Friday, February 12, 2010

Ecuadorian Ways

Today was a typical Ecuadorian day, which challenged my equilibrium and left me feeling unsettled. Gustavo cleans my tiny apartment weekly, and was to come at 9:30 AM after his Italian class nearby. His university has the month of February free, so he has lots of free time. We had made an arrangement last week to meet yesterday morning. Gustavo was going to accompany me on a trial run to 'Tierra Nueva' Hospital, which is far to the south of the city and takes an hour an a half by bus each way. I had expressed anxiety about the transportation and Gustavo had reassured me and offered his time and experience. He called me at 9:18 AM, but when I picked up the phone, there was no one on the line. I called back immediately and then several more times as I waited for his arrival and he never showed up or left a message. I saw his father later in the afternoon at Isabel's house and asked about Gustavo, but Fidel did not know what had happened.

Gustavo showed up this morning a half hour late, after I left another message on his phone asking him what our plan was. He apologized for his tardiness and told me that his 13 year old brother had been sick yesterday (probably food poisoning from a snack he picked up on the street) and that he had brought his brother to the hospital for an evaluation. He explained that his brother was medicated and home with his mother today. I pressed further (Eric tells me the right thing to do is to accept his explanation and allow him to save face) wondering why he had not answered my calls or messages. He then told me that when he was calling me yesterday morning, someone had stolen the phone right out of his hands, and that the phone that he had was old and did not work well.

He suggested we go to Tierra Nueva today, but I did not believe there was enough time to get there and back in time to pick up Maya. I was simply curious about his explanations which may or may not have been true.

I left Gustavo in the apartment to work, leaving my computer and cameras and valuables, because I do trust him, but I am not sure how to respond to his reasons for not showing up as planned, except to accept that he had other concerns or plans.

I had little time to wander after leaving Gustavo. I was worried about cash, as Maya and I are leaving for Ambato early in the morning to celebrate Carnaval, and Eric will arrive late Sunday, so I had about 17 dollars to feed and take care of Maya and myself for two days in Ambato. Eric left with his ATM card (the only one between us; my ATM card disappeared in December), and I was not sure I had activated my new USAA card, nor did I have a PIN. Credit cards are not accepted in most places, 'solo efectivo, por favor', so going cashless is not an option. How was I to replenish before our trip? Eric suggested I go to Guillermo for cash, but instead, I was thankfully able to go online to activate my USAA card and set up a PIN. I still was not sure it would work, so I walked over to Quicentro to visit the Banco International ATM machine, and to my surprise was able to use my card and withdraw every penny I had in the bank. Whew! Mission accomplished.

I had an appointment with Jipsum for a salsa lesson at 1 PM, and rushed to arrive on time, but Jipsum arrived a half hour late with his weekend bag packed. He is on his way to Santo Domingo for the weekend. I do not believe it was traffic or transportation that was the issue, he simply had bags to pack and came when he was ready. I do not believe it made a difference at all to him to have me waiting. I still loved my salsa class and feel that I am certainly 'getting it' and hope that Eric can come up to speed when he returns next week.

Four hours of each day are devoted to picking up Maya and getting her to her various activities (violin, orchestra, ballet). Picking her up and getting her to orchestra was easy, but today, when we left her orchestra practice and decided to cross the park to get an ice cream, we simply could not find a taxi on Shyris. We ended up walking at a brisk pace to the dance school, many blocks away and without a complaint from Maya. We arrived in good time, and there was no need to get to an exercise class after that run.

On our way home from ballet, our first two taxidrivers had no taxi metros and charged over twice the fare to get home. I refused to pay the proposed fare, and we were booted out of the taxis. I asserted myself each time informing the taxistas that it is illegal to drive taxis without a license or a taxi metro ( I read this in the paper a couple of days ago). Of course the third taxi did have a taximetro and explained that in fact it is illegal to not have a meter and to watch out for 'legitimate' taxis (with orange numbered stickers). I wonder how the police will enforce that law.

I remember reading a book last year 'Culture Shock: Ecuador' and being surprised at the cynical musings of the author about the Ecuadorian character and the role of shame and grief in forming a sense of morality. I am understanding the anecdotes more now and the general impression I have is that the codes of conduct and morality are different here than I am used to, and the way to survive is to become accustomed and inured to the behaviours, to just let them go. I am not quite there yet!

No comments:

Post a Comment