countin' the days

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here I Go Again... On My Own

That´s right... I´m back out in the world for another adventure. This time it´s all on my own, and I couldn´t be happier about it. Of course, just like my previous solo adventures have proven, being "alone" never really means being alone, because of the loads of fantastic people you meet as a solo traveler. Ecuador, even on my first day, has been no exception.

I actually made my first friend on the plane, before I even landed. I was stoked to discover several other solo female travelers waiting for the plane bound for Quito, and it didn´t take me long to strike up a conversation with one of them. Then on my way to my hostal, I made friends with my cab driver -- an endlessly charming and adorable older quiteño man who assured me that Ecuador is the best country in the world, and Quito is his favorite part in the whole country, one that he wouldn´t trade for anything. This was also my first long conversation in Spanish in a while, and it went perfectly well. I guess all those days and nights of practicing Spanish in Spain are still buried down there somewhere, looking to come out of hibernation.

Once I arrived at this charming little hostal and made it up the labyrinth of skinny steps, well, I had half a dozen new friends in minutes. In fact, I already have plans to take off this weekend for an Afro-Ecuadorian beach town with two other girls to celebrate the 4 raucous days of Carnaval! ¡Olé! In the meantime, I´ll be taking it easy here in Quito, a lovely city set in a strikingly beautiful Andean valley at the cool altitude of 10,000 feet. There are plenty of Spanish-style churches to explore, not to mention plenty of craft and food markets to be discovered. My hostel has also this fantastic 4th floor rooftop terrace with a view that speaks for itself... que bueno es.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Doing the Rounds

I have been putting some serious miles on my Delta account lately. Not that my jetsetting around the world hasn't racked up a good amount of those frequent flyer suckers, but lately I've been going a little crazy here in the States.

I left DC on the good ol' Chinatown bus headed for NYC. Once again, I had the great fortune to arrive on a snow day. Naturally, we all went out to the bars my first night in town, and after closing some random dive in the East Village at 4 am, we walked outside to find everything coated in a lovely white layer of winter glow, with the snow continuing to fall. It was also my first time ever seeing New York City covered in snow after all these years, so I was a mighty happy camper.

New York wasn't completely about hitting the bars, though. Desiree, my gracious host and former UC Davis partner-in-crime, was on vacation the entire time I was there, so we decided to make the most of it. Among the many fun, productive, and totally awesome things we did all week were: stopping at Grimaldi's for Brooklyn's "best pizza," taking a leisurely and stoney walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, hitting up any available Happy Hours, searching out tiny travel bookstores, eating at a tiny Indian restaurant fully decked out in miniature chili lights, and returning to the "Avenue Q" lottery on 45th three different times until we finally WON the lottery and snagged ourselves front row seats for $21!!!! I think we were the most excited people at the show too, which may or may not have had anything to do with the several beers we pounded at Happy Hour just prior to the performance. Regardless, we sang Avenue Q songs on the Subway all the way back to Bay Ridge, and didn't stop laughing for at least the next couple of days.

New York was also about seeing family. I headed north of the city to Westchester to revisit my cousin Beth and her 3 unbelievably adorable little girls, who I lived with last year for 5 months while preparing for my big journey. Not surprisingly, they all dressed up in their very finest and favorite outfits, which by the end of the evening included tap dancing and roller skating through the kitchen. Love it. I also made time to catch up with my former boss Lisa & her two supercute little ones, as well as another family I babysat for in Brooklyn. My final night in town, Desi & I went out to reconnect with the extended college-days family, and hit up the bars with Erica, former Davis homie & roomie, and Sarah, former Davis guest star. Needless to say, that was a crazy night.

Staying on the visiting-family-I-haven't-seen-in-way-too-long tip, I turned back around and headed to Utah. There, I managed to both chill with a whole load of crazy cousins and go snowboarding on the lovely fresh powder dumped all over the state. Due to the deadly combination of financial insufficiencies and morning hangovers, snowboarding took a backseat to hanging with the cousins & my bro. It was for the best: I spent my week there doing a whole lot of drinking, playing an embarassing amount of Rock Band (which, in case you were curious, I totally rule at), visiting hilariously seedy Salt Lake City karaoke bars, and laughing more than I have in a loooooong time. I also celebrated the New Year in classic Neely-boy style; which meant plenty of Jim Beam, endless bowls, champagne at midnight, dancing around with a 40% off Thanksgiving turkey bowl, bows & ribbons as last minute costume ideas, and other utterly ridiculous antics.