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Entries about parties

Carnival, Day 3: Bus frustrations and a night out in Baños

Ambato and Baños


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After leaving the main square in Ambato I realised that time was getting on and I really needed to get on the bus back to Baños before it got dark. It turned out there are three bus terminals in Ambato and the one I needed to go to was not on the Ambato map in my guidebook. Luckily I quickly found a local bus which said it went to the right terminal... it went back to the roundabout where I'd arrived originally, so I got off there, but I couldn't find the terminal anywhere. I walked around for ages looking. How I wished I had a smartphone!

Never mind, I thought, I'll just get on a Baños - bound bus going in the opposite direction to the one that dropped me off earlier; however this thought turned out to be futile. I stood around for a really long time, feeling increasingly apprehensive because it had got dark quickly and the area didn't look the safest, and stressed because none of the Baños buses would stop for me! There was only one every 20 minutes or so. In the end I gave up and flagged down an official-looking taxi. It cost $20 for the hour's journey to Baños but by that point I didn't care, I just wanted to get back!

Once I finally arrived back I had only twenty minutes or so before we went on our night out. We went to an Irish bar called 'Leprechaun' that had a large courtyard with a bonfire in a stone container in the middle. Every now and then the waitresses would go up and throw pieces of wood onto it to keep it going. Some of us had some food; I had chunks of juicy, tasty medium-cooked steak, grilled slices of red, green and yellow pepper, baby potatoes, some barbecue sauce (which I passed on to someone else) and mayonnaise with drizzles of tomato sauce on it.

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After a while we went inside to the dancefloor and apart from a trip upstairs at one point to have a sit-down and get some fresh air on the balcony, we danced almost nonstop for about three hours until the place closed. Although the place was an Irish bar and had quite a few foreign tourists in it, there also seemed to be a lot of locals or local tourists. The DJ only spoke Spanish and although several Western songs I mostly didn't recognise were played for the first hour after we arrived, then the music changed to salsa. All the Ecuadorians around me started dancing specific salsa steps. Luckily there were others who were dancing in a general way apart from me, so I didn't feel too shown up at not knowing how to dance salsa... ;-) Then after a while the music changed again and 'E' leaned forward and told me it was merengue.

The only drink I bought was a Pisco Sour and very appropriate it felt too, for the contrasting flavours of lime juice, pisco and sugar combined with the Latin music and the flashing coloured lights dappling the darkened dancefloor to create quite a heady, energised atmosphere and a thrill that I recognised from the atmosphere at the nightclub in Montañita I went to last June after the Queen's birthday party hosted for expats by the British Consulate.

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We did flag a bit by the end and I had to sit down for a while because my feet had started to hurt. After all the Latin music, the last couple of pieces before the place closed were Western. We left at either two or three a.m. and walked back to the hostel.

Posted by 3Traveller 13:35 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties hostel buses carnival salsa cocktails banos andes ecuador ambato Comments (0)

Party by the beach

Montañita


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Yesterday I went to the beach town of Montañita for our staff Christmas party.

We Guayaquil staff had to go as superheroes, and the staff from Quito had to go as supervillains. I went as a female Thor, as I had a plastic horned helmet and drinking horn to use. I plaited my hair and made a hammer out of cardboard and foil.

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Some of the other costumes I saw were very good - Superted, Wonder Woman, the Joker, 'Supermaxi' (Supermaxi is the name of a well-known supermarket in Ecuador), The Incredible Hulk, Lara Croft, Captain America and many more. Before we had dinner we all had to show off our costumes. The field was then cut to six semifinalists, from which the overall winner was chosen. I didn't make the semifinal unfortunately... Supermaxi won!

For dinner we had a barbecue. There were loads of steaks, chicken pieces and sausages, as well as a table filled with bowls of salad and small cheesy baked potato halves. As well as the meat, I had some delicious pasta salad and coleslaw. There was a bottle of Argentine wine on each table as well.

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After dinner the dancing got started! There was a small cocktail bar set up with Zhumir aguardiente (firewater), vodka and rum, soft drinks and orange juice.

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I had a lot of Zhumir & orange, drinking from my drinking horn! In between the bar and the pool was the dancefloor. After everyone had been dancing for a while some firedancers appeared and put on a show for us. One of them twirled around flaming balls on strings and the other one had flaming torches. At one point the latter balanced one of the torches on his nose!

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There were two other guys there, hired for the occasion I think, who had dressed up in what I assume is traditional tribal costume from either the highlands or the rainforest, with colourful masks and straw-fringed clothes. They were the life and soul of the party.

After some more dancing some people decided to get in the pool fully clothed... I got in after a while but I got changed into my bikini and board shorts first. It felt quite surreal to be in the pool so late at night. The water was very warm. After a while two tied-together giant bamboos were put across the pool and some of us tried to walk across it without falling in... I managed it but some didn't.

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When the party eventually started winding down in the early hours, some of us paid a visit to 'Cocktail Alley' in town. This leads out onto the beach and has tiny cocktail stands lining it on both sides. I had a Maracaibo cocktail, made of passionfruit juice, rum, coconut liqueur and condensed milk, and an Alexander cocktail, made of very finely crushed ice, brandy, condensed milk, cinnamon and créme de cacao.

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I got chatted up by a Peruvian guy who wanted to give me a free surfing lesson in exchange for an English one and insisted that Peruvian men are better than Ecuadorian ones because they are gentlemen and don't hassle girls. I politely declined and mentioned Dave, which resulted in the Peruvian thinking I was married, so I didn't enlighten him to the fact that I'm not yet.

Soon after I went for a quick look at the beach. It was quite crowded and the lights spilled onto the sand.

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Then I rejoined the group for a bit before some of us went back to our accommodation - it was now between 3 and 4am. I'd had a really, really good night.

Late morning, today, after a lovely English breakfast laid on for us, I went back into town to do some Christmas shopping. I also bought my bus ticket to Guayaquil (we had to make our own way back). As well as some Christmas presents for family, I bought myself a present too - a lovely polished stone ornamental knife. After I'd dumped my shopping at the accommodation and changed into beachwear I went back out to meet up with the others at the beach. It was perfect beach weather, at least 34 degrees and barely a cloud in the sky.

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The sea was quite warm - no 'getting used to it' period of time needed at all - yet refreshing, and the waves were big. Montañita is a centre for surfing and I could see why. It was exhilarating to bodysurf and to swim out to beyond where the waves broke. I worked out that technically, if I carried on swimming in a straight line, I would just miss the Galápagos Islands and would eventually hit the coast of either Indonesia or Papua New Guinea on the other side of the Pacific!

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After a nice swim or sunbathe some of us went to a coffee shop in town. I had a frappacino mocha - exactly what I needed.

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Once I'd got back I only had about 15 minutes before I had to go and get the bus back to Guayaquil with some of the others. The journey took about two and a half hours.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:04 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties coast beach market buses cocktails barbecue ecuador montanita cocktail_alley Comments (0)

Christmas is coming...

Guayaquil

So Christmas is creeping up quite quickly now, but I have to say that it feels a little bit peculiar being here in hot and sticky Guayaquil at this time of year when it is so alien to what I'm used to in the UK. Last Sunday I went to a Thanksgiving party two American colleagues of mine held at their condo and it felt surreal to be swimming in their pool in 30-32 degrees on 1st December, knowing that in the UK it was freezing cold!

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The party was great, by the way. Company was typically amusing and the pool, weather, food and drink were all lovely. I brought fresh green beans as my contribution, fried with chopped red onion and leek in herby butter. Roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mini empanadas, shrimp ceviche, massive shrimps barbecued in their shells and sweetcorn made up the rest of the savoury dishes; there was lemon meringue pie and chocolate cake for dessert.

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Last week I took a few photos of what I see on a typical day here in Guayaquil. I haven't included here any of the school, but here are three of Alborada Sexta, where I'm living - my street, the main street where I catch the bus, and a local hole-in-the-wall empanada counter;

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There are a couple of others from my typical day - the place opposite where I get off the bus, and the outdoor food court where I often get lunch.

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I began teaching three new classes three weeks ago, due to several teachers' timetables being moved about at the same time. My five-hour Saturday intermediate 1 class of public-school English teachers has been replaced in my timetable by a four-hour Friday upper-intermediate 4 class of public-school English teachers; in the evening I now have a pre-advanced 1 class instead of the intermediate 1 class I had before; from Tuesday to Thursday I now have a pre-intermediate 3 class between 4-6pm. Four of the students in the latter class are also English teachers. The Ecuadorian government recently said that all Ecuadorian public school English teachers have to attain B2 standard by a certain time next year, so that's why we're teaching so many teachers.

With the exception of a pre-advanced conversation class I had once a week for a month, in my first six months I was almost exclusively teaching pre-intermediate and intermediate 1 classes. I do enjoy teaching those levels but it's good to be getting experience of different levels now too.

I'd had my intermediate 1 evening class right from when I first arrived here in May. They were pre-intermediate 1 then. I was a bit sad to lose that class because I enjoyed the rapport and observing the dynamics between different students. I felt really touched in the last lesson I had with them but also a bit embarrassed because they were saying some really nice things and for a few seconds I didn't know how to react. Then, a few days later when their next course began, I happened to be passing through reception when two of my now -ex-students stopped me and gave me a present which they said all of their class had contributed towards. It was a wooden painted model boat and a doll from Esmeraldas province made from a coconut husk. They said that they got me those because they remembered me showing them a little llama keyring handmade from twisted reeds that I bought from a market in Cuenca and guessed that I liked handicrafts. I had not expected this at all so it was a really lovely surprise!

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When I got back to my flat after work that night I put them on my bookcase. Now they have been joined by a little Christmas display, courtesy of an amazing parcel I received from Emma and Kate the other day! This was the contents (sorry to make another list of food, but I want to record this for posterity, so here goes!);

An Advent calendar card
A Christmas book ('Why was the Partridge in the Pear Tree? The History of Christmas Carols')
Two glass snowflakes that unfortunately got broken in transit
Three robin decorations
Strawberry milkshake poppets
Revels
Strawberry bonbons
Two Chocolate Orange bars
A bag of rum balls
Treacle toffees
A mini box of Quality Streets
A white chocolate Lion bar
Sweet peanuts
Two boxes of candy sticks
Candy cane
Chocolate coins
Two Dairy Milk mousse snowmen
Two 'Merryteaser' chocolate reindeer
Chocolate Father Christmas
Smarties chocolate penguin
Lindor Chocolate Moment
Milkybar chocolate penguin
Bag of 'Popping Puds'
Tube of strawberry Millions (a bit like Dweebs, but chewier and softer)
Dairy Milk Chocos (like Rolos)

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I've just put the card, robins, snowflakes, candy cane and chocolate coins in the display. The book will join them once I've finished reading it! I'll eat the candy cane and chocolate coins on the day I fly back to the UK (the 20th). Everything else will probably have been eaten by then!

Posted by 3Traveller 15:31 Archived in Ecuador Tagged parties christmas sisters barbecue ecuador guayaquil english_teaching ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

Excursion to Punta Blanca and Montañita

Guayaquil, Punta Blanca and Montañita


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Excursion weekend! We left on Saturday the 15th and came back the next evening. I and the other teachers from the language school where I work had been invited to a party held at Punta Blanca by the British Consulate in celebration of the Queen's birthday, and after that finished we carried on up the coast to the surfers' town of Montañita for the night and next day.

The dress code was pretty simple - we had to wear white or cream as much as possible, and a hat. I hadn't managed to get a hat before we left, but the situation got resolved when we were nearly out of Guayaquil. We stopped at a rare traffic light and were surprised by the amount of traders who descended upon us and the other cars; it's normal for a couple to wander round cars at traffic lights further into the city, but not for so many to do so at once. All of a sudden someone asked me "Don't you need a hat?" I looked to my right and saw a trader with a couple of piles of hats walk past, so he was stopped and a couple of hats were passed back to me to choose from hurriedly. Just then the lights changed so we pulled over to continue the transaction. I paid $5 for a wide-brimmed, tightly woven but semi-floppy white hat. I'm glad I bought it,because it will come in very handy in the future, especially with the sun as hot as it is.

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The scenery wasn't spectacular like it is further up the coast and in the Andes, but it was still different to the UK. It was quite hilly (though not mountainous) a lot of the time and the sides of them were covered in bushes and shrubbery, some green and some brown with the occasional touch of pink. We did pass a banana plantation at one point though, and a field of what some of the others said was plantain at an early stage. Quite often billboards appeared at the side of the road - a series of Coca-Cola ones and a series of Banco Pichincha ones are two lots I remember. In Ecuador (and in Bolivia and Peru from what I remember when Dave and I were there), out in the middle of the countryside you quite often come across political slogans and murals painted onto shack and shop walls, even abandoned ones. The name of Rafael Correa appeared a lot - the current president of Ecuador.

On entry we had to sign the visitor's book that I noticed had been printed specially for this occasion, and were given a glass of wine each by a waiter. Then we found a table and sat down. Soon a waiter began bringing us each a plate of small empanadas and Ecuadorian ceviche. It was all delicious – some of my students have told me about ceviche and how it's different to the Peruvian sort, so I was glad I could finally try it. In Peru ceviche is raw fish with lime and chilli - Dave and I had some when we were there but I didn’t like it because of the chilli – but in Ecuador you can have other kinds of seafood as well, and the fish at least is cooked, albeit still cold; the sauce has tomato in it, and there isn’t any chilli. In our mini glasses of ceviche at the party, however, there were only prawns, no fish. It was delicious, as were the empanadas. As well as wine they had free beer and soft drinks as well, so we found no reason to resist...

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After a while of eating, drinking and chatting, there were a couple of speeches. They were both in Spanish, and neither was repeated in English, so I didn’t understand a lot of what was said. I did surprise myself though by recognising more words than I could have expected, and more of the general meaning. At the end of the speeches the Ecuadorian and British national anthems were played; a recording of people’s voices sang the Ecuadorian one, but the recording of the British one was only music.

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When the speeches had finished I went for a quick look at the beach. I noticed a little fishing boat nearby, and further along there were three men pulling on a long line that went into the sea. I assumed that if I waited around for a bit the net would come out, but it must have been a very long line because I waited for quite a while and the men pulled the line further and further back up the beach, but nothing appeared.

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Not too long after that we all had some more food. This time we had to queue up for a served buffet of chicken, special sausages, beef, potatoes in foil, vegetables (carrots, cauliflower, green beans), a white very cheesy sauce and chimichurri sauce, which is an Argentinian green sauce made of garlic, parsley and other things. Of the two sauces I just chose the white one because I didn't realise what the green sauce was until after I'd eaten my plateful and was too full to have anything else. I really wish I'd had some of the chimichurri now because it sounds pretty nice!

A while after eating, I noticed that there were some rather prehistoric-looking black birds flying overhead and even more flying around over the beach. Something clicked in my head as I realised the fishermen must have pulled in their nets by now. I went back out to the beach but didn't get too close because I didn't want to intrude. I think they'd already brought in the catch and packed it up in the truck nearby, because I didn't see any fish, only men wading in the sea doing something with one of the nets, while lots of empty nets lay on the sand. There was a crowd of pelicans in the sea next to them, a couple of birds standing at the edge of the sand that Iooked from the distance like white storks, and the strange big black birds flying above. The pelicans and other birds weren't fighting over anything, which makes me think even more that the catch had already been brought in.

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There was dancing after it got dark:

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We teachers didn't leave until past 7pm when things were winding up. We arrived in Montañita between 8 and 9pm. Unfortunately it was drizzling a bit when we arrived and it didn't stop for nearly all the time we were there, but that didn't stop us having fun.

Our accommodation was great! All our drinks were free, and on the patio we were given a free barbecue of sausages, red peppers, ribs, medium-rare steaks, salad and pitta bread. The steaks were so lovely I had four, but I didn't have any ribs or sausages because I was full up by then! They kept bringing out more and more meat, and I couldn't resist. We sat around for a while after that, variously in armchairs, a swinging seat, a hammock, a sofa and ground cushions. Some of us had beers, but I had a rum and coke.

At 11.30pm nearly all of us walked down the road into town. I could hear cicadas by the roadside. We went to 'Cocktail Alley' and had a couple of cocktails - Mojitos first. You can see in the photos what Cocktail Alley is like - quite a narrow pedestrianised street filled from one end to the other with roadside cocktail stalls under gazebos. Each one had a row of tropical fruit in front of the row of bottles and the cocktail list. Nearly every cocktail cost either $2.50 or $3, and they were pretty large and strong cocktails!

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We sat there for quite a long time. After the Mojitos some of us bumped into people they knew, whilst the rest (including me) went next door into a small club where we danced for a bit. Then I had another Mojito, looked around the beach for a bit with a couple of the others, and got myself a lovely White Russian from another stall. When I stood up after that, to go to a bigger nightclub with those of the others who hadn't already made their way home, I could tell I was a bit three sheets to the wind...

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The club was a bit different to any I've been to in the UK. For a start, although they played some Western songs you hear in the UK all the time, they also played Latin American music (as you'd expect in South America, of course). Also, the rafters,columns and some of the walls were made of giant bamboo, and one end of the club was open to the air, one giant open window without any glass pane or iron bars or anything. I thought it was a good idea because it meant a breeze came through quite often and the air didn't get stuffy.I really liked the atmosphere there. We danced for a while before going home at 3.30am.

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On Sunday morning we had brunch on the big wooden patio at 11.30. As well as a piece of leftover steak from the night before, I got an English breakfast with a twist – the fried egg was quite runny and on a split-open roll, the sausage was one of the short fat Ecuadorian ones from the night before, and it all came with a glass of papaya juice. (There was also bacon, mushrooms and a tomato, but no baked beans thankfully!)

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After I'd had brunch a group of us went into town for a look-around in daylight. We walked along the beach for a bit and then some of the main streets.

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Montanita is Hippy/Rasta/Backpacker Central in Ecuador, with loads of dreadlocked characters on the streets running roadside jewellery and craft stalls or just sitting around not doing much.

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We went into a lovely café where some of us had drinks – I had a ‘Frappacino Bombon’, delicious iced coffee with ice cream and drizzles of condensed milk on top. We split up for a bit then. I popped into a cyber cafe for 20 minutes because I wanted to send a Father's Day email. As soon as I'd sent it the man himself happened to come online, so although I wasn’t able to install the plugin for Gmail Video chat on the computer I was using and he couldn't see me as a result, I could see him which was great!

We went for another wander after that and got some lunch at a roadside ceviche stall. The man had tupperware containers of fish chunks, octopus chunks, prawns and one or two other things on the counter, and in a cupboard inside the stall he had various kinds of shellfish in their shells - oysters, conches and some others I didn't recognise. I chose just to have the fish and prawns in mine. It came with chopped up raw onion and tomato, squeezed lime and chopped up fresh coriander in the same bowl, and there was a communal pot of large dried toasted maize kernels and bottles of tomato sauce and oriental chilli sauce to which we could help ourselves as well. We each got a packet of green banana crisps as a side too. Apparently you're supposed to break up the crisps and mix them and the toasted maize into the main dish, but I had the crisps separately. I did mix some maize in, though, and the taste and texture of it went well with the juiciness of the seafood.

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The journey back to Guayaquil later on was pretty uneventful apart from a stop we made at an isolated petrol station where I discovered some packets of yuca crisps. I secretly found it quite funny that they had a couple of loaves of bread, one or two toilet rolls and cleaning products, a drinks fridge and a few sweets, and the rest of the goods were almost entirely made up of various kinds of crisps...

Posted by 3Traveller 15:55 Archived in Ecuador Tagged beaches parties birds pelicans coast dad cocktails barbecue ceviche ecuador montanita explorations cocktail_alley punta_blanca ecuadorian_cuisine Comments (0)

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