Wednesdays Musings.. The One in Ten Rule.

I am sitting in the back of a taxi speeding across Quito on a street that traverses the gap between new and old towns.  Skyscrapers give way to parks filled with people playing soccer, kids driving pedal cars and vendors selling everything from snacks, ponchos, paintings and brightly colored blankets.  The intense Quito sun is currently doing battle with the ominous storm clouds gathering overhead.  Beams break through the clouds in sections only to be covered up by a dark shadow, only to fight through again.  It´s one of those moments that makes me feel lucky to be exactly where I am, regardless of the routine task I am in the middle of doing.

Moments like these need to be savored and enjoyed. Living in Quito presents its difficulties.. On any given day when going to work, to use the internet, trying to call home or going to the bank there is a one in ten chance that something will go wrong.  With this logic one should expect something to happen every ten days.  This is the x factor to living here and once I realized that this is more the rule than the exception, I developed a “role with it” attitude.   It´s ok if something goes pear-shaped every ten days just as long as they all don´t do it on the same day.  It really sucks when the internet is down, you run out of beer to serve people because the guy didn´t show up with more,  skpye blocks your account because you’re in Ecuador and the bank screws up a transfer so your money is in limbo…

Truth be told, an email to skype, a phone call to the bank, a trip to another internet cafe and a walk down the street to borrow a keg fixes the problem.. It´s just the sticker shock that picks you up, flips you over and deposits you facing the wrong direction that throws you off guard for a minute.  Also the fact that the computer is down makes it hard to email, skype is blocked so you can´t call the bank and the place that sells kegs is open when they feel like it doesn´t help.  In moments like these it´s worth noting that your friends are invaluble.  A little team effort and lots of support make the difference between bad and aweful.  Being an independant spirit, this has been an adjustment.. Not an easy one, but nothing worth fussing about.. Friends worth having are friends worth helping!

After I fairly garbled exchange between myself and the taxi driver we give up and both seem to enjoy the sun and shadows.  I make a note to myself to learn more of the language as it´s a daily struggle which leaves me exhausted at times.

As we make our way though the narrow cobblestone streets of the historic center, my thoughts drift toward some of the recent posts on the travel forums about Quito.. What strikes me is that no one asks or discusses the above rule of chaos in Ecuador.

I guess it´s not good form to announce to people headed this way that there is at least a one in ten chance that something won´t go well during your stay.  Your luggage might get lost, your credit card could have a hold put on it or that someone, somewhere might not have gotten the memo and there will probally be a few hours in limbo at some point during the trip.  But to me this seems like it would be good info to know in advance..

The forums are full of questions about safety, booking tours, questions about itineraries, people worried about all sorts of things and bits and pieces of info from other travellers.  Why doesn´t anyone address the general disregard for rhyme and reason that permeates every day life here?

One answer could be that it´s not easily explained unless you experience it.  Like the sunshine and rain clouds, the street merchants, the protests around the presidential palace and the thousands of other daily occurences which have become comforts of home, it needs to be seen to be believed.

A friend of mine who used to guide gap year kids around Ecuador used to say that the fact that busses don´t run on time, people don´t show up and that things go wrong is in itself a learning experience.  Once he got his groups used to that aspect of life in Ecuador, things could go forward.  Another friend says that living here you have to stop expecting things to work out and try whatever other ideas you have until something works out.  Between the two there is the lesson and its answer.  Don´t expect what you´ve done before elsewhere to work, but keep trying until something eventually does.

At times this has me thinking about my grandfather..  He was a farmer, moved to Chicago during the depression, got a job typing and eventually became the head of a shipping company.. A few blocks away from me where I sit at my destination writing this, there is a library that has on display printing  presses from the thirties that coincidentally are from Chicago.  These very well could have arrived here on the same ships that my grandfather was is charge of sending different places.. Somehow this gives me comfort, as at times navigating the sea of change and lack of predictability seems endless.

For all the challenges, the annoyances, the language barrier and the days where everything decides to jump up and do something different, there are moments where the ridiculous situations and little problems present an absurd meeting of loose ends.  In these instances and against all odds,one can´t help but laugh.  Only in Quito could this happen so why not enjoy it?

The sun appears to have won the battle and the rain which is inevitable daily has been held at bay.  With this in mind, I´m out to enjoy the last hour before the skies open up.. Hope this finds you well!

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