Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bulletins From BA #21

Bulletins From BA #21
11 febrero 2014

¡Hola! there… Rodger French here.


Air travel within South America is seriously expensive and that has unavoidably curtailed the number of Anne’s official trips I can afford to tag along on. But since she was scheduled to travel to Ecuador and this might be my only shot, we decided to spend the money.

It was so worth it.

Día Uno - Having arrived round midnight at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport after a long flight from Buenos Aires, we checked into our hotel and promptly crashed. Fortunately, we had a free day before A.J. got down to bidness, so we spent a few hours shlepping around the Old Town area. The high point of the day (not withstanding an Afro-Ecuadorian busker effortlessly juggling seven balls at a traffic stop) was La Compañia, an exercise in gold-leafed ecclesiastical extravagance. We then had a fine lunch at a family-run-hole-in-the-wall, before returning to the hotel in time to watch the Super Bowl. Which was unexpectedly staggering.

[Topographical Sidebar - BA is at sea level. Quito is at an elevation of 2800 m (9350 ft). Welcome to the Andes, where breathing is not always autonomic.]

Día Dos - We arose at 04:00 (That’s right, 4 AM - forget that whole “glamourous Foreign Service lifestyle” nonsense.) to meet with the Director of the Embassy Quito IRC (Information Resource Center) and catch a plane to the small city of Loja. At the airport, pandemonium was the order of the day. Seems that Tungurahua volcano had inconveniently erupted, necessitating the cancellation of a boatload of flights. But we did finally make ours, and arrived at Ciudad de Catamayo Airport where we were picked up and whisked across the mountains to Loja.

Since Loja is not a major tourist destination, tagging along with Anne seemed to be the more entertaining option. After meeting with the muy amable couple who operate the local BNC (BiNational Center), it was time for almuerzo (lunch) at Mama Lola Restaurante, a terrific place serving local Ecuadorian food. We especially enjoyed the horchata, a drink made from flowers. Our gracious hosts then took us to a shop where we acquired copious quantities of bocadillo, a delicious candy made from sugar cane.

[Numismatic Sidebar - The U.S. greenback is also the official currency of Ecuador, although Ecuadorians use $1 coins and .50 pieces extensively. The $1 bill is, thankfully in my opinion, a rarity.]

Our final stop in Loja was the American Corner located at UTLP (La Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja), a lovely campus located on a hillside overlooking the town. I enjoyed sitting in the shade, luxuriating in the gentle breeze, and casually observing the impossibly young estudiantes.

Continuará en Bulletins From BA #22.


1 comment: