September 22, 2011

Scoots in Quito

Since there are probably more Scoots fans than Greg-and-Ayelet fans reading our blog, I thought I'd do a quick update for everyone about Scoots settling in to our place. After a long ordeal with the customs, vet inspection and ever-increasing payments to airport offices, I finally was able to get him out of the warehouse where he was stuck for his first night and day in Quito. Importing a pet into Quito is a mess, but thankfully, it's over for us. He's adjusted really well and spends most of the day curled up on the blue alpaca blanket in the living room. Here are a few photos of his first days in Quito.
He's loving his new views
The final product: Scoots' cat tower made by Greg!

Settled in and time for a sit

Scoots doesn't seem as interested in the view as Greg is

Can you spot the cat? Since Aurora, we haven't had a set up
like this where he could look down upon us.

September 20, 2011

Old Town Quito: What We Ate

What Greg has in his mouth is called a "empanada de viento", which is a cheese-filled, fried, sugar-dusted empanada. An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry turnover with a lot of different ingredients, like meat, cheese, seafood or veggies. And this one was HUGE!

We stopped along our walk through the Old Town for a coffee, tea and empanada de viento because we'd heard that they make really good ones in that area. We settled on this tucked back cafe with a skylight and a pleasant waitress. If you plan on visiting us, you can rest assured that we will take you to this place because the empanadas were real good.

September 16, 2011

Lots of Green Things

Fruit is very cheap here so we've been taking advantage of that to grab a different fruit everytime we're at the market. After weeks, we're still not out of new fruit options. Here are a few fruits and veggies we've bought recently:

Babaco - the big green thing in the back - it's very mild and apparently turns into a yellow color when ripe. We didn't know that and ate it when it was green. Still was delicious.

Louisa mint (in cup to left)- love this for tea! I'm hoping to get a plant of this to put in the kitchen.

Parsley - sadly, I didn't use this enough for food and a good part has wilted since this picture.

Hard-shelled avocado - we didn't have much luck with this because we couldn't figure out when it was ripe. Otherwise, Greg is getting more than his fair share of avocados here - there are so many!

Not pictured: three different kinds of bananas/plantains we have on top of our microwave.

1) itty-bitty bananas - they came as "un mano" (a hand), which is about 10-15 mini-bananas. We made those into delicious banana muffins last night.

2) green plantains - you're not supposed to eat these without cooking them so I'm going to make them into plantain-cheese patties sometime this week.

3) normal yellow bananas - Greg's favorite for lunch. Considering they're 66 cents for a kilo (or 2.2 lbs.), I think we'll always have them around.

September 14, 2011

Old Town Quito: La Ronda

La Ronda is mainly one long street, filled with bars, bakeries and artesan shops. It's geared towards tourist,  but without an overtly tourist feel to it. The reason we know this: the security guards all around that street. There are guards at each intersection and the gates to this street. They are there to keep the tourists safe, happy and willing to return.

Apparently, it's pretty fun at night, going from one bar to the next with the hot drink canelazo (although here they make it with a fruit called naranjilla which looks like a tomato and an orange combined). We picked the wrong time to go - right after siesta on a Saturday when most stores don't reopen. I'm sure we'll go again with any visitors we may have. The pictures can show you kind of what the nice part of Old Town Quito looks like - Spanish colonial style houses of various pastel colors. 

In the upper left hand side of the above picture, you can see the angel statue on the Panecillo, a hill that separates the Old Town from the southside of town. The south is where the slums are. Another teacher was telling me that there is a legend that the angel turned her back on the south and that is why she faces Old Town and the north valley. I prefer to think that legend isn't true, but I've been fairly sheltered so far in the north-central part of town.

They were having a photo exhibit in La Ronda with old photos of Quito. This was my favorite - Greg said he hoped that I'd get to see something like that in person soon.

Lastly, one side of the street in La Ronda has public games. This was a version of hopscotch and there's also a toss-the-ring type of game further down. If you look to the left, you can see a foosball table, too. In one of the upcoming posts, I'll show you what we ate while we were there as well!

September 12, 2011

Fiesta de Guapulo

There's a mountain-side neighborhood in Quito called Guapulo and that area just had a festival for the Virgen of Guapulo, which for most people just seemed like a good excuse to get dressed up in costumes, hang around the church's plaza, eat yummy food and wait until the real festivities started after the church service was over.

Greg and I went a bit early at 6 pm to see if we could catch the parade, but the real fun didn't start until about 9 pm. In the meantime, we ate an empanada, checked out all the costumes, chilled out... and tried to protect our butts from the clowns with whips. Basically, the whips symbolize repentance and during the wait for the party to begin, the youngsters were having fun with their whips, socks filled with something and plastic swords. I don't think their reasoning had to do with repentance though... more like boredom.

I like how this kid's leaning away from me - I wasn't even trying to do bunny ears on him!

My favorite costumes were the ones with the hand-sequined, two-faced masks that a group of people near the church wore. Simply due to the fact that I pointed to the mask and said it was beautiful, the owner took that to mean that I wanted to try it on. So on my head it went. But since it was a guy's mask, it wasn't good enough so one of the ladies in his group came over with her mask (which was also amazing), took off his and put hers on my head. Greg was then offered the guy's mask. And I had to hold her whip - but they didn't use them on anyone's butts. Of course, pictures were taken! We also were asked to pose with a cute little boy and girl in their costumes. I think it was 'befriend a gringo' night at the festival, which has been going on since Thursday night.

Right as the catholic church service ended, the approximately 20-person band with dancers began and the party got started. That was definitely the most fun part of the night! Everyone including the little abuelitas and kids in costumes were dancing almost without stop. It was awesome to be dancing in the plaza with hundreds of other people and just enjoying life. You can check out a short clip here and see the amazing masks I was talking about:

Dancing definitely tired us out, but to walk back up was a climb so we were not done after our bit of dancing. To get to the festival, you have to walk down through winding, narrow streets and stairs to the bottom of the valley. The walk back up wasn't too bad mostly because we stopped a lot. At one point, we stopped to watch the ensuing traffic from the cars trying to go up and down with people parked on both sides of the narrow road. There is only one road going in and out of Guapulo so you can imagine what a mess traffic would be like, too. As much as it wasn't super fun to walk up, it would have been worse to try to take a cab up.

September 10, 2011

Smoothies every day!

One of our latest smoothies
Literally, there is so much delicious fruit around here, we could have smoothies (or batidos as they are called here) everyday. Yesterday we made a papaya-blackberry-banana yogurt smoothie with a touch of vanilla and honey in it. Blackberry is actually very common here - they call it mora.

The other day we did a fruit called babaco with cinnamon and some pineapple. We're really glad our apartment came with a blender.

Not so yummy first mix
However, I can't say that it has all been easy in smoothie-land. Our first smoothie was a disaster. We put together a whole lot of unripe pineapple with a local fruit called tamarillo in English (tomate de arbol in Spanish).

One of Greg's co-workers said you have to boil the tree tomato (that's what we call it instead of tamarillo) to get the skin off. Then, you have to add a lot of sugar because it's not sweet. It sounded like a process, but since we had had it every day for breakfast at the hotel, I was pretty confident I could conquer the tree tomato in a blended drink. Well, in the end, it's tree tomato 1, Ayelet 0.   

September 7, 2011

A New Way of Selling

Every weekday morning, we hear the hawkers of wares drive around the streets in our neighborhood. Sometimes, the drivers will just do a funny series of honks. Or if they are better equipped, they'll rattle off on the loudspeaker what they've got - I've got to ask our neighbors if they hear what they're saying. I can't decipher any of the words! As it is now, I have to go to the window to see what they're selling. If I were to want anything from their trucks, I'd wave my hand out the window and shout, hoping they'll look up.

We’ve seen oranges, propane tanks (which everyone uses for cooking here), people in the back of trucks (I'm guessing they're available to hire for cleaning, manual labor or gardening) and water jugs so far. I'm waiting for the day when they come around with llamas or some other exotic animals. I'm not sure a llama would want to climb up all those stairs, but it would have a nice spot up on the terrace all to itself.

Gas and water truck, honking by one morning
Anyway, I haven't yet taken the drivers up on their offers of propane tanks and water because I’d have to walk down four flights of stairs in my PJs. But someday soon I will!

September 2, 2011

The Dogs in Quito

I think we’re all used to dogs as faithful companions in our lives. This was especially true in Munich. But in Quito, the dogs are used more for security purposes. So a bigger, louder dog is considered the best you can get.

I’m thinking about a certain German shepherd mix across the street who woke me up this morning. He is always on the roof of this house and thankfully has a little dog house up there to shelter him from rain, sunshine, etc. At first when I heard him barking, I thought he was barking at the construction workers on the street, which would surely be enough of a provocation. I was also a little annoyed by them waking me up early.
Charles Barky overseeing the situation
Alas, however, it was something nearer to his home. This morning they put up a ladder to paint the side of the house of which the roof touches. Oh, let me tell you - he did not like that! This particular dog is big enough to stand on his haunches, place his paws on the roof ledge and look out below him. When he gets excited enough, I half expect him to jump over the ledge on to the offender. I hope whoever is making him angry will get the work done with quickly. Otherwise, Charles Barky over there might just have a doggy heart attack.