Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Carnival That Wasn't

Quito has been a bit quiet and boring because most people seem to have traveled to other cities for Carnival festivities. On Sunday I had suggested to my boyfriend that instead of being bored here in Quito, we should take the early morning bus on Monday to Ambato which is like 2 and a half hours away from the city, to enjoy some of the Carnival festivities there before coming back late in the evening on the same day.

Monday morning found us waking up bright and early for the bus ride but shock on us when we encountered long lines at the bus station, all heading to Ambato! I guess I wasn't the only one who had this bright idea..........unfortunately.

We finally got to Ambato at around 2 pm, yes! pretty late if you ask me. I asked the folks around the bus terminal where the Carnival festivities were because I wanted us to maximize our short time there before heading out. Turns out the parades and performances had been held the previous day (Sunday) so Monday was going to be a slow day but there was a planned parade and various festivities scheduled to take place at..........guess what time? 7 pm!!!! to say I was disappointed is an understatement because by then we would have headed out.

To cool off the disappointment we had lunch first then decided to go to downtown Ambato where we had been told there were several festivities taking place, not as grand as Carnival but nevertheless worth checking out. The sun was out in full force and I could even feel the heat through my jeans but we still made it to downtown on foot, it wasn't that far but with the scorching sun it felt like forever! traffic was a mess and taxis were not stopping to pick up passengers so we had no choice but to walk even though all I wanted to do was find a shady resting place and just cool off from the heat.

Downtown was very lively with so many people around and some small performances here and there. It was cool just hanging out and taking in the whole vibe although I was disappointed at having missed the Carnival parades, Ooh! well, sh*t happens what can you do, right?

Believe it or not this was made out of flowers, as in REAL flowers.

This street was sealed off to traffic so I am guessing this is where the parades had been taking place.

After walking around downtown we decided to head back to Quito because we didn't want to get back too late in the night and none of us wanted to get stuck in Ambato because we had no accommodation.

At the bus terminal there was yet another line we had to make because of people heading back to Quito, I tell you standing out there in that scorching sun waiting to get on the bus was just torture and by the time we got on I was feeling dizzy and had a slight headache. To make matters worse I developed motion sickness which just added to my misery, that was the longest trip ever and I was not alone in my misery because my boyfriend was also in the same position. What a hot mess we were when we finally arrived in Quito.

That's it folks, that trip was definitely not the best but as I say, sometimes you get lucky and other times you don't but what are you going to do about it? try to look on the bright side and move on. For sure I am not taking any long bus trips anytime soon! today being Tuesday, Carnival festivities are still on but we are both content in just staying home and chilling like two lazy bums while getting over the previous day's fiasco. Carnival will always be there and I am sure there will be other opportunities to enjoy the festivities.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Our neighborhood has a lot of dogs and it's like most of our neighbors have dogs of their own. Right across from our building there is a neighbor who has 3 noisy dogs that are always at the roof top. I started noticing that every time I would open the bedroom window which faces the building, the dogs would become alert and rush closer to the window all lined up as if waiting for something. I found it a bit strange until I discovered that my boyfriend has been feeding them by throwing treats through the window so the dogs have become accustomed to it. Now whenever the dogs hear our window opening you should see how they quickly rush to line up so they can get a treat, It's actually really cute but I am nervous that the neighbor might start complaining.

Our next door neighbor has been MIA and we were wondering what happened to him until the landlady showed up one day and we got to chatting. Apparently dude owes 3 months worth of rent and every time the landlady wants to kick him out he gives her the most angelic look (her words not mine) so she gives him more time. Funny thing is dude shows up end month to get the $10 we pay him to share his internet then disappears once again, last time he stopped by for his $10 he looked really jittery and it got me thinking that maybe he uses drugs or something. You should have seen how relieved he got when I gave him the $10, it's like his life depended on it........or maybe his next fix depended on it.

Speaking of the landlady, when she stopped by she got too chatty and before I knew it she was sharing her marital woes with me. What can I say, I am a sucker for comforting people in need so you should have seen me patting her shoulders gently and giving her mini hugs as she poured out her heart. This woman is old enough to be my mother so you can imagine how awkward it felt giving her my opinion (I felt like it should be the other way round). I guess she really needed to talk to someone, she ended up chatting for at least 2 hours and even though I had a friend waiting for me on Skype I just didn't have the heart to interrupt her. I can never look at her husband the same way again, that's for sure! 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Carnival In Ecuador

It's that time of the year when carnival celebrations are underway and I have to say it's fun seeing all the bright colors and various dances being performed during this festive time. Carnival is celebrated in South & Central America, Mexico and some parts of Europe, it's usually celebrated before Lent - a season during which some christians focus on prayers and fasting in order to get closer to God.

Carnival was introduced to South and Central America by the Spanish and this tradition has stuck over the years as can clearly be seen in the present day. In Ecuador the celebrations have been taking place since the beginning of this week in various cities but the main days when the celebrations will come to a head are on the 16th and 17th of Feb. The media has been doing a good job of announcing the various events taking place in different cities and for some of us who delayed in making reservations outside Quito, there have been entertaining events being held around the city so it doesn't feel so bad not being in the heart of the action.

The main cities where I have heard that carnival is really fun here in Ecuador are Ambato and Guaranda. In Guaranda it's supposedly more wild with people playing around with: water, eggs, flour and all sorts of "goodies' so if you are like me and are not into getting wet and dirty then Guaranda isn't for you. In Ambato I was told it's more chilled out, prettier and the celebrations focus more on parades and performances, it's actually illegal in Ambato to splash people with water or throw any other stuff at them (now that's my kind of place).

Since we didn't look for accommodation early enough in Ambato, we are stuck in Quito but determined to make the best of it. I have been checking out the various celebrations around the city and it's not so bad. Most schools have been closed since Thursday and the streets have been empty, for the following week a lot of businesses will be closed on Monday and Tuesday (16th and 17th) because of the festivities. I managed to take some pictures of the festivities I witnessed earlier on today, enjoy..........

That's it folks, the celebrations in Quito may not be as grand as other cities but it's still fun watching the performances and colorful displays. Tomorrow there are some festivities taking place in downtown Quito and I am planning on checking them out so stay tuned for Carnival updates.

Before I forget, feliz dia de san valentin for those who celebrate Valentine's day.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

There is no shortage of telenovelas on local channels here in Ecuador, there are telenovelas mostly from: Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. I have to admit that I have become a bit addicted to some of them and my all time favorite is from Colombia, it's called Los Graduados (The Graduates) I just love it and the story line is actually pretty good. There is also another show that I like called Caso cerrado (Case closed), it's one of those family court shows like Judge Judy in the US. I swear it gets so dramatic especially when arguments ensue that sometimes I wonder if the people involved are not paid actors meant to hype up the show. At the beginning of the show the judge herself who is Cuban raps a little bit to the theme song of the show, you should see me at 5 pm singing along with the judge "caso cerrado Ooh! Ooh!" I can't lie, I am hooked to these shows.

Speaking of novelas, there is one that comes on late at night called La Rosa de Guadalupe it usually has moral teachings at the end and is also religious. The ironic thing is it comes on late at night when advertisements about sex are all over the place so imagine coming from watching someone praying earnestly to suddenly being bombarded with advertisements illustrating sex positions, opportunities for hooking up if in need of sexual favors or "guaranteed" portions for libido enhancement. It never ceases to amuse me. Another thing that never ceases to amuse me here is how shows transition on TV, you can be watching a show then all over a sudden a different scene comes on and you are like, "huh? what just happened?" turns out the show you were watching just ended and immediately they proceed to the next show without any warning.

We have a Colombian neighbor and when we first moved in the landlord warned us that the guy drinks a lot but he re-assured us that he is pretty harmless. One day he was really wasted and as my boyfriend was taking out the trash he started chatting him up asking him where he is from. When he heard the Dominican Republic he was so excited and started saying how much he loves Dominicans and Cubans because they are warmer and easier to deal with than Ecuadorians, plus he loves their women. He then proceeded to say at the top of his voice that my boyfriend will never sleep hungry for as long as they are neighbors because he will always feed him when in need, so my boyfriend should knock on his door if he needs plantains, rice or bread. I was in the living room listening to all this and just laughing thinking "this dude is wasted!". Now we have a joke between us, whenever my boyfriend says he is hungry or wants to eat something I tell him to go knock on the Colombian's door for food or sometimes he will say, "I feel like eating plantains, do you think I should go knock on the Colombian's door?" You just had to be there to hear the dude talk to appreciate the humor.

I do miss Colombia and sometimes I think to myself how cool it would have been if circumstances were different and I had met my boyfriend in Colombia instead of Ecuador. I have nothing against Ecuador, I just prefer Colombia. Ooh! well, it is what it is.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Salsa Viva - Quito

I started seeing advertisements about this amazing concert titled "Salsa Viva" since December of last year and it kept being hyped up on TV and radio as the day of the concert drew near. When I heard Grupo Niche (Colombia), Los Adolesentes (Venezuela) and Willie Colon (Puerto Rico) were in the line up I was super excited and kept watching out for the tickets to go on sale because I wasn't about to miss out on it.

The tickets were available for purchase toward the end of January and the concert was slated for February 6th which was yesterday. I was super excited to have the tickets in hand and couldn't wait to attend the concert.

The concert was at Coliseo Rumiñahui and when we were buying tickets for the general seats the lady selling the tickets had told us that the Coliseo is small enough so we shouldn't be too far from the main action on stage. She also mentioned that there would be big screens around showing the musicians clearly from all angles. Well, I should have known not to trust her especially when she was stumbling over her words and said that she had actually never been to the Coliseo. Not only were there no big screens to be seen anywhere but the venue was actually pretty darn big and from our seats we really couldn't make out the musicians! granted we bought the cheapest tickets available but dang!

Ooh! you want to know how far we were from the action? look at the picture below. You see the area with blue lighting? that was the main stage, clearly even 20/20 vision wouldn't help you here. Good thing we were there more for the actual music than the visuals........although that would have been an added bonus.

The concert started at 8 pm and the venue was jam packed with people, you should have seen the line of people waiting outside to get in. To make matters worse it started raining which didn't help at all, I swear the times I decide not to carry my umbrella is when it usually decides to rain heavily.

When we finally got inside and located our seating the first band was already playing but I had never heard off them before, they were pretty good. Thanks to the zoom in my camera I was able to at least capture the performers, not perfectly though.

From these pictures I don't know if you get an idea of how packed the place was but there was a really good turn out at the concert and as the night progressed more people were coming in.

Los Adolescentes were 3rd on the line up and they did not disappoint, they performed one of my favorites Porque Dios te hizo tan bella (because God made you so beautiful) and I was in heaven, I love that song. Their performance had people on their feet dancing and singing along, they sure got everyone hyped up.

I was hoping they would perform another favorite of mine En aquel lugar ( In that place) but unfortunately they didn't.

Willie Colon was up next and the crowd went wild when he got on stage. His entrance was quite dramatic actually, all the performers came on stage walking but this dude was actually driven to the stage! the crowd went wild as he grabbed the microphone and started singing his first song of the night which was Talento de Television, I love that song! I was on my feet so fast when I first heard the beats that my boyfriend looked at me in shock and just started laughing.

The last act of the night was Grupo Niche and as soon as they were announced the cheers from the crowd was deafening, everyone went wild as most people got up and started clapping. Their performance was amazing and I couldn't believe I was finally listening to them live, granted the group members have changed over the years but the quality of performance doesn't betray that. It's still top notch.

That's it folks, it was a great concert and I really enjoyed listening to some of my favorite salsa songs being performed live, it just felt so surreal and I couldn't contain the excitement I was feeling. What can I say? me encanta salsa con todo mi corazon.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I really miss the music scene in Cali, Colombia and listening to Grupo Niche just made me want to take a bus to Cali just so I can go to the salsa clubs over there. Some of the songs also brought on so many memories of my stay in Cali, some good and some not so good but at the end I can say for sure I will never forget my stay in Cali.

Listening to Willie Colon sing made me really want to check out Puerto Rico. Is it crazy that music would make me want to visit a particular country? heck, that's how I ended up visiting Portugal several years ago. One of my favorite musicians, Lura lives there and I loved her songs so much that it inspired a desire to visit Portugal and Cape Verde. Unfortunately I never made it to Cape Verde although I came close to it when I attended a friend's wedding in Senegal but time wasn't on my side. Call me crazy but to each their own, right?

At the concert as I was looking around at all the people that turned up I couldn't help but think of how much money the concert must have generated. I am curious to know how much the musicians actually got paid.

My boyfriend doesn't understand how I love salsa so much and he always jokes that he thought he was dating an African girl but my taste in music makes him wonder. I don't think someone's nationality dictates what kind of music they should appreciate. He is not that big a fan of salsa unfortunately, he prefers Bachata and Merengue. I guess a girl can't have it all can she?

Monday, February 2, 2015


Ecuador is divided into various provinces and each has it's own capital. Quito where I live for example is the capital of the province of Pichincha and it also happens to be the capital city of Ecuador. This past weekend we decided to venture to Esmeraldas which is the capital city of the province of Esmeraldas.

According to history, the Spanish first landed in Ecuador through Esmeraldas and they encountered indigenous people of the area bedecked in emeralds so they thought the whole place was full of emeralds thus the name Esmeraldas. When you visit Ecuador and inquire about black people, you will most likely be directed to Esmeraldas where most of the black population in this country is to be found. The black population in this area were brought on as slaves by the Spanish and later on also consisted of runaway slaves from the sugar plantations in Colombia.

We headed to Esmeraldas from Quito on Friday night through the bus terminal Carcelen that serves north bound routes. The trip took about 7 hours before arriving to the city of Esmeraldas so we got there early Saturday morning. As we were approaching the city during the trip I could not help but notice how lush and green the surrounding areas were, It is after all known as the greenest province in Ecuador. It was also very noticeable how the population changed, as we saw more black people.

The landscape was very beautiful, too bad I was taking these pictures from the bus so I couldn't get really good shots but at least it gives you an idea of what I am talking about.

The town itself isn't something to write home about and it actually looks a bit sketchy and rough around the edges so we decided to head to one of the popular beaches around the area. I had heard Atacames was one of the best beaches to be found in Esmeraldas and it happened to be about 20 minutes by bus from the city so it was easily reachable from where we were.

When we got to the beach it wasn't as packed as we thought which I actually enjoyed and found really relaxing, we were told during holidays and carnival it gets very busy and chaotic as people from Quito travel here to relax and enjoy themselves.

After settling in our hostel we headed out to explore the small beach town of Atacames. The weather was a bit overcast but the temperature was still warm and a bit humid, I found the weather ideal for walking around because the sun wasn't out and the heat wasn't over bearing.

This place had the best Piña Coladas I have ever tasted.

All we did on our first day in Atacames was: lounge by the beach with the occasional dip in the ocean, eat sea food, drink the many fruit juices to be found in the area and just chill. Later on in the evening we went out to one of the bars along the beach to listen to music and drink a little before calling it a night.

On the second day we had a late breakfast and explored the surrounding areas a bit, the sun was out on this day and it promised to be quite a hot day by the look of things, compared to the previous day. We were both glad we wouldn't be around to experience that heat.

Typical coastal breakfast.

Most of the side streets looked like this, the beach was where all the action was to be found.

If you are a dog is Atacames all you do is just chill like this on the beach or on the side walks, this pose was a killer.

That's it folks, we left for Quito after getting a taste of the beach life. Coming from Quito was straight forward and easy enough but getting back was quite an ordeal! we took a 20 minute bus ride to Esmeraldas, from there we took a 7 hour bus ride to Quito. In Quito we couldn't find a direct trolley bus that would take us to where we needed to go because apparently the routes change on Sunday evenings. We had to take a trolley bus to another station and from there take another bus to drop us off to where we needed to go. When we got to our last stop we couldn't find a bus that was heading directly to our Barrio so ended up taking a taxi. In short, 4 bus rides and a taxi ride later we finally got home! exhausted as hell but happy to have made the trip to Esmeraldas.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

It is hot in Esmeraldas, not only is it hot but it's also humid so the combination of both is overwhelming especially if you don't like too much heat. When we first arrived we were both dressed in warm clothes because Quito's weather was cooler but after stepping out of the bus we could not wait to change into cooler clothes.

The dress code in Atacames and Esmeraldas seems to consist of: shorts, tank tops, short dresses, sandals and basically as little clothing as possible because of the heat.

Speaking of dress codes, it was refreshing not seeing men in Esmeraldas gawk at women like a piece of meat because of their dressing no matter how little they had on. In Quito it's quite the opposite, I don't know if some of the men are sexually repressed, uncouth, easily excitable, or all of the mentioned. You should see how they gawk at women it can be unnerving at times.

On our first day in Atacames the sun wasn't out but I guess the rays were still pretty strong because my boyfriend and I actually got sunburn and we were not the only ones. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if the sun was out.

I don't know what the deal is around Atacames but we saw so many signs indicating land or houses for sale. The signs looked as if they had been in place for quite a long time and truth be told, some of the properties for sale looked a bit deserted and run down.

At our hostel in Atacames the water coming from the taps was hard water making it very uncomfortable to even shower. It changed how the skin texture felt and soap wouldn't lather too well, coming out of the shower I just felt sticky plus the heat and humidity wasn't helping. I took the longest shower ever when we got back to Quito.