Quito is 10,000 feet above sea level and the highest capital in the world. Jay and Manuel (taxi ) picked us up from the airport and drove us the hour to the Secret Garden, our guest house. We took many twists and turns to get there. At one point the fog enveloped around us and with zero visibility. It was like, we'd been transported by a cloud.
The kids were excited, talking and goofing around all the way to the hostel. Then as soon as the car stopped, boom, so did their excitement. Owen looks up at the orange wall of our guesthouse with the painting of a an indigenous person, and said: " I am not staying here." Goodbye excitement, "hello" culture shock.
The door man greeted us, as we opened our taxi doors. He wore a black jacket and a black balaclava and to the kids a little scary. In the dead of night, after travelling for nearly 24 hours, I knew how Zoe and Owen felt. I have been there before. It's difficult to be dumbo dropped in the middle of the unknown. It can really rattle your cage.
In 1997, while in Indonesia, I got off a night bus in the middle of what felt like no man's land. My travelling partner and I were the only Caucasians in a dark bus station. The taxi drivers swarmed around us, vying for our business. Finally, we chose a driver and he walked us behind the station towards his van. He opened the van door and kicked his sleeping buddy out. As soon as we sat down, the door was closed and he walked away. Warning bells started going off. Wasn't he suppose to be driving us to our guest house? After a few minutes of him gone we tried opening the door but the doors were locked and stripped from their respective places. We were locked in the van. By chance, We figured out, that we could leave through the passenger window and that's what we did. We fed our bags and our bodies through and escaped our jail. As we were walking away our taxi driver appeared walking with a group of men. Luckily, we were back under street lights and around friendlier taxi driver's. I pointed my finger at our jailer and said ;"you don't lock people in vans!" I wish I had something more clever to smash but alas thus is what spewed out of my mouth. Another taxi driver promise to bring us to the relax guesthouse. By then our adrenaline was high and we had trouble trusting anyone. As the taxi inched its way through the streets of Jogjakarta things looked gloomy. Garage doors were shut indicating closed businesses and people slept along the sidewalks, homeless. In that moment I wondered, what I was doing there. The streets seemed to loom with danger and I felt so very out of place. I imagine that Zoe and Owen felt this way, out of sorts. Like, one of these things don't belong here and that thing was them. The man clad in black helped us with our bags and started leading us to our rooms. Both Zoe and Owen were echoing statements of wanting to leave and not stay there. Owen said: " this is not like Canada and he was right. We weren't in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. The halls were so narrow that only one could fit at a time. The stairs were so steep that it like you were climbing a mountain. Also, the altitude had us short of breath and feeling weird. Our hearts beating in our chest from the thin air. By the time we got to our rooms Zoe and Owens faces wee stricken with grief. We want to home was the analysis. Both their feet were planted firmly to the ground stating how strong feelings of conviction. "We are not staying here " they reaffirmed. In that moment, it came back to me. Thailand, and their reaction to arriving at our final destination after 5 days of travel; fear, worry and pure culture shock. We'd been here before and I knew we would get through it. Jay and Tyler brought Owen up to the roof top restaurant to get bearings. I stayed with Zoe and we talked sitting on her bed. She asked me: "why do you bring me to strange places." I answered that I think it's for us to step out of our boxes and experience something different together. Aks that I loved her very much and that I was looking forward to spending all these days together. It seemed to appease her. In time the guys came down from the roof and eventually found ourselves sleeping.
It is now6am and I lie here in bed writing in attempt to let go of these feelings of anxiety. The altitude is getting to me. I went to washroom and I got short of breath, dizzy and my heart started pounding. These symptoms are similar to a panic attack which I have had once before. These feelings started making me feel anxious as though I was going down the road towards a panic attack nits not a good feeling. It's helping though, lying here, writing my story going through my own version of culture shock. There Is nothing like this experience to feel totally alive or on the brink of death! Do to worry, that's the anxiety talking. I'll get over it. I've been breathing slow, relaxing my body and moving through this. All is good people and there is an adventure ahead of me.