Before everyone had to fly home, our host and now friend Andrea and her parents, took us on a tour of Old Quito (aka downtown.) It was great! If it's at all possible try to have a local person take you out when you are travelling. It makes the experience so much richer.
We saw the beautiful Plaza de la Independencia, including the official residence of Rafael Correa, the current President of Ecuador, which sits adjacent to the plaza. We then moved along for a tour of Iglesia la Compania de Jesus, an oppulent Catholic church built by Jesuits between 1605 and 1765. Although there is no question it is spectacular inside and out, I came away feeling a little hollow at the incredible amount of money that it must of cost to build this place and the spiritual bondage that this and other "religious" institutions have over the people. If you pray for the people of Ecuador, pray that they would be released from religion in order to find Jesus.
After La Compana, we moved on to the Plaza San Francisco for a little souvenir shopping and a cold drink. This vast open square is often used for outdoor concerts and events and was buzzing when we arrived. There was a hip-hop dude with full band giving a show that was absolutely bringin' it! (I have a video that I'll get up on YouTube when I get home.) Andrea's dad was translating for us and it turns out that he was a Christian guy rapping about God and preaching to the people. Via translation, he was saying that there was no need for him to wear a suit becuase God looks at the heart, not what's on the outside. That's a pretty radical message here but the crowd was definitely listening. Danny wanted to see if he could jump on stage to do some beat-boxing but there wasn't a good break to try it. It would have been awesome!
I leaned a great Spanish term from Andrea's dad while we were here: Patas. It's a coloquil term for buddy or close friend. The root of the word means, "with one of my legs and one of your legs, we can travel together." There's something about that concept I really like.
After Old Town we travelled to one of the local markets to do some more shopping. It was a blast bartering with the vendors on everything from blankets to belts to bracelets to boleros. I spent way more than expect on souvenirs for people back home but it was well worth it. After the market we headed back to the hotel for half the team to check out. Once the well wishes and hugs were delivered, Danny and I headed up to our room to crash for a bit and take some photos from 810, our room at the Hotel Reina Isabel. The room itself was just your standard hotel room but the view was spectacular! We were on the top floor with a panoramic window that allowed us to see most of Quito. Lots of photos were taken.
Later, we met Andrea who helped us plan out our next few days then she took us on a drive to see downtown lit up at night then up to the base of the 30m high Virgen de Quito statue that hovers over the city. I got some cool photos looking over the city but again had the sense taht religion had these people in its grips. Danny prayed a blessing over the city as we quietly stood by. After decending the hill we went to one of Andrea's favorite night spots for some appetizers and drinks. She insisted we all have a canelazo, a local drink of welcome that the locals consume by the pitcher full. It's a combo of sugar cane alcohol, cinnamon, fruit juice and water that will peel the skin off your tongue. Danny described it as a combination of Neo Citron and diesel. It's not so bad once you get used to it!
It's now almost 3 AM so I'm off to bed. Tomorrow will be a chill out day before heading to Mindo on Monday.