I went to Ecuador for the winter break.
Since I had a really bad memory with snow last winter break -when I was stuck in Salem for two weeks- I decided to go to some place warm, or some place it would never snow, this winter break.
So I changed four different flights (PDX –> N.Y. –> Orlando –> Miami –> Quito, Ecuador) and had four meals on the flight in a day. At the moment I arrived at Quito, I received my first cultural shock.
1) People were disorganized and crowded at the exit of the airport like it was the New York stock market.
Maybe this is because the international airport in Quito is located nearby the city, or maybe they just think it’s a “warmer” welcome if people all were crowded together. Anyway, I safely arrived at my apartment – I was staying in a student’s apartment of one Spanish language schools – and was excited about the fact that I could wear shorts in later December.
Then I received another warm welcome from guys on the street.
I wasn’t too surprised because strangers in the US randomly say hi or smile at you. I had been training for a year in the US to get used to it, and I needed about a year of time to be able to give a response to those “friendly” people, because smiling to a stranger where I am from is linked to a signal of distraction.
But they were not saying hi in English or Spanish or any language…
2) Some of them were moving their lips and making a sound like, “Pispispispis….” as they passed by me.
Snake language? – That was first thought came to my mind.
I asked couple local friends about the meaning of “Pispispispis…” and they all came up the same answer – It’s a way to get girls attention when boys are too shy to say something.
Well, I mean, every culture has its unique features, I should not judge it for better or worse since they are just different. But I have to say -allow me to complain – that “Pispispis…” is really something bothered me.
How are you gonna reply when someone “Pispis” you?
“Pispis” back? Well, I was not very confident about my snake language. Reply in Spanish? I couldn’t find the time to switch from “Pispis” language to Spanish, and I wasn’t sure it would be respectful to their “Pispis” culture.
Ignore them? – which was the reaction I had taken for the entire time when I was in Quito — I felt really bad about that.
I spent a year getting used to responding to strangers being-nice, and I had to take another month to get used to ignoring those being-nice in Quito.
I guess that is why people say that you will always learn new things when you are studying abroad.
There were many bakeries in Quito, and I saw one bakery which was also a liquid store. Then my friend, who was assisting economic researching in Catolica University, told me that about 40% of the population was self-employed. In other words, you would see a lot of unique styles of business.
“That’s true,” I had to agree. I guess that’s why I saw children rolling themselves around on the street and asking drivers for the tips for their performance. Or why men put on widow dresses and danced sexily on New Year Eve on the street for the tips.
“No, that’s not quite self-employed,” he corrected me. “Because it’s not their permanent job, they only do that on New Year Eve, to make money for the second party.”
I see. There is still a lot that I should learn about Quito.
I could go on and on about my experiences in Quito, such as I climbed one volcano – Cotopaxi – and I thought I was gonna die there. I wondered who would climb a dangerous mountain like this and then I saw a couple of local 12-year-old children climbing with their parents, which was a great proof against my belief that Cotopaxi should be PG-18.
Anyway, I gained a lot in Quito: the language, culture, people, beautiful views, and tan. It was a great winter break.