Monday, April 19, 2010

Junin and San Diego

I was 'slow to warm up' today, but perhaps that was because I spent the morning with Eric and he moves at a more leisurely pace, although he has far more to accomplish than I do. The alarm wakes me up at 6, Maya is out of the door by 7:20 most days, and then the day is mine, until I pick her up at 3:30 for her flurry of evening activities. I have almost eight hours before I am back on 'duty', but it is easy to spend the morning on errands and emails and writing and reading and coffee and suddenly it is noon and I have three hours until I have to get Maya's paraphernalia organized and get a cab to meet her.

Eric was off to Yanayacu again , but this time to pack up his equipment and bring Mel back to Quito. His colleague is leaving, but the experiment is not finished, so Maya and I have volunteered to be lab assistants and field assistants so he can collect more data and perform the physiology necessary to complete his paper. Maya is excited to be in the cloud forest and help in any way. I like being in the field, and I hope I can be useful. This is going to be a family project!

Meanwhile, while still in Quito, I am returning to my list of sites and museums yet to be visited, and spent the afternoon in the Centro Historico. I wanted to return to Junin Street (also called Calle San Marcos), which is away from the usual tourist destinations, and is a peaceful and well preserved corner with a 15C church (San Marcos) that has always been closed during past visits. It was closed again today as was a recently opened Watercolours museum, which I wished to see. The Manuela Saenz museum was open, but I did not nave the energy for revolutionary history, and wandered into the 'Architectural Museum', which unexpectedly had an exhibit of art and architectural designs by a Czechoslovakian named Daniel Krejbich. I was inspired to visit Prague again (my last visit was before the fall of the Communist government, so I am sure it has changed dramatically). I was most interested in a model of pre hispanic Quito which I found on the top floor of the well preserved colonial building, which showed the important Incan sites in the city. There is little that is left of the Incan capital; the general of the time (Ruminahui) razed Quito to the ground to ensure that it was never conquered by the Spanish, and the latter made it a point to construct grand churches and convents on the foundations of the ancient temples to better inflict their religion on the natives. It would be interesting to explore the vestiges of the Incan palaces. Although I suspect that there is nothing aboveground, I am sure that if excavated, much would be discovered.


The San Diego Church and Convent and Museum is across from 24 de Mayo street at the foot of the Panecillo, and I had not yet seen it because I was warned that the area around it was unsafe. I decided to make the plunge, and walked past Santo Domingo and down La Ronda to 24 de Mayo, which is a wide space separating the part of the centre that I know well, from the unknown on the other side. I passed St Lazarus, which is the psychiatric hospital, where a huge chapel covers one long wall of the facility. As I walked in the direction of San Diego, a man in a truck honked at me and told me that it was not safe for me and to take care. Another taxi driver suggested that I needed a ride out of the area, and when the third man expressed concern about my vulnerability, I turned back towards the familiar streets of the centro. As I crossed 24 de Mayo, a woman in traditional dress, walked beside me and informed me again that I was in a dangerous area. She showed me a wound on her leg and told me she was going to the police to make a 'denuncia' against her husband. When I reached 'Rocafuerte', she asked for 50 cents, which is not an entirely unusual interaction with people who approach me in the street. I was relieved that I had not been robbed, so I gave her a dollar and headed for Plaza San Francisco to watch the pigeons until my heart slowed to its usual rate. I am not sure how much danger I was in, but I was thankful that I was unscathed. I am not sure when or if ever I will visit San Diego.

The rest of the Centro Historico feels familiar and relatively harmless. There are 'Policia Metropolitano' at most major corners, and there are people everywhere, and tourists most days. I am starting to recognize many of the vendors and musicians and beggars along the major routes, and I wonder if any of them recognize me, and wonder why I keep coming back to the same places over and over again. The whole Centro feels like a museum to me, and I love the activity and the crowds amongst the beauty of the colonial architecture.


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