I found myself lost in the middle of Quito. We were five gringos with maps out trying to find the next point on the map to check off for the chance to win a mystery prize at the end of the race.
Task 1: Find a place for “Almuerzo” that costs no more than 2.75$. We must have walked by this same place about 2 or 3 times. Making indecisive decisions, not truly knowing where we were, stoping in to just any old place on a “not so safe” looking road, didn’t seem like a good idea.
What We Found: We found a man with a smile who was so happy and welcoming to 5 lost Americans. We found a chef who was more than happy to change his chicken special of the day to accommodate a vegetarian. We found a woman who wanted to hang up the group picture we took in her restaurant. We found a couple, man and wife, who invited us into their home as just a place to stop by whenever. Most importantly, we found a place we can always come back to.
Task 2: Find the “Estadio OlÌ_mpico Atahualpa”. We got to the stadium, having took a bus for .25 cents, packed like sardines where movement is not an option. There are always kids who sell candies or fruits on the street for little money who are just ignored when not needed, who start to just disappear and start becoming something that you just pass on your way to your destination. Passing them becomes like one of those guilty feelings where you dont truly know why your feeling guilty, so you choose to just ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist.
What I found: I found a beautiful little girl, a little girl who I would have just passed on any other day because she was just another one of “those kids”. I found an angelic “I just lost my front tooth” smile, that was happier than any other I had seen before. I found a girl who liked to bully and mess with her brother just like any other girl with a little brother. Most importantly, I found a little girl who is now my friend.
Task 3: Find the restaurant “La Cuchara De San Marcos”. We had been walking around Quito now for about 3 hours and finally were on the way to our final destination. Every person we asked for directions all had a different story. Panaderias in Quito are like taxis in New York, they are everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Confused about our million and 1 directions, we decided to stop into another bakery.
What we found: We found a family of 3 who made some of the best cookies I have had in my life. We found a son, extremely good looking if I might add, who actually genuinely cared about what we were doing In Ecuador. We found a sister, who was so happy to have a picture of her and her with her delicious treats. We found, a man who helped us get to where we were going so that we were no longer lost. Most importantly, we found a welcoming family.
Finally the gringos made it to the restaurant, everybody sharing stories about what happened with their day. When I finally sat down and I realized the purpose of this activity was not only to become familiar with the city, or to check off points on a map, but something greater. This experience can not be lived to its full potential if I am just going through the motions and ignoring things that have become “normal”or are starting to blend together. It’s so important to me that I find people and places that will become parts of my new home in Ecuador.