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Title: My first day at the Spanish language school Location: Quito, Ecuador
Settling in well here in Quito. Another Spanish student from Tasmania has moved in to the house so I now have some English-speaking company which is great. The owner of the house is back here with her 8 year old daughter so it's quite a lively house now.
On Monday I had my first day at the Spanish language school. It's one to one tuition which means I should learn much more quickly. There's a good mix of students there, a wide range of ages and nationalities. The lessons are interspersed with other activities so it's not overly intense, but we have to speak Spanish during the activities and between lessons. Yesterday we got in a cablecar and went up a volcano, Volcán Pichincha and looked out over the city. We had some amazing views and it was really strange to look down and watch the planes descending in to the airport. The air is very thin up there but seems really clean - a complete contrast to the polluted air in the city below. We didn't go all the way up to the summit but we managed to get up to a height of around 4200 meters. Tried coca tea in a cafe up on the mountain - it's used as a cure for altitude sickness which I've still managed to avoid. It wasn't really very tasty - give me PG Tips any day!
Went and explored the main centre of Quito yesterday afternoon. It's the only part of town where you are likely to meet anyone from outside of Ecuador and has quite a few bars and restaurants catering for foreigners and lots of Internet cafes and cheap places to make international phone calls. The locals call the area Gringolandia! We had trouble finding any bars that were open before about 6pm but after a long walk round we went to one called King´s Cross with a London Underground symbol over the door (bizarrely featuring a Canadian maple leaf) and rather too many posters of Arsenal inside. We sat around drinking pitchers of beer and then walked over to a bar called the Biking Dutchman where we were the only customers - I don't know how they stay in business. I spoke to the owner who is (you guessed it) Dutch and he told me he had been traveling in Colombia where he met his girlfriend and decided to come to Ecuador to open the bar two months ago. It's a shame it isn't more popular as it had a nice atmosphere even if there were only three of us in there.
Today our activity at the school was making empanadas, which are parcels of pastry filled with sweet or savory fillings and a popular dish in Ecuador. It was a bit chaotic but the end result tasted really good. Tomorrow we're going to the south of the city to try out a local delicacy in a restaurant - guinea pig! They call it cuy because of the sound they make. I'm a bit uncomfortable about eating them as I used to have them as pets when I was little but the people at the school tell me they're a different type than the ones we have in the UK and much larger. I'll let you know what they taste like.