The Good Life, Ecuador Edition

Greetings from…oh, what the hell: from my junior executive suite at the Swissotel in Quito! Should the powers-that-be be reading this, relax: it was a free upgrade, although it’ll now be awful tough going back to regular hotel rooms, not to mention other, non-Swissotel chains. I got in late last night…like, 2am late, thus continuing the grand tradition of never seeing Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport during what I’d consider “sane” hours.

In the words of the Tragically Hip: “Close, but that’s not why I’m so hard done by.” No, I’m hard done by because yesterday turned into a bit of an ordeal. Everything went swimmingly from the time I left my Mexico City hotel until I boarded my original flight from Houston to Quito; only then did things go pear-shaped when the plane’s pressurization system packed in, and after waiting on board for forty-five minutes we were told we wouldn’t be able to take off. We were thus shepherded back inside the terminal while a new aircraft was brought in; once it got there it was another seven hours til I got to my hotel. Given all that, isn’t a junior executive suite the least I deserve?

Of course it is! And while this’ll do little to disabuse some people’s notion that international recruitment trips are glorified personal vacations, I should mention I’ve been hard at work since 1pm and that I just had an hour-long meeting with a prospective student. Sightseeing’s also in short thrift, last weekend’s excursion to the Estadio Azteca the exception rather than the rule, although tomorrow the three of us on this trip are trying to get to the Middle of the World (you can balance an egg on a nail!). But anyway: what you see in the picture is my temporary office, replete with its own photocopier (!). What you don’t see is the bathroom, the kitchenette, the iPod docking station, the second bathroom, or the sitting area. (And as for the flat-screen t.v. with digital cable and DVD player…I mean, as much as I shouldn’t be excited by things I’ve got in my own house they aren’t what you’d call “typical” hotel room accessories.) That’s just the room: the rest of the hotel’s been designed to cater to your every whim, while the staff verges on being overattentive. (Case in point: the guy who showed up with a piece of Swiss chocolate. He was also carrying a rose; was he coming on to me or something?) About the only thing they haven’t done is brought me back my laundry; this, of course, presents a potential problem moving forward.

This is my second time in Quito, and I’m still trying to formulate an opinion about the city. One of the first things you notice is the pollution; walking in Quito’s tantamount to deep-throating a diesel exhaust pipe. The other’s the altitude: we’re at over 9,000ft above sea level, which is noticeably different even from Calgary. I’m here until Friday, then back again on Sunday after spending the weekend at a cloud forest (I know, I know). I’ll see if I can generate a feeling by then–starting now, with a visit to an Argentinian steakhouse.

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