On Wednesday, we bought a used 12-passenger van. Not to mention the safety issues involved, we were getting tired of stuffing 8-10 people into our 5-passenger car, Molly, and our family and friends were growing a little weary of it, too. (Still, they rarely turned down the opportunity of going on an excursion). Feeling a little homesick for Texas, I lobbied hard for the name Billy Bob.
Today, Marilyn went to her Quechua class at 8:00 am. I worked on my computer until after she got back, and after Cesar y familia came over to go on our inaugural excursion in Billy Bob. It was Mother's Day, so we had decided to go on a picnic. That way, Isabel, Victoria, Luz, Rosa, Yolanda, and Marilyn wouldn't have to work too much. Yesterday Marilyn prepared a lot of the food. Rosa, Luz’s mother, also brought some choclos (corn on the cob) and cheese over this morning for our trip.
We had been informed on Thursday that another reason for this excursion would be to have Billy Bob blessed. Blessing a car? Marilyn and I had never heard of such a thing. However, the idea sounded good to us. After all, we will put our lives and the lives of friends inside the car at risk every time we use it to go somewhere. In our part of Ecuador, cars are blessed in Quinche, where there's a basilica dedicated to Virgen del Quinche, Ecuador's patron saint. In the Catholic religion, a basilica is a large and important church that has been given special ceremonial rites by the Pope. A cathedral is the seat of a bishop.
Cesar has fallen in love with Billy Bob. He came over Thursday afternoon to lovingly wash and wax the car. Every time we stopped on the way to Quinche, he got a rag out and polished Billy Bob. It was pretty amusing. But I think at least a small part of his reasoning was that he wanted Billy Bob to look his best when being blessed. Cesar is a pretty religious man.
We had our picnic at a great overlook along the Pan American highway. It feels like you can see forever. First we had the choclos with cheese. Then we had red beans and rice, potato salad, and carrot and raisin salad, all things Marilyn had made ahead of time. I really enjoyed it, and it looked like everybody else did, too. Marilyn had also made a double recipe of brownies, but we decided to eat those later.
Arriving in Quinche, we let Victoria and a few others out near the basilica. Then Cesar and the rest of us tried to find out where they blessed cars. We didn't have any luck, so we parked Billy Bob in a parking lot near the basilica. Marilyn and I each envisioned buttonholing a priest after mass and getting him to bless the car.
Front Of The Basilica
The Alter Of The Basilica
We were very early for the next mass, so we had time to look around the basilica. Marilyn and I had already been there once, and enjoyed being there again. It's one of the most beautiful churches that I've seen in Ecuador - at least inside. The outside is only so-so until lit up at night.
As Marilyn was walking around, she noticed that a priest was hearing confessions. Knowing that I had been wanting to go to confession so I could once again take communion in the Catholic church, she came back and told me about it. I decided to give it a try.
We were waiting in line, when the priest came forward and motioned for us to break line and come to him. I was expecting to find a closed confessional like the ones I remember from my youth and figured other arrangements would have to be made to hear my confession. It wasn't anything like I'd remembered, however. There was a very large L-shaped room. Along the walls, at a discreet distance from each other, were bench-like pieces of furniture. Each "bench" had a large seat in the middle (for the priest), with a smaller seat on either side for the person giving their confession. Unlike the movies, the priest heard confessions face-to-face. That didn't bother me because that's how I had always given my confession when I was growing up.
Marilyn came with me to translate, which was a little different. I didn't mind, and the priest didn't seem to think anything of it. I managed to get out, "Forgive me father..." and then I went blank. I couldn't think of the word for sin (pecado) and I forgot to say how long it had been since my last confession (over 40 years). After a couple of failed attempts to say something, I assume he decided I must not be all that bad and gave me absolution. As far as I could tell, he didn't give me any penance. If I had remembered to tell him about the 40 years, he may have felt differently. Forty years is a little ironic, because forty is a pretty common number in the Bible, if I'm not mistaken. I figured that, since I knew what my sins were (or thought I remembered most of them), I'd give myself penance. So I recited the Rosary (or what I remembered of it) before mass. I know I couldn't remember the Apostle's Creed, though. Guess I hadn't learned that prayer very well to begin with.
Putting Glenn's Wheelchair On Top
Priest Blessing Me
Prissy Billy Bob
After mass, we went back to Billy Bob to load up. Cesar wasn't with us, so Marilyn and I figured he was trying to persuade a priest to come and bless Billy Bob. But, no, he came along shortly - without a priest.
Once we were loaded, we again started trying to find the place where cars were blessed. We asked someone and he said to go to the end of the street and turn left. We had done that earlier, and hadn't seen anything. But we did it again. We still didn't see anything. But there was someone in a car there, so we asked him. He said to go to the end of this second street and turn left again. Oh, the first guy must have left out that part. So we went to the end of the street and turned left. Still didn't see anything right away, but there was a group of cars at the bottom of the hill. That looked promising. As we proceeded, there were signs with arrows saying, "Bendiciones de Carros" (Blessing of Cars).
When we got down to the group of cars, we found two lines. As the priest blessed a car in one line, the other line would move ahead a car-length. It was pretty efficient. When we stopped in line, Cesar opened the hood and cleaned the motor, as well as touched up the outer body. Billy Bob was spic and span for his blessing.
There were also people selling things for the car, like windshield wipers, coverings for steering wheels, and bows to put on the front of one's car, signifying that it had been blessed that day. We bought a bow for Billy Bob and he hated it. Not masculine enough, I suppose. There was also a professional photographer available to take pictures, but we had our own photographer in Marilyn.
When the priest blessed a car, he also blessed its occupants. When he got to us, he was saying the "Hail Mary". All of us joined in. Marilyn, who was outside taking pictures (but was blessed nonetheless), said that was pretty cool. She hadn't heard any of the occupants of other cars do that.
The priest didn't sprinkle me with the carnation he was using, as he had done most of my fellow passengers. He squeezed the cold water over my head! I was tempted to shout, "¡Ay-chai-chai!" an expression here that means, "It's cold!" but I held my tongue.
After Billy Bob had been blessed, Yolanda suggested we go eat some empanadas. So we drove to a stand near the basilica. They were some of the best empanadas I've had in Ecuador or anywhere. That was probably because they tasted like the beignets I had when I was growing up. If they'd had powdered sugar, I couldn't have distinguished the difference. If they'd had honey, they would have been exactly like sopapillas. I did see a shop that sold honey next door, but it wasn't open.
Marilyn's brownies didn't get eaten until we got home, but everyone really enjoyed them. We also enjoyed more red beans and rice, more carrot and raisin salad, hot chocolate, and tea. The Blessing of Billy Bob was a very festive occasion.
Hi Glen and Marilyn--I enjoyed the story of the blessing of Billy Bob. My heart is singing that in Ecuador we get to enjoy such unanticipated adventures! I am counting the days until June when I will leave Neil in very good hands in Texas and make my yearly pilgrimage south of the Equator--but not too far away from Ibarra.
Until soon! Cheers, Karen
Oh, Glenn, what a precious story! I'm so glad ya'll are doing so well in Ecuador, but I still miss you.
Well, Glenn. Just when I think that I've heard all the exciting things that have happened to you in your lifetime, I read your story about your confession. I think you figured it out that the priest thought, "Oh Lord", 40 years, he needs absolution :-) I had a good laugh when I read your story. It's good to have Billy Bob blessed as well. He's part of your extended family. Be safe and y'all keep doing the Lord's work. We all need his blessings...
I have just enjoyed reading from the top all the way down to the Easter email. Didn't realize I had missed so many. Thanks for all your wonderful "essays" or "stories". It is hot and dry and too hot to work outside during the middle of the day, so I sat down at Wayne's computer and found your blog and so have had a pleasant hour or so reading. Miss you both and hope all is well.
I have retired, but working harder in the nursery - we are scaling back - too much for 70 year old people.
Stay well and happy and take care of Billy Bob. Kay Finch
That was truly a great story! Please tell us about all of your expeditions while in Ecuador. They are quite inspirational!
Lifting you all up my prayers tonight!
Hi Marilyn! This is Ruth Pignotti's daughter Lisa! I just put a link to your website on facebook. A friend of mine, a flutist just got back from Ecuador performing. She sponsors 2 children there and got to meet them and took them shopping. I knew she would be interested in what you are doing.
My Mom says hi! We both enjoy reading about your adventures!
A trip to Intag, which is a region of Ecuador that's not very populated, was planned for the day. Intag is east of Otavalo in the cloud forest, a region of farming and collecting of raw materials for making cinder blocks and cement; a region accessed by a very bad road. Actually, the trip had been planned for last Sunday but something came up with Cesar and Luz's restaurant that they needed to attend to. We thought the trip was cancelled. Only Friday we learned that the trip was rescheduled for today. That presented a problem. Marilyn had signed up for an eight week course in Quechua that met on Saturdays from 4:00-5:00 pm and Sundays from (egad!) 8:00-10:00 am.
The purpose of the trip was to take a fun excursion and to visit the mother of Nancy, an employee of Cesar y Luz's. It would take about three hours to get there and three hours to get back, so on Friday night we had urged the family to go without us, or at least without Marilyn, instead of waiting to start at 10:30 am, when Marilyn would return from her class. That fell on deaf ears. They wouldn't hear of going without us. Luz y Cesar said that Nancy and her mother expected ALL of us, and that was final. I thought I could be hard-headed!
Marilyn went to the Quechua class she'd started yesterday, and I worked on the computer until Cesar and the rest showed up at 9:45 am. (For those not familiar with the family dynamics of this blog, Cesar is Isabel's brother.) I quit working as soon as he got here.
When they took me out to load me up, I was surprised. I had expected Cesar to rent a van because they told me I could lie down in the back (I had been having trouble with my nalga (rear-end) again). But it was a pickup with an extended cab. If I lied down in the back row, it would put two more people (Luz's mother and Marilyn) in the bed of the pickup. I decided to take my chances and sit on my cushion up front with Cesar. (I'm happy to say that I didn't get sore.)
After I was loaded, we waited for Marilyn. The second time I asked Luz the time, she said it was 10:15 am. I figured Marilyn would be back about 10:25 am, so I said, "Ten more minutes." She asked if that meant we would leave with or without Marilyn. Sensing a joke, I said, "Sí." She said she was going to tell Marilyn on me. At 10:26 am, Marilyn came. We were still there, but Luz made sure to tell on me. Marilyn just said, "Correcto."
The road we took was the road we had taken when we went to Intag with Don Jairo in 2010 (see Jam Packed Weekend). It's very beautiful as it crosses the mountains, with waterfalls all along the way. We went farther than we had gone with Don Jairo, though. Cesar said that if we had kept going, we would have ended up in Santo Domingo and Esmeraldas. Esmeraldas is on the Pacific coast.
Marilyn asked Cesar if people were generally poorer in the country than in the towns and cities. He said, “No,” because they can grow most of their own food and sell the rest. Now, there's an interesting concept.
After a while, we took a road that wound back up into the mountains again until we saw a somewhat dingy white flag. It would have been easy to go right past the place if Cesar hadn't been looking for that flag. There was a driveway. It was dirt and very steep, with an old gate at the top. That was the only sign of habitation.
The driveway was so steep, and so uneven, that people really had difficulty dragging me and my wheelchair up to the house. The walls of the house were mostly made of "unrolled" bamboo that you could see through. I never did ask if it got cold at night, but wanted to. It might be on the equator, but it's still pretty high in the mountains.
Nancy (Luz and Cesar's employee), Hector (Nancy's husband), Natalie (Nancy's granddaughter), and Etelvina (Nancy's mother) were there to greet us. There was also a man about Etelvina's age, but he kept to himself. He was a friend who stayed there strictly for companionship. I'm sure he must talk to Etelvina a lot more than he talked to us. I hope so, anyway. Etelvina did mention that he wasn’t feeling very well.
When we got there, there was a pile of what they called guavas. They were nothing like the guavas we're used to in the U.S. They were like giant, long seed pods. One twisted open the pods to get the seeds out. The seeds were each wrapped in a cottony substance, and that cottony substance was what you ate. It sort of tasted like cotton, too, except that it was a little sweeter. We all ate guavas until Hector grabbed the machete and said it was time to go cut more guavas. Everyone disappeared down the steep hill (mountain, really) except Nancy's mom, Cesar, the non-talkative man, and me.
While they were gone, Etelvina and Cesar talked. I heard her tell him that she has two hectares, almost five acres. She said that Nancy has encouraged her to sell time and time again, but she won't do it. Here, she grows much of the food she needs, including chickens and guinea pigs, besides all the fruits and vegetables. She hates the idea of moving to a city and having to go shopping every day for food and to pay for all of it.
The house itself stands on a steep knoll. The view from the front yard is about 180 degrees and is breathtakingly beautiful to someone like me. On the property, she has such things as yuca (a root vegetable), lemon-mandarins, apples, peaches, guavas, bananas, various herbs, and sugar cane. In different circumstances, I could be happy there, even though it's very poor by our standards. It's easy to understand why she doesn't want to sell and move to a city. (Isabel later told us that Nancy was concerned about our impression because her mother was very poor. Of course, her poverty didn't bother us.)
The house had two rooms - the kitchen and a bedroom. The guinea pigs have full reign of the kitchen floor (dirt) and are kept in by 4” boards that are placed at the two entrances to the kitchen. They don't climb so there's no reason to worry about them getting out or on the table.
When the rest returned, with big bags full of lemon-mandarins and guavas, we had a lunch of chicken, rice, yuca, and lemonade. We all ate on the porch. I call it a porch, but it was really a tin covering over the ground in front of the house. The well was not very far away and made a pleasant sound as water from the tap constantly dribbled into a barrel. I thought briefly about getting diarrhea from the food, but knew Nancy was an employee in Luz y Cesar's restaurant and figured she knew how to prepare the food properly. Besides, many hands had already fed me guavas. Later, Isabel told us that people who live in the country most often eat only one meal a day (breakfast), so this afternoon meal was a real gift.
As we were finishing lunch, the soothing sounds of the well were not the only sounds we heard. First, there was thunder, then the sounds of rain splattering on the pieces of tin above our heads. Soon, there was a deluge. We were dry, but I thought of all the mud I'd get on my wheelchair when it was time to go and I had to go back down the hill. I would not be popular in the house tonight, at least not with Marilyn, who once won the Cleanest Camper award at a Campfire Girls camp. (The soil was very sandy, so I didn't get too muddy after all.)
Before the rain had even stopped, Hector said it was time to go cut more fruit. They came back with not only guavas, bananas, and lemon-mandarines, but also several long stalks of sugar cane. I thought that they were giving all this food to us and couldn't believe the generosity. They did give us a huge amount, but Nancy and Hector (who, along with Natalie, rode back with us) took the bulk of it for their use in Otavalo.
It took 45 minutes to load the pickup with all the produce, my wheelchair, and 12 people. Then we said adios to Etelvina and left her with her non-talkative companion. Despite the scenic beauty and some neighbors who visit, it must get pretty lonely for Etelvina. Isabel believes that Hector and Nancy are only able to visit about once a month, if that often.
On the way home, it was hard to see the road at times because of the fog (I guess a better term might be clouds) in the cloud forest. We arrived at about 8:30 pm. Oh, and Cleanest Camper did take me outside to clean my wheelchair, even though Isabel told her not to worry about it because she'd be cleaning the floors tomorrow morning.
Marilyn and Isabel pushed me downtown. Yes, they really did both push - they took turns. This was the second day in a row that I'd gone downtown with them. Marilyn always claims that I'm so in love with my computer that I never leave it to go outside. So I told them today that I'd go downtown with them every time they went until they got tired of me. (Of course, I forgot my pledge before we got home, especially when I heard the pitiful whine of my abandoned computer.)
On this day, there were muchas sorpresas (many surprises). Unfortunately, Isabel split off to do something else and wasn't with us to enjoy them.
The first surprise was when we passed a computer store. I noticed an Apple sign and asked Marilyn to go in. Sure enough, they had several Apple products, including computers. Right here in Otavalo. Their price for the same MacBook we recently had to buy for Marilyn in Quito a few weeks ago was about 10% higher, but it was good to know that they were also available here. We asked if they could do repairs and they said yes. There had been a store in Ibarra that only sold Apple products. They went out of business, no doubt due to low demand. This store was not dedicated to all things Apple, so I hoped they'd be able to keep carrying the Apple products they did sell.
The next two surprises were in the park across from the Ali Micuy. We spotted Hola, a dog Marilyn had befriended while we were living in the Ali Micuy. She called him Hola because every time she saw him, she said, "¡Hola!" (Hello!) He was sleeping with a doggy friend. While our attention was focused on Hola, Augusita (Isabel's niece) came up behind us and scared the daylights out of us - on purpose. She was walking home with Sylvia, a relative and her tutor. After the scare, and talking to them for a little while, Marilyn woke Hola up. (The "friend" continued to sleep.) Hola was as friendly as ever and looked well-fed, which we were grateful for.
I think he would have made a good pet, but we couldn't find him after we bought the house and before we got Canela. If he was a she, or Canela was a he, we might try to keep both of them at our house, but we don't need puppies. (They don't spay female dogs here. They give them a contraceptive shot that's supposed to last for six months. However, the expiration date often comes early and unexpectedly. It's a little difficult to get male dogs neutered, too.)
The last surprise was at the Akí (which Marilyn likens to a very, very small Sam's.) We stopped there to pick up some odds and ends. They have a brand new ramp right in front of the door! They even had an orange cone in what used to be a parking space to keep the ramp from being blocked. (I couldn't tell you how many times we've encountered blocked ramps and curb cuts.) The old ramp was really, really steep and had a "lip" at the top that was between 1/2" and 1" inch high. It was easier for Marilyn to get me over the curb. In fact, the last time we did that, someone from the store asked Marilyn why we didn't use the ramp and Marilyn told them it was too difficult.
They may have taken that to heart, because a couple of the employees were watching us with what seemed smiles of anticipation as Marilyn easily pushed me up the new ramp. (I literally shouted, "Alright!" when I saw it, which may have translated at some level.) Of course, we may not have had anything to do with it at all, but it was nice to think that we did. The new ramp still wouldn't have been to code in the U.S., but it was certainly a vast improvement here. I think I smiled all the way home.
DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to make anyone think that I'm ready to pack it in! Far from it. I happen to believe I add value that Paulo Freire may have never dreamed about.
I recently finished reading a book called "Pedagogy Of The Oppressed" by Paulo Freire. It was recommended to Marilyn to help with her work in FEDICE and, being the lovingly supportive husband that I am, I thought that I should read it also. I reasoned that we would be on the same page.
I kind of wish I hadn't read it. Certainly, it was a chore for both of us to read it, as we tried to wrap our minds around Freire's concepts of education. The book was copyrighted in 1970, and again in 1993, so it reflected a good deal of 1960's-and-before thinking. It used words like "revolution" and "radical", words I'm not too fond of. At first, I gave him the benefit of the doubt - that when he said "revolution" he was really referring to a revolution in education - but it soon became obvious that he meant a total revolution. His vision was a classless society, which, in my humble opinion, can never be a reality on earth. I think the best we can do is minimize differences between classes.
But his terminology and vision are not what disturbed me most. Over and over, he stated that a member of an elite class (oppressive class, in his terminology) could not help a member of the oppressed class because he or she 1) would not want to give up wealth and status and, 2) could not understand what the member of the oppressed class really desired. As you can imagine, it made me wonder what good I was doing in Ecuador when he, and I assume his adherents, totally devalued my intentions.
One thing did ring true, however. That was the idea that I was imposing my values on the people whom I attempt to serve, rather than listening to them and coming up with a plan together.
For instance, I often try to encourage people to plan, to save a little money every month, to not simply be subject to changing circumstances. I do this by relating to them how I accomplished things (because the people I work with invariably seem to desire the security that Marilyn and I enjoy - and I would like to see them obtain that, or at least choose a path that would lead them to that goal.) I don't tend to focus on religiosity, because people in Ecuador tend to be much more religious than I am. But I do tend to focus on how I did it.
The better way would be to propose these things as problems that need to be overcome, and then work together with people to develop solutions that they can "own" themselves. However, in this book at least, Freire was as skimpy on how to actually implement this method, as he was long on the need for revolution to a classless society.
I'm certain that, because of my "station" in life, I'll never completely understand people like Paulo Freire. As a concept, that also rings true. But does that mean I can help people better their lives only by giving away wealth (paternalism), rather than helping to teach people to understand how to create wealth and well-being in a just manner? I hope Freire was wrong (he died a few years ago) about my non-ability to help people obtain the better lives they seek. If his ideas are correct, it means I can't truly help poor people in Ecuador or anywhere else. I could go back to the U.S., turn my back on others seeking to improve their lives, and live out the rest of my life in relative comfort, for all the difference I could make due to my class. But, in my heart, I feel Freire was wrong about some things. Or was he?
The house we live in has a walk-through closet to get to our bathroom. The other morning, Marilyn finished brushing my teeth and casually said, "I'll leave you in the closet while I brush my teeth." And we both laughed at what she had said. "In the closet." That evoked memories I hadn't had in a long time.
"In the closet." Most of my friends and all of my relatives know what that phrase means to me. When I was born in 1949 and my mother chose not to put me in an institution caring for people with disabilities, I joined a vanguard. It was a vanguard of people with disabilities no longer put away, hidden, whispered about by relatives. Hidden "in the closet" was a common phrase used to describe the situation. My mother shunned that phrase and set about coining new phrases - "a person of worth", "my son has rights", "my son shouldn't be left behind", "people with disabilities should be educated". Only, she didn't use people-first language at that time. It hadn't been invented yet.
The vanguard turned into a major flood that no closet could hold. Laws were passed in the United States of America and elsewhere recognizing the value, dignity and rights of people with disabilities. However, before the laws could be passed, the general population had to develop awareness. And it did, through many avenues. Contact with the vanguard of parents and their children with disabilities who were "out of the closet", stories in the media, and scientific research were a few of those avenues.
I just read a column about Jon Will, George Will's 40-year-old son, who happens to have Down Syndrome. George and his wife decided not to hide him "in the closet". As political pundits will do, he used part of the column to rail against the "entitlement society". That's okay. That's what he's paid to do. His main emphasis was on his son's accomplishments. I then read the comments after the column, and some saddened me greatly. They said, in effect, that Jon Will was only well off because his parents could financially afford to take care of him. No. Jon Will is well off because of the love he has received, from his parents and others. When I was born, it was the love and will of my mother that pulled me through, not her money, because, as she used to say, she "didn't have a pot to pee in".
In my case, what a difference 63 years can make. A person not put "in the closet" obtained a good education. A person not put "in the closet" got a good job. A person not put "in the closet" found a great wife. A person not put "in the closet" moved to Ecuador to support his wife in missionary activities.
In Ecuador, I don't have a handle on how many people with disabilities are "in the closet", hidden away. Isabel tells us that it's still a stigma to have a disability. However, I see people with disabilities on the streets of Otavalo very often. A few use wheelchairs, which are often homemade because they cannot afford a wheelchair like mine. Admittedly, some are beggars, not exactly what one might think of as a "regular" citizen. The physical accessibility is also improving in Ecuador. I think that's largely due to the fact that Ecuador has, or has recently had, a vice president with a physical disability.
Recently, Marilyn and I met a 12-year-old boy with arthrogryposis at a wedding. He goes to a regular school. A gardener at the hotel where we used to live has cerebral palsy (as far as I can tell). We met a youngster in a wheelchair at a church in Ibarra. So, some Ecuadorians may still hide away people with disabilities, while others do not.
For now, though, I'm glad I can laugh when Marilyn says she'll put me "in the [walk-through] closet". I'm sure there are many, many people throughout the world, be they people with disabilities or members of other groups to whom the phrase "in the closet" has similar connotations, who couldn't laugh about the phrase even if they tried.
Yesterday we drove the two hours from Otavalo to Quito for FEDICE's monthly staff meeting. It reminded me that a double yellow line on a two lane road is viewed as only a suggestion by many Ecuadorian drivers. That's not the only thing different about driving in Ecuador.
There is one driving maneuver that used to scare the bejabbers out of me. Now it merely elicits my very well-tuned startle reflex. Marilyn will be driving on the two lane Pan Americana highway in the Andes, when she decides it's safe to pass someone. We'll get abreast of the car or truck that we're passing and hear, "Beep-beep!" Someone is passing us! The first time that happened, I nearly jumped out of the car. I was sure a crash was imminent.
Having had significant experience riding in cars in two countries now, I've come to understand that driving is a reflection of a country's culture. For instance, in the U.S., many people are what we might call strait-laced. They tend to be serious about things and follow the rules. My hand is high in the air, because I'm a member of that group, for sure. Can we still ascribe that to our Puritan roots? Maybe, but I somehow doubt it. We've had 300 or 400 years to change, after all. There must be other factors at work - like, "The bogey-man will get you if you don't eat your spinach or drive like an adult!"
One of the things U.S. citizens tend to be serious about is driving. They stay between the lines, they use their blinkers properly (except in Houston), they are polite (except in Houston and Chicago and L.A...), many even perform preventative maintenance on their vehicles.
In Ecuador, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. People here (as I suspect is the case in most, if not all, Latin American countries) tend to have a much more laid-back attitude towards life. "Oh, we can't do what we want today?" "¡Mañana!" (I've also come to understand that mañana doesn't necessarily mean, "tomorrow." It could be anytime in the future, including forever.) The driving habits reflect that attitude. Driving is sort of free and easy.
Drivers in Ecuador don't always stay between the lines, especially in the big cities during peak traffic hours. If they can cut in front of someone to gain a few feet, they're likely to do it. They'll no doubt be cut off themselves mañana which, in this case, could come in as little as two seconds.
Many drivers in Ecuador don't use their turn signals the way we would expect. We've seen many more drivers here put on their left turn signals and turn right, or vice versa, than in the U.S. There is, however, one important legitimate difference in the use of turn signals. In Ecuador, you're supposed to turn your left turn signal on when you pass someone, especially on a two lane road, and leave it on until you're back in your lane. In the U.S., drivers are supposed to turn their right turn signal on before getting back into their lane.
A few drivers in Ecuador are polite. Often, slow trucks on the highway crowd the shoulders to let others pass. When this happens, Marilyn gives them the Friendly-Texas-Wave-Of-Thank-You. I have sometimes wondered how many drivers actually figure out what it means. Maybe it's understood universally.
But one has to be careful about crowding the highway shoulders, especially at night. There are many people who walk along the edge of the Pan Americana highway. They most often wear dark-colored, non-reflective clothing, so they are hard to see. Plus, many people walk against traffic, which makes them seem to appear out of thin air to the driver of a car, even if that car is only going 40 to 50 kph (25 to 31 mph). Unfortunately, there are more than a few pedestrian deaths in Ecuador.
In Texas and other states, a driver often has to watch out for deer. In the Andes of Ecuador, a driver definitely has to watch out for pedestrians, dogs, cows, branches placed on the highway to warn of a stalled vehicle, landslides, you name it.
There is one thing about Ecuadorian drivers that doesn't square with the laid-back culture of mañana. When traffic hasn't moved in 5 or 10 seconds due to gridlock, and the traffic signals are green, we'll start hearing horns - angry horns - behind us. They must be venting or something, because they certainly aren't accomplishing anything else. But, why vent if you live in a mañana culture?
I once asked Marilyn if she had ever performed the maneuver of passing a passer on the two lane Pan Americana highway. She answered, "Yes, but they were both very slow vehicles." I don't know if I was glad I wasn't in the car when she did that or if I was sad that I didn't get to experience the satisfaction of driving like an Ecuadorian.
If you have any comments, especially about driving in other countries, please share them with the rest of us by clicking "Comments?" below. They would be very interesting.
Yes, in Mexico they turn on their left blinker if they think it´s safe for you to pass them....so it´s always a guess what a left blinker means....you can pass, they are going to turn left, they are going to pass....hmmmm.
This early afternoon, I came back from my four preschool English classes in Gonzalez Suarez, again doubting my making a difference. Although the first three lessons of past weeks went really well, two of my four classes this morning had the children running around, flopping on the floor, tickling their neighbors instead of paying attention. After some quick rethinking of the order of the lesson, I was very grateful that the last two classes had children singing my songs and repeating words like "cat, guinea pig, rabbit, and dog" in a much quieter, less chaotic fashion. Thank you, preschool teachers, for helping me with class control. And thank you also, that I come away from the morning remembering the last two classes more than the first ones.
Doubting myself is something I do all too well. For 27 years, my spouse and wonderful partner in life has buoyed my ego and confidence. I can thank Glenn, too, for being by my side for close to half my life making doubt happen much less often.
Two encouraging gifts came my way after lunch. I will credit God for these positive signs:
On Mondays, Brayan has his weekly English class at school. During lunch, it is common for me to ask him what he studied in English and for him to reluctantly tell me the words and phrases he was taught or were reviewed in class. Then he, again reluctantly, practices with me for a few minutes. Today, I forgot to ask, but before I would even have had time to ask, he told me the words he studied. We practiced a little on "my, your, his, her, its, our, and their" and his pronunciation and usage, and expanded a little on the use of those words. It felt like a breakthrough because it was voluntary.
Then, Isabel and I went shopping after lunch for our weekly food supply. This consists of going to two "large" grocery stores and the food market in the center of town. At the Akí, I heard a small child say, "Marilyn," and saw she and her mother looking at me. Because of my difficulty with names and faces, I didn't recognize the girl, but quickly assumed she must be in or have been in one of my preschool classes. I said, "Buenas tardes," and asked the mother where her daughter went to preschool. She mentioned a preschool in San Rafael where I taught in 4 preschools earlier this year. The girl hasn't had an English class from me for at least 2 months now. After our short conversation, I told the girl and her mother, "Goodbye," and the girl confidently said, "Goodbye," to me. Her mother beamed at her daughter's clear English; and so did I.