Day 8 :: Ecuadorian Highlands

The Cultira Sector.

Today was largely one left dealing with getting out of Venezuela and into Ecuador. My Sicilian bodyguard was exactly on time for my ride back to the Simon Bolivar International Airport; knowing I am an architect and had a strange attraction to the utter poverty showcased by the Barrios, we took a brief detour around the last of their sprawling community on our way out of Caracas. The ad hoc, completely informal organization of these housing units makes navigating them by car completely impossible (a reason that they are so difficult to police – in the late 90’s responsible for some 255 murders a day) and as such, Chavez implemented a series of Metrocables (enclosed ski-lifts of sorts that allow residents to traverse the dense urban fabric).

After a few pictures like the sucker for architectural despair that I am, we arrived at the airport. I checked in and realized I was not exempt from the 150 Bolivar exit tax and so I was left with only 3 Bolivars for lunch. Luckily I ran into Giorgio (he was waiting on another client) and after relaying my problem to him, took me to where some of his friends worked as black market money changers in the airport…staying true to his Sicilian roots. My flight, originally with only 20 passangers on the entire 757, should have been on time but for some reason we sat on the tarmac for a good two hours until the plane was filled with what appeared to be indigenous Ecuadorians, and so my arrival in Quito was terribly delayed. Normally not a problem, however the tardiness forced me to miss my airport pickup (courtesy of the Hostel) and ultimately miss dinner plans I had with Mónica Moreira  and Jose María Sáez, two young Ecuadorian architects doing some great Contemporary work in Quito. As these things go, some times you bust.

Waiting for my baggage was an unusual experience – the seemingly infinite number of indigenous families crowded around me to the point where I could barely move. I literally elbowed three or four women in the eye (yes the were as tall as my elbows); luckily they are made like bricks and didn’t seem to notice. I got to my hostel, dropped everything off and went out to venture the busy La Mariscal district. I ate a mediocre meal of grilled meats at a grill, sitting next to a few Aussies arguing about religion; I sat quietly and listened to their moronic account of religious history, paid the bill and walked home. I stopped off to pick up a bottle of wine and noticed I was being tailed again – after a while you just have to stop worrying about street toughs.  Now home I am watching King Kong in the living room of the hostel with two machissmo guys from Sydney, a deranged guy from Munich who is convinced Disney’s Up is the best movie of all time, and a Canadian guy working in Guyana.

In other news – looks like I will need to conceal any affiliation with Yale University when I get into Iran: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/university-news/2010/01/21/iran-blacklist-puzzles-yale/. Also, I was contacted by Nina Rappaport (Yale School of Architecture’s editor for Constructs amongst other Yale publications) about showcasing this blog in the upcoming issues of the bi-yearly publication.

I am not sure Quito has much contemporary architecture outside of the private domain, but let’s hope I can find something.

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