Ecuador

Cook meat. Add starch. All you need (Drive Day 141: November 17th, 2003)

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1117.jpgAlthough we see market vendors who’ve clearly hauled fresh produce and forest delicacies all the way from lands far lower, the street food is decidedly Andean. Meaning, it’s cold and high and you need all the fat, protein and filler you can get. But even the basics can’t dodge the out-of-sync dollar pricing. A vendor holds up three Ziploc bags of beans and says together they cost a dollar. Which would have been 25,000 sucres if they were still legal. But three years ago, that same 25,000 sucres would buy you an entire basket of dried goods.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Spanish so deliberate you feel smarter (Drive Day 140: November 16th, 2003)

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It’s not a surprise to learn that Ecuador is one of the top-ranked places Americans and Europeans come to learn Spanish. I find my hands less necessary, words are making the connections on their own. Which is good, since the camper draws crowds of curious Ecuadorans everywhere we stop. I’m thinking a calendar might finance the rest of the trip, what do you think?

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

A world above (Drive Day 139: November 15th, 2003)

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Otavalo may be famous for its indigenous markets but its children are the draw for us. Granted, we are a Pied-Piper-like curiosity. We’ve parked at a hostel but are sleeping on top of our truck in a house-on-wheels. The mountainous ground is so steep that looks like we could roll downhill in the middle of the night.  But if we did, there would be a gang of giggling kids running alongside.

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They are fascinated with the images of themselves on Gary’s digital camera screen and want to know how the pictures will get out of the box. I expect them to say they want to grow up and be farmers or teachers but they say mathematician, electrician and computer fixer instead.

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All I’ve read about this country is about its revolving door of corrupt leaders, five presidents in six years who managed to tank the economy after adopting the dollar as the official currency. I just wish one of these kids had said they plan on becoming president.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

The kindness of strangers to the strange (Drive Day 138: Nov 14th, 2003)

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The drive up and out of Manta passes through lowlands that look prehistoric – we stop to ask why the bamboo houses are up on stilts and find out that everything ground level gets flooded each January and February. A little girl wonders if our house is on wheels to stay out of water too. And then she brings us a basket of fresh-picked mangoes: her gift to us for the dangerous drive up the mountain on a trip she can barely fathom. We gorge on them at the gas station where we have to spend the night. The sticky sweetness feels like a continental welcome in a country that hadn’t seemed so lucky to my father the first time around.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Reunion in Manta (Drive Day 137: November 13th, 2003)

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After what I hope is the last night I will ever sleep in a flophouse so filthy we elect the bare mattress over the sheets, I am ready to be reunited with the Avion.  I have all the stamps, receipts and official paperwork. But not a broker. Which, as it turns out, is the only way to pay slightly fewer bribes and payoffs than I do today. But in truth I’d sell a finger to get back on the road with my own home over my head.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

A world apart: Guayaquil (Drive Day 136: November 12th, 2003)

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After months of slowly driving through countries, we are hopping on a plane again. Skipping huge swaths of stories, people, food, customs, buildings, roads – the things that connect the passage of time. We will depart a freezing, colonial capitol in the morning and arrive in a steamy coastal metropolis in the time it would normally take us to wake up, get gas, check our maps, drive a few hours and find lunch a few towns over.

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Modern office buildings and tacky billboards have never seemed more comforting. The taxi ride from the airport to the customs office where we must collect our bill of lading takes us past symbols of commerce and present-tense civilization, grunge and all.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Camper homesick (Drive Day 135: November 11th, 2003)

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Quito’s observatory only looks abandoned: peering in alerts a student to our presence and he sells us two tickets for a tour. It’s full of clocks and instruments measuring wind speed, latitude, longitude and a bunch of other things I should remember from school but now just nod and smile as though I do. Underground, four seismometers measure the continual volcanic activity of Ecuador and its roof-opening telescope measures the worlds above.  Humbling, but something else as well.

There is no shortage of sights to see in Quito, but for the first time we feel like tourists instead of travelers. It hits me: in our camper, we bring our home along with us. Without it we feel naked and utterly unremarkable – just another customer for street kids selling scarves or bundled-warm women ladling out dishes of unrecognizable meat soup.  I realize why it is that I’m so driven to find the camper my father built. I might have been malarial, half-starved and penniless but I belonged somewhere.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.