Well it´s been one of those days. I suppose these kind of days can happen anywhere, but perhaps the odds are just a little better here. For the past 6 weeks or so I have been coming into Ibarra most Monday mornings for a couple of hours of language exchange with my friends Wilma and Miguel. Wilma teaches English at one of the local Universities, so we usually spend one hour working on my Spanish, and another hour working on her English, which by the way, is somewhat better than my Spanish. (They own the internet cafe where I am sitting right now, and Miguels´ mom runs the hotel upstairs where I ocassionally spend a night like tonight - cable TV, warm bed, and hot water once in a while, all for 7.50 cada noche). Since I was unable to come to Ibarra yesterday, I came today, Tuesday. We had a particularly long session today, almost 4 hours, so I did not leave the house until almost 2 PM. I walked the 10 blocks back to the center of Ibarra, made a long phone call to my daughters, and then went to pick up some groceries. I loaded up my basket with the usual supply of stuff, then remembered I was falta toothpaste back at home. The "toothpaste section" was in a separate part of the store, behind a long glass counter. An attentive young woman asked how she could help me, and I said I wanted a tube of toothpaste, whatever was the cheapest brand. She grabbed a bright yellow tube of "Kolynos" (.60 centavos) from the shelf and proceeded to write a very long code on a slip of paper. I was instructed to use the slip of paper in order to pay for the tube of toothpaste, and then after paying, I could stand in another line at another window and there I would be able to pick up my 60 cent tube of toothpaste. Weird, I thought. Right next door to the "toothpaste section" is the "booze section". Realizing I was running low on this valuable commodity back at home, I decided to buy a bottle of Ron Abuelo, which IMHO is the best 6 dollar bottle of rum on the planet (trust me, I have done the research.) I made my selection, served by the same young woman, and fully expected to be handed a slip of paper, just as I had been for the toothpaste. But no, she simply handed me the rum, and said "tenga un buen dia", and that was that. Weird, I thought.
I think Ibarra is a wonderful city, it is large enough to have everything from soup to nuts, there is great food on nearly every street corner, the women are pretty and the men are handsome. There are several beautiful parks, and always something new to discover. So, seeing as it was already past 3 PM, I decided to wander the city a little bit before heading back to the bus terminal to return to Ambuqui. I eventually wandered into the terminal just past 5 PM. and was shocked to find a line of at least 150 people waiting for the busses that pass by Ambuqui. Most busses hold 38 to 40 people, and they load up every 15 -20 minutes, the last bus comes at 6:45; so as I did the math things were not looking too good. Nevertheless, I decided to stick it out, after all it would be nice to get home, and I have a full day of work tomorrow. At 6:40, the last bus came, and by this time there were another 40 people behind me. As the bus pulled into it´s slot, everyone broke rank and there was a mad rush to the door. I looked at that mob scene and thought, "someone is going to die in this mess!" I thought for one moment about joining in, and then decided against it. I considered my options, and here I am at Hotel El Ejecutivo. I willcatch a very early bus to Ambuqui in the morning, and am keeping my fingers crossed that the hot water is working here tonight. A hot shower would be a nice treat.
I asked several people in the long line about what was going on, why were there so many people?? Some said "no se" (to hear an Ecuadorean speak the words "no se" is a thing of beauty, because usually they will tell you nearly anyting just to avoid looking as if they do not know). I asked others, and they said " because it´s December 30th", and that seemed as plausible an explanation as any.
Happy New Year all.
(the photo is Anita at the Escuela de Cuba in Caldera dishing out the morning snack of "colada"- a creamy oatmeal drink ¡Que rico!)