I´ll be there in the mornin´, cant you see I´m tellin´ stories, my sweet angels everlasting true love ways
I´ll wait I sow the seed, I set the scene and I watch the world go by
[i]Tellin´ Stories by The Charlatans[/i
We are in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, around 3,000 feet above sea level. In the last week we have had 20 hours of Spanish lessons, 3 hours of salsa lessons and we have been to the centre of the earth. Above ground that is!
The lyrics for the current blog are provided by one of my favourite bands of all time, The Charlatans. I have seen The Charlatans on more than 20 occassions and they have never disappointed. They have consistently produced excellent singles and albums and their current album is available to download for FREE via www.xfm.co.uk or the bands website www.thecharlatans.net
The band have provided the soundtrack to many top nights out, especially at the Barrowlands in Glasgow, where I have danced and sung my heart out alongside my brother to The Charlatans on many occassions, including the night before his 21st. Check them out.
Anyway, I´d better update you on what we have been up to as that is the purpose of this blog. This might not be the most exciting blog entry I have written as we have spent a lot of the last week taking Spanish lessons, but today we went to the centre of the earth and walked along the line of the equator, it was quite an experience so read on to find out all about it.
Saturday March 1st
We woke up at 8am and went for breakfast on the roof terrace of our hostel, the Secret Garden in Quito. We gazed out across the rooftops of the old town and marvelled at the Basilican in the near distance. At 9am we met out Spanish tutor, Diana who is only 23. We had booked 20 hours of lessons for only $100 each. Diana was very friendly and professional and we went through greetings, replies, the alphabet, days of the week, expressions of time, months of the year and some grammar. It was quite intensive and the last hour or so felt like too much, but we wanted to condense the 20 hours into 5 days so that we were not hanging around Quito for too long.
At 1pm we finsished and got the trolley into the new town and had lunch at the fantastic Magic Bean Cafe. We then went to a book store and traded in ´To Kill A Mockingbird´ and ´The 60 Greatest Conspiracy Theories Of All Time´ for ´The Memory Keeps Daughter´ (Lynn´s choice), ´The Hobbit´ and ´Amsterdam´.We then discovered another bookstore and bought Dan Brown´s ´Angels and Demons´ and ´Deception Point´ as we both absolutely loved ´The Da Vinci Code´. If you have not read it yet, check it out, it is enthralling, we both couldn´t put it down. So we have enough books to keep us going for a while!
There was BBQ night on the roof terrace, so we went there for food and Lynn had a couple of beers but I felt a bit dizzy, possibly from altitude sickness. We had gone from sea level to 3,000 feet!
Sunday March 2nd
Bit of a boring day studying Spanish until 1pm. We phoned home in the afternoon as it was Mothers Day and spoke to Lynn´s Mum but my Mum was out with my brother and sister.
Went to the superb Tomato Pizza Restaurant in the new town at night for dinner.
Monday March 3rd
We got up at 8am for breakfast and then started our Spanish lessons at 9am. We looked at the joy that is irregukar verbs and more. After that we went to the Post Office in the Old Town to post a load of stuff home, things we had bought the week previously at Otavalo Market. After asking numerous people where it was we finally found it, bought a box and then we were told that we needed our passports. We were not amused!
At night we did our Spanish homework and then went back to the excellent Uncle Hoe´s Vietnamese restaurant in the new town for some nice healthy food.
That day we discovered that Ecuador may be on the edge of war with Columbia, due to Columbian forces entering Ecuador without permission to kill members of a Columbian rebel/terrorist group. We were in an internet cafe after dinner and a drunken young English girl came storming in to find her friends and announced that there was going to be a war and everyone should leave immediately. She then announced her parents had booked her a flight home for the next day. Everyone looked at her for a second and then went back to what they were doing online. She was a little hysterical to say the least.
On the subject of the tensions between Ecuador and Columbia, they are there. There have been numerous street demos against a war on the streets of Quito, but the President seems intent on causing trouble. Hopefully the situation will be solved diplomatically. As I write Ecuador has amassed 3,500 troops on the Columbian border and Venezuela (getting involved for some reason) has amassed 6,000. Thankfully we are heading in the opposite direction and have a flight booked to Cuenca tomorrow (7th March).
Tuesday March 4th
Spanish lessons started at 9am again after breakfast. We had spent the previous 2 days studying on the lovely rroof terrace with views across the old town of Quito, but today the full hostel meant that we spent the first 2 hours inside before surfacing to the roof for the last two.
We booked in for salsa lessons between 3pm and 5pm in the afternoon. Before that we went to the Post Office in the new town and sent our stuff home. It will be like Christmas when we get back!
We grabbed a quick KFC and went back to the hostel just before 3pm for Salsa lessons. The lessons were taught by a guy called Secunda. He is a super cool, super slick black guy, who can glide across the dancefloor like he is walking on air. He taught us the 7 basic salsa steps and we got on OK, deciding to book in for a further lesson at his school in the new town the following night.
At night we got a taxi to the new town and went for a nice Indian, complete with a lovely garlic nan. ´Garlic, bread that´s garlic!´
Wednesday March 5th
It was Spanish at 9am, our final lesson. It went well and although we knew we would never be fluent in Spanish after only 20 hours, we feel more confident and have picked up lots of tips and hints. We gave Diana a box of chocolates as she was a fantastic teacher and we were pleased to hear she may be coming to the UK later in the year. It would be great to show her around Glasgow, also slightly weird!
In the afternoon, after a heated debate, we booked a 45 minute flight to Cuenca for $69 each, instead of a $10 10 hour bus ride.
At night our salsa lesson did not go as well as the previous days. We each had our own instructor but both felt a little intimidated at their level of ability. Lynn was with Secunda and he spun her across the dancefloor, looking great but Lynn felt like she wasn´t learning anything. Meanwhile I was dancing with a Brazilian girl and she made me look like Peter Kay!
After an hour we retired and went for a beer in a cool bar called Strawberry Fields, complete with loads of old posters and newspaper cuttings of The Beatles on the walls. The bar staff played tunes from The Beatles, Stones and The Who and we had a few beers before going to our fave pizza place, Tomato.
Thursday March 6th
No Spanish lessons today, so we didn´t get up until 9am. We spoke to a nice English couple called Kate and Ben from England who produce comedy programs for C4! After breakfast we got the bus to the centre of the earth - the equator, otherwise known as Mitad del Mundo. The bsu dropped us at a massive monument, constructed in the 1930´s to mark the official line of the equator. Unfortunately for the builders, in the 1970´s advanced technology meant that the official line was confirmed as being 500 yards away. This hasn´t stopped the Ecuadorians for continuing to market the monument as ´the´ tourist destination.
We, however, went to the offical centre, the Inti-Nan solar museum. A lot less touristy and commercialised. For $3 we got our own guide to take us round the site and we got to do anumber of experiments that are only possible on the line of the equator.
1) We both managed to balance a hard boiled egg on a nail!
2) We watched water go straight down a plug hole on the centre, then anti-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the South.
3) We walked in a straight line with our eyes shut, arms out and thumbs up no problems on the south and north, but fell about while trying it on the centre.
4) You held your finger and thumb together on the line and the guide could not seperate them, but could north and south.
After that we had a tour round some indigenous buildings and had a go at shooting a blowpipe before getting the bus back to Quito. We are now in the new town and about to go for dinner at a nice Argentine restaurant. MMMM Argentine steak.
Tomorrow we head to Cuenca, catch you soon.
Murray and Lynn