I’ve been reading, for the second time, a book called The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie. It makes traveling so much better when you know something about the history of what you’re looking at. It’s a terrific lot of historical research that reconstructs in great detail just how the Spanish destroyed the Inca empire, and fits in beautifully with Hiram Bingham’s accounts of his rediscovery of the Incan sites, particularly Machu Picchu. (Did you know, btw, that Bingham was looking for Vilcabamba, the last Incan capital, and thought that’s what he’d found at Machu Picchu? Oh well, that’s another story for later, and to be told by someone else–scholars, for instance–who are interested in academic credit.)
Saturday and Sunday are the best days to walk around the city for two reasons: everyone else is doing it, and the city provides entertainment in the form of music and dancing.
First, the people watching part: both weekend days are big shopping days. On Saturday, all shops are open and are doing big business. Squeezing through the stalls of the Quiteño equivalent of a mall is an experience in itself. The shopping centers mostly resemble a U.S. storage locker facility where rows of 12 x 24 foot empty spaces face each other across a narrow hallway. Here, though, those lockers are packed to the top with merchandise of all types. One stall has underwear, the next has shoes, the next has small appliances, and the one next to that has mattresses (which reminds me, I need one.)
I have one English student right now. His name is Carlos, and he’s a National Police officer who is currently stationed as an immigration officer at the Quito airport. Kris and I met him when we came back to Quito after my father’s funeral, and he happened to be the officer we drew to check our passports and visas.
We began talking a bit while he was checking us in, and he asked me why we were in Quito. I said I had been teaching English, but had to quit my job because I’d had to go back to the US twice already. He asked if I gave private classes, and the rest just sort of worked itself out.
I’ve been living in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, for about four and a half months now, counting the two trips back to the U.S. to take care of some business. Now my wife, Kristin Henning, and I are here for the duration, and that could be indefinite as we’ve just applied for resident visas.
The picture at the top of the blog’s home page is the view from outside the picture window of my apartment. The apartment is very small, very inexpensive, but, except for the mattress, very comfortable. Depending on how successful I am with the visa application, I will remedy the mattress situation soon.
The view is of a hill, which rises right in the middle of the valley of Quito and is called the Panecillo, which translates as “Little Loaf of Bread.” It’s topped by a large statue of the Virgin Mary, which sort of serves as the logo of Quito. And, as Quiteños are proud to point out, she’s the only Virgin with wings in the world. That’s because she’s the Virgin of the Apocalypse and is stomping on the snake from the Garden of Eden. It’s the image of the final triumph at the end of the world of good over evil. I’ll believe it when I see it.