’t understand what I said but they knew we were praying to God. Then as they left, they told us how awesome it was that we thanked God for our meal and they blessed us and said may God be with us that day. So it was really fun meeting them and it is always great to meet strong believers and see those encouraging random strangers even here in Ecuador. Thanks God.

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