I was going to walk around the old town in Quito today, sightsee and take some pictures, but as I didn’t go to sleep last night until about 4 a.m., after a completely unexpected night at a discothèque with some new friends last night, I’m tired, hungry and slightly hung over. So I shall write instead.
Last night was one of those nights in a foreign land that makes travel memorable. It’s rarely the landmarks and sights mentioned in your guidebook you see on the road that sear themselves into your memory, but rather the people you meet, situations you get thrust into, and the foreign stew created as a result that causes the contented sigh that acknowledges the trip was worth it – just for this.
I have a friend, Chance, that has been living in Buenos Aires for a few years. In actuality, Chance graduated high school a few years after me, we rarely hung out in high school, haven’t seen each other since, and only recently reacquainted via Facebook. Regardless of how we got here, he’s been an invaluable resource on my trip, I know consider him a friend for sure, and I look forward to him drinking me under the table on an all-night Buenos Aires adventure in a few weeks.
Because he has lived in South America for a number of years, he knows some people spread out in the various countries I am traveling through for the next few weeks. He sent out some emails to a couple of them in Ecuador and I got a hold of his friend (or so I thought at the time), in Quito yesterday. Her name is Marcela and I’ve been engaged in a three-way email exchange with her and another of Chance’s friends, Susanna, that lives in another town on the coast. It was apparent from the email exchange that Marcela didn’t speak much English, and as we all know by now, I don’t speak much Spanish.
Marcela extended an invitation to come to her house to meet her and her boyfriend and also partake of some local Ecuadorian spirits. Luckily for me, I had run into a fellow traveler, Briana, that I met earlier in the week in Columbia and she and a friend of hers, Zoe, were willing to join me for the evening. I say luckily because Briana speaks fairly good Spanish.
I stopped on the way to pick up a bottle of rum as a thank-you gift to Marcela, met up with the two girls joining in and we all took a cab to Marcela’s place. I am almost constantly amazed at the kindness of strangers on the road – and let me explain how completely the three of us qualified as strangers this evening.
I thought that Marcela had lived in Buenos Aires previously and was friends with Chance. As such, I put the link to get me to have drinks in her home as – Marcela to Chance (who frankly is almost a stranger to me) to me. Sort of a friend twice removed. I was asking Marcela about when she lived in Buenos Aires and how she knew Chance, through Briana’s translation, and it became quickly obvious that she had no idea who Chance was and had never lived in Buenos Aires.
This woman had allowed me and my two friends (who were even more removed than I in this connection) into her home, offered us food and drink, and if Briana hadn’t been there, wouldn’t have really been able to communicate with me, and was in fact, three times removed from me.
She a friend of Susana’s. Susana used to live in Buenos Aires and knows Chance. Chance went to high school with me more than twenty years ago. And to cap off the incredible hospitality of it all – she was fine with me bringing along a couple other people I’d just met, making them four times removed from her, in my book.
I felt sure that we were going to meet up with Kevin Bacon later in the evening.
We sat in her living room drinking rum and cokes (and totally finished the bottle of rum, making it not much of a gift in reality) and the local liquor, which was served warm and had quite a kick to it. Briana translated conversations. Both Zoe, Briana’s friend, and I attempted some Spanish – Zoe much better than I.
And at one point in the evening, I actually had a exchange of a couple paragraphs that I understood entirely. As I’ve said here many times already, I’m absolutely horrible with foreign languages. My bad memory is compounded by my bad ear for linguistic details, so perhaps this isn’t true for everyone else, but it is certainly true for me.
There is something incredibly satisfying about finally understanding someone speaking a foreign language. Actually being able to communicate and idea back and forth. I don’t even recall the topic where Marcela and I actually understood each other – the topic didn’t matter. Through a bit of simple Spanish and some hand signals, we actually understood what both of us were saying. It felt great.
Her boyfriend, Jacobo, showed up a few hours after we did. He spoke excellent English and had studied for a time in Great Britain. We all sat around chatting about this and that, Jacobo played his guitar and we ran out of liquor a little after midnight. My two friends wanted to go get a beer somewhere, so we offered our thank you’s and good bye’s – and Jacobo offered to drive us home. We told him that we were fine with just taking a cab (there are incredibly cheap here) and said we were probably going to go find a beer anyway.
He and Marcela looked at each other and said we should go to a discothèque that they liked. So off we went. And danced, mostly to excellent 80s music that I sang to at the top of my lungs while jumping up and down and making a gringo fool of myself, until about 3:30 a.m., when Jacobo drove us all to our respective homes/hostels.
So in short, this couple, who not only didn’t know any of the three of us, didn’t know my friend that helped get us all together, has us over to their home until midnight and then takes us all out dancing till 3:30 a.m., then drives us all home. . . and went to work today.
Does that sort of thing ever happen at home?