Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What I actually did this weekend

My new resolution is to stop telling you how behind I am. I mean, you wouldn't know what I was doing if I didn't tell you, so I guess we'll just push on from the most recent recorded adventure.

The six of us went to Guaranda - a sleepy sierra town four hours south of Quito - for the uniquely South American Carnaval. I guess it's the only time the town wakes up, and it's probably because it spends the rest of the year sleeping off the hangover. For those who don't know, Carnaval is founded on the same principles as Mardi Gras: eating tons of food, watching parades, dancing, and getting drunk, but with a lot more emphasis on getting other people messy. Spray foam is sold for $1.50 a can, in varieties that either stain clothing or claim not to, and eggs, flour, and water are thrown with abandon (actually, now that I think about it, gringos are specifically targeted.) We found the only hostal with space that appeared in the guidebook, and here are some initial thoughts on the experience.

230 Hosteria Cochabamba.
Dingy room with peeling ceiling.
Two cracked bedside tables, and low beds that one would call rock hard if it weren't for a hint of nest-like lumpiness and a tendency to buckle towards the middle. I sleep in my jersey sleep-sack, covered in a cheery sky blue and red wool blanket and a horrendous 70's bedspread - one of those dark brown and orange floral numbers finished with yarn fringe and cigarette burns. I bunch it under my pancake of a pillow and add to the lumpiness. A non-functional dial TV is mounted alongside the foot of my bed, I guess solely for the viewing optimality of the two beds facing mine. Never mind that it is dangerously close to the doorway. The light switch is mounted squarely in the middle of the single backless armoire so that we must push aside our drying clothing to find it. The top board is also masking a pasted-on sign that welcomes the senor pasajero, and advises him to take care which outlet he plugs his cigarette lighter into so as to prevent fires. There are no towels, and by the way, the management will not be responsable for forgotten effects.

Aside from the thin wall-length window, the light source is a single uncovered halogen lightbulb descending half-cocked from a piece of baling wire. It is drafty, and as the light fades, the grimy halogen signs sizzle on outside and the speakers are hooked up and tested on the eardrums of anyone within a four-block radius. There comes a knock at the doors as I ponder sharing a bathroom with about 20 other people, and soon the industrial flecked-tile floor is sticky with CocaCola and a few other things, the hollow rooms twist laughter to a ragged crescendo, and I am once again losing after one round of hearts. Glancing at the row of young faces and travel-worn backpacks, I note that I would call this squalor if it weren't so fun.

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