Ecuador Stories and Tips

Week 49 - Carrot Farmers (Ecuador)

In a week where I’ve learnt that eating too much beetroot turns your urine red, there hasn’t been much to write about, which is quite lucky as it means a shorter email!

The Tungurahua volcano eruption has been and gone. I’m still not sure exactly what happened due to the lack of English language news I have had access to, but from the pictures of dead chickens plastered over all the front pages of newspapers, I think it was a fairly serious one. I only realised this week, that you can see this volcano on a clear day from my house, along with two more I was unaware of. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of being able to see 4 different active volcanoes from my home! We also had a couple of minor earthquakes this week, and I was informed by one lady that Cotopaxi Volcano, which looms over the rose plantation has been upgraded to ‘Orange Alert’, which basically means there will be some kind of eruption in the next few weeks. As no-one else seems to have heard this information though, at present I am going to pass it off as someone telling a Jackanory, looking for attention!!

This week was my easiest week of teaching so far, as only five of the fifty-odd students turned up, obviously knowing this was the last week of Summer Camp before a three week holiday. Even with only five children, there were still a couple of choice incidences that are worth mentioning.

At the start of the week as the children sat eating their breakfast, they were all asked how their weekends were. The first child described his trip to the market and eating some chocolate ice-cream. The second child spoke about playing football with his cousins. The third child when asked, showing any emotion as she bit into her boiled potato exclaimed ‘my father stabbed my dog to death with a knife.’ There wasn’t much anyone could think of to reply to this, so we swiftly moved on to the next student.

Another child who had a problem with his vision turned up one day for school with his nose painted bright red. The day before his mother had been given some money to take the child to an opticians to look at his sight. Obviously as mothers always know best, she thought the problem would be better addressed with a trip to the local witchdoctor. It seems that the witchdoctor knew exactly how to fix the problem and prescribed a bright red painted nose and a dose of short runs up and down the stomach by the pet guinea pig. Hence to say that the child’s vision is still impaired.

Another reason that it was such an easy week was I had the luxury of spending two days travelling to Quito to register my visa. The only good thing about these visits was finding a flower shop selling 25 roses for $1. A cheap Valentines Day is on the horizon for me! I thought it was a pain obtaining my visa in the first place, but it was nothing compared to getting the damn thing registered. Unbeknown to me was the rather important fact that it doesn’t matter if you have all your important documents in order. If you don’t come with a folder to put them in, then you get sent away with a sarcastic shake of the head by the power hungry official. This happened to me, as I found out this important fact after queuing in line for over an hour. Luckily though, looking like you are about to cry when told this bad news seems to work wonders as the official, obviously not wanting to be seen with a grown man crying in his office, grabbed a random folder, throwing the documents inside to the floor before ‘tutting ‘ several times as he put my documents inside. The valuable lesson I learnt here it seems is it sometimes pays to look pathetic and helpless.

Things didn’t get much better after this experience, as two days later, on the bus ride back home after finally receiving my registration, I was hit hard by a bad case of food poisoning. I somehow managed to endure the bus ride to the nearest village, but the 3km walk to my home was more than my bowels could handle, and I had to seek shelter at the side of the road. Unlucky for me, this part of the road didn’t contain a single bush to hide my dignity behind, allowing a lucky number of local inhabitants and a tractor full of carrot farmers to share in my pain and embarrassment. I was hoping they would understand and show some sympathy, but instead all I got were stares, pointing and laughter. How rude!

Changing the subject slightly, I was shocked to learn that it only became law in Ecuador in July that you need a permit to own a gun. Before this law was introduced, anyone could own one, even children. Under normal circumstances I would feel a little vulnerable knowing this information, as being a Gringo, you are an easy target. But as the rose plantation I am living on is protected 24 hours a day by two gun wielding security guards, it allows me to sleep soundly at night.

I have realised this week that living in Ecuador has allowed me to fulfil a dream that I always thought would be a fantasy – not to be seen as small any longer. Ecuadorians on average are tiny compared to Americans and Europeans, meaning in this part of the world I am seen as taller than average. I’m going to bask in this moment as I doubt being above average size is going to happen to me again any time soon.

Well that’s more or less it this time around. Next week I start lessons with my first private English student, who in exchange is giving me Spanish lessons. I’m hoping this will start to improve my Spanish rapidly as I am rather fed up going to school all day and laughing at jokes I never understand. I’m also hoping next week will see less strange men on motorcycles stopping and offering me a lift. I’m not sure if this is a good sign or not. I mean, if they were overweight with handle-bar moustaches I might be tempted, but skinny moustache-less cyclists don’t really tickle my fancy!

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