Sixteen hours, two connecting flights, seven double vodkas, an astonishing six meals, three mars bars and a rather uncomfortable nap later I was fumbling in the overhead locker for my bag. It had been an interesting flight, but I was ready to get off and try to forget the five times I had accidentally "pinged" for the flight attendants with my fat thighs, pushing the button every time I moved. Honestly, didnt they know that 50% of the western world were by now officially obsese? Cant they just make the seats a bit bigger?
I dodged past the cabin crew, blushing my thanks and made my way to customs. Visas stamped I grabbed my rucksack, nearly falling over from the weight and stumbled blinking in to the chaos which was Quito arrivals. I glanced about for my name, I knew the travel company had sent someone to collect me but I didnt know who, and there in the corner was a small man holding up a sign which sort of resembled my name
"You are looking for me?" I asked
"Si" he said. He stood looking at me with an inane grin on his face.
"Ok, shall we go?" I said presently, when he had not made a move and I was by now stuck for conversation.
"Si" he said. And carried on standing there staring. Then all of a sudden something woke him and quick as a flash, we were off, weaving our way through the crowds, then with a heave, I was hoisted in to the back of an ancient mini van and we took off along the streets of Quito as if he was making off with a kidnap victim.
As I stared out the window I wondered what I had let myself in for frankly. Quito looked like, er (sorry everyone who lives there) Slough. I had come thousands of miles, given up my home, my family, my friends, my business to go and live in Slough. Resigned to my fate I pulled out my phrase book and practiced my 'hellos' and 'how are yous' until we screeched, ghost train style to a halt outside an orange house.
As the driver sat motionless staring out of the window for some minutes I eventually gathered that I was to get out, so I grabbed my things and disembarked, the van shot off and I was left standing on the pavement without a clue what to do next. So I gingerly banged on the door of the orange house and presently I heard footsteps, the door was opened by the oldest, smallest lady I had ever seen in my life, who greeted me with a torrent of Spanish a wave of a hand and disappeared up the stairs ahead. So I grabbed my things and followed.
At the top of the stairs I was by now so breathless with lugging my rucksack about it was all I could do to wipe the sweat from my face and stagger through various doors with 'Dora' talking completely unintelligibly to me - she smiled, waved her arms alot, clearly used to the moronic expression I was displaying on my face and used to these odd western fat, pasty faced volunteers arriving at her home for four weeks stay.
I knew I would be there for four weeks, attending Spanish classes every day before travelling onwards to the Galapogos Islands for a little voluntary bonding with giant tortoises, but apart from that, everything else was now left to chance.