It occurs to me that with all my ramblings about my life here, I haven’t said one word about the lovely city of Quito.
I’m not sure which bright spark decided to build a capital city in a valley surrounded by volcanoes, but it’s beautiful.
I love walking out of Ruth’s house in the morning and seeing the mist hanging low over the mountains. The sunsets can be pretty special too.
Quito itself is less chaotic than I expected. Most of the homes are apartment blocks, about three storeys high, all different colours and shapes and mostly huddled behind tall gates.
Walking here is an adventure, mostly because there are so many holes and cracks in the pavements and the roads are painted with zebra crossings which, as Monika confirms, are simply there “for decoration”.
Crime is a problem too and, although (touch wood) I’ve been and felt very safe so far, there are more than enough horror stories to go around.
On our first afternoon, Bryony and I told Ruth we were wandering to an Internet cafe and would be back in “a couple of hours”.
She was extremely nonchalant about it.
We then wandered home past a bar, saw it was 2-for-1 cocktails and had a cheeky mojito to celebrate our first night in Quito (well, it was a Saturday)
We ‘snuck’ home at 7pm, exactly three hours after we’d left.
It had been dark for half an hour. The walk home was 10 minutes on streets that were well lit and certainly not deserted.
But we were met at the door by a distraught Ruth who had clearly been crying and clutching her rosary beads. The guilt was horrific and, although she was extremely sweet about it, we both still feel terrible.
It turned out she had called Monika and there had been tears, shouting and all kinds of chaos. Ruth had “lost us” on our first night which was unforgiveable. (You will remember we came home at 7pm. Dinner is at 7.30pm)
So, the rule is clear. You don’t walk home in the dark. Ever.
One of the volunteers who lives with Monika has been mugged twice at knifepoint. One time they even took his trainers. Still, he does seem to have a habit of wandering home on his own at 3am.
Two of the other volunteers checked into a hotel here after their project. Even though Monika said they could live with her, they went for the slightly cheaper option.
One day they popped out and a fellow guest went to reception, obtained the skeleton key from the receptionist (who was either thick or an accomplice) and went into the boys’ room. He took their iPod, cameras and residence card – without which you cannot leave the country.
Monika went to the hotel and “kicked off” but it was too late.
Still, she likes to dish out all these warnings and horror stories, but it’s just common sense really – I feel as safe here as I would in any European city.
I just won’t be stumbling home on my own at 3am.