Saturday, December 26, 2009


Very Pink Flamingos

Our day began early. I was desperate to get out of the kitchen, and most of the Richters and Fortunes decided to go to Busch Gardens, the local amusement park/zoo. I left my parents behind, to enjoy the house to themselves, in fact they were not yet up when we left around 10 AM. Busch Gardens is about 45 minutes away in Tampa, and I expected it to be packed with people the day after Christmas, but the crowds were not overwhelming. The shock of the day was the price of admission. At $75 a ticket for all those over 9 years of age, the total for the ten of us was well beyond our monthly rent! How is it possible for families to pay for such an outing? Yet there were thousands of visitors to the park, speaking all sorts of languages; many tourists from other countries, but even more local residents. I was hyperventilating when I saw the price, and I had to work to calm myself and focus on enjoying the experience. I could not help but think about our lives in Quito and how impoverished the majority of the inhabitants are, and how impossible it would be for most to experience a day like today. Perhaps I was uncomfortable because we have chosen to live more like the locals in Ecuador; we have been on a strict budget these past months and I have forced myself to consider every purchase carefully, always questioning our need for a particular item, and most often deciding that we in fact do not require much of anything except food. I worked not to think of our excesses all through the day, so that I could simply be in the moment and appreciate what we saw. I felt very much like a consumer of entertainment, and often had to force myself out of that mode of thinking, so that I could appreciate the experience.

Roller Coaster Heaven

Bumper Car Styling

I did not remember that Busch Gardens is as much a zoo as an amusement park, and was pleasantly surprised to see remarkable animals kept in impressive enclosures and appearing well taken care of. I find zoos sometimes uncomfortable places, with unhappy animals in horrible conditions, but I was impressed with the efforts made at this entertainment complex. The chimpanzees and gorillas were impressive, as were the lions and elephants and rhinoceroses and giraffes. The rides were exciting, with several massive roller coasters (I tried one!) which the teenagers could not get enough of. Luckily the lines were not prohibitively long, so there was limited waiting. My favourite ride is the log 'flume', where we got a little wet and moved along slowly and carefully. Roller coasters such as the 'Scorpion', the 'Shreikala', and the 'Montu' were hits for Tara and Jason and Max. One roller coaster was enough for Maya!

Feeding the Parrots

Alligators Versus Crocodiles

In the months we have been in Ecuador, I have seen several amusement parks set up at the various fiestas. There is a large, more permanent one called 'The Volcano' near the Teleferico, and we saw another at San Antonio de Ibarra in September, another at Latacunga, at El Quinche, perhaps at Cuenca too. The rides are smaller and less sophisticated, more primitive and perhaps more or ?are they less dangerous?, and the Ecuadorians are very enthusiastic about participating. Maya has expressed interest in joining in, but I have always hesitated, worrying about safety issues. I am often uncertain about the safety standards in Ecuador. The structures looked rickety and unstable, but of course everyone gets on the rides and few people are hurt. The roller coaster and the 'Phoenix' Maya was on today were terrifying, and after trying a couple rides I was no longer interested in subjecting myself to the intense physical forces involved. I was delighted when Maya agreed to stay out of the last few chosen rides. Tara was fine after trying every roller coaster they had, hopefully not having lost too many neurons in the process!

Exhausted After Too Many Roller Coaster Rides

Opa and Maya Practicing Violin

My parents had too much time alone, and were anxious about our return when we finally showed up at home for warmed up turkey dinner and more conversation. My parents are always excited about being together and talking or discussing our lives, and Jeff and Sherry stayed to share the food and talk some more. I am delighted to have the family together. I miss my extended family so much in Ecuador, that it is a delight to have them here with us and to spend so may precious moments with them. If anything, missing my sisters and parents and close friends has made my stay in Ecuador more difficult. If I could see them more regularly, I would feel so much more myself there. Instead, we are limited by our disconnection from all that is familiar. Eric worried that with this return to home and family, Maya and I may not want to come back to Ecuador, but Quito has become home, and we will return to our apartment and all that now part of our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment