My pitiable twenty words of Spanish … includes numbers 🙂 ) …… are not nearly enough to see me through communicating in Ecuador!! I must remedy this and perhaps that will happen naturally as I move about the country! I mistakenly thought that since the year 2000, when the US$ became the legal currency in Ecuador, great strides in bilingualism would be the result …. not so! I have struggled all week ….. silly me, left my Spanish/English purse size cheat guide at home … Imagine my total delight and dismay this morning, on day six, to be greeted by my driver/guide, who spoke unbelievably good English … young Ricardo! …… after a week of communicating in some weird mixture of sign language and my pathetic Spanish … I almost cried in relief at Ricardo’s opening comment …. “Nice to meet you Mrs. Webb” …. My typical opener all week of …. “Hola, Buenos Dias, Como sta?” (communication halted about there) turned to ….. “oh my God … you speak English”?? …. Ricardo laughed … which set the tone for the rest of our day together … A delightfully cheerful companion and full of entertaining stories on the history of his country! I am constantly amazed and oh boy, so thankful for the people that cross my path in the course of my travels. At times, I am left speechless in wonder! Not only did Ricardo have excellent English, he taught beginner classes at university for a few years! Of all his friends and family, including his fiancé, he stands alone as the only one, not only fluent in English but the only one who speaks it at all! … he regularly encourages them but has thus far been unsuccessful. An ambitious young man, he has enrolled in further studies to perfect his English further ..
We drove through lush green jungly terrain for a few hours to arrive in the hippy vibe small town of Mindo …. Judging by the age and gear of the scattering of tourists on the streets and cafes, most were here to set off on adventures in extreme sports and climbing expeditions …. this tiny town, set in a fairy tale moist cloud forest would appear to be the start off point … walked through a butterfly research Center, watching colourful hummingbirds and butterflies flitter about, explored the few streets that make up this charming ramshackle town, checking out a chocolate “factory” nearby … had no idea these beans were encased in a shell resembling a papaya!! … dozens of cocoa beans in one big pod …. Although reluctant at first, as I rarely enjoy a desert other than fruit, I felt it rude not to at least sample the gracious gift from the young man who took Ricardo and I through the life cycle of the cocoa bean …. It was a delicious and smooth 95% pure chocolate brownie, flavoured with a just a hint of chilli pepper … this country may yet turn me into a lover of chocolate ….
Of course I found my requisite church … A small intimate little building … only one in town as far as I could tell.
Stopped enroute back to Quito, at the purported location of the equator (Ecuador actually derived its name from the location of the equator, researched by Finnish scientists in the 1800’s who determined Ecuador to be the prime spot to measure the bulge of the equator ….. fascinating ….. who knew?…. Finnish scientists?? … really?? …. love learning these tidbits of info as I travel along 🙂 … rumour has it that the actual and bulge of the (not a literal bulge :), equator “line” is a few hundred meters from this spot, in a deep ravine on land owned by the indigenous people of the region … military GPS has tagged it so …. regardless of the rumour, I enjoyed my stint, straddling the equator, watching water drain clock and counter clockwise … a harmless and fun tourist attraction!