J'Adore Ecuador

Sean's new flipflops

Ecuador was pretty much exactly how I thought it would be, but also nothing like I thought it would be at all. Wow, would you look at that sentence? Cliche central! I might as well have just started off with "it was a dark and stormy night...." For a start, it smelled good everywhere. Is that a particularly South American thing, this perfuming of everything? I first noticed it on the plane to Quito when Sean came back from the tiny deathtrap closet of hell bathroom. He smelled like tea roses. "Sean, you smell like tea roses," I said, sinking my nose into the collar of his shirt and inhaling, just to be sure. "What, do they have a Body Shop at the back of the plane or something? And is it duty-free?" But no, there was no Body Shop at the back of the plane, there was just an all-pervading smell of tea roses in the airplane bathroom for a reason I simply couldn't discern (although I've heard about epileptics being overwhelmed with a sudden and potent smell of almonds right before they have a fit, and for a moment, I wondered if I was epileptic and just didn't know it.) And then I noticed it everywhere: everything in Ecuador seemed to be scented. The toilet paper was scented. The tissues were scented. All the taxis smelled like cologne. People of Ecuador, what is this about?


Speaking of being on the plane, take a wild guess at the one thing you might not expect to see when peering casually out of the window mid-flight. Did you guess a volcano? An up-and-close-and-personal volcano, peeking up through the clouds and causing you to simultaneously take the lord's name in vein, grab your camera, and adopt the brace position? Well then, you would be right.

A volcano! From the window of the plane!


On our second-to-last day of vacation, we ventured out to the tiny village of San Pablo del Lago, about an hour and a half from Quito. We stayed in a restored hacienda originally built in 1602, which was very nice, although it did have something of the abandoned summer camp about it, and also we were the only guests there under the age of, oh, eighty. In the afternoon, tiring of the all-inclusive feel of the place, we made the short stroll from the hacienda into the center of San Pablo del Lago, following, I kid you not, a herd of cows to get there. In the town square, there was a long, long line of Ecuadorian women---some men, but mostly women---stretching down the block, the front of it coming to rest in front of a locked wrough-iron gate. The women, every single one of them, wore black panama hats, brightly colored skirts and shawls, embroidered blouses, and gold beads around their necks. They were all ages, from eighteen to a hundred and a eight (and I don't think that's an exaggeration) and their stoic expressions never wavered, even in the face of the manic friendly smiling I was doing in an effort to coax a response. We tried to figure out for a while what they were waiting for---food? money? a doctor?---but the only thing we saw behind the locked wrought-iron gate was a sign that said ¨Internet.¨ (Seriously. And while I don't really think they were waiting for the Internet, it was still pretty funny. Could they have all needed to check their e-mail at the same time? Was there a sale at Zappos? Did Dooce update?)


Then a band started playing in front of the church, just struck up without warning across the square. There were fourteen men (I counted), the oldest probably in his mid-50s, the youngest around 10. They all wore purple shirts and silver ties and khaki pants (except one guy in a gray shirt and jeans who must have forgotten his uniform) and they played so vibrantly, with such lust and life in this dusty little town on a dull Friday afternoon, that it sort of broke my heart.


I tried to make eye contact but they stared straight ahead into the middle distance. After the first song, I applauded wildly, and found I was the only one. (I kept doing it anyway; the silence seemed such an affront.) Between breaks, one guy would fix the hair and ties of the other men, fussing over them like a mother hen. They played and played and little girls chased each other, little boys whooped, other little boys put their hands over their ears (those boys will never be in bands when they grow up and thus will pick up fewer chicks than the other boys, you mark my words), and the line on the other side of the square inched slowly forward. And standing in this tiny town, the only gringo for miles around, the sun inching down behind the bulk of the volcano towering over us, I gave up a silent prayer of thanks that we hadn't chosen to go to Club Med Bahamas for our vacation.


"Hey, by the way, I liked your post about me yesterday," said Sean. "Oh, did you?" I asked. "Well, thanks." "It's just.....there's one thing," he said. "I mean, did you have to make me sound like such a pansy? 'Oh, he just talked to the guy who was trying to rob us, he just talked to him.' Couldn't you have said that at first I talked to him, but that afterwards I went crazy on his ass and did some bitchin' kung fu moves?"

(PS: Those bottom two pictures are Sean's. I have some San Pablo del Lago pictures of my own, but I have yet to upload them. They feature horse-riding. I know you can hardly wait.)

Sep 20, 2007

LOL at Sean's comment! I have faith that he's got bitchin' kung fu moves, even if he didn't use them this time :)

jive turkey
Sep 20, 2007

Just tell Sean that we all AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMED he pulled out the kung fu moves after talking to the guy. I mean, that's just what he does, right? It goes without saying.

JB at Twice Five Miles
Sep 20, 2007

I just assumed that he used some kind of super Jedi mind trick on the guy while he was talking to him, and that beats kung fu any day, doesn't it?

Sep 20, 2007

Note to Sean: In my little corner of the world, bitchin' kung fu moves aren't really all that impressive. All you need is love, man.

Sep 20, 2007

Ha, that sounds like my husband. Anytime I write I post referencing him any more than in passing, he tells me he likes it, then gives me some sort of "creative criticism".

BEAUTIFUL pictures. And for the record, I'm totally glad you didn't go to Bahamas Club Med either. It is so much less interesting to read "then, we walked out of our hotel room, down to the giant pool, and started yet another day of voracious reading. We even ordered drinks from the pool waiter! I don't think he spoke much English, but we were able to communicate."


Sep 20, 2007

Glad you liked our little corner of the world. Althought you visited only the "Sierra"! Next time you should try and visit the coastal part too. I think the most amazing thing about this country is how different we are between Sierra and Costa.

Anyway...yes, everything is kind of scented here. People put either natural oils, potpourri, leaves, plants, or anything that imparts odour to spaces. It's a South American thing, I've seen this throughout the continent. And people always feel very happy when you compliment the nice smells in their places.

Sep 20, 2007

Aww, that just makes me like Sean even more.

Sep 20, 2007

Sean, I just imagined that you did a Vulcan mindmeld thing and that is what brought him around. He knew just from looking at you that you had 'some bitchin kung fu moves' that you could bust out on a whim and knew that he better take the dollar and run!

Holly - as always great post! I too am very happy that you did not go to the Bahamas Club Med - although the Straw Market is a lot of fun!

Sep 20, 2007

And I know what those people are doing! They're are indigenous people from around the town you were visiting. They're in line outside a "Cooperativa" (kind of a smallish bank). The government has a program where they give women with small children and elderly people a monthly allowance in cash. This allowance is delivered through banks and "cooperativas".

Sep 20, 2007

Um, so when are you and Sean GETTING married?!

Sep 20, 2007

I love the photo where the little boys have their hands clamped over their ears.

Sep 21, 2007

And in that middle picture, the one with the people waiting in line...it's the Peruvian version of Sean and Holly sitting down!

Sean: What color would you say that woman's sweater is? Yellow?

Holly: No, clearly orange.

Sean: No, it's more yellow.

Holly: No, it's orange. Like this peel directly in front of us.

Sean: Could we settle on calling it "mango" my love?

Sep 21, 2007

(Oops, I meant Ecuadoran version. Ecuadorian? From the country called Ecuador.) I really have been following your blog for quite some time. It's just, I see hats and shawls and I think Peru. My bad.

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 21, 2007

Ha ha ha, Gina! Except I would definitely have said yellow, not orange.

gina in sc
Sep 21, 2007

OMG i just spit out my rolling rock when i read, "did dooce update"? we have our own internet inside jokes, you know that? an ordinary person would not know what in the hell you were talking about.... i feel so in the loop. hahahaha

Sep 21, 2007

I was wondering how Sean responded to the post . . . and to the somewhat over the top, but probably deserved, comments.

His response to Stephen, his demeanor in handling the situation and his ability to think on his feet speaks volumes about his character, his values and his compassion . . . but sometimes, us guys just want to open up a big carafe of whoop ass and put a dose of chlorine in the gene pool when nutbobs like that come along.

Still, major kudos to Sean for how he handled what could have been a very messy scene.

Saucepan Man
Sep 21, 2007

Thanks to Xica for the explanation (in case Holly forgets.) I was wondering what the line was for. (I would also like one of my names to begin with an 'X'...)

Nothing But Bonfires
Sep 21, 2007

Thank goodness for Xica! Two Ecuadorian mysteries solved in one day. Greatly appreciated -- thank you, Xica!

(And we'll get to the coast next time, I promise....)

Sep 21, 2007

I'm glad to hear Ecuador smelled better than the Carribean . . . I tend to think of everyplace near the equator as somewhat stinky.

And Dooce? Is SO two years ago. You and Miss Doxie have taken her place.

Sep 21, 2007

loving your blog, to which whoorl led me, and also really enjoyed your photos and captions of your trip on flickr...

Sep 21, 2007

Please tell Sean that while you didn't explicitly mention his bitchin kung fu moves, his BKFM were implied. And they were astounding. Such lightning fast reflexes the man has!

And the photo second from the bottom is amazing. Great color. It has a great sense of stillness.

Can someone please help with an explanation of the hats these women wear. I'm intrigued.

Sep 25, 2007

Just a 40yo, 14-yr married woman here, reporting that Sean's handling of the "situation" is one of the sexiest-sounding things I've heard in ages! Way to go! (... And I'm sure the BKFM would have been equally stellar, had they been required.)