Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ecuador: Parting Thoughts and Parting Comments

The good news is that the maracas stopped around 1am. The not so great news is that karaoke has begun and we added speakers to the setup - for reference, its almost 3am. Heaven help me. Ecuadorians know how to have a good time. There is really no reason to go to bed if this is what is going on downstairs so I have decided to try to wrap things up a bit - for you and for me.

My last email left off with me complainging about Ambato. Too bad I didn't wait until we got to Riobamba and save it for a needier cause. There not only did we not have a schedule but no one really had any clue what we were doing or the foresight to call people to let them know when plans changed. But, I am getting ahead of myself. We took a trip to the lovely tourist town of Banos our first day in Ambato which was cool. Heather, Maddy, and I crawled our way up behind a waterfall just to hear its thunderous applause. I then got abandoned by my first set of "parents" for 2 hours while they decided to go to bed as there was no electricity and they somehow assumed my plans had changed. We were torn between what I can only assume a divorced and unhappy set of parents is like with the 2 clubs in Ambato. It didn't help that they had blatant disregard for the other club's schedule but decided to have split days with us. We were mobbed by a crazy school full of dirty kids for stickers. I know they are super poor but it is hard to stay compassionate when the first thing they do it turn to lying, cheating, stealing, and violence when they are given a gift. And it was only a damn sticker. Ambato also included so many means of "typical food" that Sherrilynn was physically ill for a couple days and the rest of us stopped eating. We were made to switch to a second host family after only 2 nights which was annoying and unreasonable. My second "mom" locked me in the house with no way to escape - forget Panic Room, I had Panic House. My last ditch effort was to go onto the rooftop and at the last moment of contemplating repelling down, I saw her and decided yelling was a better solution.

Riobamba was also fraught with annoyances. The one thing I wanted to do was ride the Riobamba Express train and because of ill planning, their strong desire to have us do Rotary events instead, and a lack of communication, we did not get to go. As with other cities, we went on ridiculous visits to schools who 1) weren't expecting us and 2) didn't know what to do with us. I was abondoned by my "mom" who went to get her nails done and then kidnapped Martha and took her to see a Rotary project. Her apology came in the form of 2 hand-made rosaries: one pearl and the other about 2 feet long and super stinky. I was unable to shower, change my clothes, eat dinner, or finish my homework for that night but she didn't understand why I was so upset. So what she told me she'd be back in an hour?

We spent our last Ecuadorian weekend in the country home of the district governor and his overbearing wife. They think if they want you to do something you just do it and shut the heck up. She also feeds him on occasion which is insane looking for a man who is easily about 6' 5" and well over 200 pounds. I am sure he knows how. Our time there was supposed to be relaxing but they had no internet so I had not 1 but 2 assignments I could not turn in, Sherry had a leaky ceiling that dripped water on her face as she slept, Maddy was attacked by bed bugs, and my mattress sagged almost to the floor when I laid on it. Ahhhh...so relaxing.

I was more than happy to be back in Quayaquil and staying at the same house for our last 5 days. Our parents are the coolest (minus the fact it is now almost 4 and they are singing "Don't go breaking my heart" knowing full well we have to leave for the airport at 7). We visited some cool school sites and some typical sites as well. By typical I mean schools that aren't expecting us and don't know what to do with us. We went on a terrible tour of colonial style buildings, ate incredibly good sushi, visited a strange park full of iguanas, pigged out on artisan style ice cream, watched New Moon in English, and slept in (at least Heather and I did because our parents rule).

Please do NOT get me wrong: Rotary does amazing work. Part of what has been hard is 1) trying to see all of that work, 2) not understanding the background and motivation of that work, 3) not having any real say on what we do or where we go and 4) basically being at the longest business meeting ever. Sherrilynn counted, we have spent 16 of our 20 weekdays at "vocational events". We were only supposed to go to 7. I think I need a vacation. At least back stateside I get the comfort of giving my presentation in English. (And the comfort of living without biting flies.) Now to just go through the almost 6,000 photos that everyone has taken and make our next PowerPoint presentation...

GENERAL INFORMATION
Things that Surprised Me:
1. Ecuador is a lot like China (see below)
2. Ecuadorian food is rather bland and very greasy
3. Traveling on someone else's schedule is lame to the max
4. Security can be taken too far
5. Some Rotarians do good and others do better if there is a camera there to capture it

China in Ecuador:
1. You can drive however you want - lines, signals, lanes, rules, etc do NOT matter
2. It makes good sense to put at least 3 people on a motorcycle
3. Why finish building something when you can not finish building something just as easy?
4. The liquor they make is gross but you have to drink it to be polite
5. People show disregard for playing cards (albeit not as blatant)

Security:
1. In a country with rolling blackouts, people have electric gates that cannot be opened with a key
2. Most houses have deadbolts that people lock from the inside with a key and then you can't get out
3. Very intelligent security guards can't remember 2 white girls from the am to the pm
4. Rich people are kidnapped in broad daylight
5. You can't but things at stores if you are a foreigner and don't have your passport with you

Note: Its 4:25 and we have moved on to"Killing me Softly" in Spanish