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Amazing things in Ecuador

November 20, 2010

Every day we come across something amazing in Ecuador. This post is not about the mountain views, the tropical birds, or another new species of fish that Colin has caught. It’s about everyday things, like the roosters in our backyard.

Almost our backyard. It’s our neighbor’s, but they don’t have a house. It’s an empty lot, with the usual 8′ high wall surrounding it, and nothing but grass, a few bushes, and about 15 chickens. This makes our daily composting easy. We throw our daily collection of vegetable and fruit trimmings over the wall. That’s not as difficult as it might seem– we just chuck them from the third floor roof terrace, an easy toss.

Gallos y gallinas

The amazing thing is that in our home town, there is chicken legislation that limits households to no more than six chickens (or is it three?), and none of them can be roosters. I don’t know how many roosters we have next door, because there are plenty more in the neighborhood, and any of them can start crowing about 3:30 in the morning despite the lack of any sign of dawn approaching. They certainly aren’t as loud as the volume-distorted electronic church bells which start ringing at 6 am, so maybe that keeps the complaints down. At any rate, I don’t think anyone in the municipal offices could keep a straight face if a complaint was made. Another amazing difference to life here in Ecuador.

The lack of footprints in the dog droppings on sidewalks everywhere in Ecuador is another amazing thing. How is it that so many piles of dog doo-doo can be missed by so many pedestrians? We’ll spare you the picture here.

Following this animal theme, the next amazing thing is the prevalence of horses and cows grazing on empty lots and public parks in nearly every city (including the third largest, Cuenca). We find two groups of horses grazing within a block of our house each day, and last week I watched an entire herd of cows and sheep (with two token goats as well) crossing our street  and making good use of the string of empty, grassy lots east of us. We’re on the last paved road at the edge of town, and they were being driven on the first dirt road, but still… amazing.

Those of you who know Jerry will appreciate this next item. Jerry’s been talking with a carpenter who lives nearby about building a small skiff, something to cartop or store at Lago San Pablo, Ecuador’s largest natural lake which is only 40 minutes away. Plywood panel boats with seams sealed by epoxy are fast and inexpensive to build, but while Ecuador has marine plywood available, epoxy resin is nowhere to be found. Unless you happen to find a Quito amateur boatbuilder on a U.S. online forum who happens to have three extra gallons of epoxy in his shop which he imported from Colombia… amazing.

Most people who research Ecuador as a place to visit, volunteer, or retire find Cuenca listed as the third largest city in Ecuador. This year MSN named it the best place in the world to retire (for everyone? Thank goodness none of us is everyone!). What’s amazing is that Cuenca is not the third largest city by population of Ecuadorians– New York City is!

Two amazing things next: the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was held hostage by members of the national police force  for nearly ten hours on September 30. They went on strike to protest a cut in benefits proposed by the President, and he went to their offices to talk with them. His security detail was broken, he ended up in the Police hospital for ten hours unable to leave, he was assaulted with tear gas, and an elite military unit had to rescue him. That he was taken and held is amazing. That it was all over the next day: transportation, business, and politics back to usual 24 hours later, and only a small handful of police are being charged with any offense, is also amazing.

The multicultural nature of Ecuador’s population is commonly recognized: mestizos, “indigenas” from many tribal groups, afro-ecuadorians. But a further difference is recognized and respected with this term: plurinacional. In other words, there are many groups who recognize a right to govern themselves yet who are a willing part of a single nation, Ecuador. They actively participate as part of the national government as long as their legacy of cultural identity and their right to preserve it is respected. The fact that some 40% of Ecuador’s population count themselves as native, indigenous peoples helps account for this strength. Where we are in Cotacachi, that means the indigenous language and customs are respected and part of daily and municipal government life. The mayors of both Cotacachi and Otavalo both have strongly indigenous characters. This is an amazing difference vis-a-vis native Americans in the U.S.

Many times I wish I had the camera with me. Today I was out running and saw a local bus parked on a side street, and sounds of wrenching coming from inside. On my return I saw the street side of the bus: door open, parts spread on the pavement, including all the pistons from the motor! The engine was being rebuilt right then and there. Why tow a big bus to the garage when it’s easier for the mechanic to make a “street” call!

And did I mention that the largest natural lake in Ecuador, Lago San Pablo, sees very little boat use? Three small boat rentals, and a few people bring their windsurfers and jetskis during the school vacation season. We’re aiming to change that. Coming up, a post about meeting our neighbor Carlos, the carpenter, and the boats we plan to build together.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Faith permalink
    December 9, 2010 4:29 am

    Thank you, This is exactly what I was looking for in your blog, I feel better about not being able to visit experiencing it through you.

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