Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ya mismo

showing off
Originally uploaded by rdlurie
¨Ya mismo¨ is a term heard several times every day in Ecuador, and it more or less means ¨soon¨. In reality, though, it means maybe, or never, or be patient, or whenever. You will hear this term frequently if you schedule a meeting, let´s say with an official from the municipality or provincia where you are working, at 10 AM, or any time, for that matter. You will show up at the agreed upon time, and 15 minutes later will remind someone in the office (or wherever you may be) about the meeting. ¨Ya mismo!¨ they will say, confidently and cheerfully. Of course, you do not know if in this instance ¨ya mismo¨means 5 minutes, 5 hours, or 5 weeks, and neither does the person proclaiming it. So sometimes your contact will show up, soon, and you will have your meeting. Other times you will wait, an hour, two, or three or more, and eventually head home, muttering nasty things about ¨ÿa mismo¨.
I mention ¨ÿa mismo¨ because that´s what I keep telling myself when I think about making posts to the blog - coupled with the fact that time just absolutely flies by, I end up with almost 2 months since my last post. What follows is a collection of rambling observations made here and there.
The 2 or 3 of you who check this blog may notice a lack of references to Peace Corps; I am finding that one of the great things about PC is, that once we are done with training, and we are out in our sites and in the real world, Peace Corps becomes just background noise - it´s always there, but very subtly. If I need something from PC, tech or language training, or help with minor or major problems, then there they are - sometimes able to help, sometimes not. But in day to day life, I am just ¨Royer¨, or ¨meester¨ an ¨agronomo de los Estados Unidos¨. I, for one, like the autonomy.
Ecuador is at least 3 different countries - the coast, the sierras, and the oriente. Within these 3 regions exists hundreds, or thousands, of other countries, places isolated by language, distance, lack of education,and culture. My friends here on the farm, Gilberto y Susanna, know nothing of Ecuador apart from this region, where they were born and have lived their lives. When I travel, for work or pleasure, and mention to them where I am off to, Mindo, or Vilcabamba, or Nanegualita or Los Bancos, they know nothing of these places. They are as inconceivable as London, or Prague, or Perth. I have 2 maps hanging in my room, one of Ecuador and another of the world. From time to time we will all gather ´round the maps and have a look - all are astounded by the size of the continents, and even more so by the size of Ecuador. ¨Muy pequeño!¨ is the common exclamation, followed by the unsettling realization that Brazil, the States, and Europa are ¨muy grande¨. These represent impossible to imagine worlds of wealth, leisure, and ¨chicas in bikinis¨.
I have been doing some exploring lately (being wealthy, relatively speaking, and with leisure time - meaning I do not work 12 hours a day 7 days a week). I hop on buses with placards in the windshield promising ¨Selva Alegre¨, or ¨Rio Verde¨, ¨La Esperanza¨or ¨Pimampiro¨. Though the distances involved are usually short, as the crow flies, some of these trips are agonizingly difficult due to the mountains and the road conditions. At times, realizing that to reach my mystery destination will end up taking the entire day, I jump off a bus and start walking home, hoping to catch a returning bus or friendly camionetta.
Even now, in 2007, the difficulty in getting to and from one place or another in Ecuador is hard to fathom. Villages that are 1o miles distant as the crow flies are often reached only after an hour or much more of torturous roads interrupted by landslides, washouts, and cattle drives From time to time when 2 vehicles encounter one another, (and have avoided a head on collision and the 600 ft. plunge down the valley), the uphill heading vehicle will have to spend 5 - 20 minutes backing up to find a spot wide enough to accomodate the passing width of the downhill headed vehicle - usually another bus or an oveloaded (with people, with cattle, with sheep, or any combination) truck or wagon. The whole operation becomes impossibly complicated when a third, or fourth, vehicle enters the picture. Most of the time the thing is settled without mishap or fatalities - Ecuadorean drivers, though impatient and rude, are incredibly skillfull and inventive. I have found the best way to deal with the stress of a bus trip is to take a nice long nap, with fingers crossed.