Before and after going to the Galapagos I was able to spend some time in Quito (the capital city which is located in a valley of the Andes Mountains). I was surprised that Ecuador used the U.S. Dollar as its currency and how cheap things cost – a four course filet steak dinner (with wine) at the Sheraton hotel restaurant cost only $24.00. I did find a British pub (just across the street from the Sheraton) where I ran into the U.S. Marines assigned to the U.S. Embassy. It was a nice coincidence because they invited me to their Super bowl party when I returned from the Galapagos. The next morning (Jan 28th) I was off to the Galapagos. I was outside the hotel waiting for the travel company to take me to the airport. They finally arrived at 07:20 am and during the 15-minute ride to the airport I found out that my plane to the Galapagos was departing at 08:00 am. It was close but my bags and I made it on the plane.
When I got back from the Galapagos on the Feb 4th I went straight to the U.S. Marine House to watch the Super bowl. They had about 100 people and a big American-style barbecue. For the past few years some Americans (from Texas) now living in Quito, who own a slaughter house and meat store, would go to the Marine House bringing with them homemade sausages, ribs, burgers, brisket, pork loin, etc. and cook up a massive barbecue for the Super Bowl. The barbecue was good enough to convert a vegan. What was an added plus was that I was able to watch the commercials during the Super Bowl because Quito gets satellite TV from Miami as opposed to watching the Super Bowl on the Armed Forces TV which is not allowed to show commercials. The next day before my 10:00 pm flight to Santiago, I went sightseeing with one of the couples (Chris and Nadia) that I met in the Galapagos. After walking around the city and through the shopping markets Nadia wanted to visit the living museum located at the equator. When we got there we found out that the museum was next door on the equator and not a part of the “Middle of the World,” a tourist trap built by the French, but not as gaudy as Rock City or South of the Border. The major problem with the “Middle of the World” is that it is not on the middle of world. The French, who would not listen to the locals, built this edifice 500 meters off of the equator.
The tour through the living museum was very interesting and I learned a lot about the local tribes and their past life. The four things that I learned were:
1. Old drums were made of human skin. When an elder or wise man would die their skin was used to make a drum and thus their sprit would live on in the playing of the drums.
2. If your enemy or friend shrunk your head after killing you or you were killed, it was a sign of respect for your powers. It was believed that the person carrying around the head of a valiant or wise enemy or friend would gain the power of that person.
3. The masks created by the locals for ceremonies were made to poke fun at the Spanish.
4. The water trick that the Africans would perform on the equator in Africa also works in Ecuador.
The water trick: Place a bowl (with a plugged hole in the bottom middle) on a stand in the middle of the equator, fill it full of water and put a few small leaves in the water. Pull the plug and the water goes straight down. Then move the bowl and stand a few feet to the North and repeat the process and the water goes down clockwise. Move the bowl and stand a few feet to the South of the equator and repeat the process and the water goes down counterclockwise. Even after seeing this same water trick on two different continents I still think that there is a trick, but now I am not too sure. On a side note: I was able to balance a raw egg on the head of a nail (that was nailed to a board on the equator) but have not been able to repeat this feat back home.