Monday, February 2, 2009
Theft, Otavalo, and back again
I am back in Quito after an incredible weekend in a tiny town north of here called Otavalo. I don't have that much time but I just wanted to give you all a quick update.
Only a day after everyone arrived for the trip, we hopped on a bus to Otavalo. One of the most important things you need to know about the bus ride from Quito to Otavalo is that it is one of the main routes for theft. Most people traveling from one to the next are either tourists or indigenous people heading into the market, and for the most part tourists are carrying lots of cash to spend on hand made goods. Before leaving, our guide warned us about theft, though with a slight note of unconcern. We boarded the bus, stuffed our bags underneath our seats, and attempted to take naps/listen to our i-pods. The ride itself is only about three hours, but when we got off the bus one of the girls on our trip noticed that her passport was missing. She looked down to find two huge slashes in the bottom of her backpack through which someone had stolen her passport, money, credit cards, camera, and medicine. You know that feeling of violation that hits you after your car has been broken into? Now multiply that by ten and this is what she was feeling. The good thing is that all can be replaced, except the cash. We were pretty shaken up at the end of it all. When we got to the hostel I sewed up her bag and embroidered a little flower on it so it didn't look so terrible. Soon after, we set out to explore the town.
Otavalo is a small town where not much happens. It is quaint and extremely busy,and home of one of the most incredible markets in South America. They sell everything there from raw chickens with the feet still on to beautiful hand made tapestries. We spent hours wandering the market. I bought a hand made shirt, some headbands and a replica of the necklaces the indigenous people wear. I wish I could describe the vibrancy of the people and the market itself but there really are no words. There is lots of interesting food, as well, including fried fish, bags of potatoes and meat, and fruits of all kind. I was feeling particularly adventurous and ate a huge fried fish, fins and all (Mom you would have loved it!). One of the main street foods is beef and potatoes, which is given to you in a little plastic bag and you eat it with a tiny spoon, like the ones they give you at paciugo. So delicious. So unhygienic.
There are lots of old women who wander around the market, decked out in full indigenous garb, who beg for money. If you can imagine someone wandering into joanna's fabric, buying samples of all the cloth from the ethnic section and draping themselves in it, that is how the women dress. Their necks are adorned with ten rows of golden beads, which they make and sell to the tourists. Apparently their families force them to head to the market every day to earn money for the family because they are ¨useless at home¨. They're all pretty cute and I had a hard time not giving them money. One woman followed me around the market after I gave her twenty cents.
We got back to Quito last night and started our Spanish lessons this morning. Im a bit overwhelmed with everything we need to learn, but my tutor is very sweet and patient with me (although I caught her chuckling with one of the other professors and looking my direction so she may only be sweet because she doesnt speak any English.) Either way, I'm excited.
I'm anxious to start moving around the country, though, and am already a little bit bored with Quito. Its a big city, pretty polluted, and we are confined to the hostel for food so there isn't much exploration in our meals. But I still have another three or four months. I am in no hurry.
Anyway, I am happy to report that the trip has been excellent so far and I already feel my Spanish improving, if slowly.
More later. Miss you tons.
Love and bugs,
Posted by Betty Teaspoon at 11:22 AM