Tidbits from Ecuador.

Hey, everyone.

As some of you know, I’ve been in Ecuador since early June. I haven’t had the most reliable internet access, and I’ve been really pretty busy with my coursework and other things, so I haven’t been on the SDMB much.

But I recently got an e-mail from Shirley Ujest, who asked me to share some of what’s happened on my trip with you guys. MaxTheVool, you’ve already read most of these. This post might be kind of boring for you.

I don’t really know where to start with recounting my travels, but I do have a list of weird observations I made a little while ago when I was feeling punchy. I had arrived in Quito (about 3000 meters above sea level) from somewhere with a much, much lower elevation (less than 100 meters above sea level) and had some soroche (altitude sickness), which can kind of impede the thought process. After all, when you’ve got soroche, you’re not getting enough oxygen to your brain. Hopefully, some of these tidbits will prove of interest to you. Or maybe not. Who knows. But, what the heck:

  1. There are some really strange, yummy fruits here that you probably don’t find
    elsewhere. Well, maybe in Colombia or Peru. There aren’t as many weird fruits as there are in Brazil, but there are still quite a few.

Here’s a list of the fruits I’ve eaten in Ecuador that I haven’t seen elsewhere:

a) Limoncillo (yummy, tastes a bit like a cross between a citrus fruit and a lychee)

b) borojo (yummy, vaguely tamarind-like)

c) mora (obviously a blackberry, but with a more bitter, stronger taste. Very yummy as a juice or made into ice cream. I especially like a combo of mora juice and pineapple juice.)

d)babaco (yucky, to my palate, at any rate. I think the stuff tastes the way Lysol smells.)

e) some small mountain apples that taste different from the ones I usually eat. Quite sweet and yummy.

f) noni (yucky, though I’ve heard it’s very good for you)

g) tomate de arbol (yummy, nothing like a tomato, very good as juice)

h) naranjilla (also yummy as a juice)

i) guanabana (clearly related to graviola–I think the stuff is delicious. Oh, and I first tried this fruit in the Dominican Republic. It was a pleasant suprise to find it here.)

j) taxo (a close relative of maracuja, aka yellow passion fruit. Very yummy. Especially scrumptious when made into these little conical homemade ice-cream things on sticks.)

1a) Note to those of you who’ve been to Brazil, are from Brazil, or have become addicted to the fine products of the Sambazon company–there is no açai in Ecuador. None. They have no idea what the stuff is, here, even if you describe it in painstaking detail. There aren’t any cupuaçus, mangabas, sapotis, jacas, or
graviolas here, either. There is maracuja, though, and some pretty decent pineapple, though it’s not quite as good as the stuff in Bahia, IMHO. Oh, and no-one, other than small children, eats cacao fruit. If you tell people that, in other
countries, people make juices and candies and other yummy things with cacao pulp, they look at you like you’re nuts.

1b) Okay, so I didn’t learn this first in Ecuador, but I was painfully reminded of it not too long ago–raw cacao seeds are very bitter when you eat them straight. Oh, and, if you eat more than 2 or 3 of the things, you’ll get a whopping headache. Ow. Even if you like the bitter seeds, which I do. But, then again, I’m nuts.

  1. Two things that are very hard to find here are decent coffee and decent chocolate. All the good coffee beans and cacao go for export. The good chocolate in Ecuador is invariably imported from somewhere else–usually either Europe (especially Switzerland) or Brazil, though some passable stuff is from the US. If you want good coffee in Ecuador, you’re best off finding a place run by a Colombian. Those guys make good coffee. Most Ecuadorians think that the only coffee in existence is the instant crud. Which they drink with powdered milk. Ugh.

  2. The English-language sign on the hostel’s computer (which I’m using right now) asks me ‘‘to be careful and use the computer for normal things only.’’ I’m not quite sure what prompted the ‘‘normal things’’ part. What kinds of bizzarre uses have guests put this thing to? Did someone once use the computer to slice eggs? Round up cattle? Train monkeys? I mean, what the heck?! And how did the eggs, cattle, and monkeys turn out, anyway?

3a) I notice that the Spanish-language sign simply asks me to be careful with the computer. So do only English-speaking people do aberrant things with this little PC? And, if so, why?

  1. There’s some great Andean music out there. I strongly recommend a group called ‘‘Charijayac.’’ I don’t know if their CDs are available outside of Andean countries, though. I would bet they are, but I haven’t Googled or anything to check. There are a bunch of other good traditional (or semi-traditional)
    Andean musical groups, including, oddly enough, one bunch of guys from Italy. They’re every bit as good as some of the groups from Bolivia or Ecuador. And that’s not just my gringo assessment–I’ve heard that from Ecuadorian Andean musicians as well. At the moment, I can’t remember the name of that band or of other groups or musicians I learned about here. I blame the soroche.

  2. You can ride on top of the buses in Ecuador. Well, people don’t do it in urban Quito, but you can do it in lots of other places. It’s a lot of fun to do, unless it´s very cold or it’s raining. No, Mom, I won’t fall off. Yes, there are things to grab onto to hold myself steady. I’ll be fine.

  3. Now and then, you’ll come across menus translated into English if you’re in towns with at least some tourist trade. One establishment in Tena offered ‘‘spaghetti with meta sauce.’’ Perhaps I should have ordered it. It’s not every day that I have the opportunity to try pasta with the theoretical foundations of sauce. Perhaps I passed up a unique philosphico-culinary experience. I will probably never know, since I ordered the garlic shrimp instead. Which was not particularly philosophically interesting, though it was very tasty.

  4. Different Kichwa-speaking areas have different words for ‘‘thank you.’’ In the area of the Napo River, where I did my coursework (I came to Ecuador to take a course in, of all things, Kichwa), we used ‘‘pagarachu.’’ In Otavalo, it’s ‘‘pagi’’, IIRC.
    And in Salasaca, in the western part of the mountains, it’s ‘‘yupaichani.’’ Go figure.

  5. Coca leaf tea is legal here. You can buy it in health food stores. It works pretty well to at least temporarily make you feel better when you’ve got soroche. But it also makes you pee.

8a) I met a guy who runs a reforestation project in a tiny town called Picalquí. Picalquí is at about 13K feet above sea level. He says that there’s a plant that grows up there that’s even better for soroche than coca leaves are. But the thing only grows at absudly high elevations. Picalquí is, according to him, at the lower limit of its range. Wow.

Is it officially spelt Kichwa now? I’ve only seen the language’s name as Quechua.

There really is no one agreed-upon spelling of the word ‘‘Kichwa.’’ For the past 20 years or so there have been efforts to standardize spellings in Kichwa, but they haven’t had a lot of success. What little writing there is in Kichwa/Quichua/Quechua/Quichwa/what-have-you is written with a zillion different spellings, each of which is phonetic. There can also be a lot of variation in pronunciation from one Kichwa-speaking place to another, which leads to some major differences in phonetic spelling.

This is complicated by the fact that lots of dialects of Kichwa have sounds that don’t occur in the local dialect of Spanish, even though the alphabet Kichwa’s written in is the Roman alphabet as used in Spanish. That complicates things further. There are lots of different ways to write the guttural sounds that show up in Ecuadorian Kichwas, and there are other glottal stops and such that occur in Bolivian Kichwa that everyone, it seems, has a different way of representing on paper.

In my coursework, we used the spelling ‘‘Kichwa,’’ so that’s the spelling I use. If you prefer to write ‘‘Quechua,’’ no-one’s going to argue with you. Well, maybe the staunch proponents of standardized spellings in the language, but no-one else will care. In fact, most native speakers of Kichwa/Quechua don’t really use writing as a means of communcation all that much, anyway, so the when interacting with many Kichwas, the entire question is irrelevant.

She is Alive!

Alive and well, Shirley. Check your e-mail.

Wow, how interesting!

Can you please keep us updated of your trip? Will much appreciate it. :slight_smile:

Just remember that in Portuguese, “alteia” means “marshmallow”.