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21 de mayo

ECUADOR | Sunday, 23 May 2010 | Views [205]

21 de mayo del 2010

Rosa just said, “Mi casa es tu casa.” Apparently that’s something Hispanics actually say and not just a phrase Americans made up! She’s leaving for the weekend and wanted to make sure I eat from her kitchen while she’s away.

Okie dokie… Today was emotional. Big surprise, right? It’s been very overcast for several days and has rained a lot. Usually I love the rain, but I have a feeling that the icky weather has added to the emotions today. My heart was broken as always at the market. There were some unfortunate miscommunications. Oh! And an old man tried robbing me on the trolley.  I think it’s good to be honest about how things are going, but I want to get all the negative stuff out of the way first.  I’ll start with the almost-theft, since that was what tipped me over the emotional edge today.

Two Spanish teachers, another volunteer, and I were returning from Quito Viejo, the colonial region of the city. Trollies are even more packed than buses and this one was especially packed due to the rain. We were packed in very tightly and an old man who was shorter than me got extra cozy with me. I got suspicious due to his proximity and looked down to see his hand in my bag. I wore my bag on front of me as is always advised on the trollies, but he had unzipped the front pocket and was moving his hand about. He didn’t get anything. I didn’t know what to do, so just followed my instinct. I yelled (in Spanish), “Sir! You’re stealing!” I’m pretty sure I conjugated the wrong verb, but I got my point across. He whipped his hand out of my bag, I zipped it back up, then the two of us just stood there still smooshed together for another couple of minutes. He turned his back to me and got off the very next stop. Talk about awkward. I had just screamed at him, we both acknowledged his attempted theft, and then we just stood there together. There was no place to move. I felt very violated as a woman, a foreigner, and a person. But that’s life. It happens.

Alright, now on to the rewarding parts of the day:

I met a new volunteer today who does not drink or club!  Her name is Rachel, from Denver. I feel like a new student in elementary school seeking friends. But it’s true.  She does the school program, not markets, but maybe we’ll see each other around the office and share in our “boringness.” 

We went to a market way south of Quito called Guamani today. Recall that we visit a different market each day. The kids were ready and waiting when we arrived. They knew the exact place we would set up and had big smiles on their faces when we arrived. They must have known stickers were in order. We ended up with over 25 kids! Some were older today, which is both happy and sad. It’s happy that they enjoy the program so much as to come even when the majority of the kids are much younger than them, but sad because they should definitely be in school. There was a …let’s just say… rude man trying to sell ice cream to the kids. One tiny tot bought one somehow and walked around the rest of the time with chocolate hand prints. My left arm was almost as dark as the Ecuadorians by the end of the program. Cute kid. Another little girl was so attentive while caring for her younger brother. That was touching as well. The market today was the most primitive of them all, but so many children!

A few of us returned for our Spanish lessons in the afternoon. We went into Quito Viejo, as stated above. Apparently the locals call it La Ronda. My Spanish teacher first took me to La Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, a big, beautiful church. One room was devoted to a life-size, painted statue of the deceased Jesus lying down on a wooden table. Very emotional to say the least. Other churches we saw were: the Basilica, Santo Domingo, and San Francisco.  I was as close as I’ve ever been to the token statue of La Virgen Pasasilla on top of a huge hill, maybe mountain, that is visible from just about everywhere in Quito. Apparently, each region has a different saint depending on the miracles that occurred there. We saw all the protesting going about in front of congress, saw some native artifacts, and then went to the house of the president.

Everyone is allowed to enter; you just have to give them some important form of identification as collateral. Raphael Correo (excuse me if the spelling is off) is the first president to deny his right to live in the house. He wants to seem more personable and humble to the people.  The propaganda is pretty blatant. Each family or pair of friends receives a free picture of themselves in the house that reads, “The palace of the president now is for everyone.”  But I’m a sucker for free stuff, so it was cool : )

Later, I translated for a volunteer when she bought a phone at the mall. I was paranoid that the sales lady was taking advantage of this volunteer, who know zero Spanish, because it was right after the trolley incident.  Basically, my heart had started to harden a little bit after several situations of unfair treatment or persecution, most of which I don’t want to go into.

I went to my usual internet center and cried like a baby in front of Jenni. She was wonderful as always and read to me out of Lamentations. I don’t like having a conversation in public, even though nobody understands English. But I really do not like crying in public. It was a blessing though, because the woman manning (ha, ironic verb) the desk saw and brought me some tissues and made some small talk. She asked where I was from and how long I had been in Quito. I answered and then just said, “It’s difficult.” She told me that if there was anything she could help with to let her know, AND she gave me a discount on the computer use. In other words, her compassion was a clear indication that, while you can’t trust everyone (i.e. most people) there are still good people who exist out there.  I also got some talk time with Dad and Hansol, both of whom were also wonderful and supportive as always.

Dinner tonight was soup, rice, and something bright purple that had the texture of canned cranberry sauce. I’ll be honest: I didn’t like the purple stuff, probably just because the color freaked me out. I ate most of it thought and then said I was too full. You do not want to offend the cook. I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet the fruit I had for breakfast a couple days. It’s small, oval, and red. It has long, soft spikes all over it. After you peel back the skin you find a clear gel-like fruit with a crunchy, yellow seed in the middle. I don’t know the spelling, but it sounds like “achothichu.” It’s very exotic and always intrigues tourists when they see it in the markets. Cuy, guinea pig, is the big “cultural” meal here, but it’s pretty expensive. We’ll see if that’s in my future. When in Rome…, right?

As of this very second,  I’m open to the idea of an early departure. It’s not the safest place for a young, female, American traveler. But I’m still alive and well. We’ll see where the physical and emotional highs and lows go from here.

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