A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

Impressions & an Electrocution in Ecuador

We're now in the land that is granting asylum to Julian Assange, one of the few times in recent memory Ecuador has made news on the world stage. People here seem excited to see what happens but not actually convinced that it's good or bad to support Assange, just interesting. We've since learned that President Correa over the last 8 years has become chummy with Castro, Chavez and even Ahmahdeneyad, so I assume this move to help Assange and statements such as that he will not receive a fair trial in the US are aimed at flipping a political finger at the US and shoring up support for moving Ecuador off the US dollar and onto its own more volatile currency again. But what do I care for Assange? Frankly, I think that shoring himself up in an embassy and insisting the US leave him alone is a weak move from a rather arrogant boundary-pushing man.

And nowhere but in Latin America would I have competition for music playing on the roof of a city building at 9am on a Sunday morning while doing my daily dance meditation. The country seemingly recycles a handful of Spanish and another handful of remixed English songs, sprinkled with salsa and meringue earlier in the evenings. By midnight, all the clubs around the town are pumping pop-techno poison, including the megahit that translates to 'Everyone knows that the drunk man falls down,' and another entitled, 'I don't want to water, I want liquor.' And speaking of water, the water in all these countries is not fit for drinking, but this water is apparently full of mercury and even in the shower smells fairly foul. Boiling it for tea or coffee results in brackish-like taste, and as in India, everyone buys bottles or purifies their water here. (Photo: from a cafe in Panajachel, Guatemala)

However, there is always the shower, and ours are suicide showers, so-called because one must first flip an electric switch and that heats the water coming out of the showerhead. When we first tried it, Luke got a shock. An electrician came and spent all day in our room, then said it was safe. That night Luke got another small shock and asked me to come and see. Super-sensitive Valerie touches the knob where one turns on the water and ZAP sparks and smoke pour out of the top of the showerhead and I sustain an electric shock throughout my body, complete with red skid-marks up my arm, adrenaline pumping. We got a new shower the next day. And the day after that, the toilet bowl exploded and leaked its contents all over our floor. Always an adventure!

Sometimes I wonder where the day has gone completing simple tasks in such places. For example, Luke went fresh veggie and fruit-shopping at the market this morning while I wrote papers of Spanish vocabulary words and posted them all over the house, such as 'Estufe-Stove' and 'Cortina-Curtain,' etc. When he returned I washed and cut the fruits and veg for the week (this took 1.5 hours). Then I made lunch which required also washing some greens for a salad (1 hour).

We're continuously told that Ecuador has a huge crack cocaine problem and that it's unsafe to walk the streets (or the beach) at night, but we've yet to encounter anything suspicious ourselves. We've been most freaked out so far walking a few blocks in Guatemala City one night, but we're not looking to test it out either. In Guatemala people were surface-friendly but seemed often a bit in shock or shut down, like an entire country still processing trauma and scared to open up to themselves and each other, and certainly outsiders. We never got much past surface conversations about history, politics and people's needs and desires, and I don't think that's just the Spanish-speaking barrier. It's a beautiful and relatively peaceful place these days but has many depths yet to unearth. A former president fled to Mexico and was extradited back in 2010, was recently acquitted of money laundering charges in Guatemala but faces extradition and trial for similar charges in the US. People cautiously ask for change and seek to better themselves through work, education and celebration of culture (more than 50% of the country is considered indigenous Mayans), while also cautiously concerned that the country could collapse and the government is not to be trusted, with genocides occurring into the 1980's. (Photo: Guatemala Mayan farm)

Ecuador is expensive, having replaced the insecure sucre with the US dollar in 2000, but people are more sure, more wealthy, and often more worldly and aware of the impact of change and how politicians are catering with small rewards to short-sighted and desperate people and removing liberties, relying on exports of oil and threatening to shake the stability gained over recent years. It's an interesting time to be here, and I am so glad we went to Quito. It is possibly the prettiest big city I have ever seen. Nestled snugly into a valley in the Andes and dotted with parks, it sneaks up the mountainsides so that nearly every neighborhood has spectacular views. The old quarter shares aspects of many European Spanish cities such as small winding streets, cute cafes and churches laden with amazing art that scream 'God is glorified through gold' (and one presumes, the sweat and toil of underpaid workers in centuries past). Still, the city is spectacular. (Photo: church in Quito)


Now soaking up more Spanish classes after a false start at a small beach hostel with the smelliest kitchen we have ever experienced, uninterested teachers and a perpetually cloudy beach in Canoa, we are studying at a proper school and living in an apartment in a city called Manta. There are nice grocery stores and even a few restaurants with non-Ecuadorian food for variety (mostly Italian, but a nice break from plantains and ceviche, as yummy as those foods are). I'm still introspective but am more actively looking into PhD programs, visas for Luke in the US, and will soon edit my website. I can't imagine living without him anymore, and we're both settling into that space well. It's a new and welcome transition into planning our lives together. Here's hoping it doesn't include any more electrocutions. (Photo: Quito skyline from our hostel)

Posted byValerie at 10:12 AM 11 comments