Pomp and Circumstance: Just Another Monday in Quito

Credit to my tour group leader for never letting on; the surprise was part of the fun. The school I’m attending for the next two weeks had orientation on Monday, and one of the day’s activities was a short tour of some sights in the colonial center of the city. Six of us new students crammed onto the bus with our genial guide, and tumbled out twenty minutes later for a short walk to the Plaza Grande, the most important plaza in Quito. When we arrived, we were surprised to encounter a partially roped-off square, a booming sound system announcing something, and a crowd of enthusiastic Ecuadorians and tourists. What’s going on? Oh, just an elaborate changing of the guard presided over by the president himself, that’s all.

The crowd assembled for the changing of the guard

The crowd assembled for the changing of the guard

President Correa (my zoom doing what it can next to a streetlight)

President Correa (my zoom doing what it can next to a streetlight)

Had I consulted my guidebook more closely I might have known that this is a regular event. Every Monday that President Rafael Correa is in the city, he oversees a changing of the guard at 11am. It’s a lot of pomp for a weekly event, but I love it; the locals in the crowd enthusiastically sing the national anthem as the flag is raised over the presidential palace, everyone starts their week off with a little ceremony and national pride, and it’s not bad for tourism either.

March of the guard, dressed in uniforms like those who fought for independence in the early 19th century

March of the guard, dressed in uniforms like those who fought for independence in the early 19th century

A large crowd turned out

A large crowd turned out

A band stood at the center of the square, by the fountain, and guards marched on foot and trotted on horseback to surround the band while they played the national anthem. The president and his family stood at the balcony, along with others who I assume are officials and friends. An army man in full fatigues and machine gun stood discreetly to the side, a reminder that only a few years ago, Correa had to be rescued from a life-threatening near-coup.

At least three different types of policing presence

At least three different types of policing presence

The blocked-off street in front of the palace

The blocked-off street in front of the palace

The plaza was crowded when we arrived a little after 11am, so we didn’t get a good position for viewing (or photos, for that matter). But I could glimpse the blue, red, and gold uniforms of the guard, and the smiling face of the president; and I could hear the robust singing of the crowd, and the adorably thin voice of one little kid in particular, her fist waving in the air as the flag of Ecuador waved in the wind behind her.

The assembled family and dignitaries

The assembled family and dignitaries

In the Plaza Grande

In the Plaza Grande

Departure Date and Updated Pages

Dearest fellow travelers, I have a departure date! Friday, February 7, I will fly Detroit-Houston-Quito. The next Monday I’ll start a two-week intensive Spanish course, to shore up my nonexistent Spanish skills, and from there, who knows? I hope to be on the road for about six months, but we’ll see how it goes. Many thanks to those who have put me in touch with friends who live in or are familiar with South America; I’m grateful for that personal connection. As ever, feel free to email me at lisa dot findley at gmail dot com if you have tips or contacts to share.

I’ve also updated the Fund This Stowaway page. The two major expenses I expect to encounter on this trip are boating in the Galapagos Islands and hiking around Machu Picchu, and I’ve made them the goals you can contribute to if you so choose. (Said with no pressure. Seriously.)

Finally, I’ve updated the About page, so if you send friends over to check out Stowaway (and please do!), they can get a more accurate picture of what I’m up to.

I do plan to continue writing about my travels this past summer, and I’ll also write about the new adventures I’m having, so keep me in your bookmarks or RSS feed or whatever latest technology keeps Stowaway near and dear to you.

I can almost see home from here

Show me the way to the warmer climes

Where Should I Go Next?

All right, dearest fellow travelers, are you ready to tell me what to do? It’s time for me to be moving on again, and I’m planning to make South America my next destination. If you’ve been, or you know someone who’s been, or you’ve planned your own trip, or you read a cool article once–I want to hear from you.

Sala de Uyuni (salt flats in Bolivia)

Here are a few places I definitely want to go:

1) Machu Picchu (Peru)
2) Iguazu Falls (Brazil, Argentina)
3) Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
4) Buenos Aires (Argentina)
5) Amazon jungle (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador)
6) Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)
7) Patagonia (Argentina, Chile)
8) Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
9) Beaches (oh, any country)
10) Angel Falls (Venezuela–I know, the political situation, but it’s still a sight I want to see)

Carnival

Here are a few things I definitely want to do:

1) Spend a month in one town, learning Spanish at a language school
2) Volunteer for at least a couple weeks somewhere
3) Party at Carnival (not necessarily in Rio)
4) Attempt to tango in Argentina
5) See wildlife I’ve never seen
6) Hike at least part of the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu
7) Find a quiet place to write for awhile
8) Learn to distinguish among the various cuisines
9) Go to a futbol game
10) Dance all night to a local band

Sometimes called The Death Road, sometimes called The Most Dangerous Road in the World–either way, I’m not cycling down it

Here is a thing people do that I do not want to do at all:

Ride a bike down The Most Dangerous Road in the World

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So! Whaddya think? Know anyone who lives down there, or have a favorite hostel I should check out? What’s your favorite village I won’t find in the guidebooks but should totally check out? Got any online resources you found useful? Are there places you’d recommend I skip?

I will leave sometime in January, and I hope to stretch the money out for six months of travel. I’ll keep blogging here at Stowaway, and I’ll be working to get published elsewhere too. I’m getting excited for Phase 2 of my trip around the world! Join me.

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