Losing weight and saving money

I wake up at 11 to vomit. This is the second time on my travels that I’ve gotten actually food poisoning (not just, you know, the other thing.) I spend the rest of the day either sleeping or visiting the toilet. Not a good day. I managed to go outside for long enough to find water, then back to the routine. Lest you think it was pretty boring, it wasn’t. At some point I wake up with a horrible calf cramp. As I bolt upright, I hit my head on a (concrete) overhang, which served to make me forget about the calf cramp for 5 seconds or so. If it would have happened to someone else, it would have been pretty darned funny. This was the highlight of my Thursday.

On Friday, I’m feeling a little better, and manage to find something to eat, and more importantly, water/gatorade. Finding a restaurant was surprisingly difficult. I didn’t want someplace not busy, nor a place to American (lot’s of KFC’s and a few McDonalds.) I find a street restaurant that is busy and grab a street side table. One of the first street urchins offers to shine my shoes, but they aren’t that type of shoe. While I’m there he stands there staring at me. Eventually I pull out my Palm Pilot and start playing solitaire. I show him my PDA, and we start taking (he spoke passable English.) I let him play with it the rest of the time I’m there. He was a nice kid – he told me he was an orphan, but I didn’t believe him. He had a lot of schooling, was dressed somewhat well, and was clean. He spent most of the time drawing on my Palm Pilot, and at one point he drew a plane flying into the World Trade Center. I don’t really know why he did it, and I didn’t ask. Him doing that was innocent enough, after all he was a kid, but it bothered me a lot. I tried to put my finger on why I was bothered. I think it was because that event didn’t belong to him. It was a tragedy that was mine, and mine alone (by mine, I mean as an American.) It wasn’t his to draw, ask about or talk about.

The rest of the day I didn’t do much else. find an internet cafe, find some of the basic routes of the city (Quito is a long city, 30KM or so, and only about 5KM wide. It’s in a valley, and most of the streets run along this axis.) I sulk back to my room and take a long nap, from about 4 – 5:30. This was after sleeping most of the previous day. About 7 p.m., all of the sudden, I feel normal again. I thought I was feeling normal before, but I guess I wasn’t. Once I did thought, there wasn’t anything to do. At 7 p.m., it’s solidly dark (sunrise is 6 a.m., sunset is 6 p.m. – remember it’s on the equator.) My only choices are to go to a bar or get something to eat. I wasn’t sure that either option was good for me. I watch a whole bunch of movies. Luckily the TV in my room has cable with a bunch of channels, probably 1/3rd of which are in english. What did I watch?

The Rage in Placid Lake – Hilarious australian movie – can’t recommend it highly enough, but that’s probably just my odd sense of humor. The online reviews I’ve read listed it as a Teen Comedy, but I just thought it was pretty funny.
Some movie with a bad werewolf chasing a good werewolf (of the pure/ancient race), and the cop trying to protect the good (and sexy) werewolf. You see, most large police departments (L.A., New York, Chicago, Miami) all have departments JUST for hunting werewolves. I did not know that.
Part of Blade 2
The Medallion staring Jackie Chan.
I can also now add Ecuador to the number of countries that have soft core porn on late at night (channel 65.)

Apparently, I’ve gotten enough sleep for the week, and can’t get any this night. About Midnight I smell someone smoking a cigarette. As I’m sitting there I realize that there aren’t any windows in my third floor room, just a skylight which I can’t reach. Then I realized that there are only beds in the rooms here, so whoever it is must be smoking in bed, which is were most cigarette related fires are stared. Paranoia set in, I’ll admit, but I did come up with an exit plan. I tried sleeping at 2 a.m., but it didn’t work, so I play solitaire until I’m bored. Then it’s on to reading. And then back to tossing and turning. I end up staying awake until 4 a.m.

I wake up at 8 a.m, happy to be up so early, since being really tired will give me a good night of sleep this night (Saturday.) I’m still feeling pretty good, so I decide to go to the Old Town (I’m staying in New Town, which is deserted.) I stop at the first decent restaurant I see. It’s called Texas Chicken. It’s pretty good – rotisserie chicken, and I’m pretty happy to be eating. I walk the rest of the way to the Old Town, and it’s packed. This used to be the center of Quito until the wealthy move their homes to what is now new town. Or so my travel book says. It’s got this great old church, which is the tallest in Central America. I take a few pictures, which look great on my camera LCD screen. The rest of the time I walk around looking at other churches, convents and museums. I went to a Numenostic (SP) museum, which was pretty interesting. Next on my list was a pretty cool Convent museum. Lot’s of images of Christ, and coolest of all, many, many bibles from the early 1500s. I think a 500 year old book is just cool beyond words. Just like everywhere I’ve been, people are very friendly, with the occasional drunk wanting to talk to me loudly, usually clustered around places you’d expect them. There weren’t any in Old Town as there were many, many cops everywhere. I did pass the presidential palace, and the presidential motorcycle escort. These guys get to ride the Police version of the BMW 1150RT. Then something dawned on me. I, like a lot of people, were puzzled by BMW releasing the F650. In places like this, it makes perfect sense. The 1150 is too big for most of the riding people do (and for most of the people), and too expensive for almost everyone. The F650 will give someone the BMW name/cachet and still let you be the big dog on the block, AND it’ll still do 90% of what it’s bigger, heavier brothers will do. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. But I digress.

There was one other thing I wanted to do before I left Quito (other than sleep and have a tidy stomach.) Go to the Equator. I tried to find a cheap GPS, but the only ones I could find were very expensive ($180/ecuadorian, which is $180/US.) I also couldn’t find the buses that run there (.75 each way.) One reason I couldn’t is that I was looking for a pink and white bus. They were green. GREEN!! ( As much use as I’ve gotten from my various guides, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. It’s less of an error than in Copan, Honduras, when the one way streets were reversed on my map and I was on a motorcycle during rush hour.) So I decide to take a taxi. It’s a pretty lengthy journey, and I lucked into a very nice taxi driver. I mentioned where I wanted to go, and he says something. I look puzzled and say “mi espanola es mal.” He responds by saying – I’m waiting on my wife – is it OK if I bring her. Once again, everyone speaks english and spanish except me. He runs to get his wife and off we go. It’s a pretty nice journey, and we pass a lot of the GREEN busses going to the center of the globe. Once we get there, I invite them to come with me, since they were nice, and I thought they would enjoy it – it was worth the $3/US it cost for the two of them. After I make the offer, I notice that he has a very bum leg, something from birth I imagine, and walking is somewhat difficult for him. No good deed goes unpunished, eh? His wife has a great time, and I find a sexy german girl to take a pictures of me standing on the equator in Ecuador. There was a museum of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador which was pretty interesting, and surprisingly large. Otherwise, there were a ton of touristy things around, none of which I did. It was a pretty quick ride back to the hotel, and I gave him a nice tip and a hearty thank you.

I suspect that I’m pretty sunburnt. I’m a lot closer to the sun than I’ve ever been, and we are pretty high up (9200 ft) My neck and forehead hurt. Back in the hotel, I realize that I’m a beet. After a couple of splashes of cold water, it doesn’t feel any better. At least in a couple of days I’ll be a-peeling – HA!! I rest for a few minutes, finding The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers on TV, which I had to tear myself away from (I already knew how it ended. – on a side note, that morning I walked past a street vendor selling miscellaneous toys and other items. From about 10 feet away I saw she was selling a LOTR action figure. I thought to myself – she’s selling an Urikah. Then I realized that from 10 feet away I could identify, name, and spell a somewhat minor character from LOTR. I’ve never felt geekier, and I loved it. I thought about liberating it and making it my traveling companion, but they aren’t pleasant creatures.) . A few minutes at an internet cafe, then on to a pretty nice dinner. I wanted something substantial, so I found a Argentinean Steak house in New Town (which has a lively weekend nightlife, with much oriented to young tourist.) Now, this is where I had an odd separation from reality. I got the menu, and even the nicest steak was only $7/US. I ask about wine. Having read about how cheap wine is supposed to be on the continent (as long as it’s from the continent) I ask for and get a $19 bottle of wine. I swear to god when I ordered it I was thinking – wow, only $1.90 for a bottle of wine. I hadn’t been drinking yet, or smoking any of that stuff that scenery painters smoke. Honest. When I got the bill I thought “dumbass!” At dinner I had maybe a glass and a half. There wasn’t any way I was going to waste it, so I took it back to my room and drank it. I figured at least it would help me sleep.

I watched the last half of the Atlanta/Carolina game, a couple of Sopranos Episodes, some Anime in Spanish and the movie about Bob Cranes the pornographers life, I once again try to get to sleep. Which I do. From 1:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. then I’m up again tossing and turning for 30 minutes before it’s back to Solitaire. At 3 A.M., I’m finally able to sleep. This not sleeping thing is getting old. I wonder if it’s from the altitude. I don’t think it’s from the time zone change – I’ve never had issues with going to Florida, which is the time zone I’m in. Maybe it was because I’d spent the $19 on a bottle of wine.

For those of you named James, this entry brought to you from the Magic Bean Restaurant on my 12″ Powerbook – AKA precious.