Tag Archives: Gringos

When the gringos go to town

When we moved to Quito, we knew it would be awhile before we got a car – if we got one at all.  We were willing to try out the bus and taxi scene and, once Brad got his license, we would potentially look into the feasibility (and investment!) of getting our own vehicle.  Now, certainly, the city of Quito lends itself to getting around fairly easily with a very reasonably priced taxi, but being 45 minutes out of town in Calacali is a game-changer.  Going to the Alliance school, getting groceries, well, let’s just say we’ve become resident experts in the art of bus riding and getting to town.  Alternative transportation is limited.
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For example, let’s say we’re heading into town to get groceries.  Now, one option is to walk a mile into Calacali and head to the Sunday market to get our fruits and vegetables, stop for a few basics of yogurt, eggs, and chips at the local tienda (a small corner store), and grab some buns or enrollados at a panaderia (bread store).  This was (and is) our usual Sunday routine – complete with large bags to fill with potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, pineapple…But, certainly worth the walk and the heavy baggage for fresh, locally-grown produce.

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$6 of fresh produce from the market

Now, unfortunately, we do have to venture in a bit further to get the rest of our goods.  We have become masters of knowing exactly how much food (and weight) each person can fit into a backpack or canvas bag.  It is essential to be able to have the distribution of weight correct, as often times the buses are standing room only, so you have to be able to stand, surf style, hold on to an upper handle while supporting either the backpack or the bag in a protective measure because you never quite know who might want your chifles (plantain chips) or bagged milk.

Once on the bus, you pay your 42 cents to get you about an hour from the MegaMaxi store back to Calacali, where you walk the remaining mile, slightly uphill, all the while thinking about how perseverance (or at least heavy groceries) makes the body stronger.

At times, we may head to Calacali for an almuerzo (lunch).  But, once again, to get to town, we have to be creative…plastic chairs and all.
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Many of the local restaurants have a menu of the day item…here in Calacali, you receive a large bowl of soup, an entree that has a type of meat, rice, and a vegetable, juice of the day, all for the low price of $1.75 to $2.00.  This is where we have experienced an array of protein choices, from liver, to goat, to tongue.  Now, we have learned to ask before we order, because you can always substitute your meat with a fried (over- easy) egg.
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Once a week, at a minimum, we need to head in to the Alliance Academy in Quito.  In order to get there in time for meetings, we leave our home around 6:35am to make the trek into town to catch the 7am bus.  Walking in to Calacali is always an adventure and you never quite know what you will see…
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Luckily, the bus line starts at Calacali, so we are often guaranteed a seat.  This is quite fortunate as the bus becomes EXTREMELY crowded as it picks up people stop after stop.  The early mornings often take a toll, frequently lulling the young (and old)  to sleep…
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And, we recently even tried out the Metro – Ecuador’s version of the subway.  Just like the bus, you just pray you can get on and get off before the doors close!

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But, rewards await.  Getting off at a nearby bus stop, we walk the last 20 minutes downhill to school, stopping off to look at flowers, rest in the park, or have a quick snack at a local bakery.
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And, if we’re lucky, and it’s not raining, we catch a glimpse of at least one volcano on our walk down.

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Cotopaxi

Getting to and around town has sure been an adventure, thus far, but it has also served as a learning tool.  We’ve seen the respect for elders, pregnant women, and women with small children as people immediately give up their seat as soon as one enters the bus.  There is no looking around to see if someone else is going to do it, or a hesitation in hoping a different seat is found.  We’ve seen Ecuadorians go out of their way to make sure we didn’t miss our bus stop when we stay on the bus past the local tourist spot of Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) to go on to Calacali.   We’ve seen how the bus is a prime place to try and sell a CD, ice cream, cherries, grapes, limes, tomatoes, and homemade goods.  We’ve noticed, though, we are an obvious minority among Latinos, yet we receive many friendly smiles. We’ve seen how little boys and girls like to try out their limited English by saying “hello” and then giggling non-stop when you say hello back.

The bus has been a great experience, and one we will continue to use.  But, thankfully, we now have the option of driving as Brad has received his Ecuadorian license and we can rent a school van when it is available.
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And, in the very near future, we may be the proud owners of a used Nissan truck.  While the bus culture has worked for the short-term, we have found a vehicle that seems to be a good fit for us as a family.  Cars are an investment in this country and are extremly expensive, but retain their value far beyond what you would expect.   We are able to purchase from a family returning to the States, so we will be able to exchange money through American banks.  We know the history of the vehicle, and the current owner is willing to help us with all the transfer of paperwork, which is quite extensive.  Our prayer is that the vehicle will continue to retain its value throughout our time of ownership, and that we will be good stewards of this investment.  It is a BIG step, but one necessary at this time.

God continues to provide us with our every need, and we are thankful for his provision.  He has granted us safety through all our walking and riding.  We pray he will continue to keep his hand of protection upon us in this new adventure of driving!