If you are a new visitor to my blog and can’t figure out why I am writing about my trip to South America 20 years ago – join the club we have T-shirts (but not really. still working on the last T-shirt idea for RedDog) Sorry. Shit can get pretty random here. You will find tattoo stuff under “Tattoo A Go Go” or sample this oldy but goody. Ok back to Ecuador and our continuing story…
After chilling out by the beach on the coast of Ecuador Paul and I headed on to Quito. Quito is a wonderful city – filled with interesting architecture, a lively café and bar scene and loads of expats all nestled between the rolling green Andes mountain range. We found a small tidy hotel on the edge of the city and settled in for an extended stay of a few weeks.
We quickly developed a routine of heading out for a café and a roll in the morning and then spending the bulk of the day at one of the many language schools that catered to travelers. Here I was able to study Spanish one on one for a staggering one dollar per hour.
I loved dipping into the language and with Teresa my instructors patient (oh so patient) guidance I was able to dramatically increase my fluency. Events intervened and took me away from Teresa too soon but I know if I had stayed on for a month or more I would have learned a ton. As it was I picked up enough basic Spanish to at least make myself understood by the more accommodating native speakers. Without fail the people of Quito were open and polite especially if I unleashed some of my broken Spanish on them.
Life had been so hectic for so many weeks initially the slower and more predictable pace of life was a refreshing change – but of course that sense of contentment didn’t last long. The first cracks appeared in my ever-growing disenfranchisement with Paul. Yes he had shored me up at the beach in my relentlessly whiney assessment of my failed relationship with Tom but we also had other travelers around us to add variety and fun. Now it was just us again and we weren’t good company for one another.
I had not endangered myself in a couple of weeks and it was starting to take its toll. The first casualty – my patience. Paul wanted to have everything “just so” all the time. Same breakfast, same dinner, same routine. He didn’t fancy exploring or taking any risks. Apparently he was scarred by all our mishaps up to this point but I was strangely sanguine about it all (not my natural state I assure you) and now found myself a bit bored.
The second casualty was my battered little heart. Foolishly I had reinvented my relationship with Tom in my mind into something it was not ie – current. I had sent him a fax (oh the good old days) giving him the school’s address in Quito and pleading with him to correspond. Nothing. Days past and then a week until I broke down and called a girlfriend in Park City who said something like “Oh he super still loves you but he is sort of seeing this new girl but you know he really loves you”. Even at my most naïve and gullible this didn’t seem likely. I decided to reach out across the miles and give Tom a call.
I remember the scene so clearly. The lovely women who ran the language school graciously offered me their compact little office and the use of their phone to place my very long distance call. Amazingly I got Tom on the line and within a few minutes I knew what my friend had told me was true. Not the him loving me part but the new girl part. To Tom’s credit he had done nothing wrong. We were apart – broken up really – and even though we missed each other and had cautiously discussed my return and what that might mean for us no promises had been made.
Tom was kind and careful as he told me about his new girl – I know he didn’t mean to hurt me but I was young and silly and far from home and my heart broke all over again just the same. I felt my loneliness like a thick blanket surrounding me and suffocating me like only lost love and young love can do to you. We said our goodbyes and I hung up the phone, tears coursing down my face.
The teachers saw my distress – they had been listening to my one-sided conversation and probably guessed what was happening. Heartbreak is a universal language of course. They immediately folded themselves around me petting my hands and stroking my hair like the tender mothers they were. “Tranquillo tranquillo” ” Teresa kept murmuring to me as she held my hands in hers and let me weep. Finally I pulled it together and myself and this little gaggle of Ecuadorian women all sat for a few moments just nodding and smiling – not saying anything but understanding everything.
That was my watershed moment – brought on by a flood of tears. I was done playing it safe and playing house with Paul. I was in South America dammit. I had already done some crazy shit and I didn’t want to limp home heartsick without chocking up a few more adventures. Luckily my school had lots of other travelers and I had met an absolutely charming Irishman named Richard (cue the knowing chuckle – ahhh how fickle the heart of woman eh?)
Richard and I got to chatting one afternoon and he told me about where he was staying. A rooftop apartment owned by an Ecuadorian family that shared meals with you and took you on trips to the country. He went on and on about how brilliant they were and what a great bunch of travelers were staying in the 5 rooftop apartments – a mini tribe brought together by happenstance and geography. Then he said one apartment was opening up. He said I should come out for the night with him and his mates and see if I got on with everyone.
I left a note for Paul who was probably out sourcing his next fish n chips restaurant and I never looked back. Of course I did see Paul again – once. And Richard did not become my next great South American adventure – there was another, darker horse in store for me.