I arrived in Quito a bit tired and soon chastened.
When I said “Buenas Noches” to the official greeting passengers in immigration, he smiled and responded. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand what he asked me until I saw the signs giving directions to arrivals. He had asked me if I was ecuatoriana and I gave him the “doe in the headlights” look. He immediate pointed me to the extranjero line.
An ignominious beginning.
Driving through the empty streets in the centro historico I asked my friendly driver if this
area was safe. I already knew the normal cautionary tales, but he gave me a new fright by warning me that I shouldn’t go out alone, day or night. The fact that he handed me his card for further travel didn’t really penetrate my thoughts at the time. After all, I had been dropped on a dark and deserted street.
As I was trying to figure out how to contact her; Grace (my 16-year-old granddaughter), with perfect timing and forethought that her name implies, called five minutes after I was in my room…
So I went to bed knowing that she would be here early in the morning to have breakfast with me.
I woke with worry after restless and short sleep.
What about Grace coming in the morning? Was she safe navigating the streets to me? If it was totally unsafe, should I cower in my hotel until I heard from her.
After futzing about “What is early?” I sent a text giving her the directions as they had been given to me the night before by the desk clerk. No answer.
Did I have the wrong number? Another text asking, “Is this you, Grace?” No answer.
I went into the restaurant to get a cup of coffee and looked out into the bright sunshine to see and plaza populated by hundreds of people and a trolley arriving, disgorging even more. Some special event was beginning under white canopies and a large stage was festooned with balloons and giant speakers.
Grace was late. She hadn’t responded to my texts. I didn’t know where she lived, the names or phone number of her host family, or…
…and she arrived. Armed with a small, hand-drawn map, she had been walking in a few circles for 45 minutes. Safe and sound.
Why did I worry about this young woman who has navigated her way in a foreign country for 7 months? Who is so fluent in Spanish that I look to her when I don’t understand what has been said to me? Who had been problem solving in the last 12 hours while I was busy making myself feel foreign and over responsible? After all of my years of traveling alone and unharmed?
“I’ve got us covered, Grammy!”
TRAVEL NOTE: Hotel Real Audiencia is a charming hotel just on the corner off of Plaza Santo Domingo in the centro historico of Quito. Staff is friendly, helpful and on tap 24 hours. Breakfast restaurant on third floor has windows overlooking the square. My room is bright and clean. P.S. Bring warm PJs in the rainy season. I have not yet visited place that is heated!