Landing at night in a foreign country is certainly less than ideal. I thought I’d eased my concerns when I found myself sitting with an Ecuadorean family of five (3 cute kids!) from Houston to Quito. The father insisted on asking his cousin (arriving by van ) if he’d drop me at the hostel in Quito. That was nice. But my peace of mind was soon shattered by the chaos of customs, daunting lines, and a different gate for those with young kids. I entered the doors of Ecuador into a huge sea of like faces, welcome signs, hawking cabbies . . . and I didn’t see them anywhere. I looked hard. A blue dress, white shirt, stroller? I was once again on my own. Resigned to finding my way solo, I grabbed the nearest cabbie and headed for Quito.

A nice guy, maybe 50’s, rosary hanging from the mirror, no English. Resolved to delve right into improving my Spanish, we bantered back and forth all the way to the city. My Spanish is attrocious! I say “Donde esta . . .?” way to much, and darned if Hebrew words don’t keep slipping in! My brain scans for a foreign language, any foreign language apparently, and it just uploads.

Driving into Quito reminded me of Boston. I quickly lost any sense of direction (where’s the ocean?) and with each near 180 degree turn,  the adrenaline pumped. Where are we?? With each turn the cabbie kept saying, “Aqui es Quito!” After an hour, we reached the old city and he scanned old buildings for the address I gave him. And we drove, and drove, and drove . . . up and down cobbled streets, backtracking again and again. At 1:15am, I was almost beside myself. There was no sign of the hostel I booked. The address didn’t exist, and the one place with a similar name, had a “timbre” that no night watchmen answered. The pannicked cabbie stopped 4 other cabs, 2 police cars, a street cleaner, and couple of late night stragglers. Every one of them gave us directions that led to nowhere. Finally, 2am, I pointed to another hostel, “Guayunga”, and told him, if someone was up and would let me in, that is where I would sleep. Yes! Got a 4-bed dorm room to myself  . . . and I don’t remember anything after that. I’d been in transit for 20.5 hours.

Nice place! Run by an Ecuadorean family. Wandered around the city today till my swollen knee bade me stop. But was proud that I successfully negotiated two pharmacies, with no English speakers, and got what I needed. Tomorrow, off to Otovalo!!

My first view of Quito:Image