It’s not so hot this morning. I was woken up by my name being called (my name being Diego, of course) by my landlady; apparently I had a phone call. So I pulled on my dressing gown and scampered out and up the wet steps (it’d been raining overnight). I won’t bore you with the details of the call. On the way back down to my flat I noticed the low cloud. Not the day for hill-walking, as was the plan. Not even Cayambe, the one snow-covered volcano I can see from my window, was visible this morning. Never mind though. The internet’s working at school, finally. That is, if I can get past the guards.
So yeah. Hello. I’m in Ecuador. It’s nice.
Getting here was fun. You may (please, you must) have seen the excitement at Heathrow last Thursday. Due to the arrest of a number (21? 24?) of terrorist suspects overnight (planning to blow me up with breast-milk or something like that – I’ve been kinda cut off for the last week) the government decided that now these men (presumably) were in custody, this was the perfect time to increase airport security to an unprecedented and insane level. No hand-luggage at all. No handbags. No water-bottles, books, phones, laptops, newspapers, eye-drops, lipsticks, smiles or beards (okay, I made the last two up). I saw a kid have his glasses-case snatched from him, airport staff with hands full of phones, even a guy in a suit ripping out pages from a ledger that he wasn’t allowed to take through departures. Another man was spotted tearing the last chapter out of a novel he hadn’t quite finished. So no surprise that we left late, having queued for three hours; or indeed that as soon as we took off, a rugby scrum ensued and they had to shut the airport.
Late take-off meant late landing and that meant missing the day’s one flight to Quito out of Madrid. Another three hours queuing (the Iberia staff have a FANTASTIC attitude to customer service) and I was put up in a hotel (with beer), put on the next flight (the next day) and assured that my bags (including my hand-luggage: an un-padded laptop, hard-drive and digital camera, all at the mercy of the ‘chuckers’) would all be on the same flight. So now I was counting on three things: the bags arriving, their contents being intact and somebody bing there to meet me, to show me where I live.
Watched Mission Impossible 3 on the plane. Hadn’t seen it before. Good film.
After dodging (and I really do mean dodging) a number of lofty mountains and volcanoes on appoach, we landed. My bags also landed. I was met. And the only thing damaged was one CD. I can live with that. There’s some kinda yin yang thing going on here I think, and that’s just fine.
I don’t actually live in Quito. I live in Cununyacu, a kind of village near the towns of Tumbaco and Cumbaya, in the valley east of the city. We’re a good deal lower here, and as such are a good deal warmer. I have a very nice apartment on the ground floor of a very nice house that is occupied by a very nice couple and their very nice kids (on Saturday we went to a big family barbecue, played volleyball, table-football: it was great).
I’ll get me one of those flickr (?) accounts soon and put some pics up for anyone that’s interested.
From my window I have a stunning view across the valley: lots of mountains and volcanoes and greenery. In the garden there are brightly coloured birds and humming birds too. And there are also guard dogs. Big, scarey, fuck-off guard dogs that don’t like me and prowl around the place like tigers in a cage. I’m assured they’ll get used to me. I hope so. Easier to tame have been the armed guards.
Think ‘South Africa’ and you’re on the right lines. Roads and avenues of gated, guarded, walled and electric-fenced properties keeping the rich elite safe from the rest of the population. Not what I expected. Quite something. I haven’t yet happened upon the ghetto or township aspect, but I’m sure it’s here somewhere. No doubt I’ll pass by it on the way to the jungle, the beach, a cloud-forest or one or another of the many volcanic tourist destinations. That should give me a little more perspective.