When I tell Ecuadorians about having been robbed within a few days of my arrival, they all express dismay and want to reassure me. Sometimes I hear that it happens all the time. Today I got a mouthful about this being because of the Columbians, who come to Ecuador in droves. I was assured that the perpetrators are not Ecuadorians and that of the 12 million inhabitants there are 2 million Columbians who have traveled over the poorly policed border, and are the source of all crime in Ecuador. They are the ones who "kill our children' and contribute to the drug problem and the robberies. Whew! When I was robbed in Rome, I was told it was the 'Chilean gangs'; in the United States, crime is often blamed on minorities. I do get the sense that Ecuadorians feel genuinely distressed that I should have had such a negative experience and want to reassure met that it is not about me being an 'estranero'.
I worry about the poverty. Seeing children on the streets selling candy and cleaning shoes is uncomfortable. At traffic lights, disabled men and women beg for change, more often they are selling quasi useful items. Sometimes they perform circus acts or play a lone instrument. Many are dressed in traditional attire, and come to Quito daily from the countryside to sell their goods. Oranges and strawberries are now in season, and 'chichles' and candy are always popular. In the colonial centre, ice cream and nuts are the daily staple.
We ate in a local restaurant today, three courses for three dollars. It was unremarkable fare, including a soup, a rice dish, strawberry juice, and meringue cookies. It was simple, healthy, and none of us are ill several hours later, so I consider the meal a success. We went to the Ecuadorian embassy to register our visas. We were sent out to photocopy our passports, visas, and entry stamp, as well as pay ten dollars each through the Banco International. I left Eric to finish with the commissioner, because Maya and I had to rush to her ballet class, and was surprised to learn later that Eric left our passports at the embassy for two days. We will see whether we get them back on Friday.
We found a wonderful apartment possibility today. It was an older building, with an incredible view north, south and east on the seventh floor. It was bigger than we need, with old and tasteless furniture, but entertaining nevertheless. The apartment was walking distance to the university, and close to shops and entertainment. Eric was ready to sign the deal there and then, but I am concerned about the distance from Maya's school. I am not sure I am ready to put her in a bus every morning for over an hour in the traffic and again at the end of the day. Eric assures me that the bus trip is fun for children, and my parents remind me that when living in Rome, we traveled over an hour each way to and from school and we never complained about it. Maya was totally enthralled with the apartment, and loved the furniture and the space and the possibilities. Eric and I later looked at other apartments closer to Maya's school and near a big park in the centre of the city, but it was almost twice as expensive, and equally wonderful.
Decisions, decisions, I am entirely uncertain as to what to do.
It was a momentous day for Maya. Her 'maestra' at ballet school had us buy pointe shoes!!! Maya cannot wait until I do the requisite sewing of the ribbons and elastic. She will have her first pointe class tomorrow with the friends she has made at ballet school. Erica, who comes from Los Angeles, has Ecuadorian parents who are originally from La Merced, a small town outside of Quito, and have lived in the United States for twenty years. They travel over an hour each way to bring their daughter to ballet class throughout the summer, and return to LA at the end of August. Maria's mother sells ballet shoes and recommended that I associate with the Rotary club to connect with local people. My Spanish was not adequate to understand exactly what I was to do with the Rotary club, but when I said I wanted to take Spanish classes, she was insistent that formal instruction was unnecessary, that I must speak and interact with Ecuadorians and practice, practice, practice.