Getting Ready for Another Trip

I’ll write more later, but our next destination is San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. That’s where the Zapatista Army of National Liberation are!

This year, we’re going to be chill. We are going to stay put and see if we can make a life there. Sure, we’ll get around a bit. We’ll see Pelenque and go to Puerto Angel, which is where the University del Mar is, somewhere around Ziipolite. But for the most part, we’re going to try day-to-day living. After last year’s epic trip, it’ll be a nice change of pace.

One thing I’m sure about however is the coffee in Chiapas is supposed to be out-of-this-world good. After Ecuador, all I can say about that is “Whew!”

Friends and family have an open invitation to visit. Fly to Mexico City or Cancun and then either bus it or plane it down there. The bus is about $70 and 14-16 hours and the plane is about $130 and less than two hours. (You’ll have to fly in to Tuxtla Gutierrez airport.)

We made it to Cuenca… but it wasn’t easy.

We left Baños early with what we thought was without a hitch. To get to Cuenca, we had to go north to Ambato about an hour and then head south. It was supposed to be a seven-hour bus ride. And we were smart this time; we actually brought some food with us. So, we got to Ambato and this woman comes running up to us to sell us tickets to Cuenca. We ask her when the bus was going to leave and she said “10 minutes.” One thing I’ve learned since we’ve been down here is that to a South American, time is relative. One person’s 10 minutes is another person’s 30 minutes. We stood around waiting for the bus for at least a half an hour. Every time we asked where it was, it was always “10 minutes.” Meanwhile, we were both beginning to smell like roasting chicken. There was a little restaurant next to the bus place that had a grill going. No matter where we stood, the smoke from the cooker would follow us.

Continue reading


I think we were lucky to not have been mugged in Quito. Peter’s friend got mugged in broad daylight. They cut the bag he was carrying and got away with his two phones — his blackberry and his international phone. (Insert sharp intake of air here for all the Blackberry owners who are reading this.) He was lucky he wasn’t carrying his computer at the time. He was pretty shaken up. This is a guy who has been all over the world; a seasoned traveler and he got nailed. Peter met up with him and they had a few drinks to try and calm him down. On their way home, somebody was following them so Peter turned to confront the guy and the guy just slithered off down another street and left them alone. They are REALLY predatory in Quito. According to my teacher, the thieves (or delinquentes as they call them) station themselves at points around the square and when they lift something, they use the streets that run parallel and outside of the square to drop stuff off to each other so that in the event of their capture, they won’t have any of the goods on them. Clever monkeys.

Continue reading

Our last days in Quito

Things are wrapping up here. I actually completed the whole first book in my Spanish lessons! OK, so I don’t remember everything I learned, but for the most part, I do. (Peter actually started on the second book. He’s been way more diligent about remembering what he’s learned.) The thing I’ll never forget about my teacher is whenever I mispronounce something, which is A LOT, (those damn G and J sounds) he says, “No, no, no, no, no {tsk tsk tsk tsk} Mira, ahora…” The same bunch of sounds each and every time. I must hear that like 50 times in a two-hour lesson. I could make him stop by just slowing down and pronouncing things correctly, but I don’t do that because, well, I’m a stubborn and I insist on barreling through it. You should’ve heard me argue with him over a particular use of the verbs ser and estar. Both are forms of the verb “to be”, but one (ser) is for permanent stuff like, “I am a teacher” and the other (estar) is for more transient stuff like “I am tired.” I think it was “The tickets are here” and he was telling me to use the estar form. I was like “But they’re printed! They’re real things!” He explained that you don’t keep the tickets, you give them up when you enter whatever, that they’re transient. But I was like “Noooo, they’re printed.” “No, no, no, no, no {tsk tsk tsk tsk} Mira, ahora…” Peter had a similar argument with his teacher only way more intellectual. It was about “He is dead.” While you might think death is permanent, to them, it’s about not knowing what happens after you die, death is a state of being. It could very well be transient so they use the estar form. Seriously, why does any language need two versions of the verb “to be”? One seems like plenty to me.

Continue reading

A Twisted Ankle

The most useful things we packed: swiss army knife with a wine bottle opener and a can opener, small flashlight, a reusable grocery bag that stuffs down into a tiny pouch (thanks mom), Farscape, small pocket mirror, large flash drive, small flash drive, duct tape, silk long underwear

The most useless things we packed:  Linen skirt, summer print skirt with matching top, too many books to read, Bolognese recipe, drain plug (for some reason, the Lonely Planet book recommended a universal drain plug so I packed one.)

Continue reading

The Bolognese Debacle

This was the week of food experiences, some good, some not so good and some outright hilarious.

Here’s one that was very bad:

Never assume that if the package shows a picture of tomatoes on it, that it’s tomato sauce. I tried to make a Bolognese and even though I was lacking porcini mushrooms and pancetta, I thought it wouldn’t be all that bad. However, turns out that what I thought was tomato sauce was actually catsup.

Mmmmmmm, deeeelicious.

Continue reading

Things I’ve Observed

Not much interesting happened because we are both miserable studying tenses. We were both feeling so positive about learning Spanish; learning new vocabulary and conjugating verbs and then… duh duh duhnnnnnn… enter the tenses—past tense, future tense past perfect, future perfect, plu-f-ckn perfect. There are 15 of the damn things. Hrmph. There’s a reason I always gave up on learning all the languages I’ve ever studied over the years. The reason can be summed up in one word: tenses. It probably doesn’t help that I’m woefully ignorant of grammar.

So, here are just some random things I’ve noticed:

Continue reading


Before the day trip, on Thursday, we went to a little neighborhood called Guápulo for drinks. Peter’s teacher told him about it. It’s way up the side of the mountain, near a cathedral. We had an address but the cab driver couldn’t find it. He almost killed a motorcyclist when he took a one-way road the wrong way. That was scary. Anyway, the cab driver gave up (there’s only so much a cab driver will do for six bucks) and dropped us off in front of the cathedral. We had to figure it out from there. We wandered around for a while and it was pretty desolate and I was thinking, “Oh, this can’t be safe.” We asked one person for directions and they said the place we were looking for was behind the cathedral, but the only thing behind the cathedral was this dreadful looking flight of steps. So Peter said, with some authority, “We have to climb these.” (Honestly, I think he knew that if he hadn’t said it with authority, I wouldn’t have done it.)

Continue reading

Our Routine Here in Quito

Monday through Friday: Wake up at 7:30 am and try to make our own coffee. Apparently, Ecuadorians are not huge on coffee, which is strange considering they grow so much of it. If you go into one of the little places to eat—and they’re all pretty much ‘little places to eat’—they’ll make you a hot steaming cup of… brace for it… INSTANT COFFEE. That’s their idea of coffee. Blech. Ever had café con leche with instant coffee? No? You’re lucky. I don’t even have the words to describe how bad it is so you know it’s awful. And woe is you if you forget to yell out, “Sin sucre!” before they dump at least three tablespoons of sugar into it. There’s no coffee pot in this apartment so I’m still experimenting with a decent method for making coffee without having to buy something. Monday’s coffee was a disaster; muddy and tasteless, though still better than instant. Tuesday’s was better, but still pretty bad. I might have to google “how to make coffee without a pot” to get some ideas. We do have this stuff we bought in the mercado outside Bogotá. I may have mentioned it but it’s chocolate, coffee beans, and some toasted grains ground up into a powder. You add it to hot milk and it’s awesome, but sadly, it’s not enough caffeine for me to stave off my caffeine headache.

Back to our routine…

Continue reading