Monday, April 22, 2013

Miercoles 17 de abril 2013

A rainy afternoon in Quito, Ecuador. My "fancy" shoes, a pair of Nike sneakers which I have taken such good care of for the past year are now soaking wet, and we all know what happens to sneakers once they have gotten wet . . . que pena.

I've been walking around the city most of the day . . . earlier it was bright sun, strong enough to burn a balding head like mine in a matter of minutes. I try to find the shady side of the street about half the time as I wander around.

Friends from the USA have come to visit Ecuador and they have arrived bearing gifts - 2 (!) bottles of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey - plus a few miscellaneous things from my son Joe. Some magazines, a check from a US bank to deposit here, and most importantly the second season of "Game of Thrones" burned to DVD.

As I have just returned from a pleasant trip to Colombia to visit friends, I am loaded down with additional gifts and purchases . . . some excellent Colombian coffees. Since I'm still traveling, I've decided to ship my whiskeys and coffees and other stuff up to Ibarra, rather than carry it around on these last few days of travel. I set out to find a branch of "ServiEntrega", an Ecuadorean shipping service similar to UPS. There are a dozen or so locations in Quito, and I quickly find one on the Avenida Rio Amazonas. The face of the bored clerk lights up when he sees me enter, and he turns down the volume of the salsa music he is listening to.

"Buenos dias señor! "Como puedo ayudarte
?" I ask for a box large enough to acommodate my goods, and he grimaces - - "oh! no tengo, se acabo!" - - "oh, we don't have any, we just ran out!" - - which is a phrase heard at least once a day if one is doing any shopping. So he suggests I walk down the street to ask at any number of tiendas if they have any cartones that they can let me have. I do so, and in a few moments I have found the perfect box. Back at ServiEntrega, the clerk turns down the music again and he hands me a box cutter and a roll of tape. I carefully pack the box (don't want those whiskey bottles to break!) we label it, wrap it in tape - - listo. I pay 5.40 USD and the clerk tells me to be sure I pick it up in Ibarra within 5 days. We shake hands, I step out the door, and he pumps up the volume once more.

I return to my hostal - I need my passport in order to deposit the check I have received. I look for it in my backpack, but do not find it in the usual spot. I rummage around the room . . . no. I do it again, same results. Oh, shit. I'm often guilty of misplacing things, so I do not panic, and I look once more. Oh, shit.

Then a lightbulb goes on . . . the bag, the one with the coffee from Colombia in it, the one that is now neatly packed away in a shipping carton about 15 blocks from here - that's where my passport is. Why I happened to put it there escapes me for the moment, no matter. So back to ServiEntrega, which as it happens is closed for the mid-day break. I wander over to a local music store and kill some time trying out some electric guitars and effects pedals. The kid minding the shop thinks I am pretty good, as I rip out my scanty repertoire of 3 or 4 licks and play them over and over again, disguising their sameness with the effects. I play several guitars, there is a Godin model that is quite nice, but at over 600 dollars will never hang on my wall.

Time killed, quite enjoyably, I wander back to the shipper, who is now open. Still sunny, but the skies are darkening and the wind is picking up. So typically Quito! The clerk recognizes me as I walk in, turns down the music, and I am quite happy to see my carton on the floor behind him, just where it was when I left a few hours ago. "Amigo, ayudame porfavor" - " I think I have made an error and put my passport in the box!"

He smiles and hands me the box, the cutter, and the tape. I carefully cut open the box, from the bottom, and remove the bag containing the coffees. Success! My passport IS here! I repack the box, tape it up again with the green and white tape and return the whole shebang to him. "Gracias! Muy amable!" I wave goodbye and up goes the music. I'm off to the bank.

Back on the street and it is now pouring rain. 2 doors down a woman is huddled in her doorway selling paraguas, 3 dollars. I buy one. 5 doors further down an old man is also selling umbrellas,and as I pass by he looks at me, and at my umbrella, and implores me to buy one of his. I don't.

In the bank there is a problem. My check can not be "authorized", whatever that means. I mention to the supervisor that I opened my account at his bank with a check from the same US institution 3 years ago, sin problema. He shrugs - - "the rules have changed, what can I tell you?". I will need to take the check to the branch in Ibarra where I originally opened the account.

Bueno . . . asi es la vida.

I leave the bank, it is still pouring. I walk a few blocks in the direction of my hostal, and then duck into a used bookstore. I buy 3 used books in Spanish for 5 bucks, including what looks to be a very nice history of Lawrence of Arabia.

Back outside the rain is coming down in sheets. Across the street is a very inviting cafe, so I dash over. I order a batido de fresa - - a strawberry milkshake, sort of. I take out my notebook and start to write, something I've not done for many moons.

A loud and wet and happy group of 7 men and women, a very handsome bunch, swoosh into the cafe. I am sure they must be dancers . . or actors. They are amused that I am watching them, and listening to their conversation. "Where you from?", one asks. I say I am from "los estados unidos . . but I live here, in Ecuador." They are from Venezuela . . . dancers.

We chat for a moment and then all retreat back into our respective little spheres. After a while they leave, handshakes all around. I scribble a sentence or two more into my notebook, pay my bill, and I too am gone.