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(Written 9/10 de agosto)
I know that it’s only been two days since my last blog/journal, but today was so eventful that I feel it’s important to write something.
Tonight Ecuador began its celebration of el día de independencia–10 de agosto. The country comes together to remember the batalla de Pinchincha and the events that led to its independence from Spain. There were some 250,000 people in El Centro Histórico de Quito to participate in the festivities which included: free tours into the various cathedrals and musems, free baile, music, dance performances and a firework display among other things. But this blog is more about myself than the festivities–pretty egotistical, right?
I started off the morning by exploring my neighborhood since this was the first weekend that our BCA group didn’t have a trip planned. I checked my Quito map and headed for La Parque Metropoliana. Needless to say, it was lot longer walk than I expected and a lot bigger park than I imagined. I ended up getting incredibly lost within the park, but eventually found a road I knew (Avenida Granados, in case you care) and made my way safely to my house (on Eloy Alfaro. If you’re ever in Ecuador, look me up!).
I figured that getting lost in a ginormous park would be my big adventure for the day. WRONG. At Las Fiestas de Quito something much more unsettling happened. When walking through a big crowd with some friends I felt a strong tugging on my purse. Trying to be safe, I had kept my hand on my bag and yanked it back in front of me. I felt the same tugging a little later but didn’t think anything of it. Later, when trying to decide whether to buy empanadas or not I reached into my bag and felt a hole. Apparently, the yanking was someone slashing the bottom of my purse in an attempt to steal my belongings.
Thankfully, nothing was taken, but I am still a bit unnerved by the experience. I felt violated and shocked. You always hear of pick-pocketing and theft – BCA warned us multiple times about this and other safety issues – but you never really think that it will happen to you. And you never really know why.
Finally, on the taxi ride home our driver charged us more than what he agreed to and refused to give me correct change. Needless to say, I argued with him (in Spanish!), but he refused to concede. I felt as though we got the gringo precio because we were essentially jipped two extra dollars.
So, through these three pretty frustrating experiences I’ve learned some things about myself and my expectations.
1. Ecuador is not perfect. Having been here for only two weeks (I can’t believe I’m typing a second blog already) I realize that I have a pretty rosy picture of life in Quito. Not that I want to look for the bad in this wonderful city, but my experience with purse slashing did wake me up a little bit to reality.
2. The U.S. isn’t perfect either. When thinking about reasons why someone would need to steal my purse and the reasons why there is so much poverty in Ecuador, a lot of it seems to relate to U.S. involvement as our BCA group is learning in our Ecuador history lessons. So, how much right do I have to be upset at someone who tried to take money from me, a middle class gringa, and probably needs the money much more than I do? A person who may, in fact, be poor because of my country’s involvement in Latin America.
3. I’m not used to asking for help. When I got lost in the park I knew exactly what I should/could say to someone to get directions, but I didn’t want to feel helpless. Coming from a country where I was in the majority, it feels odd to be a minority. I can’t quite describe the experience just yet, but I think this might be the beginning of a lesson in humility.
4. Joshua 1:9 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Even though it’s hard to swallow (I’m still a little bitter about today’s events) I realize that things could have been so much worse. Perhaps I might not have found my way back safely home. Perhaps the slasher could have succeeded in stealing from me. Perhaps the taxi driver could have refused to give me any change at all.
Perhaps God was in this all.
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