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Mayoral Election Day

Guayaquil

I mentioned on the 13th that today was mayoral election day, not just in Guayaquil but all over the country. I went into town to see how it was going, but it took such an incredibly long time to get there on the bus I only had time for a plate of arroz con camarón (rice with shrimp) at the Malecón and a visit to Iguana Square before I had to get the bus back again because I'd arranged to speak to Dave on video at 4pm my time - and even then the bus took an unexpected diversion on the way back so I didn't actually get back to the flat until 4.45! (Luckily Dave was still online and able to speak.)

The reason why the journey was so long was directly due to the election, however; I'd never seen traffic that bad before. It was worst not in the city centre itself but just outside it. The city centre didn't seem that much different to normal, but just before we got to that, we passed one section where the pavements were crowded with street food stalls and other street sellers and pedestrians. I was surprised because I never saw anyone waving flags or driving past in election cars with loudspeakers going, like I had in the streets leading up to today. I thought today would be the climax of all of that. Maybe most of the voting actually took place in the morning.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:05 Archived in Ecuador Tagged dave iguanas ecuador guayaquil malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Mum's last day in Guayaquil

Guayaquil

This morning we took advantage of the Grand Hotel's delicious buffet breakfast again. First of all we had some hot stuff and then we went back for cold. I had scrambled eggs, a chicken and vegetable mixture and a couple of mini corviches (mashed yuca mixed with cheese and fried - a bit like a cheesy potato cake but slightly more gooey inside; I've had the big version before with onion mixed in too and they are delicious), followed by lots of fresh pineapple chunks, some papaya, some poached cinnamon pears, a custard bun and a little glazed bun with raisins that looked and tasted like a sausage-shaped hot cross bun. There were other rolls and things too but I was too full to have more! To go with the food we both had coffee and some fruit juice and I also had a small glass of peach drinking yoghurt.

After breakfast I really wanted to get a picture of Mum with an iguana, so we went for a walk round the corner to Iguana Square. I got several photos and we discovered a lot of turtles as well, some bigger ones and some very small and cute ones.

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Then we walked through the cathedral and out of the side. I was really glad I could get pictures of the iguanas and the cathedral while Mum was here because when she walked around both on the morning after her arrival, I wasn't there so she didn't have a camera to get any pictures.

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At about 09.50 I got the bus into work for a teachers' admin meeting, only to find out on arrival that it had been postponed until next week. I checked my email and then got the bus back again.

When I arrived back, we finished packing, checked out and went into the café/restaurant for a coffee. Though actually, although we went in for a coffee we ended up having a 'Chocolate Tradicional' instead! Ecuador is know for its cacao production. It had a little bit of cinnamon in it and was the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my entire life.

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After our amazing chocolate experience we strolled down to the Malecón and along it until we reached the turnoff for the side street where the lunch restaurant 'La Barca Azul' is. We took our time walking there because we weren't under any time pressure. We passed an indoor market which isn't usually there, and stopped at the riverside;

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The sun came out on the way so it got extremely hot. Once at the restaurant I ordered us both Seco de Chivo (traditional goat stew) and a bottle of peach juice.

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After we'd finished our stew we caught a bus to the language school. Mum met some of my teaching colleagues and admin staff and I showed her round the whole building. It felt really surreal to have her there, though in a good way of course.

Then we caught another bus to my flat. The journey took much longer than usual for some reason. I loaded all the photos from her trip so far onto my laptop and we looked through them together. She also had a sit down on the sofa in the living area, in front of the air conditioning, with a bottle of water I'd put in the freezer section for a bit to make colder.

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We didn't have all that long there before we had to get the bus back to my workplace. We did however stop at the fruit shop round the corner first, where I bought a pound of grapes and some light green plums for Mum. Back at the language school Mum washed and ate the fruit, before changing and watching some of the BBC World Service that is usually on the flatscreen TV in reception. Then the taxi arrived to take us to the airport.

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At the airport Mum printed off her boarding pass from one of the self-service machines and we looked round the shops for a while. I decided that when I leave Ecuador this summer, I will buy a 'Republica del Cacao' t-shirt from Guayaquil Airport as a leaving present to myself. Mum bought a Panama-like hat for herself and cloth that can be used as a scarf or put on a table. Then we sat in a café and Mum had some black tea with milk - it tasted better than the tea she had the other day - and I had a big glass of coconut and blackberry juice.

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After Mum had gone through to passport control, out of sight, I got a taxi back to the flat. It was roughly 6.30pm by then.

Posted by 3Traveller 09:29 Archived in Ecuador Tagged hotel airport cathedral iguanas mum ecuador guayaquil malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Municipal Museum, Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Before today I hadn't been to the city centre since the Independence of Guayaquil procession on 9th October, so I fancied a visit to the Municipal Museum and a chance to say hello to the iguanas nearby. On entry they asked me for ID, which I hadn't expected, but when I froze and I said I didn't have any on me, they said it was OK and I just needed to type my name into their computer instead.

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That done, I was free to wander round. On the ground floor there was an interesting collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including zoomorphic jars and jugs, money shaped like very flat axe-heads, actual axe-heads, 'La Mujer de Colonche' (a sandstone monolith fertility figure of a nude woman, made by the Guancavitca culture who flourished between 500-1533 AD), and more. There was also a case holding what I think are the thigh bones and a tooth of a mastodon!

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In other rooms there was a display about three British pirates who attacked Guayaquil (William Dampier being one), colonial Spanish artifacts like guns and swords, a map of Guayaquil from 1741, republican artifacts, a room of colourful paintings by Ecuadorian artists and a separate room of religious paintings. I recommend this museum but I do think it could do with some information in English to accompany the artifacts!

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The museum is very close to the cathedral and Iguana Square, so I headed there next.

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I took a few photos of the iguanas, but then I noticed crowds spilling out of the cathedral, so I went over to have a look inside. It turned out there was a service going on; I was quite surprised because it was a Saturday. The altar was flanked by white-robed priests and choirmen. I hung around at the back while a hymn was sung (one I didn't recognise), took one or two photos and then left.

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I didn't want to go straight home so I thought I'd have a wander down the Malecon and see if anything was going on there. A large crowd was sitting on some steps, gathered round some 'actors' (I use this term deliberately loosely) who were performing some kind of comedy sketch. I didn't understand much of what they said apart from at one point when I heard a list of fruits being mentioned! I walked past and climbed up a looking-out tower right next to the river. A plastic Christmas tree had been put up further along the Malecon. Took some photos and then got a bus home.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:51 Archived in Ecuador Tagged art museum cathedral iguanas ecuador guayaquil malecon_2000 guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra pre_columbian_artifacts Comments (0)

Further explorations of Guayaquil: Monuments and iguanas

Guayaquil

On Saturday I decided to go back into town and try to get into the Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art, because it was closed when I went the Sunday before. I finished teaching at 13.00, so my plan was to go straight back to my flat to change, dump my rucksack, get my camera and then catch a bus all the way into town in order to get a nice long look round the museum until it closed at 17.30.

My plan was scuppered, however, when I arrived at the museum only to find it was closed again! This time there were notices on the doors apologising for the inconvenience caused, but no reasons were given for the closure. I think it may have been because to one side there was a small stage and some stalls set up for some Ecuador Post event going on with music blaring from loudspeakers.

I'd walked along the Malecon to get there, like last week, passing one of the major monuments on it: La Rotonda. This commemorates a famous meeting between Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, two of the liberators of Spanish South America from Spain, in 1822.

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This time there were many more piles of riverweed floating down the river than there are normally.

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The botanical garden was out of bounds for me again, this time because it had temporarily been turned into a prehistoric-themed children's park, complete with plastic dinosaurs and mammoth.

After this I decided that instead of going straight home again, I'd go for a walk along Avenida 9 de Octubre, the main street, until I got to Parque Centenario. I hadn't walked along that way before. On the way to the park I came across a plaza containing Guayaquil's first public monument, a statue of Ecuador's first native president. At one side is Iglesia San Francisco, originally built in the early 18th century but then destroyed in the massive fire of 1896. It was reconstructed in 1902.

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Although as a result of this it doesn't look very old inside, along the walls there are lots of beautifully painted shrines.

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I wandered round and took some pictures, but then lots of well-dressed people came in and an event started. It sounded like a special children's event, maybe the start of a confirmation service (though it was a Saturday, not a Sunday), though it sounded too informal for that really. There were just a few families there. Members of the public were still allowed to wander around, but I started to feel like I was intruding a bit so I left.

Parque Centenario was lovely and green, and the sun was out most of the time, so I took some more photos.

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After I'd had a look round, I decided to say hello to the iguanas again in Parque Bolívar ('Iguana Square') 5-10 minutes' walk away, so that's where I headed next. I took some photos and also two videos of them, before going inside the metropolitan cathedral which is on one side of the square. As soon as I'd finished one video, I looked up and saw some more iguanas in the branches above me, so I took another shorter video of them. The square was packed with locals; icecream and water sellers wandered around.

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Like Iglesia San Francisco, the original cathedral was destroyed by fire; the present one was built in 1948. The front entrance is quite ornate, but the inside is pretty simple. There are some stained glass windows high up, though. A big service was just starting so I didn't linger too long, though I did take some photos. The service was being shown on lots of mini flat TV screens - one was attached to every main column in the nave.

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The municipal museum is close to Iguana Square, but closes at 14.00 on Saturdays so I couldn't go in. It has some interesting collections, apparently, so I will definitely go there sooner rather than later!

Posted by 3Traveller 03:01 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cathedral iguanas ecuador iglesia_san_francisco guayaquil explorations malecon_2000 parque_centenario guayaquil_metropolitan_cathedra avenida_9_de_octubre river_guayas Comments (0)

Update from Guayaquil

Guayaquil

Well, I have been in Guayaquil for a month and have only now been able to update this blog! I've been really busy, as I expected, not only with teaching but the lesson planning and writing assignment & test marking that goes with it.

I'm sharing an apartment with one of the other new teachers; it's very nice for the price we're paying for it, but it doesn't have an oven, grill, toaster or kettle! There's no washing machine either so I've done my laundry so far by hand in the stone sink in the semi-outdoors part of the flat. In my bedroom window there's no glass pane; there's just some iron bars on the outside, then a heavy plastic/glass blind that's fixed to the wall, and then on the inside there's metal mosquito netting. A lot of the windows in Guayaquil generally don't have glass panes; even a fair amount of the smaller shops (outside of the malls) mostly consist of a barred counter with most of the stock behind it. Restaurants don't have walls between the eating area and the street; instead they just have a shutter that they pull down at closing time.

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As a perk of the job we teachers get free Spanish lessons. I'm a complete beginner, but I'm enjoying it so far, although in my first lesson it quickly became apparent that I cannot roll my 'r's! I simply cannot physically do it. Ah well, I suppose I shall have to resign myself to sounding like I have a speech impediment whenever I speak Spanish for at least the immediate future, until/ if I finally get the hang of it...

I've been doing a lot of testing the last couple of weeks because three of the courses I took over when I arrived (Pre-Intermediate 2, FCE Prep 1 and Business English Pre-Intermediate 3) have come to an end. It feels so strange to be the one invigilating written tests and administering speaking tests, when I remember so clearly being the one taking exams!

For the rest of this post I'm going to copy and paste from emails I've sent home, simply because I haven't got time right now to write original material, as it were. They're about my general impressions of Guayaquil. Apologies if it seems a bit disjointed as a result.

The area I'm living in is very untouristy - not many people speak English - and is quite far out from the language school and even further from the city centre. Luckily though there are loads of very cheap buses, so I haven't had any problems getting from place to place so far apart from once in my first week when I'd forgotten exactly where to get off the bus to get to my new apartment. I got off too soon and had to wander around quite a lot after dark (which isn't something you're advised to do here) before giving up and getting a bus back to the language school, where they ordered a taxi for me. On the bus back to the language school, I was knackered and really hot and sweaty, but the bus driver waved me through without asking for the fare. When I got back off he pressed something small and white into my hand as I passed by, and as I stood on the pavement after he'd driven off, I saw it was a folded up note! I unfolded it and saw it had a picture of a heart with an arrow through it, and a phone number and some Spanish writing!

I literally did have to jump off the bus, because buses here don't often actually stop unless there are several people wanting to get on or off; usually they just slow down to let people jump on or off and then speed away as fast as they can. It only costs 25 cents to get anywhere within the city, and they let people get on or off anywhere they want, not just at designated stops. The buses are very ramshackle, but they have sliding windows so a nice breeze comes through. The driving in general here is terrible, however - it certainly always makes for an interesting if rather hair-raising journey whenever I get a bus or taxi!

Traders often jump on the bus, talk loudly and then move up and down the bus with their goods before jumping back off again. They climb around the electronic barrier that logs people as having got on and paid the fare, and the drivers all turn a blind eye to it, sometimes even holding their goods for them as they climb round! The hawkers sell things like grapes, nuts, water, bags of coconut water and ice, CDs (with CDs they take on a CD player and play music before handing copies round, going back to play more music, then going round to collect the money or the CDs if people give them back to him), flags of the local football team, sweets and many other things, though not more than a couple at any one time.

I haven't explored the city centre much so far, but one place I have been to is a square that has some resident iguanas! It was quite surreal to me at first, though they were a bit smaller than I expected. There were ones on the grass in the park in the middle of the square, and there was one on the marble base of the statue in the middle.

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I also walked up and down the Malecon, a riverside walkway with statues, palm trees, playing areas for children, viewing towers, lots of snack stalls and even a mini shopping centre.

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The other day I had a typical Ecuadorian dish for lunch - 'Bollo de Pescado' with rice and salad; this consists of some fish wrapped in mashed up verde (a type of plant) that also has some cheese in it, with a herby peanut sauce on top. Although the rice was a bit too al dente for my liking, the actual Bollo de Pescado was delicious, and the whole plate of food was only $1.75! Apparently the fish was bonito.

Last week I went to a supermarket I hadn't been to before and had a good look round. The cream comes in bags rather than pots or bottles (!), the herbs come tied in big bunches, they have several fruits and vegetables which I haven't tried yet (mamey, taxo, granadilla, pitahaya, geino orito, zapota), and they have ready-to-fry packets of empanadas.

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They have a big coffee section, but not of chocolate (they export a lot but don't really sell that much in shops apart from imported brands). The spice section is quite big too, and the shoe cleaning product section. In the fruit and veg section, the onions come loose already peeled and with the ends cut off, next to the normal bananas they have bunches of mini bananas, and they have sections containing types of loose beans for customers to shovel into bags. I was severely tempted by the yuca roots, because I know you can make lovely chips with them, but decided to leave them for another day. I also saw rolled up palm leaves, and what looked like giant spiky cactus leaves.

I've spent far too long on this post so I will write more about my teaching in my next update. I'll also be able to write about my visit to Montañita, a surfers' town on the west coast. I and the other teachers have been invited to a British Consulate party tomorrow to celebrate the Queen's birthday, so we're going to that and then going on up the coast to Montañita for the rest of the weekend. All I've seen of Ecuador so far is Guayaquil, so I'm looking forward to seeing some countryside and beaches!

Some more photos below of my room in Hostel Nucapacha, where I spent my first night in Ecuador, a statue in front of the Town Hall, and a parcel my sisters sent me.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:08 Archived in Ecuador Tagged spanish hostel buses sisters iguanas ecuador guayaquil explorations english_teaching malecon_2000 ecuadorian_cuisine river_guayas Comments (0)

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