Quito stole my hobby.

Buenos dias from the equator. Well, close enough.

We got to Quito yesterday, and I am pretty sure this city is a giant pinata of amazingness and fantabulosity. The only problem is the city’s somewhat suffocating reputation for thievery. We spent last night in a popular hostel, and the common room was a barrage of stories of robbery, pick pocketing, and occasional extortion thrown in for seasoning on the streets of this Andean town. So if the city is a pinata, the only problem is the kid with the stick is beating you instead.

Remember Arturo and Juli, the French couple from Nicaragua? They are some seriously savvy travelers, hitch-hiking and camping their adventure up the continent’s backbone, and the only place they got robbed was here. Pinche ladrones.

So here we are again (still?) negotiating the line between sensible-caution and voluntary-limitations-of-over caution/paranoia. For now, we’re going with high caution, red alert: the cameras left in the room. So I have no pictures from Quito, and a new awareness of how important a camera is to my enjoyment of a place.

We walked around the city today, which was pretty…but after awhile it all sort of faded into a blur, versus when I have that glorious machine close at hand and details approach shyly and beg to have their picture taken. So I can tell you about sitting in the Plaza Grande, but I can’t show you a picture of the slope-shouldered bald man in the off-white blazer who looked more like an egg than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Nor can I show you the restaurant we ate lunch in, where the waiter asked me to translate so he could explain to an Eastern European (I’m guessing Hungarian) mother and daughter that they couldn’t pay for their $9 lunch with a $100 dollar bill. Nor the park fifteen minutes later where we saw them again, waved hello, and the daughter responded only by lifting her expensive Nikon to her eye, zooming in on us, and taking at least three pictures, actually chasing us a few steps like a bucktoothed paparazzo.

I can’t show you the pitted stone bench where we sat to laugh about how bizarre that last item had been, where a shadow fell over me and I looked up to see a heavily drunken man in a shabby tweed suit leaning over me trying to sell me a bag of lima beans in slurred Spanish.

We didn’t buy them, and neither did anyone else in the half hour before we saw him again, lima bean bag still in hand, buying ice cream from a street vendor, swaying as he watched her scoop. Except it wasn‘t actually ice cream, but a pile of a sort of frosting, which makes sense on a sunny day, but still makes me gag slightly to see. I purified myself with a cone of coconut gelato.

I think tomorrow I’ll risk the camera.