Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Too Quiet

Ethnographic Museum at Mitad del Mundo

My house is empty, quiet, far too quiet. Debra, Werner and Rebecca all took the same flight tonight to Atlanta, and then on to Salt Lake. Debra and Rebecca and Werner have filled up my life these past five weeks, and I will miss them. Eric is in Yanayacu, and not coming home tomorrow as planned. Maya and I are left to our own devices, and there are all sorts of possibilities ahead. This is her spring break, and all her friends are off to the beach, so she has told me she wants a vacation, even if she misses Easter celebrations.

We all went to 'Mitad del Mundo' today. We visited the original monument, which is NOT on the 'true' equator. It is located at the place where the original French scientific team determined the equator to be in the 1700's. They used their measurements to define the length of the metre. The monument is a thick tower with a sphere on top, and inside the structure, one ascends to the top in an elevator to view the arid landscape in all four directions. As one descends the stairs, there are exhibits about each of the major ethnic groups. Their location, language, traditions and attire are explained, and there are costumed models in traditional dress. I was once overwhelmed with trying to remember each of the indigenous groups, but I am starting to recognize the costumes and am able to relate the specific groups to the costumes, and their stories are becoming clearer. I have always enjoyed this museum and it is a good introduction as well as a finale to a visit to Ecuador.

Chachi Weaving

My true motive however, for this excursion is to ask Werner's opinion about some of the demonstrations at the Museo IntiƱan, just 200 metres away from the original Mitad del Mundo, and apparently located at the more exact centre of the world, measured by GPS. It feels like a very hokey museum, and I am never sure how cynical to be when I dutifully listen to all the explanations. Part of the museum is an exhibit of the different cultures and ethnic groups, and I find that interesting. but not even the pouring rain could keep me away from the 'scientific' demonstrations.

Werner is a physicist by training and a scientist and a skeptic. The first demonstration shows that when water goes down a drain on the equator, it goes straight down, but when moved to the southern hemisphere, the water goes down the drain clockwise, and in the northern hemisphere counter clockwise, or I may have reversed this. This is due to the 'Coriolanis effect' and apparently tornadoes in the northern hemisphere behave in the same way, as do storms in the southern hemisphere. Werner appeared skeptical and tried to argue with our very sweet and accommodating tour guide, but I am not sure he explained why he did not believe the guide and the demonstration.

The second demonstration had to do with showing that we have less strength in the arms on the equator than to the north or south. This apparently has to do with gravity, there being less gravity on the bulge of the equator, but I am not sure how that makes you strong or weak. Werner was again skeptical; he believed that suggestion may have caused the change, or perhaps that after demonstrating the strength first on the southern hemisphere, the person would be tired and therefore weaker when on the second trial on the equator. The third questionable demonstration showed how when walking heel to toe on the equator line, one can feel the forces of gravity; perhaps on the equator, staying steady is more difficult, but I am not sure of that. We ran out of time and Werner kept asking questions and wondering about the scientific validity of the results. We truly did not get any answers and I am no clearer now than before.

Our taxi driver, Vladimir, showed up exactly on time, so that we could battle the afternoon traffic all the way to the Mariscal, where Rebecca and Debra both had last minute souvenir shopping to do. Maya translated and bargained for Rebecca in the Artesanal market, and it was soon clear that my presence was entirely unnecessary; Maya was entirely capable of taking care of Rebecca, so I wandered off and starting spending the money I had received from the bank today.

Driving on Street near Mitad del Mundo

This morning, I had taken the cheque I had received from 'Christian', the manager of Ecomontes, to the Banco International, just a block away from the apartment. I was quite certain than there would be some sort of obstacle to cashing the cheque, but armed with a passport and my censo, it was altogether too easy. I had Werner and Debra and Maya escort me back home, the wad of twenty dollar bills burning a hole in my purse. I arrived safely at the apartment without incident, but when I counted the money out to give Rebecca her half, I discovered that more than half of the bills were torn, taped together, scribbled on, or with parts of the bill missing. I walked right back to the bank and demanded newer bills, which is exactly what I got. I keep anticipating obstacles, and am ready to do battle, and am always surprised when all goes well.

Eating Icecream at the Mercado

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