Guayaquil, Ecuador – the Angry Chinese Lady, big bottoms, and new Sharpies

Guayaqauil is a big, gritty city with blaring horns and many dreary facades, but it also has some grand parks – there’s even one with land inguanas! – and many good restaurants…some with a high entertainment factor.

On our first day we ate at Chifa Long Ge, a modest Chinese restaurant around the corner from our hostel.  The waiter was gracious and helpful. I ordered what I thought were two vegetarian noodle soups (“sin carne, por favor”). We heard some yelling in the kitchen while we waited, but didn’t pay much attention. The soups arrived and I discovered that mine had pieces of chicken and pork. When the waiter saw my surprise, he motioned towards the kitchen, where there was still yelling, and indicated I should put the pieces of meat to the side on my plate. Something in his look made me not want to make a fuss, so I nodded and decided to look out for a hungry-looking person to whom I could give the meat. When I noticed that Elise’s soup did not have noodles, I asked if we could order a portion of noodles for her.

Shortly afterwards, the source of the yelling emerged from the kitchen. It was, somewhat incongruently, a cute, blonde Chinese woman in a cheerful pink smock. I figured she was just in a bad mood, and didn’t pay much attention. It would seem, however, that our request for extra noodles had pissed her off.

Our waiter appeared with the noodles. Minutes later, another waiter appeared with what looked like the remaining portion of noodles and said “Shhhhhhhh!” while sliding them into Elise’s soup. There was more yelling and it suddenly became clear that the cute Chinese lady wasn’t just in a bad mood – she was a cute, angry Chinese lady.

A smiling merchant selling smudged magnifying glasses and selfie sticks appeared in the store and I quickly handed him my plate of meat. He looked incredibly surprised, but grateful. As he was putting the meat into a plastic bag, the Angry Chinese Lady stormed over and shook the plate to speed up the process and then yelled at him. Arrrrrrrg. I was expecting her to yell at us next, but instead, she made me walk over to the register to get my change. I left feeling a strange mix of wariness, satisfaction (the soups were good), and amusement. Would she not have been perfect for an episode of Seinfeld?!

Elise later commemorated her in a drawing with lines above her head to indicate that she was fuming. The drawing also included an accurate representation of the restaurant sign, a snoozing iguana, Elise’s newest Littlest Pet Shop figurine, and the Simpsons, which were playing while we ate.

The next day, as we strolled past the restaurant, we saw the Angry Chinese Lady wiping tables and I dared to ask if I could photograph her with Elise. She put her arm around Elise(!!!) and I took a shot. Unfortunately, the camera was on the wrong settings and the photo came out blurry so I dared to ask if I could take a second shot. But by then she was fed up, and let go of Elise to get back to wiping tables. I worried she would start yelling and quickly took one more shot, thanked her, and then we scurried away, giggling.

Although far less entertaining than Chifu Long Ge, the place we had breakfast the next day, Dulceria La Palma, was treat. With high ceilings, black & white photos of Guayaquil, and a wide vitrine with dozens of trays of little pastries, it had great, old-school charm. The breakfast menu included eggs, tiny, crispy croissants, yogurt with granola, tropical juice, and strong coffee. I was a happy camper. At 32 cents a pop, the little pastries were too good to pass up, so I ordered one of each to take with us.

As we walked back to our hostel, we marveled at some of the street scenes. There were shoe shiners with customers reading the paper on nearly every block which almost looked like clones of each other. There were also tangled wires and potholes that would make officers from the Ordnungsamt (Regulatory Office) back in Germany apoplectic. I considered creating an Instagram channel dedicated to such shots, but there was too much other interesting stuff to capture – such as newspaper stands with photos of big, bare-bottomed ladies just above coloring books for kids.

Although our hostel was recommended by Lonely Planet, we couldn’t stand the ornate blue/gold decor and dank bathroom, so I used points to book a stay in the local Marriott. Elise was thrilled beyond belief, poor thing, and vlogged enthusiastically about the room. It was then that I realized what a toll the less-than-stellar accommodations had taken on her.

Since our points freed up a portion of our daily budget, I treated her to a set of Sharpies.

I drew the line, however, on Build-A-Bear-style doggie outfits. I’ve promised Elise a dog when we return to Berlin (we’d both love a Pomeranian), but a doggie tennis dress or embroidered jumper? No. Just no.

Elise’s drawing of Isabella Island

Elise drew her (part-wolf) alter ego, Sunny, and her sister Ashlyn on Isabela Island, where they mountain biked along the coast, touched a giant tortoise, went body boarding and snorkeling with colorful fish and tortoises, and saw the Wall of Tears (gray volcanic rocks in the upper right). Also depicted are sea lions, volcanic rocks, and Opuntia cacti on the beach, a water taxi in the harbor, and the tiny bird with whom Elise shared an apple.