Your Pet May Also be a Delicacy and How I Became a K-pop Star

Yes, I realize we should be back at school by now. Whatever, we’re seniors, we do what we want.

Whatever.
Whatever.

Also, I doubt I’ll be back in Ecuador anytime soon, so might as well make the best of it. I don’t even know what work I have due.

I’m such a good role model. Moving on.

As sad as I was to leave the Galapagos behind, I was excited for the next part of our journey. We were going to loop around the lower part of Ecuador, visit a few cities and then ultimately end up back in Quito to take a plane back to Boston. It would require a lot of traveling by bus, but we thought it would be worth it. We weren’t wrong.

 

Part I: Your Pet May Also be a Delicacy

Our flight from the Galapagos was to a city called Guayquil, but we didn’t stay for long. Guayquil isn’t known as the safest of cities (someone compared it to the Detroit of Ecuador) and so we immediately left for our next destination, Cuenca. Unfortunately, there were no immediate buses and our very reliable sources from the internet, such as iTraVeLedToUrMom95 and tYphOid_fEveR281, said that we could just hire a van that would cost only $12 per person. That wasn’t bad for a 4-hour ride, especially for poor college students. And so, we went to a nearby station to find someone who would take us.

One of my biggest goals for spring break was to not get scammed. And I knew that the best scammers are the ones who don’t look like scammers at all. It’s easy to avoid the people with the shifty eyes, too-loud laugh, and bad hygiene that are classic Hollywood stereotypes of bad guys. But those aren’t the ones you have to be careful of. Look at the movie Taken. In this cinematic masterpiece, Liam Neeson’s daughter was kidnapped by a guy who was young, clean-cut, and pretty attractive. Clearly, it’s the ones who turn you on that you have to avoid.

(Also, completely off-topic, but does anyone know what Liam Neeson’s character’s name is? I feel like no matter what movie he’s in nowadays, everyone just calls him Liam Neeson. Kind of like Tom Cruise. Just saying.)

And so, we decided on someone who was neither too shifty nor too attractive. He was an average, middle-aged man who looked like he was a generic Ecuadorian father. His mustache made him look a little suspicious, but he looked nice enough and while he wasn’t particularly ugly, he didn’t make me long for his touch either. His van was clean and smelled fine. All in all, it seemed pretty safe.

And that’s how I lost my kidneys.

I’m kidding.

We survived the van ride without losing any body parts, although it was a close thing. Our driver may not have been a scammer, but he was still a dangerous, dangerous man. There are two roads to get to Cuenca from Guayquil: one around the mountains and one through them. We took the one through the mountains, which takes less time, but requires much more twisting and turning. Adding on to that, the road is high enough on the mountain that it is almost constantly covered in clouds. Now, driving through the clouds may sound cool and all, but when you’re going at 80 miles an hour in an area that has maybe 15 feet of visibility and the driver attempts to pass by every car, bus, and truck in a two-lane road despite to constant twists that further blocks off line of sight…it was an ordeal. I almost pissed my pants multiple times.

Which, I guess wouldn’t have been a problem if I had lost my kidneys.

When we arrived in Cuenca, we dropped off our bags at the hostel and set out to try the famous cooked guinea pig, or cuy, as they’re called in Spanish. The thought of eating something considered a pet in the United States was kind of weird, but I was excited. I like trying new things.

Takes about an hour to cook thoroughly on a spit.
Takes about an hour to cook thoroughly on a spit.
Looks appetizing, no?
Looks appetizing, no?
Yes, I even tried to eat parts of the head. Very little meat on it though.
Yes, I even tried to eat parts of the head. Very little meat on it though.

As for what it tasted like…well, it’s difficult to describe exactly. The skin was very crispy and salty and the meat was rather greasy, but didn’t taste bad at all. Tasted a bit like pork or the dark meat of chicken. It was actually pretty good. I recommend trying it, even for just the experience.

The next day, we explored the city for a few hours. We had to catch a bus, so we weren’t able to explore too much, but we made the most of our time there.

Cuenca is a colonial town and so has a lot of European influences.
Cuenca is a colonial town and so has a lot of European influences.
Lots of great graffiti art as well.
Lots of great graffiti art as well.
Reminds me of an even more fucked up version of Adventure Time.
Reminds me of an even more fucked up version of Adventure Time.
Apparently you gouge your eyes out when you get high?
Apparently you gouge your eyes out when you get high?
"Graffiti is art and culture, not vandalism." - dentist/graffiti artist?
“Graffiti is art and culture, not vandalism.” – dentist/graffiti artist?
Also had a nice park by the riverside.
Also had a nice park by the riverside.
There were also some Inca ruins.
There were also some Inca ruins.
With an irrigation system that still partially worked.
With an irrigation system that still partially worked.

After that, we got on the bus and left for our next stop: Banos.

 

Part II: How I Became a K-pop Star

Banos is a town that is located within the mountains and right next to an active volcano. According to Wikipedia, the last time the volcano erupted was in February 2014. And because living under constant threat of death by lava-incineration makes everything else seem pretty tame in comparison, Banos has a lot of fun activities.

We rented bikes and started cycling to Pailon del Diablo, the most famous of the many waterfalls that surround Banos. Along the way, we stopped a few times to alleviate Chan’s fear of heights.

He stayed like this for like 10 minutes.
He stayed like this for 10 minutes.
He did it! He jumped!
He did it! He jumped!
Well, more like fell.
Well, more like fell.
He's fine. He just wants someone to hug.
He’s fine. He’s just lonely.
Personally, I love jumping off things like bridges and responsibilities.
Personally, I love jumping off things like bridges and responsibilities.
Clearly, zip-lining was more his thing.
Clearly, zip-lining was more his thing.
See? He's enjoying it now.
See? He’s enjoying it now.
Biking with a view.
Biking with a view.
Lesson learned that day: Never skip leg day.
Lesson learned: Never skip leg day.
We made it to the waterfall!
We made it to the waterfall!
You could actually stand right next to the rushing water.
You could actually stand right next to the rushing water.
And even behind it.
And even behind it.

And now to the part you were all waiting for.

Guys. Guys! I HAVE A FAN!

After we got soaked by the spray of Pailon del Diablo, we started walking back to where we parked our bikes. All of a sudden, a man came up to me and asked me if I was Korean. This was interesting to me since most people in Ecuador assume I’m Chinese. I said that I was Korean, but was from the United States, confused as to why he was asking. He points behind me and says that someone wanted to meet me. Even more confused, I turned around to see a teenage Ecuadorian girl say, “안녕하세요” (ahnyounghaseyo; it means hello in Korean, for those so uncultured).

Now, I’ve met a good number of people on this trip. Canadian couples, German backpackers, Ecuadorians from New York, more Canadians and even a film crew from a Korean TV show. But I hadn’t met an Ecuadorian who cared that I was Korean, let alone an Ecuadorian who could speak Korean. I was pretty amazed.

More than that, she looked like she was about to faint from meeting an actual live Korean person.

IMG_0432
Clearly K-pop star material.

After Allison (pictured right) calmed down a bit, I spoke to her and her friend (which I unfortunately didn’t get the name of) for a little bit and gave them the address for my blog. I was NOT giving them an autograph. That seemed like it would be a bit too narcissistic of me.

They even did the classic "V"s.
I’m not so humble as to not take a picture though. They even did the classic “V”s.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty flattering, even though I knew that they wanted to meet me purely because I was Korean and not much else. But hey, whatever, I have fans now.

I think the most hilarious part is the way that they just completely ignored Chan. He was just my sidekick who took pictures.

Eh, but what else is new.

 

And with that, I’m signing off for now because I’m boarding for my flight back to Boston soon. I’ll upload the rest of my trip later. See y’all soon!

 

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4 thoughts on “Your Pet May Also be a Delicacy and How I Became a K-pop Star

  1. Hey!
    안녕!
    I recently saw your blog and truth, my friend and I are grateful for having appeared on your blog!
    and an apology for having ignored Chan (your friend). We were really excited and everything went so fast.
    We hope to see you soon, maybe in Korea, Haha. We will strive us much to learn Korean! so fighiting!
    With love: Michelle (my Friend) AND i (Allison) 💚

    • 안녕! 잘지내지?

      Thank you for making my travel experiences more fun and exciting! It was great meeting you and Chan enjoyed our encounter as well, so you don’t need to worry about him. I’m glad to see someone so interested in Korean culture and I encourage you to continue learning Korean. Hopefully I’ll run into you both again someday. Thanks again!

      Best,
      William Hwang

      • Hey!
        안녕하세요! 정말 감사합니다 내 메시지에 응답하기위한!
        I’m so thankfully that u will encourage me to learning Korean! And I’m so sorry to answer u later! I’m really, really bad, because u answered quickly 😭😭
        But it’s better late than never 😊
        So, I hope u will good and enjoyed their trip in Ecuador. And I say again. Thank you so much! And I shall endeavor learning Korean! Because I really really want to go to Korea❤️
        I hope I can talk to you again^~^
        Wishes~ and
        FIGHTING!~

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