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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Driving Down Memoria Lane

Updated: Jun 16, 2023

First, I have to mention that I woke up with bites all over my ankles.  My ankles are really taking a beating this trip, eh? 

Am I worried about Malaria?

I must admit, it has crossed my mind... BUT... the itching is bugging me far more than the fear of a life-threatening disease.  If I do fall ill to the dreaded malaria, it will all be in vain.  All because I didn't want to spend my vacation 'psycho' or with a yeast infection.  

Note to self: Pick up mosquito net...

And in regards to the other state of affairs with my ankles, the swelling is going down.... and my nose is starting to turn back to a nice shade of 'the-rest-of-my-face,' so maybe there is a reason to rejoice.

After being in this country since Sunday evening... and at such a high altitude, and also trying to manoeuvre my way along in a casual, cool and collected manner... I have realized that on top of the bloating, I have also been quite constipated.  I realize that this portion of my blog may require parental consent, but it's true. PG.

Second day in the Muentes home and I'm feeling confident and comfortable enough to hit el baño...catch my drift?

How do I say this?

... the toilet was BROKEN.  

Millions of voices screamed in my head."WHY???"and"WHY ME?" were among the two most frequent...

I won't get in to specifics... it was just broken.   I had to find someone... immediately... attempt an explanation in broken Spanish... random hand gestures... some pointing... holding the nose a little bit... an emojicon on my iPhone... need I continue?

You can't make this stuff up.  I can't anyway.

Ok... enough of the embarrassing for now... I'm sure that there will be more of that in the days to come!  

The house that Mari lives in is in a gated community in the north of Guayaquil.  Apparently when I lived in Guayaquil, there was nothing here, and it was all only recently built in the past 10-15 years.  The house is like a condominium; 2 floors - 4 bedrooms.  Mami and Mari's brother Alex live here with Mari and her daughter.  It's a very simple setting and exactly the same furniture that Mami & Papi had in La Alborada, when I lived there.

On another note, I did meet the dog.

And yes, he did try to murder me.  I can say, with all certainty, that he and I will never be friends.  I tried a few times to say"hola"through the kitchen window.  In turn, he tried to jump through the kitchen window to kill me.

Brave, my ass...

When I lived here before, the family had 2 dogs- Coco and Cholita.  They were NOT abhorrent and savage. In fact, I quite liked them both.

As I might have mentioned before, I was desperate to do laundry.  Five days in the same outfit can really take it's toll on a person.  And when you're living out of a small bag, the clothes that you've been wearing for those 5 days can take a toll on everything else.  Basically, to put it mildly, and in no uncertain terms... I stunk. 

Everyone looked very worried when I asked about laundry.  

Did I need it today?

Was tomorrow ok?

I was really having problems understanding the entire ordeal, but I didn't want to be a burden... and then it became clear.  They only have a washing machine... so all laundry has to be hung out to dry.  NOT a problem at all.

It was AMAZING to finally get a good home cooked meal, although I think that Mami thinks that I am either trying to maintain my current weight or gain from here on up.  My first lunch consisted of about 3 cups of rice, a piece of pork, some beef, 2 pieces of chicken, a slab of avocado, and a huge plate of salad.

"Please! Please! Eat... por favour, mi hija."

Not to be rude... but no.

I had to put my foot down and head back in the kitchen to return half of the food.  It was a little bit silly, to be sure.

We drove everywhere today.... and I'm not kidding... everywhere.

Hours of driving.  

I'm absolutely NOT making this up... it was probably about 6-7 hours of sitting in the car... sporadically, of course, but nonetheless... still a lot of time.

Remember the story about how my bum hurt from sitting too much after the plane ride?  It went on full agony today.  See... it all starts very innocently with the sore ass, and then it quickly turns to cramps in my leg.  Sometimes I can massage this out, if I'm lucky.  But usually, it turns straight to restless leg syndrome, and this really sucks.

Before I left on my trip, I had paid a quick visit to the pharmacy to see if I could pick up something to help me out with the problem.  ALL he had was homeopathy pills... which, I might add, 6 days in to my trip, are shit.

We had to sort out the rental car to get to Cuenca to do the Train Tour on the weekend.  I offered to pay for the rental... thinking maybe $50-$60.  Nope... not that much.  $160 US... plus gas... parking fee... not cheap... WOW!... thank God I'm really rich.

Oh well... I think of it this way.  It's a twice in a lifetime trip, right? Maybe more if they'll have me back...

Driving through the streets of Guayaquil, a few things started to come back to me.  The guys at the lights selling anything and everything you might ever want - water, juice, oranges, lemons, mangos, sun blinders, cell chargers, gloves with tattoos...(who wouldn't want sleeve gloves that look like tattoos while you're waiting at a red light?) 

There are guys that go right in front of your car and juggle... (they're my favourite) and guys walking around on stilts...

Some people just stand there and beg for money.

I love seeing the shops and restaurants with English names.

  • Yogurt Planet.

  • BIG Market (tiniest store ever).

  • Chancho Express - Translates to Pig/Pork Express and it has a logo of a flying pig next to the name.

  • YES Food - reassuring, I guess. Better than NO Food, right?

  • Kinder Joy - as opposed to Kinder Suprise.

  • Full House - this is the name of a HOTEL actually... perhaps giving off the wrong impression??  Who am I to judge?

But above all, the smell of Guayaquil is overwhelmingly reminiscent.  Of course, it is slightly more prevalent in certain places...  It's hard to describe, but if I had to- it's a bit of a cross between meat cooking on the BBQ, corn on the cob, campfire, a smidge bit of day old garbage and exhaust...

On our travels through Guayaquil, Mari & Mami took me to my old school, Santo Domingo de Guzman.

It was exactly how I remember it.  Unfortunately I didn't manage to keep in touch with any of my old friends from school... so that's too bad not being able to reconnect.  I remember having lunch with one girl one day and then the next day, having lunch with someone else.. and it causing quite the stir. 

Remember my very first evening in Ecuador, when I stayed at the airport hotel and I thought perhaps either the bed was too short, or I was abnormally tall... well, turns out that I AM abnormally tall.  We did do a walk through of the school and I must say, I am a full 1-2 feet taller than all the men, women and students.  At one point, I glimpsed myself in the mirror with everyone else and all I could think was 'I'm Gulliver's Travels'... 

But... honestly, I do NOT miss that old school.  The nuns hated me and they used to yell at me over the loud speaker and call me  Gringa.  Basically ignored me the entire year I was there!   Just because I liked to have a laugh every now and then!  I also used to throw a little bit of a fit every time I had to go to religion class... which was once a day.  

I was put in the Computation Class, to study computers... but mostly I just spent my time studying Spanish songs that I liked and writing letters to friends at home.  I can still sing all the words to most Garibaldi songs... plus a few by Luis Miguel and Ricardo Montanero.  

So whenever you hear me bragging that I did an extra year of school in Ecuador, you now know the truth.  But, the learning of all the songs and STILL being able to belt out the tune...impressive... if you ask me.

The place has really commericalized up since I attended.  There are about 4 restaurants and 3 pubs in the surrounding area of the school. I said to Mami,"if these pubs had been here when I was here, I never would have made it to school."

Just sayin'...

Next stop... the house that we all used to live in.  It was sold years ago, but it was fun for all of us to go see it again.  I remember it exactly,  I guess because I was there every single day.  The area was MUCH busier than it was when we lived there... in fact, it was crazy busy.  There was not even half the traffic then that there was now.  

I remember the small house well... the living room/dining room area with the plastic covered furniture - not great to sit in during the heat of the day with shorts on...  if you know what I mean.  

I remember the kitchen, where I once decided to attempt my first juggling experience with eggs, much to my host mother's surprise and disgust.  Or the time that I stumbled in, early, to grab some orange juice, and was greeted by two live chickens scurrying around...  Papi said "para comer esta noche"(translation- for dinner tonight).  

Exactly what you want to hear first thing in the morning. 

I remember the tiny back room off the kitchen, where the maids used to stay. They would clean the house, prepare meals, do our laundry... it was amazing... sometimes.  A few times, maids were fired for stealing (sometimes from me)... and some, I would really connect with and then they'd leave!  It's probably the only time that I will ever have a live-in maid, so I should recollect with fondness.  

I remember the bedroom that I shared with Mari. We actually shared a double bed for an entire year.  It sucked and let me tell you how extremely awkward it was at first.  Ultimately, I chose to suck it up and not to complain to AFS because my family was so amazing and I didn't want to have to leave them.

I also remember the cockroaches... and I have a vivid memory of opening the bathroom door in the middle of the night and hearing thecrunch crunch crunch... it was inevitable. They were everywhere.  

It's one of those things that most find absolutely disgusting and appalling, but after time, you learn to live with... and deal with.  It all became a year of experiences and sacrifices and learning and growing...  and regardless of the cockroaches, sticking to plastic furniture, sharing a bed... whatever... I'd give anything to be able to go back and do it all over again.

Maybe that's why I'm here...

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