The 2 pickpockets scurried across Av. Rio Amazonas during a lull in the heavy traffic. Just before reaching the curb they split up, with one fast-walking ahead and the other inserting himself in the flow of pedestrians a few steps behind me. Seeing them for what they were, I immediately turned toward the street and maneuvered myself close behind the trailing thief. I closed in on him and when he realized what happened, he kept looking back: over one shoulder then over the other. It was my first morning in Ecuador. WELCOME TO QUITO, GRINGO!
There are a few things to note about this little episode. The first is that Quito can indeed be a risky place. But having grown up in Detroit, I learned early on that Motown was no picnic either. It was pure luck that I saw these slimeballs and I’m no Captain America with danger radar protecting my every move. Although since then I have not seen anything that could vaguely put me in harm’s way. But that also means that I don’t walk down the street swinging an expensive camera, wearing a pair of cargo pants stuffed with expensive toys. I also don’t stop on the street to puzzle over a map. Quito is really no less safe than any big US city, but you just don’t advertise your wealth; this is the capital of a developing country and few Ecuadorians have the financial resources that travelers have, so don’t flaunt what you don’t want to lose.
What I have seen this first week is a fantastic variety of produce, and the SuperMaxi, a be-all grocery store in the elegant El Jardin mall offers easily 2 dozen more fruits that one could buy at the local Safeway back home. I’m drinking raspberry or blackberry juice every morning and papayas are less than 1/2 a buck a pound.