As travellers can all too easily stick to the well-trodden backpacker trail, I considered myself fortunate to be invited to a gathering at a local’s house in Quito. The hostess – a fab, expressive Latina with a wild side – promised dancing and merriment into the early hours. She also promised me a hangover.
On arrival I was surprised to see a handful of people sitting fairly quietly in a brightly lit room. In saying my hellos I made my first faux pas, noting that subsequent guests greeted each person individually with a kiss or handshake – a rather prolonged process for late arrivals. (The same was repeated for goodbyes).
Delicious food was offered up (nothing uniquely Ecuadorian) and people chatted politely. The first batch of the sweet but highly drinkable canelazo (a hot cocktail made with boiled water, sugar cane alcohol, lemon, sugar, cinnamon and in this case passion fruit) did the rounds, followed promptly by a demand to start dancing.
As a female, I had very little option but to get involved, despite my protests of being vergüenza – embarrassed. Being sober didn’t stop these guys from dancing salsa, merengue and whatever else. Everyone seemed to know the footwork, the body work. The fact that this wasn’t some major party but rather a small gathering in someone’s living room didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. More people crowded the makeshift dance floor than were sitting on the side lines. The drinking was most definitely secondary – dancing, laughter and enjoyment drove this event and the energy felt considerably different to the typical British affair.
This morning I am un poco chuchaqui – a little hungover – but more tired and well exercised than anything else. Six hours of dancing? It’s been too long since I last did that.