27 noviembre 2006

Señor Presidente

I want to share a bit about yesterday: election day. Back in October was the first presidential election day here in Ecuador. On that day, the choices were narrowed down from around 20 candidates to two. Yesterday was the "segunda vuelta"--the second go-around--when the new president was elected. The competition was between Alvaro "Alvarito" Noboa and Rafael Correa.
Noboa is a short, round, incredibly wealthy man who owns the companies that produce the mojority of wheat and salt products among other things. Noboa isn't good-looking, he's not very eloquent and he's older than his opponent. He is good at waving his money around. On the political side of things he's a righty.
Correa, on the other hand, is young, handsome, charismatic, intelligent, etc. He doesn't have the money that Noboa has, but his credentials are fantastic.

He's a professor at one of the best Universities in Ecuador. He's a lefty. He's not too fond of George "W" and he's buddies with Chavez.

I called it awhile back. I really didn't get into the election thing too much (I don't really enjoy politics), and so I didn't have a favorite candidate. But it just seemed too obvious to me that Correa would win. Everywhere I looked there were neon green "Dale Correa!" (Give us Correa!) signs. And almost everyone I talked to was for him. There was only a thin section of Ecuador along the coast that was in favor of Noboa. I'm not too sure what will happen with the country, the economy, education, etc. with Correa as president, but it sure will be interesting to witness (that is, if the U.S. doesn't ban its citizens from traveling here...just kidding).
Actually though I'm not sure what will become of the U.S.'s relationship with Ecuador. Until now, Ecuador has had a great relationship with the States. After all, it's the only country that has been allowed to use the US dollar as its currency. That says a lot. So right now a lot of possible changes are floating around in the atmosphere here in Ecuador.
The only thing I'm almost 100% sure about is that Noboa will make sure that the price of bread, pasta and salt goes up to punish people for choosing Correa.

12 noviembre 2006

Los Marcum

One of the reasons I decided to come to Quito was because of a connection that my parents have here. A friend of theirs from college, Sharla Marcum, and her husband Kent have been living in Quito for the past twenty years. They helped to start the North Quito Church of Christ that today has over three hundred members. The Marcums have a beautiful home in a valley twenty minutes outside of the city. They own a fair amount of land with a fishing pond, three dogs and two horses. I had the priviledge to stay at thier home last week for a night.During my stay I was able to enjoy a few pleasures from the States, including speaking in English, eating homemade chocolate chip cookies (sadly, these are scarce in Ecuador), watching Direct TV while laying on a comfy couch in warm house (the Marcums have a fireplace and heaters in some of the rooms--very rare in Ecuador!). Sharla and I went to the newest and largest mall in Quito (comparable to a medium-sized US mall) and did a little shopping. She also took me to get a manicure while she got her haircut (when I told my Ecuadorian family that I had paid $3 for the manicure they shook their heads and said I had been ripped off. "The place I go to is only $0.50 or $1," Magui told me). Other than physical comforts it was great to hear the Marcums' story and talk about Sharla's friendship with my parents in college. I also told them a little bit about what I had done before Ecuador. The Marcums are truly self-less people who love God more than anything else. Their home is not extravagant, but rather it was planned with hospitality in mind. Last Wednesday Sharla invited me along with over thirty women from the church to have breakfast at their home. She prepared wonderful food for everyone and I had a chance to get to know more people from the church. Their home is always open for people to come and visit. They are so encouraging and giving. Apart from their own three children (who are all grown and married), the Marcums have an adopted son, James, who is from Ecuador. He is 10 years old and has been with the Marcums since he was 8 months old. He has some physical disabilities and Sharla has been homeschooling him for the past few years. I've been talking with the Marcums about some possible volunteer opportunities that I can participate with during my time here. There is an orphanage connected with the church and also some church members that have started a drug rehabilitation program. I'm not sure what is in my future here, but I feel very blessed to have the Marcums as friends here in Quito.I think that just about sums it up. Thanks again for reading. ¡Hasta luego!

Bread Babies and a Black Mama

Sorry about the lapse in blog entries, but I've been pretty busy the past couple of weeks...

I finally got outside of Quito to see a couple of other towns. There were some vacation days at the beginning of November so most people didn't have work or school. During this extra long weekend many people go to the coast or to other towns for a holiday. I decided to take these days as vacation also so I could do some traveling. First, I went to a town that is about an hour and a half north of Quito, called Otavalo. This town is famous for its huge markets that happen every day, the most famous and largest of all being on Saturday. There is everything at this market: sunglasses, hammocks, jewelry, paintings, pants, shoes and bread babies (I'll explain later). I was so overwhelemed I couldn't buy anything (actually I decided to wait until my parents are here to "help me decide" what to get). Nearby the town is another town called Peguche that is famous for its waterfalls. I spent a good portion of the day hiking around the waterfalls and enjoying nature. It was a great trip, although short.

Above is a picture of a street in Otavalo. It's cute and quaint and a whole lot cleaner than Quito. Otavaleños seem to understand that trash goes into trashcans. Below is a picture of the famous "guaguas de pan" or as we would say in English, "bread babies." "Guagua" is actually the Quichua word for "baby," but like many Quichua words, it has become a normal part of the vocabulary in Ecuador. So anyway, these guaguas de pan are the traditional food for the "Dia de los Difuntos" (Day of the Dead) that falls on November 2 in Ecuador. Many people visit cemetaries on this day and bring food to share with their dead relatives. The babies made of bread are not eaten alone, however. They are accompanied by "colada morada" otherwise known as "purple strained" stuff. It's a thick juice type drink made of blackberries, strawberries, frutilla, pineapple, and mortiño cooked down with sugar until they are a purple liquid. It's really really delicious especially when you dip your bread baby in it.

Below is a flower. An example of some of the beautiful nature that I saw on my hike around the waterfalls of Peguche. There was lots of colorful vegetation that lined the path on the way to the waterfalls. It was so great to be out of the city for a few hours.
The day after Otavalo I went to the town of Latacunga, two hours south of Quito. This town is very close to the active volcano Cotopaxi--a huge and beautiful white-capped mountain that looms over the countryside. But I didn't go to Latacunga for the views. I went with some members of my family to see the most famous celebration of the year in Latacunga. It's called "Mama Negra" which translates to "Black (or "African" to be PC) Mama." I still don't know the exact significance of the celebration, but it has something to do with the mixing of Ecuadorian, Spanish and African cultures (when the Spanish brought slaves to Ecaudor this happened). Whatever it used to mean I'm not so sure, but from what I could see, today "Mama Negra" means tons of people (see below), dancing, music, parades, and beer. There were so many people that it was hard to distinguish between the parade and the people watching. It was quite a sight to see. Sometimes being a "gringa" has disadvatages, but when local people are happy and having fun it seems like everyone wants to talk to the "gringita" and it's good for me to practice my Spanish skills.
So that's pretty much it for now. I'll have another update soon (I promise), so check back in a couple days to hear about my "taste of America" in Quito when I visited the home of the Marcums (a missionary couple living here). Bueno, ¡que tengan un buen día y hasta luego mis amiguitos!

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