Are we in Cuenca?

Monday, January 20, 2003
Less than a week in Equador, and already so much to tell! We left from Los Angeles and a mere four flights later arrived in Cuenca, Equador. In the US the airports are complete chaos with the new regulations and government officials everywhere... once they take your bags you are not allowed to touch them again EVER. They even escort you to the check in line where there is an official bag monitor person who chastises you if you try to put your pocket knife in your luggage... because obviously knives are not check in material.

Thanks to Jeremy for our too short stay in Los Angeles. In the short time we were there we visited our friend... who we met at the bus stop in Santorini! He became my photography teacher, we met his roommates who made us special cookies, and had dinner with his mate at the local Lebanese greasy spoon. And lastly, Jeremy is the only person to have witnessed me actually embarrass Carla. In the fourteen odd years I have known her I have never been able to embarass her... well, it was worth the wait, at my expense no less, and Jeremy I am glad you were there to witness it!

Our fourth flight i 24 hours brought us to Cuence, Equador.... our first destination in South America. Unlike the United States, the rules are pretty lax arouns here about checking for identification and making sure you are a confirmed passenger. Case and point - we actually went to the wrong place!!! Carla and I boarded a flight we THOUGHT went from Quito to Cuenca. But actually.... we didn´t! We were waiting at the baggage claim and our luggage never arrived... because we were in Guayaquil!! For some reason I had an intution it just wasn´t Cuenca, so I asked the guard, Are we in Cuenca? He said no!!! We thought this was so funny that we weren´t even upset that it happened. Fortunately, there was another flight in 10 minutes. The stewardess gave us IN TRANSIT passes because she thought we were on a stopover... I didn´t have the heart to explain that we got on the wrong plane.

So, it´s a worldwide agreed upon thing - see paragraph one - that swiss army knives can not be taken on board a plane, right? Well, i forgot again. Instead of just confiscating it from me, they actually let me go back to the check in counter and check it as a second piece of luggage! They gave me a baggage claim tag and everything. I was dying to see it come around the bend on the luggage claim, but instead, the airline official wandering around the airport had it in his pocket. I can´t believe I even got it back!

Anyway, we went to Cuenca because Carla´s cousin married a woman whose mother is from Ecuador, and we ot an invitation to stay with the mother´s sister. I think they were the nicest people I have ever met! I know I always say that, but it´s always true. We spent 3 days with them and I now feel like I have an Equadorian family. We talked and talked and talked, and ate and ate and ate. Their cook made us every possible known dish known to Ecuador - humidas, motepapa, bola de verde, rompope y chisiopa to name a few. Yum! And after six years of studying spanish and half a year in Spain I finally got the chance to use my Spanish. I spoke almost only Spanish for 3 days. It was really helpful to be able to talk to everyone so much, we couldn´t have gotten to know them so much with it! I hope to see you all again someday soon.

A funny thing about Ecuador.... they used to have a currency called the sucre, but due to devaluation they ditched it about two years ago and now the official currency is the US dollar! Remember Sacajawea?? The one dollar coin that never caught on? Well, it caught on here in Equador! I received more Sacajawea coins today than I have since their inception! I´m glad they are getting put to good use somewhere.

Tomorrow I´m off to the Galapagos Islands to follow in Charles Drawin´s footsteps. Another boat cruise!!! Hope all is well with everyone, hasta luego!

Love, Alison

PS. Jeremy, I looked for James´ landlord on the flight to Equador, but could not find him - despite my shouts down the aisles.

PPS. There are crickets everywhere here in Guayaquil! There are tons of them under this computer desk. Some are chirping, others look dead. One even landed on me!

PPPS. Thanks Ingrid, for your Mom´s phone number here, I will call her soon!


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