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Written on: Wednesday September 12th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Author: Julie


The plan for the day called for us to go biking along la ruta de cascadas but like all well-intentioned plans things changed. Yesterday, while hanging around our hostel we met a fellow traveller Hasse (pronounced Hossa) from the Netherlands. He?s a photo nut and had noticed my camera earlier in the day whilst I took photos of the waterfall from our rooftop restaurant. He asked us what our plans were and we said we wanted to go biking which was the same thing he planned to do that day with his travel buddy Martin but first he wanted to go take photos of the kids who were playing in the field across from our hotel. We joined him but it turned into a bigger adventure than we thought! Turns out the field belongs to the Oscar Efren Reyes school. He walked to the padlocked front gate and asked the custodian if we could come in and look. The custodian said ?sure? or the equivalent in Spanish and in we were! We walked around the school grounds and headed for the empty field. A few minutes later, one by one a class of students dressed in white and blue exercise uniforms came in with most doing a double-take when they saw us standing there. I?m sure the last thing they expected was seeing 3 gringos in the school yard with cameras. They immediately got excited and wanted their photos taken but the gym teacher took control of his class and started the class. They would run back and forth across the field pushing each other wheelbarrow style or piggy-back or racing around cones with soccer balls. Unlike my old gym classes, this was exercise and not games to keep us entertained. Even Kevin and Hosse got into the spirit of things and raced the kids back and forth across the field.

Once the class was done, we tried to leave but the door from the field to the school building was wedged shut by the strong winds we were having that day. Hosse managed to get the door cracked open enough for me to wedge myself through and I got the custodian to try to open the door. Unfortunately, it was closed so tight we had to get the school teacher on one side to bang at it with a steel pole while the custodian pulled from the other side. I wondered if for a moment it wouldn?t open but after a little while it moved enough for it to be pulled open. The students all ran through laughing and went to their next class. Next on Hosse?s agenda was to go see if there were any photo opportunities in the covered gym with a basketball court but that class had just finished too. I thought we would at that time head back to our hostel but Hosse had a better idea: let?s see if we could get into a classroom. We walked around the school compound till we got to a class room where the students yelled at us to come in. It was perfect timing as it was just starting and the teacher graciously allowed us to attend. As we sat down in a corner, the students opened their books and the teacher started to read the first lesson of the day: it was English class! What luck we had. She had us participate with the class by reading the exercise questions. At the end of the class, the students requested that we introduce ourselves to them and we opened the class to any question to might want to ask us. They wanted to know where we were from, what we did, how old we were, how did we like Ecuador, what our favourite foods were, etc. As we got more comfortable, one girl asked Hosse if he was single. It was really funny! They also found out that Kevin and I were a couple so the whole class started yelling ?Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!? and wouldn?t stop until we gave each other a little peck. It was slightly embarrassing to say the least. The class bell rang and the class was over, phew, who knows what other questions they would have asked us! A few of the girls who had asked questions stayed behind to talk to us a little longer and invited us to join them at their tango class in the evening.

It was getting on past lunch time, we were hungry and we had ran out of time to do the biking tour so we decided to put it off to another day. Wanting to try something different and a little cheap we walked to the main market to see what was on offer. Stall after stall there was chicken, empanadas, soup, pork, and many things we couldn?t identify. Hosse and I settled on freshly made empanadas and Kevin had a wonderful chicken soup with cilantro and a huge chicken leg, all for the princely sum of 1 dollar. The soup was so good that Hosse decided to have a bowl too.

After lunch, wanting to do a little exercise we decided to do one of the trails that leads to the Virgen statue overlooking the city. We walked up the streets looking for the start of the trail and made our way into the city cemetery. Instead of burial plots they had little buildings with spaces to put the coffins with a headstone for the front plaque. It was a little eerie but beautiful at the same time. There were some older dates on the headstones but most were from the 80s and 90s. I?m not sure if they re-use the burial chambers as time goes on. A few minutes after leaving the cemetery, we found the trail and walked up the mountain for the next hour. After each turn in the trail, the view would open up and we were awestruck by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and the city valley below us. Higher and higher we climbed till we got to the Virgen statue monument, whick overlooks the town. I was walking around, taking photos and admiring the scenery, when around the corner I came face to face with a horse just grazing along like nothing bothered him. Frequently, on the trail we had run into horses or cows similarly like him who?s owners would let wander around the mountain slopes. I was just surprised because I wasn?t expecting him on the other side of the wall. On the way back down, we took another trail which switched back and forth across the mountainside, along the little homes and agricultural fields that were built into the slope. It must be a hard life but a good one, especially with the beauty that is before your eyes every time you look outside.

Back at the hostel, we ran into Christian the bike guy who had recommended the hostel to us. We got to talking and we decided to have supper together, and also with Hosse and his roommate Martin which we had vaguely seen during the day. We tried to find the Tango place recommended by the students earlier in the day but luck was not on our side. It was unfortunate, since we had ran into our Quebecois friends Marie-France and Stepanie earlier in the day and had invited them to join us there giving them the same instructions that we got but we never found them. We had supper at an Argentinean style parilla restaurant where the meat is cooked in an open hearth in the restaurant. The food was delicious and as we ate we matched a couple of football (soccer) matches. How much more South American could it get?