Ecuador · Uncategorized

Feet in the Middle

Originally published on 24 September 2015.

Surprise! Mr. Peabody Pembroke and I are off again! This time it’s just a short trip, but a very memorable and symbolic one.

Surgically repaired feet!

On September 17, 2014, my left foot and I went in for the first of two foot surgeries. So I decided that on September 17, 2015, I would take Lefty on a real adventure… to the equator! Since Steve and I missed it last month due to volcanic activity, I figured this was my chance! I only told a few people I was going, so it was a surprise to everyone else, even my parents!

My husband dropped me off at Dulles Wednesday morning, and I set off to Houston! And guess who sat next to me on the plane… A woman in a walking boot! She had bunion surgery just three weeks prior, so we chatted about that for a while. She’s around my age, and this was her first go at surgery. She probably won’t have to have the other one done, at least not for a while–lucky duck!–but I was happy to provide someone to complain to! I told her a few of my secrets as well. She’ll be back on her foot again in no time!

From there, onward to Quito! If you read my previous post about our time there last month, you already know it’s not my favorite place on Earth. But I can do anything for a couple of days–really just 25 hours, if you’re the hour-counting kind. I had an equator to see! The air pollution was better this time because the volcano didn’t feel like smoking this time around. And I prayed it would be calm and inactivated until after time for me to leave!

By the way, I blew my nose while I was there, and grayish-black stuff came out. Ew. No picture.

The plane landed about 20 or so minutes late, but the driver from my hotel was still there waiting for me when I finally cleared passport control! He was energetic and friendly, even at 11:30 at night when we started our one hour drive to El Crater Hotel. The Quito airport is close to the city, just nine miles away, but somehow it takes an hour to get to it or from it, no matter where you’re coming from! We were actually so late starting the trek that the front desk at the hotel called to see if we were still coming or if there was a problem!

We finally made it, safe and sound. To be honest, the guy who checked me in and showed me to my room was borderline rude and left out important information like where breakfast would be, where I can get clean water to brush my teeth, and the wi-fi passcode. There was a bottle of water in the room that I used to brush my teeth, and I eventually got the wi-fi passcode after trying a couple of numbers for the reception. After I emailed Steve and my parents to let them know I made it, I was so pooped I didn’t care about brushing my teeth. Good thing I brushed on the plane!

So, to be honest, pretty much the whole hotel experience was less than expected… except for the view:

I could wake up to that again!

Before I went to sleep, the guy at the hotel told me that breakfast would be at 7:00. I asked when breakfast ended, but he just said breakfast was at 7:00 and didn’t look like he wanted to tolerate a spoiled American who wanted a later breakfast. So, dutifully, I rose at 6:30am to get ready for breakfast! The view made the early morning wake-up worthwhile, thought. I have to admit it!

Breakfast was fruit, eggs, croissants with jam, juice, and coffee. I tried to cut away the parts of the fruit that may have been washed with contaminated water or touched any part of any other fruit that may have been washed with contaminated water. The meal was good, but I failed. Something made my little tummy gurgle… But after that it was done, and I was ready to go!

I took my time showering and getting ready so that my phone would have as much time as possible to charge. Plus, I knew I didn’t have much to see to take up my time the rest of the day. After a bit of a delay in getting a taxi, I was on my way to the Intinan Museum!

Mr. Peabody Pembroke enjoys the Equator!

Woohoo! Mr. Peabody Pembroke, Lefty, and I made it! This is what some call the “real” equator. The location was pinpointed using GPS (in the late ’90s or early 2000s), and a new, open-air museum has been built not only to show off the equator but to show some of the history of the area.

First stop: the shrunken heads!

Shrunken heads. Nothing could be finer.

Sorry for the poop photo quality. That in the center is a real shrunken human head! And in the lower left corner is a shrunken animal head. Perhaps a sloth? Anyway, the process the Shuar people used is called Tzanza, and what they would do was remove the human bones, smoke the skin like one would do leather. Then the shape would be recreated with small rocks. They did this to keep the souls of prominent people, as well as the souls of their enemies, both for their power. No, they did not kill random people for their heads. They let people die of natural causes–or in the case of enemies, during wars.

Another native people, the Wuaorani, put big holes in their earlobes, like some kids do today. The larger the hole, the higher their status. They also used really cool dart guns and spears!

Finally, a people called the Quito, who lived there before the Incas came from Peru, would bury their dead in the fetal position and put them into big clay pots, so they would be ready to be reborn when the time came. Couples would often be buried together. Sweet, huh? If the man died first, his wife would be given a special drink and buried with him. There, she would suffocate. If the woman died first, they buried her alone. Nice, right?

Anyway, then we got to the real attraction… the equatorial line!

Hooray for Lefty!

Ta-da! There’s Lefty! Showing off and kicking’ high! Our museum guide conducted demonstrations and even had us participate in them! We saw water drain from the same sink three different ways–clockwise just a few feet south of the line, counter-clockwise a few feet north, and straight down on the equator! There are many nay-sayers who claim this phenomenon doesn’t exist, but I assure you quite confidently that I saw it happen!

Next, we balanced an egg on the end of a nail. Only two of the seven of our group could do it, and I was one of them! We also tried to walk in a straight line right on the equator, but it’s very difficult! Lastly, we did a strength test. It’s true, a person is stronger away from the equator than when standing on top of it. Something to do with the gravitational pull and the Earth being wider around the middle than anywhere else.

I was so excited! But there was more to see!

Onward I went, ready and raring to see the “original” equatorial line and monument. The one that was calculated in 1736 by the Spanish (or the French–I heard both while I was there). Anyway, that was the assumed equator for two hundred years before they built the monument!

The “other” equator

It’s a nine-story structure with a great big globe on the top! Your first stop will be to the top and get an impressive view of the Andes Mountains in all directions, and each floor below hosts exhibits of equatorial and Ecuadorean history.

The site where this monument was built is called the Mitad del Mundo–“Half of the World”! The site is actually a huge complex with shops and restaurants, like a whole city. They really did a lot of work to make it a place for tourists to come and see the jewel of Ecuador… but then of course the whole thing happened with GPS. This is still an historic monument with historical significance, of course, but the experiments wouldn’t work here… so there are none!

Anyway, I found a place to get some empanadas (not quite as good as the ones we had before, but they were still authentic!), and I got to use their wi-fi to e-mail with Steve and post some pictures to Facebook. That’s when Steve said, “You are 4,000 miles away, but given your WIFI, you could easily be sitting by the pool or in Old Town, as far as hearing from you and about you throughout the day!” So cute!

I walked around to see the shops for a while, stopped into a miniature museum with dioramas of Quito over the years and some models of ships that made their way to South America in the 15th and 16th centuries, and made a beeline for the cabs on the street–I needed to get to the airport and use the shower and get a nap at the Gold Lounge!

So long, Equator!

The cab ride was an adventure in itself. The driver decided to take me on a “short cut.” Of course, he didn’t speak a lick of English, and I don’t speak intelligible Spanish, so I was really not sure what was going on, but he was talking to me the whole time! As I mentioned before, the airport is actually very close to Quito and the surrounding areas, but you really have to go around your finger to get to your thumb to get there. So, the short cut pretty much took us the same amount of time, and the car was actually going slower than if we had taken the highway. We went through little villages and down and around winding little roads. I don’t know if he got me there sooner or not, I was just glad to get there!

Anyway, once I got there and got through security, it was 4:30, and I was pretty beat. I went up to the passport control lady, gave her my passport and showed her the boarding pass on my phone… and then she dropped the bad news.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t let you in until four hours before the flight,” she said regretfully.

My flight was set to leave at 11:55pm. I had 7 1/2 hours to go.

After a show of frustration, which I soon regretted, I showed her my United Gold membership card, asked if there was anyway I could get in–I just wanted to shower in the lounge and take a nap because I can’t sleep on planes–she said there was nothing she could do until the United representative came at 8:00pm to open the flight on the computer. In my mind I thought, they really need an override button, but out loud I just said ok, went over to the domestic terminal (I was not going back out of security and back through three and a half hours later), and e-mailed a temper tantrum to my loving, kind, understanding husband. Then I found a place that served chocolate cake with ice cream (and free wi-fi):

Dessert!

So then I e-mailed Steve to apologize for my tantrum, and of course he was kind and understanding as always. He tried to FaceTime me, but the wi-fi signal was too week. His attempt at FaceTime was a huge deal because he does NOT like the looks of his own face on the screen, but for some reason he likes mine. =) Anyway, since the wi-fi was strong enough for e-mail but not FaceTime, we e-mailed. For three hours. It was just like we were dating again and we’d send e-mails back and forth all day long. =)

Can you tell I was ready to be home to the World’s Best Husband? I was.

And eventually… 8:00 came! Back to passport control for me! So I crossed back over from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, but the security people insisted on checking my bag. So they put it through the conveyor belt, but thankfully, they didn’t make me pass through again.

I gave the lady my passport and my boarding pass… and she happily let me through! I was home free! Well, I was closer to home anyway.

Through the duty-free shops, up the elevator, and there, smiling and ready to help, was the Gold Club agent. She checked my boarding pass, opened the doors, and I was IN! I asked where I could get a towel for the shower, and she said I could ask inside. So I asked inside, and they sent me back out. So I asked her again where I could get a towel, and she brought me one from the closet behind her. I don’t know why I had to go back and forth, but I really didn’t care. THIS is what I cared about!

Ah… Shower time.
Why yes, that is in fact a very nice shower. And yes indeed, I felt renewed and refreshed after a nice, hot, long shower! Oh, happy day.
So I got dressed and found a comfy place to sit. Unfortunately, all the seats had arm rests attached, so I wouldn’t have been able to get any quality sleep anyway. But I filled my belly, curled up in as comfortable a position as possible, and sent Steve and e-mail letting him know I had finally gotten in. He was asleep at that point, but I wanted to let him know all the same.
The flights home were relatively uneventful (no volcanic excitement this time!), but I did meet a nice Egyptian man on the flight from Houston to DC, and he got me thinking about that trip to Egypt I’ve been meaning to take! Now I have an insider friend! He lives in Houston now, but I have his card, and to me that means I also have an open invitation to ask questions! 😉
Thank you for joining me on this journey! Stay tuned to find out where we go next! (And yes, my next trip is with my sweet husband!)

One thought on “Feet in the Middle

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