Some moments are just worth recording. A moment of happiness, contentedness, originality.
I spent last weekend in Guayaquil, first because I had to do something for my ecology class, and second because I only have two weeks left in the place that has in many ways become my home, and there were things that needed to be done to do the city justice. Sunday morning I finally got myself to the Buddhist Temple, the second biggest in South America. (Who knew?) I spent a little over an hour chanting with the monks and a couple of Ecuadorians with the transliterated prayer book thing, processioning around the sanctuary, and meditating. I then enjoyed free vegetarian food and wonderful conversation with an Ecuadorian woman who then took me home. Such an absolutely cool and idiosyncratic morning.
The evening, however, is what felt like a moment worth recording. Before my host mom closed up the house for the evening (six million locks, metal gate, alarm, and all), I decided to take a walk through my neighborhood, Alborada. I was on a mission for street food--truly one of the best things about this country and famed in Alborada. I strolled down my street, waving to the folks that have become familiar, watching families push strollers and keep children from running into the street. I turned onto the main street and passed the usual vendors--choclo (corn mixed with all sorts of goodies like mayo and cheese), hamburgers with egg and cheese, pork sandwhiches, various varieties of meat on a stick. I wandered through a gathering in the parking lot of a church, complete with food and a used book sale. I continued on to a little market of Christmas decorations that had sprung up in a lot on the main street. Wacky lights in every color and pattern, 300-piece nativity scene sets, bags of moss (which is harvested from the Sierra, I learned today in my ecology class, and is actually becoming an environmental concern because of it's Christmas popularity)..everything for your typical tacky Christmas. Dogs were getting caught in tinsel. A couple of guys were selling live crabs through car windows at red lights. To make the scene just a little more perfect, a Fabio-like exercize instructor was leading aerobics for about fifty people in the middle of the Christmas market, to the beat of insanely loud Ecuadorian pop. I attempted to get an egg and cheese sandwich from the hamburger man, but typical Ecuador, he refused to take special orders--they have all the ingredients, but egg and cheese without the meat is just NOT on the menu. I finally settled on the best cheese empanada with sugar of my life for a whopping 45 cents.
Unfortunately, things are not always so fine and dandy. My friend got robbed this morning, right around the corner from her house, in a neighborhood that is supposed to be safer than mine. At gunpoint in broad daylight, they took her bag and patted her down to make sure they didn't miss a single thing of value. All the Ecuadorians had to say was "You're lucky you weren't raped." It just reminded me that no matter how comfortable I feel, how much I've come to appreciate where I'm living, how much I think I understand the rules--it's still Ecuador. It's still life. And nothing in life is simple or straightforward.
P.S. To the left are some new pictures of the gloriousness that is Ecuador.