Sorry about my blogless uselessness dear friends. I have been on a bit of a holiday, having finished my second novel ahead of schedule and have been mostly in places that do not have facilities like internet.
Oh and I’ve also been busy having Salmonella. After all, I’ve been in such excellent health recently it seems only fair that I should have a filthy rotten egg infection too, yah?
I f*cking hate my insides at the moment. They are full of bad things.
Anyway, I write to you from Quito, capital of Ecuador. It’s a bit of a headspin being here all of a sudden after nearly three months in Mexico. I’d begun to understand Mexico a little; feel at home; have some vague idea of what people are saying to me – you know the sort of thing. But, after a brief layover in Miami (of all places! Miami?! we arrived in Quito late last night. We took one look at the travellers assembled in our new hostel and fled to the safety of our horrible room. For some reason no-one else seemed to be travelling in Mexico. We’re not used to people any more.
(Actually, that’s not true. In our last hostel we were plagued by the attentions of some knob who kept banging on about sacred geometry and about how – when he did some horrendous-sounding 40 day meditation retreat recently – he started being able to communicate with birds. He was one of those people who likes to tell everyone else that they are uptight and stressed and need to chill. All this from a man who skins up his first joint at breakfast and continues throughout the day, pausing only to drink twenty beers. I’d like to see how bloody serene you’d be if you ditched your drug and alcohol habit, you goat-hair poncho-wearing knob, I muttered to myself.)
So. Here we are in Ecuador.
For this blog I wanted to write a lovely colourful ode to Mexico, to all of the amazing people we met, the incredibly beautiful towns we saw, the humbling experiences we had trekking through indigenous villages and so on – but I’m afraid our entire experience has been temporarily eclipsed by yesterday and our unprecedented experience in BUSINESS CLASS.
Did you hear me? I flew BUSINESS CLASS yesterday! Not because I am suddenly rich – rather paradoxically, I flew business because I am extremely poor. The Man and I bought the very cheapest flights we could find online to get to Ecuador and so were utterly gobsmacked when we received a confirmation email marked “BUSINESS CLASS.” We hugged and wept. It was a beautiful thing. These days we share rooms with cockroaches and sleep on buses. We steal toilet roll from restaurants and eat in markets. We are not business class travellers.
Everyone around us knew this. When we checked in for the first part of the flight – a short hop to Miami, in normal economy class – our bags were marked ‘Priority.’
“Why is that?” I asked the check in woman.
“I’m not sure,” she said confusedly. “Let me check.”
She consulted with her colleague and came back. “It’s because you’re flying business for the next leg of your flight,” she said doubtfully. She looked us up and down – we were both wearing hoodies; I was wearing leggings that have not been skin-tight for a very long time (with trekking shoes: a winning combination) and The Man was wearing an item of clothing that can only be described as a synthetic duvet with sleeves.
“Are you sure you’re in Business?” she asked, checking back on her computer screen with a furrowed brow.
“Yes,” we beamed.
There was a pause, during which she swallowed, looking once again at our outfits and rucksacks.
“Well,” she faltered, “You enjoy your experience then . . .”
Eight hours later, after a lovely layover in Miami (they bring you CLEAN TAP WATER with ICE in it in America! And the salad doesn’t contain caterpillars! They speak ENGLISH!) we arrived in the Business and First Class Lounge at Miami International Airport ready for our flight to Quito.
“Hello!” we cried, marching up to the American Airlines woman. “Can we come in?”
She looked doubtful but checked our tickets before giving us our marching orders.
An eyebrow shot up. “You can indeed!” she said in that bright-yet-businesslike manner that Americans have.
“What kind of stuff have you got for free?” I butted in, before The Man had a chance to gag me.
“Well I have free drinks vouchers,” she beamed. Americans are so blooming customer servicey I always feel like they’re taking the piss out of me when they serve me – but I think her beam was genuine. I guess she knew that this was a first for us.
“There’s free refreshments too,” she added, winking at me.
My eyes widened with excitement. “Oh my GOD! What?”
“Oh, fruit, vegetable platters, biscuits,” she grinned. “Snacks, pretzels and of course unlimited tea and coffee! You go and enjoy yourselves, ok?”
She needn’t have said this. The Man and I were already running, whooping, towards the business class lounge.
What opened out before us was truly marvellous. SOFAS. Lamps. PLATES OF FOOD THAT WE DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY FOR!
“Right, I’m off,” I muttered, setting off for the buffet at a sprint.
The Man grabbed me. “Steady on,” he pleaded.
I whipped my hand away. “Get out of my way,” I shouted urgently. “There is free food here.”
Another two hours later, we were shown to seats 5D and 5E by a beaming air stewardesses, who also looked truly pleased to see us. It was like a hero’s welcome I tell you!
We sat down on our MASSIVE SEATS. Did you hear me? MASSIVE. Not flat beds, sadly, but I’m not sure these would be justified on a four-hour flight. And then it began. The Feast. The Decadence. The Beauty.
“Red wine? White? I have spirits too?” Mrs Hostess said.
The Man licked his lips furtively. “Er, do you have any champagne?” he tried. I gasped at his bravery. But you know what? She said yes!
“Sure!” she breezed. “Let me get you a bottle!”
I swear, she topped us up until we passed out. Then she came by with a bloody MENU for dinner and before we knew it we were being served nutty things in bowls and then out rolled.. .well, as I said, an effing FEAST. The bread was hot! Not in a microwaved way, in an oveny way! The salad contained ASPARAGUS! And sweet peppers and wild mushrooms! In a bloody starter salad! The most I’ve had in a salad in the last few months is a portion of parasites and a side of Salmonella. I nearly wept.
Then came the main course. I can barely talk about this because it was so good that I am having to engage in serious self-restraining tactics to prevent myself from just slacking off the rest of the trip and spending it flying around the world in business class. Possibly I’d have to rob a bank or something but it would be worth it. Until the cops got me I’d be eating creamy mash and beautifully spiced chicken dishes while supping top quality brut, pausing only to dab my face with a hot towel and yell “MORE MASH PLEASE.” It would be amazing.
For dessert I got a plate of cheese and biscuits. It was real cheese. Proper cheese with flavour and mould and allsorts. They have lovely cheese in Mexico but it’s a bit… well, samey. Each time we tried a new, famous cheese – Oaxacan, Monterry, Manchego – we licked our lips with anticipation, only to discover that it was exactly the same creamy salty stringy stuff that we’d had last time. But let me tell you, in Business Class there is proper full-on cheese. The sort of cheese I like to scoff when I’m back in Blighty.
When the feast finally ended (The Man grew increasingly bold; by the end he was demanding fine ports) we slipped our massive seats back and fell into a deep coma.
Then we arrived in Quito and it was freezing and we spent an hour queuing for immigration and a man chuffed on us and my shampoo had exploded all over my rucksack and we were assaulted by about a million crazed taxi drivers and got dropped off in an area so dangerous that walking any further than the metre between your taxi door and your hostel gate is considered suicide. Our room had been divided in two by a piece of plywood and there were loads of drunk Australians talking bollocks on the other side and the pillow was thinner than a biscuit. It was even more freezing than the airport and I went to bed wearing a hat and had to walk about two hours every time I wanted to use the (rank) toilet.
Oh, I’m sorry. I wanted the story to get more and more fantastical but I’m afraid that we were thrown right back into reality the moment we touched down. We didn’t belong in Business. We knew that, everyone around us knew that, and Quito – a city that does not f*ck around – knows that. It knows we belong here, back in crappy hostels, eating dodgy food from markets and stealing bog roll once again.
Look at this picture of me, standing in some rank kitchen staring at my dinner of potato, cabbage and bacon served in a coffee pot. Look at my rank hair, at my terrible skin, the Tshirt I’ve stolen from The Man because I haven’t got anything left that doesn’t hum. There is no denying it: I is TRASH.