Posted by: Jena Davison | February 12, 2010

Lindo Mindo

I don´t know why my name seems so hard to pronounce here, but it appears to be so. I have had at least ten of the following conversations, almost exactly to a tee:

Person: Cómo te llamas? (What is your name?)

Me: Jena

Person: Janet?

Me: No, Jena

Person: Oh, Janette?

Me: No, Jena

Person: Mucho gusto, Jana (Nice to meet you, Jana)

Me: No, jota-eh-ene-ah

Person: Oh, Jena!

Me: Sí, perfecto! (that is what I said the last three times).

This past weekend I went to Mindo and unintentionally adopted a new name for the entire trip. The cheery owner of Hostal Gypsy, where I stayed, continuously called me Diana. I got sick of correcting him after the first few times so I just put on a smile, even though I secretly cringed every time he called me that.

I awoke on Saturday morning around 7:30am and was bus station-bound by 8:30. The cab driver engaged me in the typical do-you-have-a-boyfriend? convo, which proved to be the beginning of a weekend-long saga of trying to defend my fake boyfriend back in the States who was most definitely cheating on me. I seriously can´t believe I was somewhat convinced that he was being unfaithful when he doesn´t even exist. That´s the power of brainwashing. Why shouldn´t I find a nice Ecuadorian man to keep me satisfied while my boyfriend is thousands of miles away? He is clearly sharing a bed with another woman as we speak.

I tirelessly tried to defend this imaginary being and attempted to explain how relationships have different meanings in the United States to my weekend-long Ecuadorian friends in Mindo. Mind you, one of them was a 23-year-old Ecuadorian guy who has three girlfriends simultaneously and who has three small children with three different women. Yes, you read that correctly.

When I first arrived in Mindo, a small jungle town in the cloud forest, it was downpouring heavily. The powdery dirt roads quickly became muddy messes and my flipflops (bad choice of shoes) flicked mud up onto my back with each sticky step I took. I wandered around trying to find the hostel I had booked and finally found it after asking tourist information.

I was the only guest staying at my hostel when I first got there, so I had the pleasure of being chatted up by the owner Darwin–like Charles Darwin, he said. I forgot how tiring only speaking in Spanish is. You have to listen a bit more closely and concentrate a bit harder just to decipher words, and then have to go one step further to actually figure out their meanings. While speaking, you have to continuously dig deep into your arsenal of Spanish vocabulary to form sentences. I think we take for granted how easily we can communicate in our native tongues. So my weekend in Mindo ended up being less of a vacation and more of a brain-busying break from my everyday life in Quito.

However, I definitely appreciated the opportunity to speak entirely in Spanish for the weekend. Even if I didn´t understand half of what was being said, and I was laughed at on numerous occasions, I welcomed the chance to practice the language and pick up on some new Ecuadorian slang (and gosh, is there a lot of it!). Since it was raining, and Mindo is a very outdoorsy place I was kind of stuck in all day, but I still enjoyed the relaxation outside of the city of Quito and the ability to breath in fresh air.

However, I was ecstatic to wake up to sunshine the following morning. I quickly learned just how lindo (beautiful) Mindo is with its tropical feel and green landscapes. As a prime birdwatching spot (the trees are teeming with thousands of species of birds, including toucans), birds are the constant background noise. There is something soothing about their high-pitched chirping. I can´t put my finger on it, but I think I just associate it with peaceful natural settings. Though I didn´t see any interesting birds (not a birdwatching enthusiast willing to get up at 5am to see them), their symphony was enough to keep me satisfied.

Apparently Darwin´s friend and his friend´s girlfriend had arrived the night before, after I had already called it a night. After some extensive Spanish chatter in the morning, we all decided to do a canopy tour, which is an hour-long ziplining experience over the forest. We had a desayuno, or fixed-price $2.50 breakfast consisting of eggs with ham, bread, juice and coffee, and then walked the thirty-minute walk to the start of the tour. The walk was pretty as we walked through the forest and past clear-water rivers that carried eager tourists in tubes downstream.

When we got to the top, the two guys ended up chickening out, leaving the us girls to take on the adventure solo. We were put into harnesses and were zooming among tree tops within minutes. Basically, the adventure sports company has threaded twelve cables through the trees, allowing visitors to zip various lengths at various speeds. It is also possible to try some tricks with guides, which I enthusiastically joined in on, including one called the mariposa (butterfly) where my head and hands hung upside down and the guide opened and closed my legs in scissor-like patterns (kind of sexual, I suppose). There was also another one called ¨superman¨which entailed lying horizontally and zooming with my arms out to my sides. It was super fun and an hour-long adrenaline rush offering some beautiful overhead views of the forest and town of Mindo.

Afterwards, we walked back to the hostel, I bid farewell to my new friends, and went into town to buy a bus ticket back to Quito. Even though I was there at 3:15pm, hoping to hop on the 4pm bus, I was told that both the 4pm and 5pm buses were full (the last two buses of the day). I felt defeated for a short while, just frustrated by the situation and knowing that I had to get back to Quito for work in the morning. I decided to stick around the station anyways and was lucky to get on the 4pm, though without an official seat. I ended up sharing a cushion in the front of the bus with an older Ecuadorian man with such stomach-turningly awful B.O. I basically held my breath intermittently for almost two hours.

On the bus, I was sitting across from a woman and her bubbly, curly-haired child so full of youthful vibrance, I couldn´t help but smile. We engaged in some conversation for part of the journey and even though we had only met less than two hours earlier, she displayed so much generosity. Not only did she invite me to go with her and her daughter to the beach, but went out of her way to offer me a ride home from the station, which is twenty minutes from where I live. I kindly accepted the ride only to find that her ENTIRE family–mother, father, grandmother would pick us up and greet me with warm kisses. Not only that, but there wasn´t even enough room in the car, so the little girl had to sit on the grandmother´s lap, making me feel horrible. I told her it would be no problem at all to take a taxi if there wasn´t enough room, but she insisted on taking me. This is not the first time Ecuadorians have displayed such open kindness to me and I am certainly appreciative of it.



  1. HA! Hena, I LOL’ed at this posting. I have definitely been there with you during one of these convos. Just stick with Diana for now…xoxo

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