August 30, 2003

Sandboarding, Nasca Lines and lots of Pisco Sour

So.. after a while in Internet darkness I've finally managed to get back online for an update.

Last Tuesday we left Lima with destination Pisco - the home of the national spirit with the same name. The Peruvians are very proud of this grape brandy, and they are particularly keen on serving it as a drink called Pisco Sour (pisco, lemon juice, sugar, egg white and cinnamon). They're really not half bad.. but then again I'm probably getting quite used to them by now.

The first day in Pisco we didn't do much apart from sample the local drink. Had a number of them before dinner, and a fair few during and after. Already on the first night it was clear who were going to be my buddies on this trip.. the rest are all boring as hell really. The two cool ones are Martin, a 35-year old danish guy who just quit his job as a management consultant last week; and Owen, a 29-year old Australian engineer/wanna-be photographer. The three of us (referred to as the rowdy bunch) are the only ones apart from the tour leader who know how to have fun. Our American tour leader, Matt, is a great guy as well, and he's quite keen on introducing us to the local party culture.

After a rather wet night in Pisco we headed to a winery the following day for an introduction to making pisco. Oh my god. The whole process is manual.. and the most high-tech piece of equipment used was probably the 100-year old press used to squeeze the last juice out of the grapes after four blokes had been dancing around in the pool of grapes for around 10 hours. The whole process is quite interesting.. but any worries about hygenic standards were definitely reinforced. The only soothing factor is that pisco contains 45% alcohol and this should hopefully kill off any bacteria and germs before I drink it as a Pisco Sour.

After the tour it was time to sample the local produce.. and that didn't mean sniffing the corks. The five shots of Pisco we sampled at 1pm really livened up the mood (especially seeing the state we'd been in the night before). After having dinner in the winery (and buying a bottle of the local Pisco) it was time to head south towards Ica.

Ica is famous for it's oasis in the middle of the desert landscape that is typical for most of this part of Peru. In the oasis you can swim, enjoy a pisco sour or two and just relax.. but best of all you can go sandboarding and dune-buggy riding. Most of us opted for the latter.. and how glad we were that we did! It was amazing fun. We raced over sand dunes big as mountains, jumping over huge bumps and drove down slopes steep as walls. Talk about adrenaline kick. Next it was time to ride the dunes on a sandboard (really, it's a piece of wood with a couple of straps on). First we made a few runs standing up. The idea is similar to that of snowboarding, but frankly I found little comfort in my decent snowboarding skills. I ended up flat on my ass more than a few times. It was all great fun however. Next it was time to run down the dunes lying flat on your belly. Now we're talking! We were flying down at speeds that even got me worried at times. In the end we were all quite exhausted and sandy (believe me, I had sand everywhere). We drove to Nasca for the night, where showering was the main theme (we even had hot water, not always guaranteed in this part of the world).

The following morning we visited a cemetary from the Nasca culture (now extinct following wars with other indigenous groups). The graves dated from between 300 B.C. and 500 A.D. and consisted mainly of chambers below ground with mummified bodies sitting in fetal position facing the sun. The bodies were usually buried together with artefacts, such as pottery and gold, but due to frequent graverobbing these were nowhere to be seen. Next we visited a local pottery shop where we got an introduction to the making of ceramics according to old Nasca tradition.

The one thing you really want to visit Nasca for though are the famous so called Nasca Lines. These are lines drawn on the hard desert plains by the Nasca people two millennia ago which when seen from above make up drawings of mostly animals ranging from spiders to killer whales. As these figures cannot be seen from the ground, it suggests that the Nasca people might have discovered a way to fly. There are numerous theories speculating in the significance of the lines. Some say its a huge astronomical calendar, whilest others suggest it has something to do with extraterrestrial life. In small three seater planes we got a view of the lines from above.. and I can guarantee that it is truly spectacular! Really makes you wonder about the level of sophistication the South American cultures exhibited at that time and later.

After having dinner and a few drinks in Nasca it was time to board the nightbus bound for Arequipa, Perú's second largest city. To spice up things a little the rowdy bunch decided to stock up with a few beers for the road. Now as it turned out, our tour leader hadn't managed to get tickets for the so called "royal" service which is the standard option for backpackers wanting a decent night's sleep. This service is supposedly quite amazing with huge chairs that lean back to almost a horizontal position, waitresses that walk around handing out blankets if you're cold or bringing you a drink if you want one, etc. Now we ended up on the normal service that Peruvians take. Oh my god. First of all, when we get on the bus there's a Peruvian couple sitting in two of our seats. Apparently the driver had told them that they could sit there for the time being, and when we got on the bus they refused to move as we were tourists. It took around 15 minutes of convincing by the husband, the driver and the rest of the bus before she finally got her ass off the seat and we could get into our seats and start moving. All well in the end.. almost. Sitting down in my seat I really got to feel the size difference between myself and the average Peruvian. Need I say I didn't get any sleep that night? It wasn't just that I couldn't sleep.. it was so uncomfortable to sit in the seat that at one stage I just had to lay down in the aisle to stretch my back. Not even the beers could ease the suffering.

So at 8am we arrived in Arequipa and took a bus to our hotel. At this stage I was completely shattered. It took about an hour for us to get our rooms, and about ten seconds for me to fall asleep once in my room. Woke up at 2.30pm feeling a bit better. We decided to go for a tour of the local "nunnery" (a huge monastery in the middle of the city), which really wasn't worth the $10 we paid nor the one and half hours we spent there. Oh well, it's not like we could've known. In the evening Martin, Owen and I decided to split with the group and go for dinner by ourselves and then head out and make the streets unsafe.

After eating and having drinks in a very nice bar called Deja Vu (they had an amazing live band playing) we strolled over to one of the nicer nightclubs in town called The Forum together with Matt (our guide) and one of his Peruvian friends. As the friend was good pals with the bouncers at this place we got to jump the queue and only paid a mere 3 Soles (less than $1) to get in. Couldn't have gotten a better start to what turned out to be a great night.

Barely had I bought my first beer when Matt introduced me to a Peruvian friend of friend called Sandra. He'd told her that I'd been studying spanish and I was trying to learn Salsa, and as she was a professional Salsa teacher she could maybe show me a few things on the dance floor and talk to me in spanish.. very slick.

In the end I got back to the hotel just in time for breakfast after my best night so far in South America :)

.. and on that note, I'll leave you for this time. More madness to come soon from the other side of the planet.

Posted by markus at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2003

Having a blast in Lima

Last Saturday I caught a flight from Tumbes in the north of Peru down to Lima. I was met at the airport by Sylvia (my friend through a friend) and we drove to Flying Dog B&B, a hostel in the centre of Miraflores which is one of the nicest parts of the city (this is where the cafés are!). The hostel was amazing! All the guys working there were really friendly, and the place just had a homely atmosphere (they even had two cats!).

After I had checked in to the hostel we went to have ceviche for lunch.. mmmm! Ceviche is the national dish of Perú, and it is basically raw fish in a spicy marinade served with onions and usually corn. I know.. it does sound disgusting, but it's really quite good (and that's coming from someone who never really liked seafood much).

The early evening I spent in the hostel having a few drinks with the guys who worked there, after which I headed over to Sylvia's place to go out party. After a drink at her house we headed to Barranco to go bar hopping (made very easy by the fact that they are all literally next to each other.. streets full of bars!) Crawled home in the early hours of the morning feeling very tired :)

The following day I spent mostly around Miraflores. Took in the local coffee culture and ran som errands and strolled around the parks during the day. In the evening we picked up some beers from the supermarket and chilled in the hostel with a few Irish and English guys who were staying in the same place. At 1am the beer was out and so we decided to hit the bars on la calle de las pizzas (pizza street, a street which lives up to its name.. there's nothing but italian restaurants on it!). This is when the evening turned mad. We managed to negotiate free drinks at two of the restaurants.. and so we had three free Pisco Sours (a drink made of the locally produced grape brandy Pisco) and a free beer each.. in addition to all what we paid for. We also made friends with a couple of guys walking around the restaurants playing guitar and singing.. a few Beatles songs were sung and we also got to borrow their guitars for a while. The evening ended at around 6.30am when we far from sober stumbled home to the hostel.

Monday was a quiet day which really didn't start before it was over.. woke up at 2.30pm and had breakfast at 5pm after having moved my stuff to the hotel booked for us by GAP (the organisers of the tour of Peru which I'd booked). The night was again spent in the Hostel with a few beers, and later we ended up on pizza street after an unsuccessful attempt at finding another nightspot on a monday night.

On Tuesday it was time to pack up and leave Lima for Pisco.. a three hour drive south of the capital. More about that later.

Posted by markus at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003

Towards Perú

Having returned from the Galapagos it was time to pack up my things in Quito and head south. After two nights of late-night drinking and saying goodbye to friends I mounted by now very heavy backpack and left what had been my home in Quito for the past four weeks.

Barely had I got out of the house before disaster was close to striking. Naďve as I was I'd walked down to one of the main roads to hail a cab wearing my backpack and daypack.. I definitely had tourist spelt across my face. So I got a cab and started unstrapping the bags. As I threw the daypack into the backseat of the cab, a woman knocked me on the shoulder and pointed to the ground saying that I'd dropped something. I instinctively recognised this as a scam (good old London ways!), and immidiately turned back to the cab knowing that something fishy was going on. Next I see a man having opened the other door of the cab and having grabbed my daypack.. which at the time contained just about everything I have with me which is worth anything.. plane tickets, camera, travellers cheques, money.. So in an adrenaline rush I ran around the cab ready to chase the guy and beat the living daylights out of him (okay, so he was Ecuadorian and at most half of my size ;) ). Luckily my reaction must have scared him and he dropped the daypack in the cab and legged it. Nothing lost, but it was definitely an eye-opener and a very scary such.

After a disastrous morning, where I also found myself in a taxi at the bus station with no change and only $50 notes needing to pay the cab driver $5 (cab drivers never have change in this country, and definitely never for $50.. actually, nobody has change! $1 bills are very precious :) ), I finally boarded the bus for Riobamba, a small city about three and a half hours south of Quito (here that means about 100 km). Once in Riobamba I spent the better part of two hours walking around town with my backpack trying to find a place to stay. In the end I found a decent hotel where I paid $8 for a single room with a private bathroom and hot water (luxury!). Had a quiet dinner (and by that I mean that I was alone in the restaurant for the better part of the meal.. until a Belgian lone backpacker walked in) and called an early night as I had to get up at 4.30am the following morning to catch a train(!).

The Ecuadorian railways have more or less seized operations due the high cost of maintaining the tracks, but a touristy ride three times a week from Riobamba to Alusí and over "El Nariz del Diablo" is still in operation (apparently this is the world's most difficult railway - due to the steepness of the hill the train has to zig-zag down..). The train leaves at 7am, but to get good seats - on the roof - you need to be there early. Having managed to crawl out of bed on time, I caught a cab down to the train station to start queing. As it turned out I was quite early and second in line, only a group of four very nice German students [hi guys!] were there when I arrived. I got chatting to them, and we ended up spending the day together, for the most part riding on the roof of a train. It's so nice not to be bound by stringent safety standards every once in a while. One could easily have fallen off the roof of the train as the only thing that kept you there was a small metal list that you could rest your feet on.. otherwise you were simply sitting there without barriers. Definitely got an adrenaline kick out of it!

After the train ride we caught a bus from Alausí to Cuenca - Ecuador's third city located in the middle of the country. Had a great time there. I went to a really nice cafe/bar/restaurant - Café Eucalyptus - on Wednesday and ended up spending the night with the owner and a few of his friends (including the owners of two other bars). Free drinks and food! :) The early hours of the morning we spent in a members only Salsa bar.. god I was tired at the end (having gotten up at 4.30am in the morning to catch the train).

Yesterday (Thursday) I had a full day in Cuenca. Wandered around the beautiful colonial town centre, and also managed to sort out my onward travels. In the evening I caught a bus to Bańos, a small town half an hour outside Cuenca where they have pools with water drawn from hot water springs. Had a very refreshing bath!

Today I've spent most of the day travelling. First I took a bus from Cuenca to Machala, and a couple of hours ago I left Ecuador and arrived in Tumbes in northern Perú. The reception I got in Perú was amazing. Two young cabbies approached me as I stepped out of the bus and asked if I wanted them to take me to my hotel. As I hadn't booked one, they helped me sort out a hotel in a good area of town (the one I suggested was in a dodgy neighbourhood), and they also arranged for a pickup for tomorrow morning when I'm heading to the airport to catch a flight to Lima. It was the first time in a while when I've really felt that someone was genuinely friendly and helpful and not out to rip me off! It's not that everyone really is out to rip you off in this part of the world, but the cynical me takes some convincing. These guys really managed to do so!

That's about it for now.. tomorrow I'm heading down to Lima where I'll spend a few days with a friend called Sylvia (she's really a friend of a friend, but we've been emailing a while) before I head out to explore the rest of the country.

More to come from me soon..

Hasta luego

Posted by markus at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2003

Galapagos Islands

Sooo.. how do you describe a heaven on earth in words? I don't think it can be done, but I'll try and paint you a vague picture..

I just returned from a week aboard a yacht cruising the Galapagos Islands around 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. For those of you who haven't heard of this place, 97% of the area of the islands makes up one of the most amazing national parques on earth. It was the wildlife at Galapagos which inspired Darwin's theory of evolution through survival of the fittest. Animals and fauna here have evolved through time to adapt to the conditions on the islands, and thus there are countless endemic species which have evolved differently from the original species found elsewhere today. That's the basic story.

So what did we do there for a week?

Just to name a few things we swam and snorkelled with sealions, turtles, sharks, penguines, rays, and countless other forms of marine life. We hiked on the islands and observed the incredible world of Galapagos birds, walked around fields full of giant tortoises (around 4-5 feet long), climbed volcanoes and we even got to see dolphins playing around the yacht. Last but not least I even saw a killer whale one day.

These things in themselves are not all that special, but what makes the beauty of the Galapagos Islands is that man is not a predator to the animals living there, and thus they know no fear. That the reason why we were able to lie down in the middle of a groups of sealions, play with them in the water (they are sooo cute and sooo playful!), snorkel eye-to-eye with sharks, turtles, rays and penguines, and literally sit next to massive land and marine iguanas. Even the birds showed no fear what-so-ever. We were able to closely approach (and by that I mean to about a foot away) and observe blue-footed boobies, pelicans, albatrosses, and flamingos to name a few. Not even in the presence of new born chicks or when feeding their young ones did they seem bothered by our presence.

Galapagos definitely goes to show the extent of damage that man can cause by his treatment of other species.

As I said, words can't describe what you experience on the Galapagos during a week. If you ever get a chance to go there, I encourage you to take it. You won't come away disappointed!

Posted by markus at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2003

My last week in Quito

By now I've finished my spanish studies and tomorrow I'm flying off to the Galapagos Islands for what I expect to be eight amazing days. This past week has been all play and no sleep. I'm averaging four hours a night of sleep.. it really feels like I'm back at uni.. all this madness!

This past Wednesday we went to see Liga play Deportivo Quito in a hot derby. It was great fun, and the atmosphere was amazing. Shame on the result though.. 2-1 to Quito, which meant that Liga lost its position at the top of the table. Oh well. After the game I headed out with a few friends from school. After a few hours in drinking we decided to steer our way to No Bar which is one of the most famous bars in Quito.. bad idea! I would imagine it's very similar to Hippodrome in London, although I've never been to Hippodrome in my four years in London. It was the first, only and last time in No Bar for most of us. Still not keen on giving up for the night we decided to work on the Salsa skills, and so we headed to a sophisticated bar called Bogarin on the outskirts of Gringolandia. The night was rounded off with a drunken philosophical debate around the Iraq war over a couple of surprisingly tasty $1 Shwarmas, and so I was in bed by 4.30am.

The following day I was quite tired during the day, but it passed for some reason as soon as the evening had arrived. A couple of friends from school who live in London were back in town, so the night started at with a couple of beers. I'd arranged to meet up with Silvia again that night, so we soon moved on to a salsa bar called Varadero - a very classy but pricey place (by Quito standards, still less expensive than your average London pub). One of the guys from school was wearing shorts, which was no hit with the door man, and so the others decided to have a drink in another bar first whilst I went dancing with Silvia and her friends. Danielle (the Irish girl) and her friend from Hong Kong (whose name I can't remember) came to the bar a little later, and Danielle and I decided to meet for lunch the following day. Another night of sleep deprivation followed as I got to bed around 3am.

Yesterday was my last day at the school (*sigh*). We had a very relaxing day with my teacher Manuel. First we watched football, Real Madrid vs Hong Kong, in spanish and I managed to learn the football vocabulary. For our coffee break I went out and bought a load of donuts for all the students and teachers, and that was very much appreciated it seemed. For lunch I met up with Danielle and we chatted away two hours one of the more local cafés around the Amazonas (the street which my school is on).

In the afternoon we finished the last bits of grammar that we were supposed to go through, and then we took a relaxing last two hours at a handicraft market two blocks away from the school. I wanted to buy it all.. they had such cool stuff! The only problem was the small question of how to get the stuff home..

Having said goodbye to all the teachers at the school we went to play a few games of a pool with a good swiss friend of mine called Reto. Five hours of pool and four 0.6 litre beers each later we realised that we'd missed our appointment with our other friends by two hours. Luckily they were still at when we got there. Another couple of beers went down well before the feet started itching for some action. This time we went to yet another salsa bar together with a couple of local girls that Morten (a norwegian friend) had found at At four o'clock I was in bed knowing that for the first time in a week I'd actually get a good nights sleep.. what a wonderful feeling!

One thing that I will definitely miss when I get back to London is the use of taxis. Here you can, and have to (for security), take taxis all the time. A ten minute ride from Gringolandia to my house costs $2 in the middle of the night and considerably less in the daytime. One quite interesting feature is that the taxis turn off the taxometers at night, and so you have to negotiate the fare before you get in.. and prices do vary. Lately as my spanish has improved I've had an easier time getting home for the standard fare. I even got complemented on my spanish by one of the taxi drivers the other night :)

Today's been a stressful day. After having a going for a huge meal at a colombian restaurant for lunch with my family here, I headed out to do the last minute shopping for the Galapagos. Four hours we ended up spending in the mall together with Monica. Highlights included a $6 haircut in a place that could easily have been mistaken for a Tony & Guys or Vidal Sassoon, and buying a couple of plain t-shirts for little over $6 each.. this country is dirt cheap, and still they argue that it's (one of the) most expensive in South America(!)

Having got back from the shopping we sat down for a glass of wine with the family (including around eight of their relatives who are staying here for a few days). I'd brought the family a set of leaning shot glasses with rain deers infrosted on them and a bottle of Finlandia Vodka, and thess were brought out for the occasion. A handful shots of vodka, numours songs and a good few laughs later I'm sitting in front of the computer writing this log knowing that I have to get up in around four hours time.

As Gustavo and Elisabeth will both be in Rio de Janeiro when I get back from the Galapagos I had to say goodbye today. It was quite sad, because I have really enjoyed my time here. I'll definitely be coming back in the near future.

If I'm going to have any chance of waking up tomorrow I should go to bed now. I won't be updating this log until I'm back from Galapagos, but do look out for a major update in a little over a weeks time.. and I'll try and get the pictures up as well.

Until then.. hasta luego!

Posted by markus at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

Life in Quito

Life in Quito is good! :)

Weekdays I'm in school from 8.30am to 5.30pm (including a two hour lunch break), so there's not much time for other things during the days. In the evenings there's usually something going on. Currently I'm sitting in an Internet cafe in the infamous Gringolandia (i.e. where all the white people hang out) having a beer. During the weekends I've done a lot of touristing with my family here.

The first weekend in Quito my family took me out for dinner on Friday night. Out of all places they could have chosen we ended up at TGI Fridays.. oh well :) It was a great night, and the Margharitas where pint sized, I kid you not! On Saturday we headed up to Otavalo a couple of hours drive north of Quito. Otavalo is famous for its market where you can find great deals on sweaters and wall ornaments. I ended up buying a wool sweater for $10 and a wallet/purse thing for $1.. definite bargains. We also visited a lagoon situated in a volcano crater.. very spectacular.

On Saturday night Juan took me to a birthday party of one of his friends. Talk about culture shock! First of all, the party was held in a house somewhere in the dodgier neighbourhoods of Quito. It was definitely not a safe area. When we got to the house, the living room was full of kids and grandparents. Soon enough they disappeared and the salsa started playing on the stereo. Before anyone had even seen any alcohol the floor was full of people dancing away. Would you ever see that in England/Finland? No. Furthermore, the drinking culture proved to be very different. Instead of each having a drink of their own, there was a guy walking around with a pitcher of a terrible mix of whiskey and soda water, and serving shot sized drinks out of a single glass. You got your shot and then the guy moved on to the next person. Weird.. but cool in some way.

On Sunday we drove south to one of the most beautiful volcanoes in Ecuador, Cotopaxi (which means "the neck of the moon" in Quichua, an indeginous language). Rising 5600m above sea level, the sight of the snow capped volcano was astonishing. One day I will climb the beast (apparently it's quite an easy climb).

The next week passed quietly until Thursday when we decided to go out with a few friends from the Spanish school after a tour of the main sights in the city organised by the school. Cheap drinks, good food and a few games of pool proved to be a great recipe for a great night out.

On Friday Juan again took me with him to another birthday party. This time the party was held in a bar, but since him and his friends are quite poor/cheap it looked like I was bound for a night on hard liquor again. As I didn't quite fancy the thought of waking up with a headache I decided to get some beers to the table. My jaw dropped when I realised the half litre beers only cost $1 each, and so I kept the beer flowing all night. Damage? Around $30(!) The bartenders were so happy with my custom that they kept serving me free whiskey and other good things all night. Muahahah! :)

On Saturday I met up with a girl, Silvia Perez, who works for the national committee of AIESEC in Ecuador. We met up in a bar called Green Olive on the outskirts of Gringolandia (nobody has heard of this place.. it took me 30 minutes and cost me $3 to find). We had a beer in the bar, and then we headed out to a Casino with two of her friends.. both of them girls, one from Ireland and the other from Hong Kong. Interestingly enough alcoholic drinks were free at the Casino which was a definite bonus. After two hours of playing Black Jack and slot machines I came out $15 plus.. which meant that I bought the drinks at Sutra, the bar we headed to afterwards. Definitely a great night out!

On Sunday we went to a football match with Juan and his girlfriend. The team to support is definitely La Liga. The game was a little on the quiet front as the opposition was the weakest team in the country, but since Juan is a member of the hardcore fanclub, Muerte Blanca (the White Death), we didn't really notice. The songs never stopped. Best of all, Liga won 3-0.

Yesterday, Monday, one of my friends from school, Reef (American, 33 years old) was having leaving drinks. First we had a few drinks at, the Internet cafe I'm currently sitting at, after which we headed to a restaurant called Mongo's for dinner (mongolian barbeque). We capped the night with a few games of pool and a few drinks.

.. and that's about where the story ends. It's Tuesday evening and I'm sitting here writing this log entry and having a beer.

More to come from me soon!

Posted by markus at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

Disappearing from London

Soooo... having finished my MSc Economics at LSE, and with four months off (!) before starting work at the Bank of England (aka. BoE, the Bank) and thus stepping into the real world, I decided to take the rare opportunity of disappearing from London for 9 weeks. What did I do? I threw myself in the deep end and bought a ticket to Quito, Ecuador, with a return from Santiago, Chile. At the time, I had not the slightest idea of what I was getting myself into, nor what I was really going to do in South America.

Little by little the pieces started falling into place, and hungry for learning I decided to pick up the fragments left of my Spanish knowledge and really have a go at learning the language. So I enrolled in a Spanish school in Quito called "Amazonas". A colleague of my dad's, Gustavo, is working in Quito, and upon hearing that I was heading to Ecuador to study Spanish my dad incisted on getting in touch with Gustavo. The response was overwhelming.. I was hoping he could help me with advice and maybe help me sort out where to stay, but instead I was offered a golden deal: accommodation, sightseeing, travelling, and meals.. all for free!

I left London about two weeks ago, worn down from a hectic week of visiting family, graduation ceremony and one hell of a moving process (those of you who saw my room at Holborn understand). The whole thing climaxed on the morning of my flight, when Heathrow was in full chaos as a result of the unsolicited strikes by the check-in personnel. I though the three hours I reserved for the airport was generous, but in the end I had to run for the gate. I can't describe in words the feeling when I sat myself down in the plane.

Upon arriving in Quito I was met at the airport by Gustavo, a well fed man with a big beard. He and his wife, Elisabeth, are adorable people. They've got three children, two of who live in France, and a son, Juan, who lives at home. He's a seventeen year old metal head, and great fun to hang out with. The family is actually Colombian, but they've lived in Quito for the past two years. Their house is situated in one of the nicest parts of Quito on a hill side with a great view across the city through huge panorama windows.

In addition, the family also has a niece, Monica, living with them at the moment. She works as an Oracle programmer for a web portal in Quito. She's very cool and we get along great. Last but not least, they also employ a full time maid(!). Forget having to make your own bed, prepare breakfast, do laundry.. everything is taken care of! I'll definitely hire a maid as soon as I can afford it.. probably costs a fortune in London, but here it's not more than $150 a month(!).

The morning after I arrived I headed straight to my school, and, without wasting any time what-so-ever, I began my quest of learning to speak Spanish. I'm studying for approximately three weeks and I'm on a seven hours a day schedule. It's really a little too much, and I'm quite knackered at the end of the day, but at least I'm learning a lot. The school is very well run, and the teachers (you have a new teacher every week) are great. They make it a pleasure to learn the language. Having said that, the only way of really learning the language is to be forced to use it.. and here you definitely are.

Posted by markus at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)