A band played loudly and passionately, although not fantastically, in the local cafe I had started to frequent in Loja. I liked to come here every evening, sip some tea, and talk to the locals. I have found two common characteristics in the people I’ve met in Loja: they’re very friendly and they love music. This particular evening, both characteristics would be even more evident.

After about on hour of talking to a couple of the locals (Mauricio and Pablo), they invited me to come with them to meet some friends. I had talked to Mauricio on a previous visit, and Pablo was new to me, but they seemed like really nice fellas. Before I knew it, I was in their pickup truck and we were driving to the local soccer stadium. Filipe, Pablo’s brother, had just graduated and they were celebrating. We would join them.

Soon we pulled up to a little park, just outside the stadium. There was a group of about a dozen folks, standing around talking. As soon as we got there, a guitar appeared out of nowhere, and Pablo began to play, and all began to sing ¨The Creep¨ in English, although as I would soon find out, none of them spoke any English.

“Good Good! But now a song in Spanish!” someone shouted when the first song ended. Off they went, singing a song they all must have loved, because they were shout-singing it in unison. An hour or two later, a lady opened her upstairs apartment window and leaned out, smiling and listening.

“Do you want us to sing you a song?” One of the guys shouted to her. She called out the name of some national song, and we had to switch guitarists for the guy who knew how to play it, and then we sang (I tried, but alas, did not know the words). Halfway through the song, a police car moseyed down the street towards us, and everyone scattered. I’m pretty sure the upstairs lady had called them.

Pablo beckoned me with hand signals, and I walked toward him, he walking casually down the street with the guitar behind his back. Back in his pickup, we headed to his music studio, very close to my hotel. “Don’t worry” he told me. “In a group, we always have to get everyone home. It’s a matter of honor in Loja. If I don’t get you home safely, I could be kicked out of the group.”

In his studio, we continued singing songs (I use the we form figuratively, because as much as I wanted to sing I didn’t know any of the songs), and by the end of the night I had a one on one conversation with everyone in the group. It was a marvellous way to practice my Spanish, and I was really encouraged to meet such open, friendly people.

Eventually we got back in Pablo’s pickup, and despite the fact that it would have been faster for me to walk, Pablo dropped me off in front of my hotel. After this experience, Loja is on my list as a possibility for a place to stay for a while.

Photos of Loja are here.

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