So, it’s been awhile since my last post. I actually wrote about a Green Day cover band we saw and about the second robbery attempt in Quito but then my computer ate it and I haven’t been motivated to write anything since. Actually, there hasn’t been much going on that I thought anyone would care about—no robberies, no volcano climbing, there was one shower fire and one earthquake but meh.
Mostly I’ve been working and going out a fair bit. We had a house party once and some nights I just sit in the living room with my roommates and a few friends while everyone smokes and I try to follow the conversation with my loose (at best) grasp of Spanish. These nights I feel very international.
The other night my roommate Kimrey and I went to the oldest Salsa club in Quito with two middle-aged Ecuadorian men, one of them called El Gato who is famous for saying things like “show time” and “toot toot” at random intervals as he pumps his arm up and down as if trying to signal a Simi to honk. Riding in El Gato’s mid-70s BMW, it felt like the beginning of what would probably be a unique night.
I am continually surprised at how many nights out end up feeling like a scene in a Hunter S. Thompson book. This was first pointed out by Kimrey when we went to a hostel to hang out with some new friends our roommate Marc met. They were two men, one South African and one man (read: boy) of questionable origin who dressed like a vampire and said he was half-American half-British and was raised in Mexico. I called him the homicidal counter-part because I’m pretty sure he has killed a man and he seemed to be the South African’s side kick. Picture Fargo if the tall quite guy was a twenty-year-old goth and Steve Bushimi was Eddy Izard and instead of kid napping people in North Dakota, they were the main characters in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what we were dealing with. Kimrey originally described them as doing “Fear and Loathing in Ecuador” and she was dead on. The South African actually mentioned mescaline at one point.
Ever since that night, things have maintained a level of weirdness that, if you weren’t paying attention, you might miss. At the salsa club, El Gato’s friend sat across from me drinking whiskey. A fifty year-old man, he looked like the college professor you probably had if you went to a liberal arts school. He wore a blazer, a tee-shirt that said something about feminism written in Portuguese, and glasses that rested low on his nose—these made him look particularly intellectual. During an awkward lull in conversation, he asked me if I liked Jack Kerouac and I said no. He seemed truly offended by this and he asked me why. I had a hard time expressing my reasons in Spanish and clearly whatever I was saying wasn’t satisfying him. If I could have said it in English, I would have said that I thought Jack Kerouac was a self-indulgent asshole whose narratives were completely unrelatable to me as a woman. Instead I said “No es para mi.” Then he asked me whether I preferred Truman Capote or Jack Kerouac. I never thought that I would be sitting in a salsa club comparing those two writers, in Spanish. I found myself trying to talk about character development and narrative structure in a language I don’t really speak. It was not working out well for me.
The best part about the evening was the dancing. In Ecuador, the first thing many people ask you is if you like to dance. This is not some ploy to get you into bed (okay maybe it is a little), as far as I can tell it’s a true reflection of the culture. In Ecuador, like most of the places I’ve been to in Latin America, you can’t really go anywhere without hearing music. It’s played on the buses, pumped into the streets, and emanates from cars on the street—Reggaeton, electronica, Salsa, and of course, Lady Gada. So it’s really no surprise that people dance like gods here. I remember one weekend at the beach I passed by a man playing soccer, he ran to catch a loose ball and on his way back to game he whipped out a complex salsa move as the music being played on the beach changed tempo. It was some sort of automatic response to the rhythm, like he couldn’t help himself—I don’t think he could.
So yeah, watching the salsa dancers was, at times, jaw dropping. Having no basic rhythm, I was both baffled and impressed by the effortlessness in movement that comes with having music and dance so ingrained in a culture. I have this theory that dancing is an important part of being human. It’s something that denies analyzation or intellectual deconstruction and instead puts us solidly in our body where I, for one, don’t spend a lot of time. The Ecuadorians I have met are definitely in tune with that in a way I am not.
The night didn’t end there, it ended with us meeting more friends, drinking rum out of a baby doll’s head, planning a Shakespeare company using, as actors, the pack of feral dogs that live in the park across the street (more on those dogs later), taking a taxi across town to get crab burgers and hanging out with a group of 19 year-old Ecuadorian hipsters.
Overall it was a night that left me hung over but loving Quito a little more. It’s a place where the youth culture is vibrant, where kids scream out the lyrics to “Welcome to Paradise” at a Green Day cover show with pure dedication—even though the band isn’t really very good, where people truly don’t understand the phase “I don’t like to dance,” and where you can get an amazing tasting crab burger on the street at 4 a.m.