In deze maandelijkse column schrijft projectcoördinator Megan van der Moezel over haar ervaringen in Quito. Livin’ la vida Local: een beginnershandleiding met een humoristische ondertoon over dit fascinerende land. Deze maand een column over haar integratie in Quito.
Door Megan van der Moezel
When new volunteers arrive, they always have a meeting with one of the coordinators on their first day. This is when we have ‘the talk’. Of course we explain all about our way of working, and what is expected of you as an English teacher or football trainer. But volunteering at Local Dreamers is about more than participating in our projects. It’s just as much about getting to know Ecuador, meeting it’s people and the chance to immerse yourself in their culture. And the country’s capital city is the perfect starting point for just that.
As a Local Dreamer, you will spend most of your time in the south of the city. This is where you find our office, projects and our welcoming host families. It takes some getting used to, for anyone fresh off a plane from The Netherlands. After living and working here for well over seven months, however, it’s getting hard to imagine life without all the peculiarities that so surprised me when I first arrived.
Daily life in Quito
I no longer look up in amazement, when I see one of my neighbours walking around in flannel pajama pants in the weekend. I have long since joined the lovely tradition of calling all shopkeepers (and their clients) ‘mi veci’. I have even gotten used to – although maybe not completely made peace with – the dogpoo booby-traps on the sidewalks. (Courtesy of the many wellfed streetdogs that roam the barrios.)
During the week, I often join a steady stream of customers at one of the local eateries, for a filling $2,50 almuerzo. Always in the hopes that they throw in a bowl of popcorn, meant to be sprinkled into the soup-course. I can’t imagine walking back to the office full-bellied, without passing the countless vendors populating the street from early morning till sundown. Old ladies in traditional clothing selling seasonal fruit out of big black buckets. Loudly announcing their prices as pedestrians stroll by.
One street down, fruit is substituted for vegetables. That’s another funny thing. In Quito, it seems like shops are sorted geographically by the products they carry. One calle is chock full of jewelers, the next has nothing but toy stores. Especially in the centro histórico. Owners must have made cartel agreements, or there is no way these shops would be able to survive surrounded by nothing but their own competition.
Súbeme la radio
There is one thing that all of these streets in the South and city centre have in common: music. LOUD music. Blasting boomboxes are everywhere. From the hairdresser across the street, to the farmacia next door. Last week, the latter had some sort of special promotion. So they hired a girl in a short skirt to belt through a microphone all afternoon. Plus a pair of weirdos in red wigs, who spend three hours standing in the middle of the street waving balloons and shaking their hindquarters to the beat.
Eventually we had to ask them to turn down the volume. Our English students couldn’t for the life of them hear their teacher over the ruckus. I shouldn’t complain though. It is thanks to all these boom boxes, that I keep up with all the latest reggaeton hits. Which in turn is essential, in order to blow my coworkers away at karaoke nights. You can only get away with repeating ancient history like ‘Despacito’ so many times…
Change of scenery
Besides, any time you feel like a change of scenery, all you have to do is hop on a bus. Within 15 minutes you can be walking around downtown, admiring colonial architecture and avoiding hawking 10-year-old shoe shiners on Plaza Grande. Just go half an hour further north, and you find yourself surrounded by modern high-rises. Here, you can easily spend a weekend sipping tasty cappuccinos, sampling delicious sushi, and watching the latest blockbusters in a state-of-the-art cine.
At the end of the day, though, I’m always glad to be back home. They might have better coffee in the fancy neighbourhoods around parque Carolina, but nothing beats the welcoming vibe of the South.
© Local Dreamers, integratie in Quito tijdens vrijwilligerswerk en stage in Ecuador