Thursday, January 04, 2007


So, after finishing up this long, final part I discovered somthing: It's easy to accidentally save and delete this at the same time. So, after re-writing and looking for older versions, here is the long overdue 3rd part.

Final part of Ecuador:

One quick word about shopping at the markets in Ecuador. Like much of the markets around the world, haggling is common. There is no set price, and I always do terrible at negotiating a price. It is doubly difficult when it is in a language that you do not speak all that well (although numbers are usually easier for those of us raised on Sesame Street). The oddness of a contently-paid guy from the US fighting for $2 off a rug is too much for me, usually. Just give me a flat written price, and I'll accept it or continue shopping.

Anyway, after a visit to the market, we spent the afternoon and early evening taking a Gondola lift to the top of the nearby mountains just outside of Quito. After a few ear poppings, we threw on our jackets and went out for a walk, looking out over Quito. According to a GPS, we were about 13,100 feet above sea level.

A few other mountain pictures:
Eye-Level Clouds
The only picture of me on my camera.
My Aunt, feigning ignorance of Spanish.
Looking down from the side of a mountain, causing notable amounts of concern from my aunt and father.

We could have kept going for a long time, but we found out we'd been keeping our bus waiting for quite some time already -- as we suddenly found people coming up to find us.

The next morning, my father and I had arranged to take a tour of HCJB. HCJB is a mission radio station that was started in Ecuador 75 years ago, and is spread across many countries now. I first listened to shortwave radio 20 years ago, and HCJB was one of the first stations I remember hearing. In addition, Northwestern College (both my alma mater and current place of work) has a campus in Quito. Oddly enough, the HCJB buildings were about 2 blocks from our Hostel. After a walk over, we had tour of both the radio ministry as well as the hospital they run. As expected, the health care issues in Ecuador are quite unlike the US. The guide claimed that this hospital was the second best in the country...the other one being the one only the upper-class could afford. The radio side of things was also rather enjoyable for me, considering I had been listening to this station for 20 years from thousands of miles away - and was now getting a chance to visit them firsthand. What was especially odd for me was the fact that I was also on an NWC campus after being thousands of miles from home. Some of it reminded me a lot of the place in Minnesota.

Unfortunately, on our way back from the station my father got rather sick and was out for the rest of the day. We still don't know what he ate (we ate the same thing the night before), but he stayed in and slept while watching subtitled Star Wars on TV as we went to visit the future home of the US embassy. It turns out that people working on the new embassy we able to ship wheelchairs from the US, which was a great help in terms of shipping costs.

The next day (Saturday) he was much better, and we made our way over to the Football Stadium where Franklin Graham was set to preach that evening. However, early that morning we were set to help out with the "FestiniƱos" - the part of the festival geared towards the children. We spend a good part of the morning handing out bead bracelets and keeping the kids entertained while they waited to be let in. Inside, we also were able to hand out crayons and coloring books to nearby children. The scene inside the arena was quite impressive: kids on stilts (more on that later), Music (notable better than our Christian kids music - they're allowed to have a beat!), jugglers, stuffed puppets, and ultimately a play that I didn't keep up with very well. It was in Spanish, and I could tell it was ultimately a redemption story but I was somewhat lost. All in all, it was a beautiful morning with tens of thousands of kids and parents.

After spending the morning at the festival, a few of us made our way back to the hostel the long way. Across the street from the football stadium was the aforementioned large mall in Quito. We stopped in to take a look around -- just imagine your local mall with mostly Spanish stores -- and have some lunch. I decided on chicken and potatoes at the food court, while my Aunt (with little support from anyone else) went to Taco Bell. In Quito, Ecuador. Less then 24 hours away from our departure back to the State.

While sitting down for lunch, we had a few people sit the next table over who recognized us. We didn't recognize them, but they knew us from seeing us load the bus in the morning. They lived in a small house next to our hostel, and helped run a ministry for street kids and runaway children. Through this we found out that they were the ones that were on the stilts that morning at the FestiniƱos. Small world.

After lunch, we walked back to our Hostel, which was probably about a mile. Along the way, I decided to stop at a store selling DVDs. After a few seconds in the store, I found that most of the DVDs in there were bootlegged. I had seen pirated DVDs for sale in Ibarra (the $4 copy of "Cars" looked a little suspect), but didn't really stop and look at the copy of the Discs themselves. In addition to the Xerox'd covers and DVD-R discs, it looked like piracy was not only a problem in this part of the country, but rules were not strongly enforced (most of the time, more on this later). I ended up not buying anything, and imagined the hassle trying to get back into the US should someone decide to scour my bags.

That afternoon, my uncle and I went out to the center of Quito - specifically the colonial settlements. He has a love of cathedrals, and I was certainly ready to see another part of town. All of this required getting on the busline and depending on me to figure out what the driver was saying so we knew when to stop. Fortunately, this wasn't a major problem (not because of my knowledge of Spanish -- far from it. I simply was able to read the map and count the number of stops. The worst that could happen is that we get to the end of the line and turn around.).

The center of Quito has a more European look, which wasn't that surprising. In this part of town the streets were noticeably more narrow than just a few miles north. After finding where we were going, we ended up at the first Iglesia de San Fransisco. There were not any cell phones allowed inside, and cameras were not allowed either. This, however, did not prevent some people from using their cell phone camera to take a picture. At least my uncle didn't use a flash and sit up front, unlike some tourists sitting in the front pew of the church. I was able, however, to take pictures in some nearby cathedrals.

Finally, after a few hours of walking around in the afternoon sun, we made our way over to the football stadium to hear Franklin Graham. Outside the arena, there was quite a number of dealers and vendors selling food, books, and music. Some of the food looked rather familiar (chicken and rice are pretty universal), and cuy was quite popular. On the other hand, the music being sold was looked rather suspect. Looking at the CDs and DVDs of "Christian" music and movies, much of which was US-based but dubbed into Spanish, it was clear that there were a few CD-Rs and Xeroxed covers. Apparently, we weren't the only ones to notice this, as we saw a small group of Police and Security crews patrolling the entrance, only to see people scramble to cover up their goods and stuff them into a box.

The inside on the arena was packed, as we stood the edges of the stands. Franklin would speak a few sentences, and pause while the translator would speak. He's much like his father in terms of delivery, so if you've ever seen Billy Graham speak on TV or in person, you'll have a good idea of what was going on. Finally, after much of the convention was done, we took the long walk back to our Hostel - followed by a large number of people coming out of the arena.

Back at the hostel, we had a very American final meal in Ecuador: Pizza Hut pizza. You could see both Pizza Hut and Dominoes off in the distance when walking towards the Hostel, which still seems a bit odd to me -- you don't find Pilsner Beer or Inca Cola in the US too easily. The pizza we had was nothing out of the ordinary, so I didn't get a chance to see if the Ecuadorians has perfected a regional version. All was this was done by about 8pm, so we could get our final bits of packing done and get to bed so we could be awake at 3am. Our plane left just a few minutes before 7am, and I haven't gone to bed at 9pm in so many years, I wondered if I'd be able to sleep. Thankfully, a day of walking around Quito had worn me down enough that I was able to be awake the next morning. Sort of. I at boarded the plane without issue, I do remember that part.

It's been hard to summarize the trip to Ecuador easily. We had a little letdown with the issue of chairs not getting there in time, but also had the joy of meeting others in the country who were able to show us the meaning of love. I guess I (finally) finish this with the Image that sticks with me: One man carrying another on his back, waiting his turn in line to get a wheelchair so he can move. Both have a Christ-like quality: the man carrying the one who cannot walk, and the one who is "the least" in the room, the one easiest for society to ignore.


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