I’m a creature of habit. I like lists, routines, schedules, the whole nine yards. I check the same blogs every morning, I usually have the same thing for breakfast and I always have my wake up time end with the same digit. Those are routines I can complete anywhere but so many of my other routines involve people. Eating lunch with someone every monday, buying coffee from the same barista, telling someone about my day, that stuff grounds me. And it’s the people aspect that’s missing here.
I’m in Quito, alone, to do research which is both very solitary and way harder than I thought it would be. I’m in the midst of lots of bureaucracy which means I spend a lot of time waiting and all of the places I need to visit close at 4:30. It’s also not super safe to wander around Quito alone at night (though my neighborhood is really safe) and most places outside of the mall and the touristy plazas get pretty quiet at night. So what do I do? I spend a lot of time in my lovely room in my lovely apartment, reading, watching netflix and being by myself. I go on walks. I listen to podcasts (just discovered The Splendid Table). I tried to exercise once (not wise at this altitude because it resulted in a fever and a night of tossing and turning). The worst part of this is that there’s not much potential for change. Maybe this was a mistake in my approach to this time, but I have neither a mechanism to meet people nor the long term stay to make meeting people essential. It’s not essential, but it would be nice. I’ve also been a bit under the weather, with a stomach thing which only makes me more housebound and less likely to chat up some other solo female traveler in a coffee shop or restaurant.
Quito is a really beautiful city. The mountains are startling at certain angles and there’s sun and palm trees and even Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. The old town is colonial and gorgeous and for hikers and that sort of person, I’m sure the hills and surrounding volcanoes are a dream. But it’s also really really narrow which affects how neighborhoods develop. There aren’t that many areas outside of the old town, which is full of tourists and the riff raf they attract, where it’s fun to wander. I like near a beautiful park, which is nice, but I hardly want to take daily laps around the soccer fields and yellowing grass (it’s the dry season), though I probably should. I also have lots of emails to write and things to google and the type of coffeeshop where you can whip out a macbook pro doesn’t seem to exist here (or in many countries, to be fair). So to be “productive,” I sort of have to stay home.
These past 2 weeks and the upcoming one, my 12th week out of the country, have challenged me and shown me how important people are in your impressions of a place. It reinforces how lucky I was to so quickly find a wonderful group of friends in Mexico. I don’t know how researchers do this, maybe that’s why they travel in teams. Short of staying in a hostel or talking to random strangers, I don’t know how I could have done this differently. I still hope I can meet more Ecuadorians than waiters and taxi drivers but the culture here seems a little more reserved than Mexico or Argentina. In Argentina so many cab drivers would ask me when I would find an Argentine boyfriend so I could move to the country and I was always chatty in Mexico.
I don’t mean for this to be a complaint or a whine because I am so grateful to be here, even when it’s hard. I also did some really cool things this week (not alone) that I will blog about soon. But travel type blogs can often be blurs of pictures and smiles and I want to share this side of it too. Thanks for listening!