Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Visiting my hermanita =) and a bus rant

So last weekend I hopped on the bus and re-traced my journey of last Tuesday back up to Portoviejo to visit my Lucia my hermanita ecuatoriana and her familia! She was living with my parents as an exchange student 3 years ago and I went to visit her last year too. So great to see her again!! She lives in a nice walled house with a puppy, a cat and a sweet pet monkey =)
Saturday we relaxed and then went to mall (a real one) to pick up some stuff for sushi and a bunch of other supplies for me (everything from brown rice to normal black tea to contact solution) that I can’t buy here. So I think I’m set for at least another month…
That evening I taught them how to make sushi, apparently this is my talent now! I wander about the world and make sushi in the strangest places! It turned out decently and everyone got to try something new, some even liked it! That evening we went out and met up with a few of her friends for a bit.
Sunday was a sleeping in day… we made a nice breakfast and then set out on a mission to find some ESL books I need for my job, found a few but actually the bunch of old ones I borrowed from her might prove to be more useful. After we all piled in the car and headed out of the city for lunch (it seem every time I go it’s ‘what’s shall we do? I know, let’s leave this city!’) We had a gorgeous meal at really nice little Italian restaurant in Montecristi with a beautiful view! That afternoon we went to the cinema with her friends (The Ugly Truth, normally I don’t like such humour but it was actually pretty good….) and then after dinner we watched another movie before heading to bed since we both needed to be up early.
I spent most of the weekend speaking English… bad me. But I expect it will be the last opportunity except for while teaching for at least a month so…
Yesterday I took the bus back early with all my supplies. Perhaps now is a good time to describe rural bus journeys to those who have never had the ‘privilege’ of the experience. Bus terminals in the main centres are crazy places teeming with life, noise and no apparent organisation whatsoever. Closer observation shows that there are fading signs indicating where the buses in that area are most likely going if you’re heading to another main centre. Men (the drivers and bus attendants are inevitably always male) walk around shouting where their bus is going to anyone who looks the least bit lost and most of the time that’s how I find out which bus to take. Seeing as I’m a foreigner most of the time they’ll even go out of their way to ask me where I’m going and point in the right direction, or just assume I’m going to Guayaquil (the biggest city) or around here it’s always Montañita (gringo surfer party town), that gets annoying. Very rarely you have to buy a ticket from the company’s stall or table before getting on but most of the time people just pile on the bus and it takes off a couple minutes behind schedule (if it actually has one) or more likely just whenever the driver thinks it’s full enough and worth the trip. About 10-15 mins into the trip the ‘bus attendant’ walks down the aisle collecting the fee (generally about a dollar an hour but they often try to charge naïve foreigners more and since there’s often no set price sometimes the price fluctuates so it’s best if you know how much it’s supposed to be before you pay and just have the right change ready showing you know how much it is. (Though that didn’t work for me last time, he charged my an extra 50c and I wasn’t in the mood to cause a scene over 50c but it still left me pissed off…) The buses have zero leg room and if you’re unlucky enough to have a seat mate, it’s a pretty uncomfortable journey seeing as their idea of personal space nowhere near North American standards. Can be pretty hot too w/o air conditioning but opening a window is generally good enough. Unless you are going through construction or an unpaved road (ugh dust)… the road from Portoviejo to Jipijapa is terrible right now, I was just so amazed that the old bus that looks like it would fall apart just sitting there could possibly survive!
But there are advantages too, it’s cheap for one. Strangely efficient both environmentally and time-wise as you never have to check schedules, they generally go frequently enough and you can get on and off anywhere you like along the route, just yell ‘aquí por favor’ or wave down the bus and it’ll slow down and on or off you hop. I also like how the vendors come on and off the bus selling everything, mostly food and mostly fresh baked from stalls along the road or around the bus stations. Really good, hot, cheap cheese empanadas!! (But I miss that incredible banana loaf I could get last year in Jipijapa, haven’t seen it this time…) Most of the time the vendors just hop and cry out briefly what they have walk up and back and that’s it, though they are a few that are annoying. Finally, I’m still fascinated by the scenery. There’s these huge leafless green-trunked trees around Portoviejo I love. The roots are a bit out of the ground and so the trunks remind of Alaina doing her weird neck thing. I’m sure she’s happy to know I’m thinking of her for that… Anyway, this time they had big white flowers, though Lucia explained that my ‘flowers’ where actually big balls of cotton, and they are cotton trees but not the kind of cotton we use. I just think they are so cool and strangely beautiful without any leaves when everything here (no winter) is perpetually green.

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