Thursday, November 17, 2005

4 July 1989 - Orphanage, Changing Money, Buying Stamps, & We are "Distinguished" guests

Mr. M. as a speaker again. The man is a repository of knowledge on the Colorado Indians of Ecuador, but he has a hard time communicating that. Paul is staying with him and he says that he is consumed with his studies. He wants to get as much about the Colorado Indians recorded and verified as possible before they are all gone. The first half hour of his presentation was quite good -- he was interesting, made eye contact and even told a joke -- something about a dock in Esmeralda that was used for contraband in the 18th century and is still being used for contraband.

Then the planes started flying over, the siren started blaring to announce the end of classes, and the boy's gym class started a rousing game of basketball outside our classroom. Mr. M. started reading from his monograph, and I just couldn't keep up through all of that.

Ellen and I went home for lunch and went to the bank to change our cash to sucres. (Remember yesterday -- this bank said they would change cash but not traveler's checks.) Anyway, when our turn in line came, they said -- yes, we change dollars, but we only change so many per day, and so we can't change any for you this afternoon. So. . . we still didn't get to change any.

In the late afternoon, we went to FANN, an adoption agency with about 15 abandoned children. FANN places children both within Ecuador and in other countries. Due to the bureaucracy and new government regulations, they have not placed one child since November! The facility was very nice, the children were clean, well fed, and well cared for, but of course they aren't going to get the kind of care that they could in a home. I think at least half of us had tears in our eyes. I took a picture of one little boy and I picked him up and held him for several minutes. Most children that age would let you pick them up for a few minutes, but then they would squirm and want to be put down so they could explore. This child did not squirm one bit, and he did not want to be put down -- he would have stayed in my arms all day. The same with another child who had badly crossed eyes. They said that his eyes would hurt his chances of being adopted even though it probably wouldn't take much to correct the problem. They said that it was really hard to place children with physical problems in Ecuador because it is too expensive for most Ecuadorians to pay for operations and medical care.

After this we went to the docks, but no ships were in. So, we went to a cambio where we could change our traveler's checks. There is supposed to be a big devaluation of the sucre very soon, so I probably shouldn't have changed so much, but it's such a hassle to get everything coordinated to do this that I just wanted to get it over for the week.

We then got stamps. Another experience -- 6 gringos getting 20 stamps each from the little vendors outside the post office and depleting their supplies. It costs 180 sucres to mail a postcard out of the country. I suppose that you want to know how much that is in $. Well, divide it by 537 (537 sucres per $ -- in 1979 or so it was 5 sucres per $1. In 1984, it was 56 sucres per $1. In two days here it has risen 10 sucres. (By the time I left Ecuador, it was 596 sucres/$1.) Talk about economic problems. It's like trying to stick your fingers in 100 places on a dike to try to fix the economy. (O.K., see the rest of the notes from Walter's lecture. He's the top economist in the country and the editor of the Ecuadorian version of Business Week -- if I can find the notes, I'll add them here.)

Then we went to Laica University for what was supposed to be a little 4th of July party. Well, first of all, we are one hour late. Then we are ushered into the President's office where we are introduced to the President of the University and we all pose with her for pictures. Then we go up to the auditorium and sit down. Then we are ushered up to the stage where the dignitaries of the event are sitting. The auditorium is packed with students from English classes and the air conditioner is broken. We are introduced as "distinguished guests." I've never been a "distinguished guest" before. We were a mess! We'd been running around all day in 34 degrees centigrade. (If you want that in Fahrenheit, multiply by 2 and add 30!) None of us were really dressed the part of "distinguished guest" either.

The program was quite nice, especially the music. First a pianist and violinist, then a folklore group with the flutes and the little teeny guitar and a regular guitar and drums. They were so, so good! They played just a few notes and the students all started clapping their hands in time. Then they played another song and one of the group sang along. This sounds corny, but he really sounded like an angel. They started to leave, but the students demanded an encore, so they did another wonderful folk tune.

Then we were led to another building where there was a reception. They served cokes and whiskey with water. I guess I'm not a whiskey person. They also had nice food. I think that most of us felt out of place because the Ecuadorians were really dressed up and we looked like tourists. But, as usual, the Ecuadorians were so gracious.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

susan, why were you at fann???? wew adopted our daughter from fann. we live in the us.
noreen

4:46 PM  
Blogger susanbrown said...

Hi Noreen,

I was in Ecuador (in 1989) for a conference that was associated with Brookdale Community College (NJ). Our college had a service learning program, and FANN was one of the sites where students worked, so we visited there as part of our conference.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Susan, It is May 23, 2017 and I just saw your reply now. Sad that FANN is no longer there.

10:03 AM  

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