Que sabe a pollo (It tastes like chicken…)

Cuy (guinea pig), Quito

 26 November – 11 December 2010 

…hang on, it is bloody chicken, and rice. So my plan was to lose weight in Ecuador but this hasn’t happened, quite the opposite in fact. I now resemble a football thanks to the obsession with carbohydrates that the Ecuadorians have. I realise just how lucky I am having a multitude of different cuisines on my doorstep in London. Over the last two weeks I´ve had little other than chicken and (white) rice and (white) bread and butter EVERY day. (Actually my diet was pretty similar in Colombia so lets make that about six weeks). Somebody shoot me now. Ecuadorian’s don’t seem to know what vegetables are. Bread and butter is served with every meal. I thought that was just a Yorkshire thing for mopping up gravy. They seem to like their cuy though (gineau pig) which I sampled the other day. The though of it was making me feel queasy but I think it`s always good to sample the local dish. The little paw that arrive with my quarter of guy nearly made me spew. Then I tasted it and nearly spewed. 

I´ve been studying Spanish for the last two weeks, (si, mi español es todavía muy mal) and have been living with an Ecuadorian family where I get two meals a day. This should have been three but thank god I changed it to just two. With carbohydrates for every meal (sometimes there is even a selection of carbohydrates on my plate), I may be forced to get an extra seat on the flight home to accommodate my arse. It´s been pretty hard because the family think I can understand Spanish fluently, (I got told off for not waking the son up when he took a catnap for an hour and was hours late for work – serves him right for talking so fast), the two naughty kids don’t seem to sleep and like to scream a lot, the mother is so protective that she barely let´s me do anything – everything is ´muy peligroso´(very dangerous), there are that many locks that it´s like getting into Alcatraz (after two weeks I have managed to get into the home once, luckily it was the only time that the house was actually empty), and lastly I have been forced fed carbohydrates every day (extra generous portions for the guest). After a week I was gagging to leave, stay in a hostel and cook vegetables and not have to ask mum if I can go out, now sad is that?  

It’s been pretty strange having to go back to school, do homework, get up early, lay off the booze, play with the kids, be home by 6pm, have my meals prepared for me, kissing mum goodnight and getting to bed before midnight. The family are really sweet and here you can tell family life is really important (there are three generations living at the apartment), but at the same time it was just really intense. On the plus side I had my own room with a double bed for two weeks (though felt guilty as the mum had to share a room with her son and her grand daughter), and I got to unpack my stinky rucksack and put my clothes in draws – AMAZING!  

Cotopaxi Volcano

Snow on Cotopaxi

Traditional Folklore dancing at the Quito festival

More positive news – my scab has finally dropped off, hurrah! No more gaffer taping up my leg with a plastic supermarket bag every time I get in the shower, though it´s been replaced with some new wounds from Cotopaxi that I checked out the other weekend. Pretty amazing seeing the volcano and loads of mountains though not so much fun trying to climb the volcano in Converse. ‘Yeah those trainers will be fine’ says my teacher, mmmm my arse. Thanks for telling me that the trip would involve hiking up the volcano reaching over 4000m. We went down on mountain bikes though my brakes didn´t work too well and I flew off a couple of times due to the completely uneven pot holed road. It felt similar to the Power Plates that are all the rage at the moment. So, I´m nursing my bruised inner thighs right now (yes from the bike) but luckily I made it down alive. I´m now thinking twice about tackling the most dangerous road in South America on a mountain bike. 

After not consuming alcohol for eight days I was up for heading for a beer after Cotopaxi before going home but this lead to quite a few and getting back to the apartment at about 1.30am. I triedsneaking into Alcatraz but didn´t even need to tackle the front door (the top lock opens one way + the bottom the other way = logical) because the door flew open and bleary eyed mum is there waiting for me. Whoops, ´sorry mum´. I feel like a very naughty school girl. The next morning I feel like death. I wait until everyone has left the house and finally get up, planning a trip to Minta del Mundo (The Middle of the World – the equator). Damn, mum and son are back in the house and the mum tells me I´m not allowed to go there as it´s ´muy peligroso´and there are too many people there on a Sunday. I am told to go out to watch the football (Liga de Quito v Emelec in the first leg of the final of the Ecuadorian League), with the son and his cousin and another friend and they force beer down me. Although I feel like death and the last thing I need is a beer, hair of the dog is always the way forward. So a typical Sunday afternoon for me then bar the fact that I need to converse in Spanish. Easy went you´re drunk, not so easy when you´re hungover. We head back to Alcatraz after I turn down more day drinking (yes very unlike me) but I need to do my homework and doing homework pissed isn´t good. I´m bloody starving but I’m only paying for two meals a day so think I should starve myself until dinner that mum has told me is already in the fridge. However, the boys leave Alcatraz so I rustle up an egg sarnie. The boys return just as I finish, phew, close shave. I get offered food by the very insisting son. ´No tengo hambre, gracias.´(I´m not hungry, thanks). I wait a few hours and heat up my chicken, rice and potatoes. It´s so dry that I nearly choke on it as it´s so dry so cut up a tomato for a bit of wet but this doesn´t really help. There is also a slice of cake for me which is disgusting. After two mouthfuls I wrap it up and put it in a plastic bag and put it into my bag so I can bin the evidence. The bin in Alcatraz is merely a plastic carrier bag so it would have been obvious that I didn´t like it and I have to pretend that everything is `Que rica!´ (It´s delicious/amazing). I´m just finishing up my homework when mum returns to Alcatraz and rushes into the kitchen to rustle up some dinner for herself. She sets the table and puts down a plate of food. `Eat.´ Jebus, she´s made me some food (and none for herself) even though she´s told me that my dinner was in the fridge. I need to be polite and force it down. More plain rice but at least it´s not chicken. After consuming a three egg omelette and half an avocado I´m nearly sick, three meals in three hours is pretty hardcore. I have a few grains of rice and chuck the rest when mum´s not looking. Like a scardy cat I finally tell mum that I´m going out later. I unintentially head back to the house at 1am after telling mum that I won´t be late. Again I don´t need to even open the front door as it flies open. Whoops, ´sorry mum´. Naughty school girl heads straight to bed.  

The following day in Quito is the Independence Day of San Francisco, another really strange day where everything is tranquil and closed. I had to endure this on my third day in Quito too as it was randomly the day of the National Census of Population in Ecuador (the last one was 10 years ago) where nobody is permitted to leave their house until the evening. School is still open though. I have to head home straight after to go to the mum´s mum´s house even though it’s the final day of the festival in Quito that friends are going to. After five hours of watching the most confusing card game ever, (Cuarenta) where everyone seems to have their own rules, not understanding it and having to endure 25 other members of the family I´m finally allowed back to Alcatraz to do my homework. It was seriously intense stuff. Medals were involved, prises, lots of shouting and I wasn´t allowed to play. I did get offered a thimble of canelazo (traditional hot Ecuadorian drink similar to a hot toddy) and a slither of pizza though so it was all worth it. I had a similar time the previous Friday where I went out to the old town with ´my family´ to check out the festivities after turning down a chiva ride so as not to upset mum (bus full of pissed raucous peeps, complete with a band, dancing and lots of whistles). Surely it´s necessary to drink at a street carnival, but no, we just walk around, it´s ´muy peligroso´is all I get in my ear for 5 hours. ´Mucha gente´ (lots of people) ´Put your camera away, por pavor´. OK, ´can we go now please – this is no fun´. We finally stop to buy canelazo, though with no alcohol and I can´t ask for alcohol in mine because I don´t want to come across as an alcoholic. The highlight was eating an empanada washed down with a bottle of water.  

TeleferiQo, Quito

Art in Parque Ejido, Quito

Interesting wheelchairs in the Botanical Garden, Quito

Some of the impressive selection of cacti in the Botanical Gardens, Quito

The cute couple at Otavalo market where I purchased a poncho abierto

Amusing restroom signage, Otavalo trip

Fancy a bit of cock for tea? Animal market on the way

 Other things that mum says are ´muy peligroso´ include taking the TeleferiQo for amazing view of Quito, walking to the Historical Centre (The Old Town), walking for 10 minutes with my rucksack to the hostel, taking monies out of the bank (I have to ask my teacher to escort me), visiting Parque Carolina where there the Botanical Jardins are drinking chicha (I don´t tell mum that I drank two litres of the stuff in Bogota), visiting the famous Otavalo crafts market. In fact pretty much everything that I´ve done in Quito. It´s either ´mucha gente´or ´no, mucha gente´. It´s hard to find the balance of the perfect amount of people in one place. It´s been fun here but I´ve done my time.  

So the plan is to skip a few meals so I don´t get mistaken for a unique Chinese beach whale on The Galapagos Islands.

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