On Friday, November 1, we spent a restless night in a motel near the Port Columbus (OH) airport. Up at 4 a.m., we had to be at the airport at 5 for international departure. The trip to Houston was uneventful, the wait in the Houston airport too long. We joined others in the Pan-American Lectureship group and were finally on our way to Quito, Ecuador. A touch-down in Panama only meant that we were served two full meals Saturday evening rather than one. Did we overeat? You bet!
Arrival in Quito was typical of Latin American arrivals with hosts of native curiosity seekers. As is usual in most foreign airports, baggage claim was a circus and exiting the airport another circus. We were no sooner outside than some of our hosts met us and took off (literally) with our luggage. Mine went one way and I followed. Jan's went another way and she was soon lost. After several anxious moments (especially for her) we were reunited and on our way by bus to Hotel Quito. Despite the excitement of the moment, we fell into bed and were soon asleep.
Sunday morning found us in the hotel cafe for a taste of foreign culture and a little breakfast before going to church. What an experience! The bi-lingual worship lasted over two hours, but was inspirational and exciting. The lunch which the host church served at noon was tasty, but many described it as "interesting." The many first impressions this day afforded are almost a blur, focused only by another seven days in the city.
Quito is a city of over 1 million nestled in a lush valley surrounded by snow capped mountains (volcanos). Because the valley is so narrow, the city stretches for more than 10 miles. Quito was founded in 1534 and preserves much of its heritage, from both the native Indians and the Spanish conquistadores. Despite its proximity to the equator, Quito is a city of perpetual spring, the climate varying only according to whether it is the rainy season or the dry season. In either season, the temperatures range from the 50s at night to around 80 during the day. The explanation for such mild conditions is the altitude of the city in a valley almost two miles above sea level. Several of the Andes mountain peaks surrounding the city tower over 14000 feet.
Highlights of our visit to Quito included two morning treks to "La Casa de Pancake" where the food was at least as American as Ecuadorian. After breakfast, a brief trip on the metro took us to downtown Quito, the city plaza, and the President's Palace. Guns, guns, everywhere! Most travel around Quito was by taxi. One could go just about anywhere in this city of one million persons for $5000 (about $1.50 American!) With an exchange rate of 3300 to 1, I have seldom carried such a "wad." You figure it--carrying $20 or $30 meant having $70000-100000. The Ecuadorian currency is measured in "sucres"--the name of one of their liberators.
Our trip to the central market was most interesting. Although a wide variety of unusual herbs, fruits, and vegetables were available, Jan was intrigued by the flowers--most especially the roses which could be purchased by the dozen for about $3.00 (U.S.). What a place to be in love and courting!
One day we went to visit an elementary school operated by a congregation of the Quichua Indians. This day we experienced one of the not so nice sections of Quito. We were told to take off all jewelry and carry our wallets in our front pockets. All is not well in our world, and many people have great needs.
The next day a three-hour bus ride into the mountains to Otovalo gave us the opportunity to visit the Indian market and bargain and buy to our heart's content. Other towns specialized in leather working and wood carving. Just browsing was an experience! Most interesting was a trip to the rim of an old, inactive volcano from which we could look down upon a farming village and see the beautiful fields all laid out in neat array.
Of course, no one should visit Ecuador without making a trip to the equator. Although Jan was not feeling very well on this day, we made the trip and even managed a picture of two lovebirds kissing across the equator--one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern. I also managed a picture of Jan holding the entire world in her hands! Most amazing to me is that so much world exists beyond Ecuador, for at that point we were only 1/2 way to the south pole.
Evenings found us enjoying the southern sky or the cuisine specials of the city. One evening visit to a local Italian restaurant we became acquainted with a native New Yorker who had sold his Italian restaurant in the Big Apple and moved to Quito to open another. One person in our party that evening ordered lobster--3 huge tails for $30000 ($10 U.S.) Was he impressed!
While one enjoys the tourism and unique aspects of the city, we were actually in Ecuador for the Pan-American Lectureships at which missionaries from all across Latin America meet to discuss missions and to be encouraged.
Various missionaries and some of us from the U.S. were privileged to speak and to encourage the continued expansion of the message of Christ into Latin America. I spoke on the topic of globalizing our understanding of the Bible so we can take a relevant, understandable message to people of other cultures. [A link at the top of this page allows you to access that lecture.] We spent the afternoons from about 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Bible studies, discussion groups, and various presentations at the lectures.
Given the political unrest in Ecuador which surfaced a few weeks after we were there, a most interesting part of our trip was the visit to the lectures by the vice-president of the country. The vice-president's sister is a Christian and that is how the vice-president came to visit. When the unrest came, she was temporarily appointed president, so while we were in Ecuador, Jan and I had the opportunity to greet the woman who was soon to serve as Ecuador's president. A memorable trip indeed!