Warning: Mom and other people prone to worrying, please take a deep breath and remember that I am alive and well before reading this post. And then maybe repeat that process when you finish.
It has been almost two months now since I moved to Ecuador, and I’m not going to lie to you, I’m feeling pretty impressed with myself for not having gotten myself killed yet. Ok, maybe “killed” is a bit extreme, but Quito is not exactly the safest place.
I have friends who have been kidnapped, attacked with beer bottles, mugged, strangled, tied up in their houses and robbed by men with machetes, held at gunpoint, had human feces thrown on them as a distraction while they were robbed, and the list goes on and on. These are not friends of friends or sister’s cousins ex-boyfriend’s, these are the stories of my close friends. These are the stories of blonde females in Ecuador.
The danger factor was the biggest adjustment for me in moving here. In Asia, my appearance made me stand out from the locals, but I always felt that they found me intriguing, sort of like Drew Barrymore and ET in ET (I’m ET in this metaphor, not Drew Barrymore, just to clarify). Here it’s not quite the same, my appearance makes me a target for thieves and a waste receptacle for nauseating amounts of machismo.
But you know what? It took a few weeks, but I am finding my happy place now, but it’s been quite a journey the last 2 months to get here.
With all the thugs and the danger, I have also been humbled by some of the kindest, most generous people. And that is what I want to focus on.
In one of my first hostels, I met my adoptive family in Ecuador; Gabi and Rudy and their daughter Chanti. All three of them are completely off their rockers and I could not love them more for it. They run a hotel on the beach about 6 hours from Quito in a place called Same, and were visiting Quito on business. I had only been in Quito for a few days when I met them, and I think they could smell my lost puppy dog vibe from a mile away. It was perfect timing in the way I met them, as they were debating something when I walked past them one night, and they stopped me to ask if I knew what the capital of Switzerland was. I mean seriously, what are the odds that two people are debating the capital of Switzerland and the person that happens to be walking by at just that moment has the last name Berner? Bern is the capital of Switzerland. So as fate would have it I found my crazy Ecuadorian family.
They invited me to come stay with them for Carnival, so I went to Same on my first trip in Ecuador outside of Quito. I moved to Quito as I had scored a job here as a University professor. (I could have just said “teacher” but I really wanted to say University professor. I wear corduroy pants and cardigans with elbow patches and thick black-framed reading glasses and the best part is I’m not kidding!) I had started an intensive course at the University about two days after arriving to prepare me to teach, and as it was kicking my ass I was looking forward to relaxing on a chilled out beach.
I was greeted by one of the coolest things I have ever seen–a double rainbow forming a circle around the sun. There had been no rain. No clouds. Only a rainbow, appearing out of nowhere as if it just felt like saying hello. (At first I wrote “as if the sky had just fallen in love.” But then I felt nauseous and deleted it. You’re welcome.)
From the moment I arrived here, I had been hearing about how crazy Ecuadorian men can be, and Same introduced me to my first Ecuadorian stalkers. But I don’t blame Same. I blame the men. For being insane. (Not all men, calm down. Just…a lot of them.) But just as every girl I talk to has a story about a time they were robbed etc., they also have a story about some guy (or 20) who they thought was cool until the next day when he snapped and decided he owned her and couldn’t breath without her and everything turned crazy. And yes I realize I am making light of a potentially dangerous situation, but I realized that if I was going to stay here, I was going to have to release some of my fears and try to find humor in the things I can’t control.
But the main reason I mentioned the stalkers is to mention how I met my first male Ecuadorian friends (which is like trying to find a pot of gold here, as culturally guys and girls are very rarely “just friends”).
So here is the abbreviated story of my stalker…
And by “here” I mean in my next post. I’m tired and this bad boy’s getting lengthy…