when i was a senior in high school, my mom decided to take a class at the local university. one night, she came home from class and said to me, "there is this boy in my class, and he doesn't say a whole lot, and he's from somewhere in south america, but you would make the cutest babies."
and i just rolled my eyes.
the next year, for whatever reason, i chose to go to said local university. and i got a nice circle of friends. and there was this guy in that circle who didn't say a whole lot, and mostly just went to the gym to play basketball. but he would eat at our table occasionally, and we got friendly. by the second semester of my freshman year, we had a class together and he would sit by me. one day i realized he was pretty handsome. so we tried going on a date. and it wasn't great. we tried another. and it wasn't great, either. and i kind of let that go. then he called me to play pool at the student union, and that was pretty great. then we hung out for a day. my mom worked on campus, so he walked me to her office after we hung out, and she took one look at us together, dragged me into a closet, and whispered, "that's the marc from my class!"
so of course i had to marry him.
but before we got married and made those beautiful babies, we traveled to ecuador (because he was from somewhere in south america) to visit his family. and that was 22 years ago.
his family relocated to the states within a year of us traveling down there, so marc never had a reason to go back to his home. but he has always felt nostalgia for certain things - going to boarding school in quito, the perfect climate while living in the mountains, seeing the snow-capped volcanoes in the distance, and certain foods and fruit.
we always said that at some point we wanted to take the kids to ecuador so they could see where their dad grew up. i had found it very helpful in understanding why he was the way he was sometimes, and knew it would help the kids be able to relate, too. we had decided a few years ago to take this trip before henry left for college, and as luck would have it, marc's brother and his wife moved to quito about a year ago. so the timing was perfect: henry is halfway through high school, we now have family in the area and a place to stay, and harper is finally (maybe?) old enough to cope with a trip of this scale and distance from her comfort zone.
so in mid-august, we hopped a plane for 10 days in ecuador.
(hint: go potty now. this is a little long.)
(the cutest babies.)
we left the house early tuesday morning, had a flight to atlanta, and then a five-hour layover before heading south. lucky for us, marc had sprung for business class for the second, longer leg of our trip, so we could have some leg room and a bit more comfortable ride.
along with the leg room, we also had in-flight movie options. henry chose "the man from u.n.c.l.e.," harper watched "zootopia," marc watched a superhero movie, and i? well, i spent some time with bing and frank and grace kelly in "high society," then moved on to "to kill a mockingbird." it's really lovely to be able to choose what to watch ... ahem.
i also lucked out and got the best row-mates ever:
this photo was taken before the plane even took off. they woke long enough to eat some dinner, then zonked back out. the older one was so sweet and helpful to her little sister. perfect little dumplings.
about five and a half hours later, we saw the lights of quito ...
then we got through baggage and customs, found steve & hannah, and were on our way.
our first full day there, we relaxed, let our bodies acclimate to being 9,000+ feet above sea level, and explored our home for the next 10 days. steve and hannah are running a guest house through their mission organization, and the guest house just happens to be the old boarding school dorm where marc and his siblings lived during high school. for the duration of our stay, marc and i slept in his sophomore year dorm room. he said the senior year room was the best, because the bars on the windows were loose and you could easily sneak out. but that room now has bunk beds, so ... no sneaking out for us.
and the bathrooms were set up with three showers and two toilet stalls, so they were super spacious ...
but marc said the house was much like it was back in the early 90s. even the groundskeeper is the same guy.
(the room marc may have inadvertently set on fire 25 years ago ...)
out the front door, you can see hedge walls of lantana, as well as pichincha, a dormant volcano.
and out the back is cayambe, a not so dormant one.
also in the back is the basketball court where marc spent innumerable hours of his youth.
once the tour of the inside of the house was complete, we hung out and made plans for the rest of the week. around dinnertime, steve recommended a great place to eat that would give us a great view out over the city. we grabbed two cabs and were off on what was the first of several wild cab rides. through narrow streets full of drivers with very little sense of actual traffic rules, we bumped along and watched the driver honk his horn through intersections, to let people know stoplights didn't matter, and the other drivers were just in his way and he was going to go, regardless. once we reached the hilltop where the restaurant - cafe mosaico - was, we could see that the ride was worth it.
the view was breathtaking.
the food was wonderful, even though hannah's didn't come out until everyone else was halfway finished eating. and marc got his first of many ceviche de camaron.
the cab ride back was a bit more than harp could take. it was pretty much the party cab of quito ... fur around the mirror, music, a light show, a metallic ceiling, and a little hammock hanging from the visor, among other accoutrements. the thing that pushed her over the edge, though: no seat belts in the back seat. she was pretty much a nervous wreck the entire ride home. poor kid. all we could say was, "welcome to ecuador."
day two: we headed out for a different kind of road adventure: a big red bus tour of quito.
now, we are big fans of big red bus tours. we've enjoyed them in dc, we've enjoyed them in san francisco, and we enjoyed the duck boat and boat boat versions in boston and chicago. we love tours. it's the best way to get an overview of the city, figure out where you want to spend more time later in the trip, or just hop off and spend some time exploring right then and there, and then hop back on the bus when you're ready to move on.
quito's tour was no different ... with the exception of the traffic being way crazier, the roads way more narrow, and the hills so much steeper that - at certain points in the ride - we may have put our hands in the air. because it felt like we were on a roller coaster.
in spite of all of that, it was a wonderful way to get a glimpse of this city that sits five miles deep and 31 miles wide.
there is a lot of construction going on in quito, so these trucks lined the center of the street. their cargo? propane tanks for the construction workers.
we realized that "watch your head" basically means "all the different lines across the road are going to be about 6" from the top of this bus, so ... watch your head."
the first stop along the way was at the centro de arte contemporaneo. i could have spent way more time here, but there were more places to go and things to see and do. what we did see while here, though, was fascinating.
the above item was suspended from the ceiling, hanging at eye level. in the corner was a video, and over the speakers around the room was this eerie creaking, cracking, moaning sound, with echoing hums and whistles. as we read the information signs around the room and watched the video, we realized that the artist/scientist had taken a recording device up a volcano to where there was a glacier. then he lowered the recording device into a crevice in the glacier, and recorded the sounds of the glacier shifting and moving. those were all the noises from the speakers. the sculpture above is a 3d printer depiction of the sound waves.
and this number ... the artist traveled all over the world to gather dirt and rocks, which he put into labeled metal canisters. then he created this balancing scale mobile, using the canisters as weights and counterbalances, until he achieved perfect balance across the mobile. on the wall was a schematic - a map, of sorts - of the mobile and where the canisters are from.
that was pretty amazing, as well.
next stop after the museum was the basilica del voto nacional ... the largest neo-gothic basilica in the americas.
this place is way cool. the architecture is absolutely amazing, both inside and out. see those gargoyle-like things hanging off the side? not gargoyles ... but animals. animals from the galapagos.
personally, it bothers me when churches spend so much money on their own looks. however, seeing this place, the money seemed so worth it. i couldn't get enough.
for a small fee, you can tour the inside, and see the incredible stained glass windows and flying buttresses and all those other fabulous trappings. for a slightly larger fee ... well ... i'll get to that in a minute.
while harp and i took in the amazingness that was the inside of the church, marc and henry and steve and hannah took the slightly different tour. it also went inside the church, in a manner of speaking, but it included a special look at the outside of the church.
did you see the people on the gothic spire?
yup. they went there. first, they had to go to the third floor of the church. then another flight or two to reach the roof, where there was essentially a ridge pole-type bridge spanning the length of the basilica, between the buttresses and the roof.
20160816_130405 from michele skinner on Vimeo.
and then once they spanned the cathedral and climbed the vertical ladder at the other end, they emerged up in the spire.
20160816_131925 from michele skinner on Vimeo.
and then they went back down, walked back across the church, then up into the clock towers.
once they were safely back on the ground floor, we grabbed a burger across the plaza, and hopped the bus to our next stop: el panecillo.
and ... this is long enough. we'll get to the rest of the bus tour, and trip, next time.