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Entries about guayaquil

Holiday weekend begins

Santa Elena and Montañita


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24th May is a public holiday in Ecuador (commemorating the Battle of Pichincha) and this year that falls on a Saturday... so that means no Saturday classes tomorrow, and to take advantage of that, a group of us teachers decided to go to the coast for the weekend. Our destination was Olón, a little village not far north of Montañita.

The coast is a very popular holiday destination for Guayaquileños, so by the time everyone had finished work today and we had all got to the bus terminal, it was the evening and all the direct buses were booked out. No worries, we said, we'll just get a bus to Santa Elena and then get another one from there up the coast to Olón. We are a very chilled bunch. So that is what we did.

We had no problems on our journey to Santa Elena... but once we arrived, one finally appeared. The coastal buses had stopped for the night! Never mind; in Ecuador there is always a way out of any transport issue, and this situation was no different. There was a minibus on the other side of the road which was taking passengers up the coast for a couple of dollars each, so we all crammed onto that.

Before we left we waited around for a while for the thing to fill up. Our travelling companions were all locals; one incredibly drunk young man who was passed out in his seat by the window when we got in, a middle-aged, more talkative but also very drunk guy and two other younger guys who were only tipsy.

The way the interior was set out, there were four rows of three seats, split into two sets of two rows facing each other. There was also a seat to one side and one up front next to the driver. From our group, I drew the short straw by getting in last - the others filled up one set of two rows and the individual seat, so I was left sitting in the other set of rows, with the passed-out guy on my right, the other drunk man on my left and the other locals in the three seats opposite.

This combination meant that until the guy on my left got out at a village about halfway to Montañita, I spent all my time keeping the corner of my right eye on the passed-out chap on my right in case he was sick on me, and shaking hands with the man on my left, who kept offering his hand to me and mumbling in Spanish with a word or two of English thrown in! Although my Spanish has improved, it is still not great, and because he was mumbling I understood even less than I would have done in perfect conditions. He said something about how he was a guitarist by trade and could teach me how to play (I politely refused). He shook hands with me about every three minutes for half an hour, until he got off the bus.

After he left 'S' moved into the seat next to me, something I was grateful for. The other passengers got dropped off not that long afterwards, so by the time we got off the bus at Montañita our group were the only ones left. We decided to spend tonight here instead of Olón because we'd have a better chance of finding somewhere to stay.

It was very late by now and we were starving, so the first thing we did after leaving the little bus terminal was head to a pizza restaurant for some food. Then on to a back street hostel for a night's sleep.

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:49 Archived in Ecuador Tagged coast spanish hostel ecuador montanita guayaquil Comments (0)

I've moved flats!

Guayaquil


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Today I moved into a new flat! I'm now living in Urdesa, with two of my colleagues. The contract at my old place ran out today.

It's fair to say that the whole flat is shabbier than my last one, plus although there is air conditioning it's so incredibly noisy and old we never use it, but I like it more anyway. We have a big fan in the living room, there's a proper dining table which is nice, the sofas are more comfortable, the kitchen is bigger, there's an oven and a kettle as well as a hob... Oh, and apart from in the kitchen and bathrooms, it has wooden floors, which I like. The wifi connection is much better as well.

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Most of my colleagues live in Urdesa and several of the places we go to together are there too, so it's really nice to know that I'm now within walking distance! I don't have to worry about getting taxis after a certain time at night once the right buses stop running. I also have new areas to explore now and it'll be quicker to get into the city centre by bus too!

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Posted by 3Traveller 10:29 Archived in Ecuador Tagged ecuador guayaquil Comments (0)

Dad's birthday

Guayaquil


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Today and for the last couple of days I have been feeling a bit wobbly inside. I so wish I could have been able to say 'happy birthday' today to Dad on video chat, or even better, in person. It hurts so much to know that I will never be able to do that again. I told one or two people at work about it today and they were really sympathetic, which helped.

I feel the urge to write about an incident from about a month ago that also made me feel distinctly wobbly inside.

It was after my Friday 4-8 pm public sector Upper Intermediate 5 class. A student (now called 'M') offered me a lift home, saying "My family is in the car outside, we wanted to give you a lift because then we can see different areas of Guayaquil". She had never offered me a lift before and I had never met any of her family. Secretly I thought this was a rather peculiar way of offering a person a lift, but accepted with thanks anyway. Now before I go any further I need to mention that 'M' knows about Dad dying, because the class was told about it in their first lesson back after Christmas by the teacher who took it for a couple of weeks in my absence. In my first lesson back with them 'M' came up and said how sorry she was to hear about Dad. The subject had not been mentioned since, however.

As we were driving to my flat she spoke to me in English. After a bit of normal chat, the conversation took an unexpected turn;

'M': "Who do you live with?"
'T': "One of the other teachers. We're housemates"
'M': "And who does your mother live with, in England?"
'T' (taken aback): "Um. Well, she doesn't live with anyone now, but people visit a lot..."
'M' (conversationally): "So, how did you feel when your father died?"
'T' (stunned): "Well..." (short silence while I gathered composure, aware that I had an audience) "Very, very sad. Yes..." (short silence) (change of subject)

Now 'M' is a very kindly person and I could tell that she had absolutely no idea that either of her two latter questions were intrusive. Luckily she was sitting directly behind me and although I had half-turned round in order to be polite when speaking to her, she still couldn't see my face properly. I still tried not to show anything though because I knew her children and husband could see more of my face and I didn't want to embarrass 'M' by revealing through my expression that I thought these questions inappropriate.

Luckily I arrived at my flat only a few minutes later, so I could have a quick bite to eat and have an early night.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:12 Archived in Ecuador Tagged dad ecuador guayaquil english_teaching Comments (0)

Cuenca to Guayaquil

Cuenca

We got up early this morning. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, toast, jam and juice. Once we'd had that we headed out to a launderette for my benefit, then once I'd found it, which took longer than I expected, I stayed there while the others went back to the hostel to use the toilet and pick up Mark (who hadn't had breakfast before we left due to a mix up).

After I'd put my clothes in the dryer we went straight to the market in San Francisco Square. Kate and Emma ended up unknowingly buying the same type of alpaca jumper, which was the same or almost the same as the one I bought from the same place last November! Mark and Andrew both got alpaca jumpers too. I had helpfully written down some useful phrases so they could haggle a bit and ask for different sizes. After half an hour or so I went back to the hostel to check out before going on to the launderette, with all my stuff, to collect my clothes. Then I rejoined the others at the market. Once they'd finished there I walked to the bus station, but the others went part of the way with me so that I could show them where the Skeleton Museum was.

The first part of the journey back to Guayaquil was enlivened by a natural remedy salesman who gave a long speech, handed out products from his case to every passenger who would take one (talking as he went), gave another speech and then walked back up and and down to collect money from the passengers who wanted to keep the products and the products from those who didn't. This was all in Spanish, and he spoke very quickly, but I understood that the claim was that it was some kind of remedy for children which could also help cure cancer, stomach problems and other medical issues in adults.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:18 Archived in Ecuador Tagged market spanish hostel buses sisters andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

Palm Sunday in Cuenca

Guayaquil and Cuenca


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This morning Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew got a taxi to Citymall, a shopping mall very close to me, where I met them and took them to see my flat. It felt quite strange, in a good way of course, to have them there with me in person when I have spoken to them so often online from the same room!

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After that I went back to their hostel with them by bus and waited while they finished packing up their stuff and checked out. Then we all went to the bus terminal to start our journey to Cuenca. I'd decided to go to Cuenca with them and stay the night there because I don't teach until the evening on Mondays. I'd been on this particular journey before on more than one occasion but obviously this was the first time the others had been. It takes about 4 hours and goes through flattish country at first, then up in the Andes.

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While still in the flat area we saw houses on stilts, rice fields, banana plantations and more, and when we were getting closer to the Andes Emma and Kate spotted what they think might have been a condor flying overhead! The journey was typically hair-raising, though, because although the inter-city and inter-provincial roads are very good in Ecuador, the driver had to deal with some very tight bends in the road and with driving through clouds as well.

We arrived in Cuenca in the new town, but walked over to our hostel which is in the old town just down the street from the main square. Once we'd dumped our stuff and Kate had emailed to say we'd arrived safely, we went for a stroll to the main square. This was very interesting because we saw lots of people walking around carrying palm leaves, flowers and various decorative palm crosses with foliage attached. It's Palm Sunday today. There were some people selling them on one or two of the benches, so Kate bought a palm cross with rosemary and another, unidentified herb attached to it.

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We then wandered past a market spread along on side of a street, through the flower market in an attached little square, and then into a bigger square where the main clothing market was almost completely packed up. On going back through the flower market Kate and I bought ourselves palm baskets, into which the seller threw free small branches of rosemary.

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On turning back into the main square, next to the cathedral, we could see people streaming in, most of them holding palm leaves etc, and in the cloisters and around the cathedral entrance there was a big cluster of street sellers selling the same things to people going in.

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After reassuring the others that the cathedral was big enough for us all to go inside to see what was going on without disturbing people, we went inside. On going in we could see lots of people sitting in the nave, and that the paraphernalia around the altar had palm leaves as decoration. We walked a little along one side of the nave and saw that the statues on one side of the main altar bit were decorated with palm leaves, too. We presumed that the service was a special Palm Sunday one.

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Once the priest began the service we made our exit and had dinner at a restaurant next door - I'd been there twice before, so could recommend it. The meal I had was amazing - a fish, vegetable & white sauce dish with a side of rice - but unfortunately Emma's and Kate's were the opposite. They ordered a fish dish where the fish turned out to be salty and quite tough, and the salad tasted strongly of capers or pickle despite not having capers or pickles in it. The restaurant had some artistic lampshades and vases made from painted cutlery.

After dinner I took Emma, Kate and Andrew on a quick tour of some of Cuenca's churches, because at weekends the fronts are lit up at night.

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We took some pictures of the side streets as well.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:49 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains market cathedral hostel buses sisters andes ecuador cuenca guayaquil unesco_world_heritage_site traditional_customs colonial_church palm_sunday Comments (0)

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