Thursday, November 17, 2005

3 July 1989

Heard an interesting lecture by Jorge Marcos on the emergence of Ecuador.

The interruptions during the lecture were a riot. First they set up a tape recorder (BEHIND Mr. Marcos) without a tape. Then they got a tape (while he was speaking). Later, 2 men brought in a blackboard and set it up. Then one man came in and looked at a large rolled-up map in the corner. Then he left the room. Then he came back in and unrolled it a bit. Then he left again. Then he came in, took the map up (over the movie screen), then he left and slammed the door. Then a jet flew overhead (we're next to the airport), then some children started their phys. ed. class in the courtyard outside our classroom: "unos, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho!"

Then Eduardo took us to our homes and Esperanza fed us fried plantain, fresh juice, soup with corn on the cob and yucca in it, rice, mashed potatoes, a radish and tomato salad marinated in lemon juice and a chicken breast. All excellent, but I couldn't eat all of it and she thought that there was something wrong with me or the food. We go through this every day!

We get up around 6 a.m. Esperanza and her stepson Ivan leave then to do the school bus route. At 8:00 we have breakfast -- cafe con leche, bread, fresh fruit juice (a different kind each day) fruit (today fried banana), etc. At 8:15 or 8:07 or 8:36 or 8:30 or 8:48, the van comes to pick me up for the conferences.

After Marcos' lecture, Ellen and I tried to exchange some traveler's checks at 3 banks near our houses. The first said they'd change cash but not traveler's checks. The second said they don't change either one. The third said they'd change cash or traveler's checks, but only if we had an account there. (At this point we almost considered opening an account, but decided that it would take more time to open an account than we had time left in the country.)

In the afternoon, we went shopping for handcrafted items with Lupe. I got a very nice panama hat (a misnomer, because they are made here in Ecuador.) Lupe dropped some of us off at a very nice restaurant by a river. It was closed, but she knocked on the door and asked them if we could at least have drinks until they opened (this was 6:30 -- they open at 8:00 p.m.) and they said "OK!" We sat on a terrace by the river and relaxed. We had a surprise, because one of our exchange students at Brookdale from Ecuador (Carmen) walked in -- small world!

We then had dinner. I wasn't hungry, so I had some soup and a potato dish. For 8 of us -- 2 drinks each, meals, coffee, tip, etc., the bill came to approximately $100. This was a very nice place and the service was quite good. It is just so strange to go from extreme luxury to abject poverty in just a few blocks. The restaurant people called us a cab -- it was strange to have a relatively uneventful taxi ride for once. We told him our addresses and he found the main roads, and we were able to direct him to our houses. Ellen told me that when she got home, the bill came to 1200 sucres. I had given her 700. The cab driver couldn't change a 5000 sucre bill (no one can!) so she had to borrow the money from her family.

The restaurant had an armed guard outside. Quite a few houses have an armed and uniformed guard outside. My question is -- from what or whom are they being guarded?


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