I thought I signed up for two weeks of Spanish lessons in Ecuador, but it turns out I have also signed up to learn cooking, cocktails and, er, salsa.
The first two are fine. I quite like the idea of learning how to make a mean roast Alpaca or fix a particularly potent Mojito.
But dancing? I know a small muscle moved involuntarily in my face when Monika mentioned this to the seven of us (now including Pam and Pippa)
The others must have arranged their faces in a similar way because our dear leader let out a peal of her infectious laughter.
“You must learn to dance,” she said.
“In Ecuador everybody dances from very small. No-one needs lessons.”
So far, so fair enough.
“Besides,” she continued merrily.
“At some point someone is going to ask you to dance, so you are going to need to know how, aren’t you?”
Nooooo, definitely not.
I already pity the poor Galapagoan fisherman who looks at me and mistakes height for elegance or maybe my cheery smile for grace, poise and – heaven forbid – rhythm.
Still, after this bombshell we spent a lovely Sunday morning at Monika’s house, talking about life in Ecuador in general.
Her home is enormous and she is the Ecuadorian (well, Columbian actually) equivalent of Home and Away’s Pippa, with the amount of volunteers who seem to stream through her doors.
She has a hilarious son called Paul (pronouced Pa-ool) who is about 11 years-old but has apparently spent far too long listening to his mother dish out advice to naive tourists.
“When you go to a nightclub,” he told us, very seriously.
“You must not leave your drink alone because people will put drugs in the drink and those drugs, they make you tell the truth.”
With advice like that, where has he been the past 13 years?
I also met lots of other volunteers at Monika’s which was great, because many of them had been in Ecuador for a while.
They joined us on our bus to Otavalo market, which was brilliant and although I am resisting loading up on jewellery, jumpers and chess sets for the next few months I’m definitely going to bring home a cuddly Alpaca.
We had a huge lunch (five courses – Monika tells us this is why Ecuadorians are ‘big’ – great) and then travelled on to Cuicocha lake.
Now, the science of this lake lost me a little bit – there was a lot of discussion about volcanoes and snow and inverted eruptions (que?) but basically, at that altitude the water should have been frozen.
But it was actually pretty warm because there was lava underneath and when we sailed out onto the middle of the lake you could see the little gas bubbles rising to the surface.
It was a little bit drizzly though, so when we made it back to shore they gave us all a shot of whiskey in our cinnamon tea.
There was a quick stop to see a man who makes pipes (the musical kind) before we arrived home, utterly exhausted.
Still, it was a good day and there are plans afoot to visit the cloud forests in Mindo next weekend – which are stuffed with butterflies and humming birds.
There are also plans the following weekend to climb Cotopaxi. I believe that involves climbing a glacier, horse riding and biking – which should work off all that food.
But tomorrow is Spanish School and unfortunately my vocabulary is limited to ‘tea and toast please’, ‘where is the milk’, ‘here’ and ‘Chinese farts’ (blame Monika for that one, but that’s probably a story for another day)
I have also learned that when Ruth calls me Bikita that actually means ‘little Vicki’ which is ironic considering she barely reaches five foot and keeps laughing and asking me to get things out of cupboards for her so she doesn’t have to use her step ladder (she really does have a step ladder)