It first happened in Spanish class.
“Do you have a boyfriend in South America?” my teacher asked, innocently enough.
“No,” I replied.
But it was Spanish class, so I elaborated.
“Men here are too short,” I smiled politely.
“Noooooo,” my teacher responded, mouth agape.
She then spent the next 15 minutes listing all of her cousins who are over 1.85m.
(She also invited me to lunch with her, her husband and her friends when I return to Quito. I pray to God I won’t spend the entire lunch meeting said relatives)
Still, she was undeniably obsessed with the subject.
I endured several conversations with her in which I learned the absorbing truth that height, nationality and even age are irrelevant in such matters.
All that counts is smart and funny. Well, er, quite.
Still, if I thought this fascination was a one-off, I could not have been more wrong.
Pippa and I accompanied our teacher to a seminar last week.
There we met Adam. He was a half Danish, half Egyptian volunteer who was tall, tanned, not exactly unattractive and about 23-years-old.
We immediately established he could not speak a word of Spanish.
Monika began to misbehave as soon as his back was turned.
“He’s really tall, you’re really tall,” she smirked.
It would have been fine had she not been accompanying her words with actions.
“He’s from Denmark,” I said quickly, trying to stop the inevitable.
“That’s okay, that’s not far from England,” she said.
Pippa chipped in.
“It is far. You have to get there by plane. It takes about two hours,” she said.
Adam looked baffled.
“What’s going on?” he asked me, in English.
“Monika thinks Denmark and England are close. We’re just explaining,” I replied.
“Oh,” he said.
“What colour are your eyes?” Monika continued in Spanish, turning to me.
“Blue,” I responded, before she could start gesturing again.
“And his?” she demanded. I would have loved to kick her on the ankle.
“Brown,” I replied quickly, without looking. It was a poor attempt to discourage her.
Pippa guessed where the conversation was leading.
“You would have beautiful babies,” she giggled.
That gave the game away. The Spanish word for babies is just too close to ours.
“What ARE you guys talking about?” Adam asked, looking mildly alarmed.
“They’re just matchmaking,” I replied.
I couldn’t even be bothered to turn red.
“You might as well get used to it.
“Ecuadorians do it ALL THE TIME.”