Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Vehicles Were Harmed During My Trip

I set three basic ground rules for myself before I went to Ecuador:

I would not complain or whine or judge.
I would be open to new experiences and foods.
I would try to speak in Spanish.

I don't mean to brag (much) but I followed my own rules to the letter.  Weeeeeeelllll......I did whine a bit about my hair and judged myself to be an idiot with an I.Q. about the same as the humidity in Abby's house.  But otherwise I followed the rules. 

Here's a travel tip for you:  (men need not read this--Dean) if you have any natural curl in your hair, do not have it whacked off and layered before you travel to Ecuador.  Unless, that is, you want to have a puff ball for a head.

So, back to the rules.  Be open to new foods.  Me.  The picky eater.  My first dinner in Ecuador was goat. It was a bit chewy but good. And the rice pudding Jorge and I had for dessert was, as my mom always liked to say, “luscious” even though it was a bit different than any I’d ever had before.

In Guayaquil we climbed a bajillion stairs to walk around a revitalized part of the city,

and walked along the malecon.
I saw my first iguanas up close and personal. They weren’t exactly in the wild but they ranged free in a park in the city. You could get as up close and personal to them as you felt comfortable doing.

I got pretty close, but not as close as the woman who received a gift from one of the tree-lounging iguanas.

We also visited a kind of combination zoo/historic park.

The next morning I had my first traditional Ecuadorian breakfast. Not ceviche (although I did try Abby’s in Manta),but bolon. Yum.

Driving from Guayaquil to and through Quevedo to Abby and Jorge’s house was a bit like being in a bumper car ride….only without the bumps. Here is how the game is played. Mix up a bunch of small cars, medium sized pickups, motorcycles (most of which had two parents with one to two kids mashed in between them), and large farm trucks. Point some of them in one direction and some in the opposite direction. Chunk out parts of the road now and then, add a few invisible speed bumps, don’t waste your time on road signs, throw in a mix of human forms of various sizes and ages walking along the highway, and then tell everybody there is only one rule to the game--they must get to their destination before everybody else around them. If they do not honk frequently, or pass cars three abreast a minimum of 17 times, while at the same time heading straight for the grill of another vehicle heading in the opposite direction, they will be disqualified.

You’d think I might have been a bit nervous during that drive but instead, I was amazed that everybody seemed to just expect that everybody else was going to drive like a maniac so they watched out for each other. I know it sounds crazy, but in a way, it almost felt safer than here at home. In the U.S. we expect the other motorists to follow the rules. I don’t know about you, but when another driver is passing and heading straight for me, I get pretty dang annoyed. I stay in my lane, just like I’m supposed to, and watch him get closer and closer to me. “What the heck is that idiot doing?! Doesn’t he know he doesn’t have room to pass? Who gave him a license to drive? Get back over you idiot…you’re going to hit me!” And then, finally, when I see he just isn’t going to make it, and I HAVE to, I move off to the right, blood pressure skyrocketing, cursing him. If I was in Ecuador, as soon as I saw him begin the pass, I would squeeze over a bit closer to the car (or two) on my right that I’m also trying to pass, and let him go by.

Once safely in Quevedo, I was greeted by Abby and Jorge’s two children.

During our time in Guayaquil, I think the only phrase I heard more often than “I miss Luuuuuuna” from Abby, was “I miss Maaaaaaaggie” from Jorge.

Needless to say, they were all ecstatic to see each other after two lonely days apart.

Later that evening I met also Jorge’s mom, Grace, and older brother, Danilo. Grace fed us pan de yuca which I plan to attempt myself (if I can find the flour) and chocolate soy milk. She had made them both (yes, even the milk) and they were both delicious.

The next day I met Jorge’s father, Manuel, and his girlfriend, Narcissa, and got a quick tour of the farm where he raises oil palm, corn and some teak.

At a family dinner I also got to meet Jorge’s grandma and aunt who were in town from Manta. Phew. I hope I passed the “meet your daughter’s future in-laws test”.

I’ll bet you’re all wondering if I spoke Spanish, aren’t you? You’re probably wondering if all those ½ hour sessions at the computer paid off or if they were a waste of time. Was I able to speak Spanish and make conversation with Jorge’s family? Did we understand each other? Yes I was, and dang right we did! Sorta. Abby just kind of looked at me like, “holy cow, she’s speaking…and they understand some of what she’s saying…” It was awesome. I’m not saying that I didn’t have to ask for some translation on occasion, or ask how to say a word here and there (okay, quite a few words here and there), but we talked about kids, and grandchildren, and religion and gosh, I don’t even remember what. We laughed and we joked and had a great visit. I'm sure I probably said things I didn't mean to say but the only thing I know for a fact I screwed up was when Narcissa asked me something and I answered,  "Yes!  I have two daughters."  She got a quizzical look on her face and Abby said, "Mom, she was asking you how you stay so thin." 

I was so excited that I could “talk” in Spanish, that I vowed to come home and diligently work on those Spanish lessons even more. Let’s see….I’ve been home for 17 days now and I’ve practiced … um … well … none. But I’m going to start again.  Soon.  Any day now...

Next, fish, and more fish.



Al said...

Okay, I am officially jealous. And to think you get to go back soon. Of course, that's assuming that with all the arrangements you have helped make to get the rest of the family down there for the wedding that you haven't neglected to make your own reservations. ;)

Abby said...

I was so proud of you when you could understand and talk to Jorge's family (sort of). It kind of made me wish I had spent 30 minutes per day learning Spanish before I moved here, especially when Jorge's Mom said "she talks better than YOU do!"

And I'm glad you weren't terrified by Jorge's driving; you explained it perfectly.