Monday, September 29, 2008

More Americans & A New Ecuadorian Constitution

After almost 2 weeks of foul weather it's turned nice again. In fact it's so nice you don't even have to pack a sweater with you when you go out in the morning! For the first time since we've been in Cuenca, Shelley was able to put on one of her summery dresses and not get chilled.

"It's better, I think" Shelley mused to Brian "than being some place where it's always the same temperature. This way you don't get bored."

Brian agreed.

Some last words on the transit buses: Although there are designated bus stops, you can usually flag a bus down just about anywhere by raising your arm to a little over hip level and waggling your fingers just a bit. Brian always lets Shelley on first as the buses often take off before you've got both feet fully in. You have to hang on tight at all times as the buses lurch and stop but beware the dust on the higher hand rails; as most Ecuadorians are quite short, these rails don't get used all that often. There are red buttons near the back door which you can press to get the bus to stop. The doors will swing open well before the bus comes to a full stop and one has to leap out as quickly as possible as it'll take off as soon as it can. Some buses will accept vendors selling anything from CDs to ice cream but a lot have signs now disallowing them. They all belch black diesel exhaust and you'll often see Ecuadorian women downtown with a scarf wrapped over their nose and mouth to keep out the pollution. There's almost always a driver and a conductor (who collects the fares). Sometimes the conductor will want the fare as soon as you walk through the door and sometimes they'll collect it as you're leaving the bus, as well as anytime in between. While there is drama in the cacophony of languages on a Vancouver bus, the computerized fare box & full stop before the doors open can't compare to the adventure in every trip on a Cuenca bus.

We seem to have had a social butterfly week. Brian, who was at one time a radio announcer and seems to be hardwired to be a force in the community, takes it all in stride much better than Shelley.

"It's 'cause I was almost an only child." Shelley tries to explain to Brian.

"Almost an only child?"

We had a couple of beers with a couple from Colorado. They're trying to work through a toss up between Mexico and Ecuador as a retirement destination but were worried, as most of us are, about the recent financial crisis boiling over in the USA. A gentleman from Florida/New York bought us dinner and we reciprocated by inviting him over one afternoon.

"Should I pull my ear like Carol Burnett used to do when I think you're being too gregarious?" Shelley asked Brian.

"What do you mean too gregarious?"

We spent the evening with a couple from Ohio and a couple from Texas/Romania.

"I've talked with more people from the USA during the last 2 months than I have during my entire lifetime" Shelley explained to them.

"They're wonderful, warm, interesting and nice people" she told Brian later, "but they're different than Canadians aren't they?"

"Different?"

We've talked about the American election and 9/11, financial planning and child raising, art and travelling, politics and religion, Google and computers, orphans, food and our misfortune with the mirrors at our apartment. Shelley's pointed out several times that Canada is having a Federal Election too, and essentially the reaction each time was a polite: "Who cares?" Gun control and marijuana, oil and water, trade, forestry, China and Europe have all been touched upon during our cross culture conversations.

Brian remarked to our new found friends that while we have met any number of Americans in Ecuador there haven't been any Republicans. Everybody seems to be for Obama. We have been assured that there's at least one Republican in Ecuador, but he's in his 80's and is quite cranky about the whole thing. We were cautioned not to discuss politics with him should we meet.

Sunday, September 28th was the day Ecuadorians voted on their new Constitution. Every school had a parade of vendors outside to cater to the voters as well as a much larger than usual Policia presence making sure things were orderly. The school across the river from where we live was blocked off to traffic, so people had to walk in. There's been lots of signage and flag waving and booklets being handed out over the course of the last few weeks and everything we've seen has urged the people to vote "si".

We caught a # 8 bus which took us past the Terminal Terrestre to just the beginning of the airport. Then we walked North for a block where there was a huge Home Depot type hardware store called Kywi and a very large SuperMaxi. We were thrilled to find the hardware store which was just like at home. We've been trying to find a hummingbird feeder (it took us a week just to figure out how to ask for one) and an outdoor lounge chair and thought this might just be the place. It wasn't, but still it's good to know it's there.

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