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Goodbye to Ecuador

Guayaquil


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I had pictured myself having a nice relaxed time at the airport before my final flight out of Ecuador, but it didn't work out like that at all! I had no time at all to browse through duty-free or have a drink at a café in the boarding area, which is what I had wanted to do. Instead I had a very stressful time of it, as I will expand on below!

Just before I left the flat I realised I still had a tin of fruit cocktail left, so I took it with me to the airport. As soon as I'd checked in my big case I had the fruit salad and checked the Republica del Cacao t-shirts (they didn't have any fitted ones so I didn't buy one) before going through to passport control. As soon as I saw the massive queue I regretted the time I'd spent eating fruit salad because I only had an hour left before take-off. I felt increasingly agitated as I waited because I heard my name being called, telling me to identify myself to someone at Gate 10... the queue was going so slowly and every five minutes my name was being called, along with those of three others. The first official looking person I ambushed told me I still had to wait my turn at passport control despite what the intercom voice had said, so I carried on waiting, feeling even more agitated as the minutes ticked by. I was so afraid I'd miss my flight! Finally another couple ambushed an official close by me, saying their names were being called, so I jumped in too. This official let us jump the queue and go straight to a passport control person.

After getting my passport stamped I had to queue for the baggage x-ray; there were two officials checking passports in the queue and when they got to mine they asked how many days - I assumed they meant how many days I'd been in Ecuador, though I wasn't sure if they meant overall or just since the last time I´d left and come back. The woman seemed impatient and when I said "a year and two months" she just repeated "how many days?", and when I said, flustered, "um, about 420, 430?", she made me go into a little separate room to have my hand luggage checked. The guy took his time doing it. Every couple of minutes my name was still being called, until eventually it stopped. Then one of the onlooking officials said something about my rucksack being checked - I thought he meant I'd have to go back and check it in as hold luggage, so I said "but I haven't got time to do that! My name is being called!" - to which he didn't make any reaction. They let me go as soon as I'd said it though and I just carried straight on to the x-ray and put my stuff through OK.

As soon as my stuff came out from the x-ray I didn't have time to do up my bootlaces so I ran through duty-free and along to Gate 10 with them still untied. I arrived at the gate out of breath and extremely flustered looking, only to be told by the official there that I had to go downstairs because my bags had been identified as a security risk! I said in English "but my flight...!" and luckily for my state of mind the woman said not to worry, that the flight would not be leaving without me.

So in a relieved and more relaxed state of mind, I went downstairs to what turned out to be where suspect hold luggage is put aside and searched before being put on the plane. My big case was hauled out and then searched in front of me. There was a couple next to me having their bags searched too - the woman started shouting about it, which I mentally shook my head about because after all it wasn't the baggage searcher's fault. Not that I would start shouting even if it was her fault, of course. The guy who searched my bag was very nice and did a rather cursory search before saying that everything was fine.

When I checked the time as I sat down on the plane it was 18.16, a minute after we were supposed to have departed. We set off within 30 minutes. The sun was setting as we left Guayaquil. I felt excited about the fact I'd be back in the UK again soon and to be spending time in Madrid before that, but I did also feel sad to be leaving my wonderful Ecuador, a country that had been so kind to me. I will definitely return!

Posted by 3Traveller 04:25 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Goodbye to Guayaquil

Guayaquil


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Monday 28th

Today I went back to my now-former-workplace to do a few final things and say goodbye to everyone. These things included: paying a visit to Western Union to transfer most of the money from my Ecuadorian bank account to the UK, making use of the printer to print off my flight e-tickets and my Madrid hostel reservation email, collecting a parcel from Emma from the post office using a slip that had arrived at work while I was away, going up onto the flat roof of the building to take photos of the view on each side, going out for lunch (seco de pollo) at the booths round the corner for the last time, and having an exit interview with the Director of Studies.

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It was relatively late in the afternoon by the time I got back, so I didn't do much else apart from go out for dinner. I had a churrasco (at this place, a thin steak with ratatouille-type vegetables and two fried eggs on top, with chips and rice) and then a cup of morocho for pudding.

Tuesday 29th

In the morning I got a bus into Guayaquil city centre for a last look-around. I visited the Central Market for the first time - as soon as I entered I really wished I'd discovered it much sooner. It was filled with fruit, vegetable and herb stalls, stalls of sausages hanging up, stalls selling sacks of flour, beans, pulses etc., and stalls selling tins and packets of food as well as more general non-edible household goods. It was very much like the Daily Market in Otavalo and the general market in Banos, only without the café-stands selling guinea pig, other typical Ecuadorian dishes and slices taken from whole roasted pigs.

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Then I walked past the hotel where I stayed with Mum in February, so on an impulse I went into its café and had a cup of their wonderful hot chocolate. Then I said goodbye to the iguanas in Iguana Square and carried on straight ahead to the Malecón.

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I climbed up one of the viewing towers next to the River Guayas, which is what I'd done on my first visit to the city centre on my second full day in Ecuador. It was perfectly sunny, without a cloud in the sky.

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My next stop was the Artisan Market, another place I had never been inside before for some reason. On the way there I walked past La Barca Azul, the lunch restaurant where I ate several times and took most of my visitors to, but I didn't feel hungry enough for lunch yet so I didn't go in. At the market I had a quick look round and then took a bus back to Urdesa.

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As soon as I'd dumped my stuff I went straight out again, this time to the Banco Pichincha cash machine to take out the rest of the money I had left in my account. I'd left enough in there to change into Euros once I got to Madrid, so I wouldn't need to use my HSBC card there at all, and hopefully have some left over as well. Before I took the bus back to my street corner, first of all I bought a sandwich and a carton of coffee milk from Oki Doki (a convenience store... I remember finding the name very amusing when I first got here) and then I did a little bit of shopping at Mi Comisariato supermarket. Amongst other things, I bought a bottle of Ecuadorian créme de cacao to take back to the UK.

Two minutes before I had to get off the bus, 'Vivir mi Vida' by Marc Antony came onto the radio. I've heard this played so often on the buses (and elsewhere) ever since I arrived in Ecuador that I've come to consider it my Ecuadorian anthem; it felt very appropriate and right that it was playing on my last bus journey here. It played on my arrival and now it was accompanying me on my way out.

Then I packed everything and at 4pm I somehow managed to get my big and incredibly heavy case down four flights of stairs and out onto the pavement, along with my rucksack, laptop case and a couple of bags of rubbish to put out.

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Then I flagged down a taxi to the airport. The fare was $4, so since all the change I had left came to just above that, I just gave the driver all of it.

Posted by 3Traveller 03:53 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel market airport cathedral buses iguanas ecuador guayaquil english_teaching malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

Garlic crab in Guayaquil

Guayaquil


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The flight from Quito was uneventful and I arrived back in Guayaquil late afternoon.

In the evening I went out for dinner with my friend and colleague 'E' to a crab restaurant. I was desperate to have crab at least once before I left Ecuador, because the coast is known for its crab dishes and many people, including several students, had recommended them to me. I had garlic crab; there wasn't all that much meat in them, apart from in particularly large and fat pincers, but I was still really glad I'd had them. What there was was very tasty and juicy. I was given a wooden mallet to crack the shells, legs and pincers with! They were all very thick, so a hammer or mallet of some sort was definitely needed. I was given a plastic bib at the start as well; this was also very much needed due to bits of shell and garlic flying around! 'E' had ceviche and then helped me out with one or two of my crabs as I had several and each one took me quite a long time to eat.

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While we were waiting for our food to arrive 'E' gave me a goodbye present - a keyring in the shape of a palm tree, made of different sections carved from coloured tagua nuts. Tagua is called 'vegetable ivory' due to the close similarity in texture and colour to the real thing.

After the crab restaurant we went to my favourite morocho stand and had a cup of it each for dessert. Morocho is a delicious drink very much like a drinkable rice pudding, only made with a broken-up type of white corn instead of rice. The taste and texture is almost exactly like rice pudding.

Posted by 3Traveller 16:45 Archived in Ecuador Tagged airport quito ecuador guayaquil ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Arrival in Quito after a long day of travelling

Catamayo and Quito


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The bus trip to Catamayo was simple. The bus dropped me off in the town so I took a taxi from there to the airport - only a two-minute journey.

Catamayo Airport is tiny - about the same size as the airport on Baltra Island in the Galápagos. After I'd checked in and got my boarding pass and was waiting for baggage x-ray and the departure lounge to open, a professional football team arrived and waited too. I didn't catch which team they were though.

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I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so although it was partly over a wing, I still managed to get a good view of Cotopaxi Volcano as approached Quito. At the beginning of the flight I read an article about Guayaquil in the TAME magazine which was so full of hyperbole I had to chuckle a little to myself. I am genuinely fond of Guayaquil but even I can see that it is not quite the same level as Quito and Cuenca regarding beauty and history! This July edition of the magazine was a celebration of the Independence of Guayaquil, a public holiday for the whole country on 23rd/24th July every year.

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I'm staying at Travellers' Inn, the same hostel where I've been on each of the three previous occasions I've been to Quito. The older guy here, the head of the family who own and run the hostel, asked me where my husband was! He must have remembered my ring arriving when I was here last month with Dave, though not the fact that it was an engagement ring not a wedding one. This chap was the one who helped me and Dave with information about how to get to Papallacta.

I arrived late in the afternoon so I didn't do anything apart from rest a bit before going out for some dinner. I went to a tiny French crépe restaurant down the road, because I fancied something a bit different to normal. I had a ratatouille and chicken crépe and a chocolate milkshake. Then I realised I was still hungry so I stopped at a bakery/café on the way back and bought a chocolate bun.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:10 Archived in Ecuador Tagged volcanoes airport hostel quito andes ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

World Cup Final, leaving drinks and my last day at work

Guayaquil


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Earlier today we all met up at someone's flat to watch the World Cup Final and have a barbecue buffet at the same time. Germany was my seeded team in the teachers' World Cup sweepstake, so I ended up winning $50! Thanks Germany!

Yesterday evening I went out for my leaving drinks with my now-ex colleagues. We started off at Arthur's Café in Las Peñas. Although the food took a long time to arrive, it was good, and we had a fantastic view of the river and the lights of Guayaquil round the curve of the bay. A supermoon was out and we also caught sight of the Captain Morgan ship (which turns into an all-you-can-drink floating bar on weekend nights) sailing up and down.

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From Arthur's Bar we climbed to the top of Cerro Santa Ana next door, going up the steep steps and paths round the side and back of the hill rather than the main ones at the front. My idea was to take some photos from the terrace at the top before stopping in at different bars on the way down. I remembered the only time I had tried to do this on a night out before, the terrace turned out to be closed to the public after midnight, so I was keen to get to it before then this time around.

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To my joy, when we got to the terrace the lighthouse was still open, so I climbed to the top of that and took in the amazing views of the terrace and chapel directly below me and then spread out before me the lights of the city, the bridge joining Guayaquil with Daule and the darkness of the River Guayas and Isla Santay.

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The upside to the often oppressive year-round hot and humid daytime temperature of Guayaquil is that after dark, even in the middle of the night, it is never ever even the slightest bit too cold. Permanent t-shirt weather. The humidity goes down and when there's a bit of a breeze going, like there was tonight at the top of the hill, it is pleasantly balmy. Although I was happy and having a great time with the rest of the group, at the same time it felt slightly poignant at the top of the lighthouse because I knew it was almost certainly the last time I'd be in that position with this view.

From the upper terrace we moved on to the lower one and found seats outside on the terrace of the wooden Puerto Pirata bar, 'the pirate ship'. We spent quite a while there, with the lighthouse looking over us, before we moved on down the hill.

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We stopped at a succession of small quirkily decorated bars, including one where I saw two dressed-up clowns in full makeup sitting in a corner having a drink together (!). Our final stop was slightly bigger bar with a dancefloor we took advantage of for a while before heading home in taxis.

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On Friday 11th I had my last teaching session; my Friday class of public sector English teachers from 5 - 9 pm. It was quite touching at the end because the students were all really nice, despite the fact that I've only had them for three once-a-week classes. One of them even said "you're a best teacher!" (sic)... during the break halfway through the lesson, one of them (who is a head teacher, out of interest) told me she loved the activities in class because they were funny... I wasn't 100% certain what she meant, because something I've noticed a lot of students do here is use the word 'funny' when what they mean is 'fun' - but I didn't think it quite appropriate to make her elaborate in that situation. I suppose it was still complimentary whether she meant 'enjoyable' or 'amusing'! I just smiled and said thank you and that it had been a pleasure for me to teach them, which is true.

It was an eventful class in other ways as well. Within the first hour I looked up at one point because I saw through the window out of the corner of my eye two people standing on the staircase outside the classroom looking down; standing there were two ex-students of mine that I had in FCE (First Certificate of English) prep classes on Saturdays until I went on holiday with Dave! It looked like they really wanted to speak to me, so I put my head outside the door to have a quick word. They seemed startlingly excited to see me. It turned out that they were just about to take the speaking part of the FCE exam. A few encouraging words were in order before I returned to my class.

Not long after that, 'I' from receptionists/course co-ordinators came in with a phone to take some photos of me and the class to put on the school's Facebook page to commemorate the fact that it was my last teaching day here. After the official photos had been taken, some of the students made her take photos with their phones as well.

During the class I had them doing role plays to practise doing the different parts of the PET (Preliminary English Test) speaking test. Lots of moving chairs around and changing between being the examiner and one of the candidates. Hopefully they are a lot more aware now of what type of activity they have to do for each part, and how to do them.

I leave for Loja tomorrow; I won't be in Guayaquil again until the 24th.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:30 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties night football barbecue ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching cerro_santa_ana las_peñas Comments (0)

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