We knew that travel in South America was going to be different from the rest of our travel so far. Rather than run around like tourists, we want to really see what life will be like if we move here. We booked a one-way ticket to Guayaquil, Ecuador, knowing only that we plan to be back home by July 3rd. And whereas Guayquil is not a city we’re evaluating for a future residence, we figured we should spend a few days here to try and get to know it.
On our first full day, Carlos, a local couch surfer, took us into town to see a bit of Guayaquil. First though, he took us with him to his French class! We never imagined we’d attend a French class *in* Spanish, so it was pretty funny. Stephanie can’t even pronounce French words correctly, and we had nothing to keep us busy. It was basically 45 minutes of listening to a slightly tone-deaf professor use songs to teach French (they are very big on using songs to teach languages here in Ecuador apparently). Since I already know some French, I amused myself by flexing my French muscles and singing along. Stephanie worked on her pronunciation by attempting to read some phrases to me from the class handouts, and that was also amusing for me. 😉
After class, we walked with Carlos across a bridge where we could see an enormous fountain, with lit up waters dancing to music. Then we walked across town to the riverside, through a park, and up to Guayaquil’s lighthouse. The 500 steps up the hill to the lighthouse were through a very trendy area filled with restaurants and bars. The steps were even thoughtfully numbered so I didn’t have to count them (as Stephanie noted, since she knows I can’t help doing that). At the top of the hill, in addition to the lighthouse were several old cannons, street vendors, and the obligatory church. Ecuador, like most of South America, is very Catholic. So much so that when we told Carlos that my sister lives in Israel, he assumed she was Catholic, and seemed a bit surprised to be in the presence of real, live Jews.
We rounded out the night with dinner at a restaurant on the lighthouse hill. The terrace on which we dined Al Fresco looked over the river and allowed for some stray kittens to join us for a few minutes before they were shooed away by the restaurant owners. I was thrilled when, in true Ecuadorian style, a full dinner for the three of us came to $7.25!
The next day, we met our next host, Javier, for lunch, and were able to try out the local Chinese food near the University. It was our most expensive meal to date at $13.00 for the three of us! (I know, your heart is breaking for us.) Other than the outlandish(!) price, the food was nothing special. It was very tasty and much like what we’d get back home, so it’s good to know we wouldn’t starve from lack of Chinese food here.
Javier had to go to work that afternoon and he was on until midnight, but his wife and father were home. Unfortunately, neither one of them speaks English, but his 11 year old daughter was does. She goes to an English immersion school and performed very well as a translator for us.
After we got settled, Javier called to tell us there was a couch surfing party that night, and asked us if we’d like to go. Now, for some reason, I forgot he was working until midnight and assumed he’d meet us there at 9:00. This turned it to be an incorrect assumption, as was my assumption that there would be people there who spoke English. In fact, it turned out that Javier had been incorrectly informed that there was a party there at all. After sitting for over an hour with three other people who did not speak English, one girl announced, “Vamanos,” (Let’s go!) and we all piled into a couple of taxis. The girls in our car tried to engage us, but the only words we caught were “beber” – to drink, and “bailar” – to dance. It turned out we were headed to a night club. Now we are not true club-goers at the best of times, and we were in inappropriate clothing, sandals, and carrying such not-made-for-dancing items as a backpack, water bottle and a Spanish phrase book. In addition, Stephanie had left her money and ID at Javier’s – not a real problem for her since the ladies always get in free, but they wanted my last $15 in order to let me in. Stephanie and I quickly decided that this was not the scene for us, and with much phone tag and language confusion (as we had no translator), a cab was called to take us back to Javier’s.
Guayaquil is an interesting city, with definite pros and definite cons in our opinion. It is very large, and we saw some really pretty spots – some nice architecture, smaller green areas, pretty churches and fountains. It’s also quite cheap which is appealing to any traveler! And there are plenty of options for ice cream wherever you go, which is a huge plus. On the other hand, it’s not one of the cleanest cities we’ve visited, it’s crazy humid, and many areas are still clearly developing. In the end, I was glad to visit but was looking forward to moving on to some of our other destinations.