Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Mariscal

Whew! It is cold and getting colder. I woke up with the wind howling, but by the time I peeked out from under the covers (three layers of wool blankets), the sun was shining and it was much warmer than I expected. By midday the sun was shining intensely and I discovered that I had dressed too warmly and took off every layer I could. I have been warned that winter is still coming, and that in September the rains will start, that it will be even colder for another six months. Am I not in the southern hemisphere, I ask? I guess it is only by a few degrees. The equator is just a little north of Quito, so we are not quite like Australia, where summer and winter are reversed. Eric loves the 'springlike', or rather 'fall-like' weather all year long, with cold nights and warm days and very variable conditions throughout the day. There is a wet and dry season both in the Andes and the jungle, but they are reversed. I did not bring warm enough clothing, and will have to venture out clothes shopping before the next season (next week!).

The homes do not have heat or air conditioning. I doubt that the AC is ever necessary (you just open windows), but the nights require sweaters and warm blankets. We will be driving up to Otavalo to visit the Indian market to accumulate warm coverings of all sorts , although there is a market at Sangolqui (closer than Otavalo) on Thursdays, which although smaller, has most of the same goods at better prices. Eric has proposed that we drive to a town up north called San Antonio de Ibarra to buy furniture for our apartment. Anything imported is ridiculously expensive, so buying Ecuadorian will work better for us. There are huge tariffs/taxes on all goods that are not manufactured or produced in Ecuador. This is in an effort by the government to prevent dollars from leaving the country. I noticed this yesterday when window shopping at Quicentro; the prices for televisions and L'Occitane soaps and cremes were at least double compared to what I am used to (I happened to check prices in the Sony and the L'Occitane store).

I have lost my enthusiasm for looking at apartments. Eric is set on the somewhat sketchy one near Hospital Baca Ortiz, and Maya will not consider any other, but I keep hoping that something better will magically show up. Of course, by not exerting any effort to make anything happen, I may have to give the okay to Eric and Maya. Eric is also worried that by hesitating we will lose it, and that nothing better will present itself. I keep insisting that we check out the area around it again and again. Today we met nearby, at the Sacha Lodge office. I wanted to visit the 'Casa Aliso', a hotel in La Floresta, which is associated with Sacha. It is only a few blocks from our potential apartment, and is a lovely converted house with only ten rooms, intimate, beautifully decorated, and perfect for any visitors we may have who want to stay nearby. We walked to the Mariscal, where we ate traditional Ecuadorian food. I ate a 'humita', which is corn meal wrapped around cheese and baked in corn leaves, Eric had 'llapingachos al estile de Ambato', which are potato cakes with chorizo sausage and a fried egg. Maya had barbequed ribs, which although not unfamiliar to her, appeared to be a local specialty as well. Maya is remarkable in her ability to clean off chicken bones and ribs, so that there is not a bit of meat left on the bones.

Eric expressed a wish to live in the Mariscal, but we have been repeatedly discouraged from being even further away from her school, and the area is potentially more dangerous than others, but of course it is only a few blocks from the apartment Eric is proposing to rent anyway. The Mariscal is full of restaurants and bars and hostels and hotels and travel agencies and language schools. It attracts tourists and expats and with them come the pickpockets and those who wish to take advantage of foreigners. The area is also fun and full of great energy, and I can imagine that I will want to visit regularly. My favourite bookstore, Libri Mundi, happens to be in the Mariscal. It is full of great picture books of Ecuador, and also stocks a good selection of English books. I bought 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' for Maya, and she has had her nose in the novel ever since.

I remain stunned each morning when I see Cotopaxi peeking through the clouds. I check for it morning and night, and it is not always visible, but when it is, I feel particularly lucky. It is as beautiful as Mount Fuji, and I keep wanting to photograph it everyday. It is not visible from our (potentially) new apartment, so I am appreciating it daily while I can.

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