31 Mar

Galapagos Day 2

Last night, when we went out for some extra food after our insufficient dinner, we saw this solitary gringo sit down and order some food. We couldn’t hear him. I think he was wearing his sunglasses throughout the meal, but my memory may be altering the story a bit. He ordered a sprite and whipped out some cigarettes and started smoking. He whistled for the waiter. Everything about him said, “I’m very comfortable with my performance in this alien culture.” I was turned off. My impression was that he was a gringo overly confident in his abilities to master the latino culture. He was young, good-looking, and with his sunglasses and –I don’t know – the way he held his mouth, he gave the impression that he thought he was really cool.

Then today, we divided up into two groups and took a bus to the north of Santa Cruz (the island we’re staying on). There, we got on a yacht called the Santa Fe II and motored to North Seymour Island. North Seymour is a small island – 2 km in diameter, I think. We took a “nature hike” in which we had to stay on the trail, and we saw lots of iguanas, blue-footed boobies, frigates (a bird), and sea lions. It’s amazing how close you can get to the animals.

As it turns out, the cocky gringo from last night was on the tour with us. I was really hoping my Spanish was better than his, but when I finally heard him speak (after an hour of his self-assured silence from behind his Swiss-army brand sunglasses), his Spanish put mine to shame. I wondered what experiences he had had to be able to speak such fluent Spanish. I felt like I had lost.

And then I caught myself. Here I was, despising this gringo dude because he thought he was better, and yet I was fiercely competing to be better than him, albeit internally and silently.

31 Mar

Galapagos Day 2 Misc.

What else? At North Seymour, we went for a swim before eating lunch on the boat. Will and I tried some snorkeling again, but we didn’t see much. The water was deeper, which altered the previous day’s comfort with the ocean. The deep water was once again intimidating. And to top it off, as soon as we got out of the water, not 30 seconds later, we saw a large shark swimming in the water, practically doing laps around the boat. Freaky!

We began talking with one of the chaperones of the children, Veronica. She lives in Miami, and has been in the US for the past 17 years. She grew up in Guayaquil and Quito, and when she was 17, she went on a trip to the Galapagos with her graduating class. A friend of hers from that trip called her up and invited her to come on this trip. So, since she only had to pay $500, which included everything, she came.

The cocky gringo turned out to be South American. He grew up in Chile and Ecuador, so that explains the Spanish. Unfortunately, his English was pretty good, too. He wasn’t such a bad guy. Veronica ended up making plans to meet up with him in town later that night, and she invited us, too. But we couldn’t find the bar, so we went home. As it turns out, Veronica was stuck with the kids until midnight, watching them ride go-karts all night, so she never met up with him either. Poor guy.

30 Mar

We´re back

Okay, so the Galapagos entries will be coming in daily installments for the next four or five days. We´ll get pictures posted within the next few days. There are a lot.

30 Mar

Galapagos Day 1

Angie got in last night. Our landlords were kind enough to take us to the airport to pick her up. When we got there at 11:45, however, to our horror, she was waiting in the international arrivals area. Her plane had arrived 20 minutes early. Who´d have known? We fit the four of us – Will, Eileen, Angie, and me – into the landlords´ toyota camry. Marlene and Luis both came along for the ride, so on the way home, six of us were stuffed into the car, a number disorienting enough to cause Eileen to get her fingers caught in between the door and the dashboard when I closed it.

We of course didn´t get to bed very early, and consequently, we were all suffering when we had to get up at 6:00 this morning to go to the airport for our Galapagos flight. Everything went smoothly, but in Quito, we discovered that we´d be on the tour with about 15 – 20 5th-grade kids — kids who proved to be pretty obnoxious when, for example, we were getting off the bus that had taken us from the airport to the ferry, and one of the overanxious little tykes exclaimed,”Chuta! Por esa mochila!” (roughly, “geez, this backpack is in the way!”) He continued trying to push by us in the two-foot wide bus aisle after I had picked up the backpack in question.

Our guides here don´t speak much English; Angie and Will are pretty much the only ones who don´t understand Spanish — though Will´s doing pretty good actually. I´ve been translating for Angie whenever I can afford to stop concentrating fully on the understanding the guides myself. At lunch today, which immediately followed our arrival in Puerto Ayora, the guides gave us an exhaustive list of rules to follow (thanks 5th graders) and told us about our schedule for the day. We´d be going to the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Once there, we saw some iguanas and baby tortoises in zoo-like open-air enclosures and we saw some massive tortoises more or less roaming free. It´s true, you can go right up to them and pretty much touch them, though you´re not supposed to. You´re also not supposed to take pictures with a flash. Nonetheless, one gringo-looking woman, taking pictures just before our tour arrived, violated the rule. Our guide said, “no flash!” to which she replied, “there is no flash!” and then she proceeded to take a picture with her flash. She and her husband were pretty salty about being reprimanded. “That´s why people don´t like Americans,” Angie observed. Exactly.

After the tour of the research station, we stopped at a small rocky beach for an optional hour of swimming and/or relaxing in the shade. Will and I went in; Will brought his snorkeling mask. I tried it out – a little reluctantly – but fell in love. There were so many fish, and they too, like all the animals in the Galapagos, were pretty unafraid of humans. It made the ocean much less intimidating.

28 Mar

Galapagos update

Well, we’re in the Galapagos. I plan on posting several days’ worth of blogs when we get back to Quito. The trip has been great so far, though it just took a turn for the strange. You’ll have to wait, though, to hear all the news. This place is very cool, but very expensive, and we’re gonna get off the internet before our money runs out. Will and Angie are enjoying themselves. They’ve been a lot of fun. Today, we’re gonna go on another yacht tour; we’ll be able to do some kayaking and snorkeling on a different island. We’re taking tons of pictures and we’ll be posting those as soon as we sift through and decide on the most post-worthy. We’ll be back in Quito either tomorrow or on Wednesday. Apparently, it’s very easy (and free) to change your flight from the Galapagos, so we have some flexibility. In the meantime, sorry for the delay. There’s lots to say, just no time or money to say it.