QUITO. What a cool city. It’s nestled in the valley of several mountain ranges and volcanos, and sprawls 44 miles in its entirety, though it’s only six or so miles wide. Can a city nestle and sprawl simultaneously? Indeed it can.

Looking north.

Looking south.

It was only supposed to be a stopover for our trip to the Galapagos Islands, really, but it turned into so much more. Had I but unending money and time, I’d have spent several more days exploring, talking with people, reading up on Quito’s history (abounding) and modern expansions (also abounding). As it were, two nights at the start of our trip, one in the middle, and one at the end were what I got. I’m so grateful I did.

To sum up in blog form, let me give you a list of the things I learned about Ecuador from just a few nights in its capitol.

  1. Pedestrians never, and I mean never, have the right of way. Vehicles do. Give it to them.
  2. “Don’t touch the ducks.” Which is to say, don’t touch the dogs, though they are cute and seemingly harmless. They are teeming with worms and fleas and they will want to go home with you.
  3. Try every glass of juice offered to you. Delicious.
  4. You can barter nearly everywhere, including inside actual shops.
  5. Don’t hitchhike here. I mean, I guess you can if you’re so inclined, but the locals do not.
  6. Smokers are very few and far between. But diesel engines rule. So there’s still some wear on your lungs as you venture about.
  7. If you’d like to take a picture of a person, always ask, but if they demand money, walk away.
  8. It’s a great thing to hire a guide. Navigating this crowded city felt easy on a bus with a leader.
  9. Ecuador is a country consistently marauded throughout history, but if you are really paying attention you’ll see how the people finagled their own flair into everything, even Catholicism (see the giant statue of Virgin Mary with wings.)
  10. When using toilets, do not flush paper. Always place paper into available receptacle. The exception to this rule was the airport, in which we could use the toilets as we do at home.
  11. Try the avocado ice cream!
  12. Try the hot cocoa with mozzarella cheese!
  13. Try the llama and the guinea pig!
  14. Eat the aji (local hot sauce) as much as possible, then ask for a cooking lesson at your hotel – worth the time for sure.
  15. The survival rate of infants is still 50% in this little country.
  16. The coffee in Ecuador is not bitter.
  17. Ecuador is a good place to be if you’d like to avoid US news for awhile.

A few days is not enough to really know a place. (I would argue a lifetime isn’t always long enough to really know a place either.) Bottom line: I left Quito feeling that I’d been welcomed but not begged to stay. People there work hard, do not complain, make do with what they have, and move slowly toward a new world in which their unique and beautiful talents and contributions shine in the world at large. They go forward deliberately, and with thoughtful heads bent toward what is good for the many, and for the environment.

Meanwhile, a full scale effort toward increasing tourism grows. Lucky for me.