Written by Conrad Iwanicki (Creator of Godhand)
After what felt like a brush with death, I was ready to collect my baggage and make my way to the cab stand. I had the address of the hostel I would be staying at prompted on my phone. I knew the cab driver would know approximately 0 words of English to go with my 5 words of Spanish…which happened to be “Uno mas cerveza por favor”… I was PREPARED. I got to the cab, shit…no cash and they don’t take cards. Ok, I was sort of prepared.
I go back inside the airport to the ATM. Fuck… all in Spanish… really? No English button? I have defended that godamn Spanish button on American ATMs my entire life and this is the thanks I get? No worries, there’s a currency exchange place…surely I can withdraw some Ecuadorian currency and get to my hostel.
Wait, You Assholes Are on the Dollar?
The guy behind the plexiglass spoke very broken English and after the most confusing 5 minutes of my life he understood I wanted $200 cash. He started giving me a really weird look…then he says…”We are on dollar sir.”
You’ve got to be shitting me. I’m on another continent getting ready to pay an 18% surcharge to exchange my US Dollars for…US DOLLARS? Well, the ATM wasn’t an option…so I gladly swallowed my pride and paid the premium for my own country’s currency. OK I wasn’t prepared at all.
Now that the hard part was over with I headed back to the cab stand, I was on easy street.
Are Addresses an American Phenomenon or Something?
I thought I needed to say “no espanol” to start the conversation, but the “no shit” kind of laugh I got confirmed that I can’t pass for a South American. So, I showed him the address on my phone. He then shrugs his shoulders and I realized he had no idea where it was at. Shit. He motioned to his cab driving peers and suddenly four transportation professionals are dissecting the address and trying to figure out where the hell I’m trying to go. Finally, he motions to the car and I get in.
He said a ton of words as we were driving away, but all I understood was “I don’t understand” and “telephone”. This is when I realized my entire experience here was going to be a huge word puzzle. I LOVE word puzzles. He wants me to get a phone number for him to call.
I fired back with a “Si, Yo Comprendo”…shit I’m like a fish in water down here. So, I gave him the hostel’s phone number and around 28 seconds later he knew where we were going.
Time for a Panic Attack...
This is when the culture shock really started to hit me. What the fuck was I thinking when I thought this was a good idea? I know maybe 20 words of Spanish, am by myself, and I don’t even have a working telephone right now. Good move Conrad, you couldn’t get out of your depression so you’re doing something this rash?
As I’m having this gut-wrenching moment of self-doubt I look around me and I see such beautiful landscape… was the city full of poverty? Absolutely, but the mountains were breathtaking and the city was vibrant. I didn’t care if this was a dumb move or not. I’m in fucking Quito, Ecuador and my gringo ass was going to make the most of it….
Stay tuned for part 5 on Tuesday!