Here are the thoughts of Joanna nee Lake as she spends time in Ecuador, and beyond... Disciple, Fairtrade Freak, Psychologist in the making. Now part of the Blundell Jones clan.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Sun, sea, sand, sunburn and lobster

Happy New Year everyone!! Hope you all had a fabuloso time. Lots to tell, so here goes!

As you could tell from the title this week I did get to the beach!! And all four of us managed to go (at one point it looked like just two of us)!! Bev, Jules (strider in Santo), Clare (long-termer in Santo) and me. Bev and I traveled down to Santo on the 30th then we went together to Atacames on the 31st. Interesting journey, thankfully we had seats, I reckon there were 30 odd seats, but we doubled almost tripled in number with people standin up in the aisles, getting on and off at various points (on the way back we had to stand for an hour but then got seats!! yeay!! 4hr journey standing all the way would not be nice!! Shared part of it with a live chicken, could hear chicks cheeping and a piglet squealing too!). Having soo many people squished on made it a wee bit difficult to get off. I was really glad I had a window seat not least for the air to combat travel sickness (windy roads!), but i love taking in the view along the way which were beautiful, lush green jungly type vegetation, wee wooden houses on stilts with balconys of plants, ranches of cows, caught our first glimpses of horses. It was also good being near the window as it gradually got hotter and hotter the nearer we got to the coast.

El Tiburon (the shark), y Tahiti
We arrived around about lunchtime to our hotel 'the shark' and it was pretty minging! Box room, the windows weren’t set properlyand there was no mozy net on them (so we had to keep them shut and nearly faint from the heat), you had to step up about 2 feet to get into the bathroom and squeeze through a tiny doorway which was partially blocked by one of the beds! Needless to say we set about looking for somewhere else quick smartish! We spent just one night at that hotel and spent the other 2 at another which was a much nicer affair.. spacious room and baño (bathroom), pool as well, only thing was (well, didn’t bother me) that the fan sounded like a helicopter was in the room with us and we found a cockroach which Jules squished with my trainer - lovely!!! but we much prefered it there!

The beach itself was hot and sunny and the waves pretty powerful (I nearly got wiped out a couple of times jumping them!), and also very chocker with people!! Lots of Ecuadorian holiday-makers over for new years – by monday morning it was almost deserted!!

The food was fab, I’m not a great seafood fan but it what i had was really tasty… ate lots of prawns and squid (emmie + liz remember the baby ones i ate in barce?). On the last day for almuerzo (lunch) we got a seafood platter between the four of us for $12, which at the current exchange rate is just about 6 quid. It contained: prawns, scallops (bit too chewy for my liking), mussels (hmmm, bit too 'fishy'), crab (not much meat on them is there?!- who ever said i was fussy?), big ‘battered’ fish, half a wee lobster (how much would that cost alone in England??), plate of rice and menestra (lentil stew), a bowl of ceviche (ecua speciality - fish soup), a plate of maduros (sweet banana fried, very yummy!) and a jug of lemonade (not Sprite but proper stuff made with lemons!! Though i think they rather overdosed on the sugar as it tasted rather like a sherbert lemon!) Ooo very exciting.. beach is lined with wee bars which tend to have music blarring most of the time (gets abit much when it’s the same songs over and over again…) merengue beats driving you crazy.. one particular song ‘Za za za’… argghhhh!! Though did hear some REM (random!!!) and some Bob Marley (they like their reggae here!) oo got sidetracked… at one I had 3 types of icecream in a pineapple for 50p!!! yuuummmmyyyy!! + bargainious!

Mainly we just chilled on the beach, paddling in the water, and sitting in deck chairs (the all important shade, being near the equator the sun can be particularly fierce! people can get 3rd degree burns from ecuadorian beaches!). Somehow I managed to get a wee bit of sunburn on my back and some rather random patterns of my feet (dodgy application of suntan lotion!!!) but wasn’t bad, didn’t hurt abit! Oo we went to the Aquatic ´museum´ which was just outside our hotel. Basically it was a slightly (not much) glorified shed (open sides from shoudlers up, thatched roof, all made of wood) with about 30 cases of sea life exhibits.. I use the word life when infact some of them contained dead things… mmm, lovely… but my guide book did warn us! Sad thing was to see 2 turtles in a glorified bucket, dirty water, nothing to do except swim round and round in wee circles, poor things!! Was interesting though!

New Year Celebrations…
The big tradition here is to burn ‘Año Viejos’ (old years). They are men made of old clothes and stuffed with sawdust or whatever one can find (similar to our Guy Faulkes creations). Paquita told me a funny story of a friend who lives in England who made one out of her English husbands workclothes… she went to burn it in a park and was most dismayed to find it wouldn’t set alight… so she went home and then realized that her husbands clothes are fireproof!! Doh!!! It was a good job it didn’t light coz the authorities might not have been best pleased… unlike in england, here in Ecuador they can burn anything, anywhere…so when it comes to new year people are burning their año viejos here there and everywhere! When these old men are burned it symbolizes the ‘old year’ with all it’s bad bits going and being forgotten. The other part of the tradition is that men dress up as widows and ask passers by for ‘caridad’ (charity) since their old man is going to die and they will be left destitute! These widows put up barriers (usually a piece of string) next to their old man, and in order to pass you have to pay them a ‘centavo’. All very amusing and I think the men really enjoy dressing up in drag!

In Quito the Año Viejo’s are made of material and you can buy them all over the place, and also masks to put on their heads… but in Atacames the vast majority are made of paper mache. Some were politicians, some were animals, some of Spiderman…all sorts… got a good picture of some which I will provide a link for a some point! The little ones costed $18 and the large $30!! We spoke to the lady that made them and she said she’d been at it since June!!! It’s a very important tradition… so Friday night we got to see them being burning on the beach and the road that runs along the top of it… they also set off lots of fireworks (health and safety!! kids picking them up and throwing them... there had been warnings that there have been some extremely powerful fireworks this year which are really dangerous, burning a huge area suurounding them because of too much gunpowder!!! hmmm, needless to say we didn't get close!). We burnt some wee sparklers that my gap year room mate sent me (very exciting!!), hung out on the beach abit watching the goings on and went to bed about 1ish… oo earlier when it turned midnight English time, clare and jules insisted on singing old lang’syne (how you spell it? Not like that!!) much to the disapproval of bev! hee hee...

Back to Quito
Returned to Quito on tues… and during our bus journey bev and i received a biology lesson from a traveling salesman who was selling a wonder pill which supposedly helps with cirrohis of the liver, pMT, blood disorders, gastritis, prostate cancer, cholestorol, and so much more, suitable for all ages – likely story!! He told us all about PMT, prostate, liver and kidney problems. Bus journeys here are never dull, there’s always someone trying to sell something! It's something you should experience!

Started back at Remar on wednesday… I was enthusiastically greeted by people which was really encouraging! This week mainly been spending time with the kids which has been really good and helped in the kitchen quite abit too… Couple of things the kids have said this week which are kind of funny: I was told I have eyes like a cat (I have ‘green’ and they all have brown), that I have a nose like pinochio and why is my nose shaped as it is? Kids ey?! No shame!! I was also told my Marcelo that I speak ‘medio raro’.. slightly strange… not sure whether he meant my voice, my accent, or my Spanish!!! Also got asked by an 11-yr-old boy for advice on relationships… he was in an quandary… 2 gels he really liked and he didn’t know which too choose… I was touched that he asked me, showed me that I’d being accepted by the kids… though my advice he didn’t like (wait, don’t make a rash decision), he wanted me to say one or the other.

Here in Ecuador they use all sorts of names to refer to people, and I have been called most of them! ‘Mi vida’ , my life, ‘Mi amor’, my love, ‘Mi hija’ or ‘Mi hijita’, my daughter, ‘Mi preciosa’, my precioussssss, ‘Mi reina’, my queen (this one really makes my skin crawl! especially when you get called it by some random guy on the bus), ‘Mami’ or ‘Mamita’, literally mummy but doesn’t really mean that… It takes some getting used to to have people call you their daughter when you've just met them!! But they're a very affectionate people and this is the culture... i've not taken it on yet though! but watch out people!

Oo I’ve waffled on quite enough, there’s soo much more I could say about differences in culture but I hope you’ve found this weeks entry interesting!!! I know I would find your waffle interesting (hint, hint!)…write me about the sublime, the mundane, the downright ridiculous…whatever it is I’d love to know!! Keep me in your lives!!! Please!!!
Ok, desperate plea over!! Wishing you all a joyful 2005, look forward to seeing many of you later on in the year! Oodles of love me (who else?) blahhhhh


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