Becoming an Ecuadorian uncle, public aerobics with Grace Jones, and men in leather briefs.
Thank the Incan gods (Imahmana Viracocha?) it was a fast case of food poisoning, though I opted for some safe home-cooked quinoa and veggies for awhile (with the added paranoia of the recently sick, “does this quinoa taste like lead in the tap water?”) And thank them again that the Amazon tour company rescheduled us for Monday without any qualms or chicanery. Okay…three more days in Quito…I admit I wasn’t that excited about it at first.
We had been in a cheap hotel, gradually becoming Uncle and Aunt Gringos to two young Ecuadorian boys who chirped at us in a mixture of Spanish and Quechua, but unfortunately Mom & Dad never sprang for a hot water heater, so we had to divorce ourselves and move to another hostel, whose retro décor (as in, never updated) was popular with K. We assuaged our sorrows with the 77% cacao (with ginger) bar we bought in Mindo, and a giant chirimoya, the somewhat dragon-scaled fleshy white fruit that tastes like gum and is our favorite South American fruit dessert.
Saturday morning we went looking for Parque Carolina, a purported Ecuadorian weekend hang-out spot, which would beat Old Town, which is abandoned and spooky on weekends (and is consequentially the best/worst day for thieves).
We asked the guy in the tourist info gift shop, who said “go right then take the Ecovia bus system.” While K was in the bathroom I asked the police lady, who said “no, go left and take the Trole bus system.” We started left, then asked the lass in the pharmacy, who told us “no, go back, then left (which would have been straight) and take the Metro bus system.”
All three agreed that it was too far to walk, and that if we tried we’d get lost. (Turns out it was just ~20 min down one dog-legging street. Apparently Quitites don’t walk around town much.)
Parque Carolina was frickin awesome! We entered past delighted Ecuadorian tykes sitting splay-legged on ponies, proud parents walking alongside. There were grassy fields stretching into the distance, futbol games organized in every direction. Enough trees. Stubborn grass staying green despite the footfalls. Smoky food carts and relaxed beverage vendors with coolers of soda & beer. A circular pond with paddle boats. A retired DC3 converted to a playground (still Latin American in that the wing had broken and fallen to lean a tip on the ground, leaving long stretches of jagged metal…in the playground). Occasional gazebos reminded us both of Gaudi’s Parque Guell in Barcelona.
Families wandered and hung out, not staring at the tourists; we felt completely relaxed, welcome, and just another pair of people in the park on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Then there was Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and a variety of other pop stars, all spruced up with techno beats blasting out of giant speakers around the stage where four backup dancers were being upstaged by a dude in florescent yellow spandex with a precise flat top afro (think Kid n Play, Fresh Prince, and Grace Jones…especially Grace Jones). He was enthusiastic to the point that I suspected substance abuse.
It was a public aerobics workout, and K, being a rockstar, decided to participate. I read a book in the shade, glancing up to enjoy her performance, and was apparently not the only one, as two of the backup dancers stopped by to present her with a soccer ball and take her picture. So now we have a soccer ball, which is awesome.
We played on the teetertotter, slide, and monkey bars, then found a basketball court for two games of HORSE where I was reminded that basketball is my absolute worst sport. I’m better at jai alai I bet. I blame the ball.
We walked back, stopping for a shiny red candied apple (hard candy covering, not caramel) then looking for a movie theater in the massive mall. Turns out there’s no theater, just chic clothing stores with their models looking like underage boys. I bit my lip to avoid a shouted public diatribe about pedophilia in advertising and the abuse we heap on our daughters. (Seriously, don’t let your daughters go to the mall until our advertisers and fashion industry grow the f*** up.)
I pacified myself with a vanilla soft serve that tasted like a delicious form of flea poison. I don’t understand either. And because it was just that sort of day, we grabbed a few chocolate pralines too. Why not, it was Today at the time.
If you think candied apples, ice cream, and pralines are excess, you should have seen my dinner.
Normally I’m a food/culture snob, and avoid “American food” but snobbery needs a vacation too, so I sat down to a guacamole cheese burger with fries and a certain well-marketed soda. I felt disgusted and pleased with myself, smiling my lack of penitence all the way home.
But it wasn’t time to go home yet, oh no. When we walked through the day before, we saw them setting up a stage, and we approached the area to more bumping bass beats. But this was no public aerobics, this was an individual on stage, apparently naked under a sort of blouse made of one of those transparent shower curtains. Another individual had giant red butterfly wings on, next to a pack of four individuals in skin-tight leopard tights, and four others in gladiator-inspired short skirts and corsets under police caps.
Sharply penciled eyebrows, thigh-high shiny black platform boots, and leather briefs. It was Pride Night in Quito. I have never been so proud of Ecuador. It was awesome. There were some seriously world-class dancers, who were interrupted with tragic frequency by sound problems.
Ecuador is a noticeably conservative country (they find Peru somewhat scandalous, and don‘t even talk about Colombia) and I was happily surprised by Pride Night. I didn’t detect any hostility, but there was a rather unnerving lack of applause from the staring crowd. These guys were doing absolutely amazing acrobatics and choreography, and they would finish (with a flourish) and their smiles would fade in the fog of silence. K and I clapped uproariously from where we sat drinking lemongrass tea, wondering why we were the only ones.
On the way home we realized, holy shit, Quito is awesome!