It was dog visiting day today. Isabel has rescued an English pitbull, and it has been in training for six weeks. It is important to visit the dog weekly with Prieta, Erika's huge beloved dog (which is as big as a small pony), and practice the commands that Sayyid has been learning. He will be home in two weeks, and Isabel has to be ready for him. Her grandson Mateo, visits every Sunday, and joined us for the occasion. Mateo was quiet and reserved. He seemed to be an older person in a very young body, and spent the day studying us with his dark brown eyes.
The sky is incredibly sunny and bright. Erika recently had Lasik surgery on her eyes, and was advised by the eye surgeon to wear prescription sunglasses at all times, that the Quito sun was far too strong and causes Quitenos to have a higher incidence of cataracts and other eye problems. I have no problem with that since I wear sunglasses all the time, but I am noticing that I must attend to sunscreen on any skin that is exposed, and now I understand why so many of the locals use umbrellas when it isn't raining.
I noticed that Cotopaxi was clearly visible when I was taking my shower this morning, and with every turn in the road, there it was, such a magnificent view! The dog training kennel was on the way to Cumbaya, which is in the next valley over from Quito. Many people we know live there, where there is more space and open air, and the quality of life is considered a step up from Quito. Several excellent schools were located in Cumbaya, and had we chosen a school in that area, we may have chosen to live there, but I am quite certain that I want to live in the centre of the city, and PUCE, the university is also in the city.
Mateo likes pizza, so we drove to the area near Carolina Park to eat at 'Pizza Hut'. This was in fact the first time I have been to 'Pizza Hut' and I did not know that it was a restaurant, I thought it was just 'take out'. Maya inhaled her chicken legs and continued to chew on the bones until they were clean. I chose a 'blue cheese' salad, which was excellent, but I could not taste the blue cheese because the dressing was made with soy sauce. I tasted Erika's and Isabel's pizzas, which were deep dish pizzas, with thick crust, but less topping than one sees in Chicago. The menu offered four crust thicknesses, and one could choose any topping to add to the pizza. I could not compare this pizza restaurant to its American counterpart, since I have been too rarely to a pizza restaurant in the United States. My impression is, and it makes sense that, the chain caters to the local tastes, so that it does and does not seem like an American restaurant.
Ecuadorians generally eat very healthfully. An incredible variety of fruits and vegetables make produce shopping an adventure. Every meal starts with freshly made fruit juice with all sorts of combinations of exotic and often unheard of fruit. Fruit is sold on the street, there are juice bars everywhere. Beans of all colours and shapes and sizes and tastes are a staple. Rice graces most meals, but potatoes appear often. Soups are popular. I like the soup called 'locro' made with potato and avocado. Chicken and pork and fish provide protein. Another staple is ice cream. Whenever we are strolling about in the 'centro historico', everyone is either selling or licking or cleaning up after an ice cream. Going for pizza today was a way for Isabel to stay out of the kitchen, and as she assured me, we needed some junkfood to balance all the healthy food we ordinarily eat.
Maya and I wandered again to the 'centro historico'. I am feeling more and more comfortable there, and I know my way home on the bus, and it is beautiful for walking. It is wonderfully preserved as it was five hundred years ago, but it does not feel like a museum nor does it cater to just to tourists. It is full of shops and simple restaurants that attract local inhabitants, schools, universities, hospitals, and lovely churches at every corner. Masses were occurring today, but yesterday was wedding day, and every church was booked.
Our first stop was the Plaza Grande for some people watching. There is a man with a megaphone ranting about being saved by Jesus Christ, but noone is paying him much attention. Maya is surprised that the shoeshine boys are so young and she has many questions about why they are working and whether they go to school and whether the money they make is for them or for their families. There is a legless man playing the andean flute along with music from a stereo. His small son sits near his father's wheelchair and does his father's bidding. A blind man is selling shoelaces of all colours and lenghths. People crowd around a man with a poster making fun of political figures. Most of the crowd are strolling or sitting and enjoying the sun or licking their ice creams.
We visited the 'Museo de la Ciudad', which is housed in an old hospital and its focus is 16C, 17C, 18C history of Quito, mostly the story of Quito after the Spanish had established themselves. It is an easy museum to visit, because it does not have many artifacts, but is well laid out and simple to understand even in Spanish.
Quito is a small place, and we ran into Santiago, one of Eric's colleagues at PUCE, and his fiancee Alexandra. We talked about getting to know the city and making a decision about where to live. Classes at the university begin tomorrow, but we will try to get together for the afternoon. I want to wander around the areas I am interested in living in and see how it feels, so I can narrow down my focus.