At this exact moment we’re sitting on the fifth floor terrace of our hostel overlooking the city of Quito, Ecuador. The sun is shining and the sky is very blue. There a few other people milling about the terrace… to my right, a college student is having a Spanish lesson. Down at the bar a guy with waist length dreadlocks is drinking a beer. In front of me is a dark green mountain with thousands of sun-bleached houses spilling and tumbling down the slopes. To my left, Andy is looking up Spanish words on the iPhone and drinking purified water.
Welcome to our year in the world. We’re taking a year off of work, off of paying rent, off of wearing consistently clean clothes. We’re going to take this chance to see parts of the world that we may never otherwise find time to see. And we’re beginning in Ecuador.
Our flight here from London was long and fairly uneventful. Our first layover was in Madrid where we boarded a plane full of Ecuadorians coming home… and their children. I have never in my life seen so many kids on a plane. It seemed like every row on the plane contained at least one gorgeous, dark eyed, chubby cheeked child. I admit, I was mortified. I was convinced that the flight would be 19 hours of screaming, whining and wiggling. Happily, I was wrong. In fact, by the end of the flight I was doing more whining and wiggling than those angelic Ecuadorian children. I’m not sure what Ecuadorian parents are doing, but I can say that they are raising packs of silent, well-behaved children.
Andy and I fly a lot. On the way over here I tried to calculate how many hours I’d spent on a plane this year, and I gave up when the total got over 60. But, our flight here was full to bursting with people who were very obviously NOT as comfortable on planes as we were. As we took off from Madrid, about half the passengers crossed themselves and held rosaries. There was a nun on our flight, so I did feel pretty confident that we weren’t going to crash.
When our flight finally landed in Guayaquil, Ecuador most of the plane erupted into a huge round of applause. I just laughed and laughed at their enthusiasm, and then I actually found myself in tears. How lovely to be so happy to be home that you can’t help but actually clap!! How wonderful to love where you live enough to applaud when you arrive there! Many of our fellow passengers had probably not flown often before, and I couldn’t help but feel happy for them. They’d had a successful trip away and back again. What a wonderful feeling! It was a heartwarming welcome to South America.
And then, the chaos that South America is known for replaced the cheers and jubilation. The passengers on the plane immediately stood up and tried to collect their dozens of carry-on bags. The flight attendants had to shout at everyone twice to sit back down and buckle up. Then, the airline lost our luggage, which seems to be enjoying a long holiday in Madrid. Bugger.
We’ve spent our first full day in Quito trying to get over some crippling jet-lag (I blame our friends Gill and Darrell who FORCED us to stay up indecently late drinking red wine on the night before our flight) and getting our plans for the next few weeks sorted out with the travel agency here. We’re heading to Otovalo at the end of this week, into the Amazon next week and down to Laguna Quilatoa the week after that. And then… 320 more days to go….