After about two weeks in Quito I started getting mail from my family and friends. This made me feel better. I had already written them stacks of letters describing the most mundane details of my life in Ecuador. Like at the grocery store, there weren’t a lot of processed foods. No peanut butter, poptarts, or breakfast cereals. No cookies, crackers, or chips. There were bags of sugar, flour, rice and other staples on the shelves. There was a meat department and a dairy department. There was produce, but Elsie bought much of her produce from a local farmer’s market or at roadside stands. She had an enormous wicker basket that would get filled with oranges weekly to make fresh juice every day. I recounted these daily details to my friends and family in my long, hand-written missives.
One afternoon I went into the kitchen and found Elsie and Mariluz huddled over the electric blender. Elsie was holding a bottle of cooking oil over the blender, slowly pouring a thin stream of oil into whirring blender. I had no idea what was going on. I asked. “Mayonesa” was the reply. They were making mayonnaise! I had no idea that you could make mayonnaise. I had never given much thought to how mayonnaise was made. I suppose I assumed it grew in jars on trees. The homemade mayonesa was delicious. This story was retold in a round of letter to family and friends back in the US.
Within several weeks, I came to understand why Quito is called the City of Eternal Spring. Although Quito is very close to the equator, the weather is not tropical due to the elevation, nearly 10,000 feet. The days are, in fact, very much like spring. I asked my mom to please send me some sweaters because I had thought it would be warmer in Quito.
I did notice, though, that the climate in Quito was almost like experiencing the four seasons on a daily basis. Each morning started out sunny and spring like. It warmed up around lunchtime and it felt like summertime sunbathing weather by noon. Nearly every afternoon, like clockwork, clouds would form on the western side of the Andes and roll over the city. It would rain briefly. The clouds would clear and as afternoon turned to evening, the air felt crisp and cool, like autumn. Then at night, without the benefit of the sun’s warming rays, it would get brisk. Nighttime was sweater or jacket weather, like in winter. While snow did not fall in the city itself, there are snowcapped volcanoes visible in the distance. It is lovely. Sigh. Ok. Nostalgia has completely overtaken me! I will be on tripadvisor, kayak, and priceline perusing the possibilities…