Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tempered Expectations - Our 0 Latitude Attitude

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”      -   Alexander Pope

Here we are again, after a year-long hiatus from blogging.  It’s good to be back!  It has been a busy year….after completing our Appalachian Trail thru-hike, we took a cross-country road trip and then settled back into the grind.  It took us a few months, but we both realized we weren’t going to be happy with our former work/life situations.  We took a life lesson from our AT experience (it’s not as scary as it seems to make a life change), and worked out arrangements with our employers to work part-time and from home, and we couldn't be happier with our new lifestyle.  We prefer working to live over living to work.  We got engaged, and five months later got hitched on the lake in my parents’ backyard in Minnesota.  And here we are, on our next adventure and extended luna de miel (honeymoon) exploring South America. 
Which brings me back to the quote above about expectations.  After talking to others who had either been to Ecuador or they knew what Ecuador would be like, I felt obligated to temper my expectations for our trip.  I was prepared for Quito to be a confusing, noisy, dirty, unsafe city.   I was prepared to be constantly harassed by vendors and beggars.  I was prepared to let go of the many comforts and luxuries I enjoy in the US. 
                All of those expectations have worked out really well for us so far, because our trip has been wonderful.  I am surprised at how modern Quito is, and how similar it feels to Chicago.  It feels more like home to me than most of the European cities I’ve visited.  Brian and I joke that we feel much less harassed here than we do on Clark and Diversey near our apartment in Chicago (someone with a clipboard asks you if you “have 30 seconds for orphaned children” or “care about precious and helpless animals” literally every time you cross the street).  From the countdowns on traffic lights to the “SuperMaxi” grocery store, Quito feels more modern than many places in the US (although take that with a grain of salt, as we did spend 6 months last year in small Appalachian Mountain towns where grocery stores are a luxury).  Sure….the driving is crazy and every once in awhile we’re charged a “gringo tax” because we’re obviously foreigners (if you can’t tell by looking at us, you sure can tell once we try to start speaking Spanish)…..but it’s all about expectations.

        In no particular order, here are some pictures to show some of our favorite things about Quito so far:

There are fantastic markets in Quito throughout the week where you can buy fresh produce, fish, meat, or dairy for incredibly cheap.  At El Mercado Americano, fresh shrimp is $1.80/pound and ahi tuna is $2/pound.  Needless to say, as seafood lovers we eat pretty well here.
Everywhere we go, there is delicious food for dirt cheap.  Lunch consists of 2 - 3 courses and costs between $2 and $5.  Here is course #2 of my locally sourced, organic lunch today.  Bonus.....every lunch comes with fresh squeezed juice (today's was cantalope)!  I maintain that South America is far superior to anywhere else in the world when it comes to juicing.
At 9,350 feet above sea level, Quito is a mess of mountains, valleys, and volcanoes and everywhere you look there's a stunning view.  Michael and Madison's apartment looks over the Cumbaya Valley where they work, and on a clear day you can see the snow-covered volcano Cayumbe in the background.
         Our arrival here has already re-taught us lessons we learned on the trail about how gracious and kind people everywhere can be.  At our wedding, my cousin Noah (some of you may remember his dance moves involving break-dancing around his beer bottle) told me he had to introduce me to his friends Michael and Madison, who had just moved to Quito to teach in an international school.  Two weeks and a long Facebook message-chain later, Michael meets us at a hotel near their apartment at 12:30 am on a Thursday (well….Friday morning), escorts us to their home, and gives us the grand tour.  Madison wakes up when we get home and comes out to introduce herself.  They offer us a homecooked meal, show us the filtered water, hand us their apartment keys and one of their cell phones, walk us through a map of Quito, and tell us that they will call to check in on us tomorrow from work and that we have dinner plans tomorrow evening.  We’ve spent the past week touring Quito together and getting to know them, and are so grateful for their kindness in taking us in and making our first week here so pleasant. 
                To the dismay of many, we came to Quito without much of a plan (and no, that won’t change if you ask us a second or third time).  For us, this is a sort of personal development exercise in learning to let go of details and open ourselves to new opportunities. In our week staying with Michael and Madison, we’ve found a beautiful two bedroom apartment with a lovely couple (Jose is from Columbia, and Ana is a local “Quiteña”).  We will be renting their spare bed and bathroom for the month of October.  Brian will be working part-time during the weeks, and this location will be our spring board to explore Quito and take day/weekend trips to some of the surrounding areas.  Toward the end of the month, we will decide if we want to stay in Quito or move on – Cuenca, a slightly smaller, colonial city with a large population of ex pats is another option and we may relocate there for November. 
                Starting tomorrow, though, we take our REAL luna de miel – a week long cruise through the Galapagos Islands with a naturalist guide.  As nature lovers this is one of the highlights we are most looking forward to in South America, and we wanted to get it in before Brian goes back to work in October.  We’ll be pretty much off the grid for a week, but stay tuned for pictures!  And don’t worry….we bit the bullet and had the painfully awkward conversation to buy an underwater camera in Spanish (una camara…….para el aqua?  Podemos poner esta camara……en el aqua?  Abajo el agua?”) so hopefully we’ll get some marine shots as well!



  1. I'm in Heaven....a new blog, almost one year to the day you completed the AT. You guys have the right idea. Live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment....just be home by Christmas! (or at least next Christmas)Have fun and be safe. Love always.

  2. Looking forward to enjoying your travels through your blog. Traveling mercies~ Jan