This was the morning we were going to meet our fellow travelers. Elderhostel had sent us a list of the names and hometowns of the passengers, but that’s all we knew. Would it be a good group? Eight days in close quarters could be a challenge—no place to run, no place to hide… In such an intimate setting, every person was important. Z and I went down to breakfast and surveyed the other diners there. Several people already had their Elderhostel name tags on, so that was a bit of a give-away. But we just tucked into the once-again delicious offerings at the breakfast buffet and postponed introductions.
At 9 a.m., the group gathered in the closed hotel dining room. Gonzalo, the trip coordinator for Quito, greeted each person with a small woven bag with an Ecuadorean scene. We briefly introduced ourselves—just names and hometowns. How fun to put faces with the names and places! (And how extra-interesting that not a single person mentioned anything about his or her job. Guess that’s what happens when you travel primarily with people who are retired. I found it both refreshing and a bit unnerving. So much of my world focuses on what we do rather than who we are. “Hi—my name is Tina and I’m a research psychologist.”) Gonzalo gave an overview of the day’s outings and offered some rules of the game. Most important—and I quote—“Never pass up a pit stop!” Excellent and reassuring advice to a group of, um, elders. He also noted that the bus would be well stocked with bottled water, so we didn’t need to worry about that issue at all. (We had been repeatedly warned to not drink the tap water in Ecuador. Perhaps the hardest part of that was brushing my teeth—what an automatic reflex to just flip on the faucet and rinse my brush in the running water!) Gonzalo made an interesting point, noting that whenever he went to Miami, his digestive system had a hard time with that water. So it’s not just microbes in the foreign water, but different treatments used in the processing of water that can cause problems. A good thing to keep in mind when feeling all sorts of arrogant about the “superior” water in the U.S.