Friday morning, the 34 students on my program left at 6:30 a.m. for a weekend of relaxation. After three hours of busing through mountains, jungles and deserts, we arrived. San Miguel de los Bancos is in the northwest of a province of Ecuador called Pichincha. We were staying at a resort in a cloud forest- picture a lush, tropical jungle in the clouds. We went on a caminata- a hike- through the forest down to a waterfall and river where people could swim. Our guides showed us trees that hold reserves of water and trees with spikes that can be made into poisonous darts. Some of their leaves were easily two feet long. The jungle engages many senses; it feels moist, smells rich and sounds like a symphony of birds and insects. It is VERY loud. Perhaps sound correlates to size; I have already seen three-inch flying bugs, six-inch stick bugs and “baby” worms that were as long as my hand, wrist to fingertip.
On Saturday, we took a tour of the grounds of the resort and learned some interesting facts. Our guide was standing in the center of a small circular plaza holding two metal skewers at one point. He held them between the thumb and forefinger of each hand, parallel to the ground and each other, slowly walking in a straight line until they were drawn together magnetically. After, he invited volunteers to come up while he did the same thing, demonstrating where each person’s magnetic field was. For most people, it was two or three feet around their body, but one girl’s energy field was less than a foot from her body. The guide said that the metal from her piercings (which she had removed) saps her energy in the same way a baby uses the energy of a pregnant mother. The guide also balanced an egg on a nail, telling us that it rested on one tiny point on the edge- apparently one of the wonders of the Equator.
On the way home, our bus got a flat tire. I’m not sure if it happened before or as we parked at a 45 degree angle (side to side, not front to back) outside an ice cream shop. In the hour it took to repair, we got an ice cream making demonstration from a very jolly proprietor. He showed us how they put a large metal bowl in an even larger basin of ice and pour pureed fruit into it, moving the liquid with a small paddle, by hand. There are many fruity flavors of ice cream in Ecuador because the fruit is so juicy and luscious! With breakfast and lunch it is common to serve juice made by simply blending the fruit with a little water. It is thick and pulpy, almost like fruity syrup, but not as sweet as juice in the States.
On Saturday night, my friends and I explored part of Gringolandia called La Plaza de la Foch. Quito has several tourist districts with bars and discotecas and the top two are Plaza Foch and La Mariscol. Sunday my family and I went out to lunch at a restaurant named after a famous Mexican television show called El Chavo del Ocho, created by a comedian named Roberto Gomez Bolaños. We then drove through Parque Metropolitano, one of the many beautiful, large parks in Quito. This one has thick woods throughout much of it but they are filled with well-used trails where people walk, run and bike. Sunday night my mama and I went to a nearby church. My brother Sebastion dropped us off because twice while the car was parked outside the church robbers stole my family’s car radio. When we got home, we immediately went upstairs where my abuelos live. My mama’s siblings and their spouses were there and everyone sat around a tiny table talking, eating bread and cheese, and drinking coffee. One subject of conversation was the current discussion about traffic reduction in Quito. Several options have been considered, including the prohibition of driving during key hours of a given day if your license plate ends in a given number.