No Pasa Nada

Ecuador in 2000

by Jane O'Brien

 Her previous adventures and photographs from Ecuador are in the following order:  In the Shadow of Tungurahua, Galapagos, Siga No Mas, Cuenca. and Bolivia and Chile Travel Tips for the Ecuadorian Andes

1/1/2000 Cuenca

Homemade firecrackers in preparation for New Years eve. Paper animals are filled with firecrackers and burned.

Editors note:   Jane's mother and sister visited Ecuador for the holidays and we lost Jane as a writer.   Jane's sister Emily wrote today from Cuenca: 

   Today we were supposed to visit museums, as our paid guide reassured us several times that everything would be open.  Of course, he didn't bother to check, so we have discovered that nothing is open.  The woman at the front desk of our hotel checked for us (for free, even though it's not her job) and then explained that by law all public museums are supposed to be open, but what they do is go to work and answer the phones, but they don't open the doors and just start drinking and celebrating the New Year at work!  Good old Latin America!  Anyway, we will instead walk around looking at the beautiful architecture and parks and markets.  It will be a fun day and I will buy my mask for my costume and my muņeca for burning tonight.  We also are going to see some faith healing.  And tonight we will be dancing in the streets! 

Have a terrific New Year!

Jane wrote:  I just wanted to add one final note and tell you to have a wonderful New Year's.  I just got cured off all bad luck by an indigenous woman who swatted at me with a bunch of flowers and then blew liquor on me.  She also rubbed an egg all over me and then threw it on the street.  Well, Emily and Kam are ready to go, so I'll have to tell you more later.  Have fun!

Masks are purchased that look like someone. Mask is placed on head of sawdust body and then burned.

Emily O'Brien

Effigy with head on.


I have painted pictures with words of my life as a tourist, catching fleeting glimpses of the mountainscapes out of bus windows. I have written scenic descriptions about the Galapagos and countless adventurous tales about the volcanoes, and, in some respects, what I have written about Ecuador is a lie. My purpose in writing about my life down here is to allow my family and friends to be able to experience my time in Ecuador, so that they can know how it really is in this country. My letters, however, have failed to capture an adequate portrayal of life in Ecuador. While I am fortunate enough to have a brief residency here, I am and always will be an outsider; I do not live here nor do I know what it feels like to really live in Ecuador.

The main focus in Ecuador right now is the economy and the dollar, which has been making the top story of the news for months. Gone are the burgeoning volcanoes, which have fallen into the back stories of the news, the side articles of the newspapers. Tungurahua, with its foreboding triangular shape and continual emission of black plumes of smoke, has become just another aspect of daily life in Ecuador and at best, has become a tourist attraction. Several people from Baņos have signed a contract with the government, giving up all governmental responsibility in case of death resulting from Tungurahua's eruption, and have returned to their homes in Baņo--out of desperation for food, shelter and work. Pichincha, periodically raining ash, has become an inconvenience, closing the airport and forcing everyone to once again don their masks. Moreover, the volcanoes are now a liability, causing the country to lose even more money from lack of tourism and the inability to export products.

Presently, the dollar, which has risen from 11,000 sucres to 25,000 sucres to the dollar, has become the new source of conversation and controversy. The president of Ecuador, on Sunday, issued a National address, outlining his plans to dollarize the economy. From what I understand, the government and the Central Bank of Ecuador want to freeze the exchange rate at 25,000 sucres to the dollar and slowly phase out the sucre to be completely replaced by the dollar. They hope that this will ultimately stabilize the economy. While some support the dollarization of the economy, many people are unhappy. I have heard confirmed rumors that there will be an indigenous uprising on Saturday. Supposedly, the indigenous people want to overthrow the government and dissolve congress altogether. Transportation strikes have already begun in the larger cities in Ecuador. Buses block the main highways, tires are burned, people convene and protest. I know that this is only the beginning of many strikes to come.

In Ambato, we have had our own strikes. Last week, I walked through a student protest as I was going to work. A tire lay burning on the street and the students shouted angrily, but again, I was not very affected. Last night, I went to dinner with my friend who has had tear gas bombs in her class room. She had had an argument with her director who insisted that tear gas was not toxic and that she could continue to teach through the bombings. I, however, will most likely not face these problems because I teach at a private University where the students are wealthier and less likely to stage a protest.

After dinner with my friend, I went home and found my host sister sitting at the dining room table, peeling the skin off of boiled plums in order to make jam. I rolled up my sleeves and grabbed a plum to help her. Que paso con las noticias? I asked her, peeling and pitting my plum. Nada, she tells me, solemente el dollar.  I wanted to tell her that I felt badly for the people in Ecuador, that I was sorry that my currency was taking over the sucre. I knew, however, that to say this would be to separate our worlds even more than they already are. Instead, I asked her about the strikes and said that I felt sadly for the indigenous population, who will probably be hit the worse by the dollarization of the economy. She was quiet for a moment, then the phone rang and she got up from the table to wipe off her hands and answer it. Before she left the room, she said, ''I feel sorry for us all.'' While she talked on the phone, I sat alone, continuing to peel and pit the slippery plums, my hands pruned from their juice. I worked on plum after plum, and I realized that it is in the past two weeks more than ever that I have felt like a foreigner in a foreign land.

Jane in Ambato



Well, today the indigenous population are supposedly striking, but I haven't seen any evidence of it. You know, I think that Ecuadorians favorite phrase is No Pasa Nada, and more and more I am learning the reason for the frequency of its use. I never know what is going to happen here--Most of the time, nothing big happens. For instance, with the volcano, we have been on orange alert for a few months now and while the explosions are increasing in frequency and magnitude, the volcano has still not had a major eruption. It will more than likely have a big eruption eventually, but it's not worth worrying about, since we don't know when. With the strikes, Ecuador has definitely had big strikes in the past that have lasted for weeks. However, you can't possibly know the duration of the strikes, so once again, there is no use worrying.

My taxi driver, yesterday, told me that the taxis will be striking on Monday. Then, I heard on the news that there will be no transportation strikes on Monday. I really don't know which story is true. I don't know if I wrote you about why the taxis drivers are having strikes. It's actually really sad. The taxi drivers took out loans in dollars from the government to pay for their cars. The exchange rate back then was at 5000 sucres or less (I'm not exactly sure about that number). The taxis earn in sucres and they now need to pay back their loans for the amount in dollars. Because the exchange rate is now at 25,000 sucres to the dollar, that would mean that the taxi drivers are going to have to pay 5 times more in sucres than they thought they were going to pay. Times are really difficult for the people here.


Sorry I haven't written, but I came down with a horrible cold.  I knew that I was going to get it, because my host mother and both my host sisters were sick last week.  It was the strangest cold I've ever had.  Since Wednesday, I've had a soar throat and my body has ached, but I haven't been really sick.  On Sunday, I finally came down with the full-blown illness.  I finally listened to my body and took to bed.  My host family was really helpful during my sickness and brought me Eucalyptus leaves to put on my chest and throat.   I don't know if you know this, but Mentholadum is made from Eucalyptus leaves.  I was also again reprimanded for not wearing my house shoes when I got out of bed to answer my host mother's knock at my door.  Cold weather and insufficient dressing is the root of all illness here rather than contagion.  My host mother didn't even want me to drink cold water, but I convinced her that I would be all right.  Today, I don't have fever and I feel much better.  I still, however, have a bad cough and my host mother again insisted that I should wrap myself in a blanket before I left the house.  I would hate to see what my host family would do if they experienced a real winter.  

Because I was bed-ridden yesterday, I had a chance to watch the news.  It turns out the reason we are not experiencing the strikes here in Ambato is because the Indigenous population is holding their uprisings in Quito and Guayaquil.  They have also blocked the major highways between provinces.  The transportation strikes, which we would definitely experience here in Ambato, were canceled.  I'm not sure why the taxi drivers decided not to strike.  The president gave a speech on Saturday, which basically explained that the current economic problems are not solely the result of his government.  He further explained that past governments had been corrupt and that Ecuador has been heading in this direction for the past five years.  He stated that his government was only trying to clean up the messes of past governments.  Whether his speech helped put an end to the transportation strikes, I just don't know.  That's the current news in Ecuador. 

Other than that, I have given away almost all of my cold medicine and might ask you to bring some to me when you come.  I would love some Robitussen cold and cough right now.  I should've saved some for myself, but I was being stupid. 


Yesterday, I was furious when I found out that the director gave me the wrong dates for our vacation.  When I was complaining about the mistake, a male professor, who was standing by me, just laughed and laughed.  Not knowing the dates of your vacations in Ecuador is life as normal.  In a country where nothing is stable, where unemployment is at an all time high, and where two volcanoes are erupting, a gringa complaining about not knowing the exact dates of her vacation seems a little ridiculous.  I am, in reality, very lucky with my teaching situation.  My university seems to be a lot more organized than some of my friends' universities.  I get paid on time every month when most of the volunteers get paid every three months, we don't have bombs in the classrooms and the Ecuadorian English teachers really can speak English very well.   

In fact, as for the way Ecuadorian life goes, I am lucky that I found out my vacation 1 month in advance.  In the middle of December, one of my friends asked her director when the semester ended.  Her director answered her that she didn't know.  A week later, the director told her the semester would end the very next day and that she needed the students' final grades.  My friend answered her that this would be impossible since the students hadn't even taken their final exam yet. 

I don't know if you remember the conversation we had about logic last year, but I mentioned that the idea of logic is relative.  In the United States, we come from a Western tradition of logic, meaning that we owe the way we think to the Greeks, Descartes and several other influential philosophers.  We also exist in a capitalistic society, where events need to take place expediently with out inconvenience.   

Here in Latin America, people are not looking for the quickest, most convenient and economical way to do things.  In fact, they might view this way of getting things done as rude.  I can definitely see why people don't plan ahead here, why a normal meeting that should take five minutes might take an hour, and why it is very difficult to obtain information in advance (I don't even know what classes I'm teaching next semester and I probably won't know until 2 or three days before classes begin).  This understanding, however, does not prevent me from getting a little frustrated when I'm trying to get things done.  I guess it's all part of learning a new way of life.  


I wonder if I'm crazy for not coming home for a break.  It would be nice to be home, because I could see my family and a few of my friends, but I don't really know what I would do for 2 weeks.  I also think that it, in some ways, would be harder for me to go home for two weeks and then come back here.  I don't exactly know why, but maybe I would have to make transitions in both worlds all over again.  Once you get on a roll here, it is easier just to go with it.   If I weren't going home in June, I would probably definitely want to come home right now.  I don't know.  I guess I just figure that I only have a year in Ecuador and I have most of my life to live in the United States.  I just think it's kind of strange that I don't feel like going home right now, because in college, I was always ready to go home.  I don't know what this says about my time in Ecuador.



We had quite an interesting day in Ecuador yesterday.  There was an attempted military coup.  A group of military officials broke off from the main military body and joined forces with the indigenous people.  Together, they stormed congress and held it hostage for almost a day.  They wanted to remove the democracy and create a dictatorship.  The whole country was in utter chaos.  Here, we had major indigenous strikes in the centro with tear gas bombs, protests, burning tires, etc.  In Guayaquil, they set cars on fire and I think that some people might have gotten injured in the mobs of people.   

Some of the WorldTeach people decided to convene at our friend's apartment.  I decided to walk, since I had no classes and plenty of time to kill.  Consequently, I headed off toward the centro.  I had heard that the strikes would begin around four on Avenida Cevallos and decided to walk towards that direction and veer off before I got to the main street.  Anyway, I saw truckloads of indigenous people heading toward the centro and decided to veer off a little sooner and take a cab just to be on the safe side.  People did not look very happy.  I should've realized how serious the situation was when everyone's usual refrain, ''No Pasa Nada,'' had changed to, ''Ojala, no pasa nada!''  This roughly means that they hope that nothing will happen. 

At my friend's apartment, we watched the strikes on T.V., talked about the possible military coup, and made chocolate chip cookies.  At 12:30 at night, we all went home and decided that since there was nothing we could do, we would wait until morning to see what would develop.  This morning, I've learned that democracy, for the moment, is here to stay in Ecuador, but that the president has decided to step down.  The Vice president is now in power.  I am guessing that everybody is happy with this, because there are no more strikes in Ambato today. However, I have heard that in the bigger cities, a few strikes are still lingering.   This is the news in Ecuador. 

 With love and Best Wishes,

Never a dull moment,

Jane O.

 P.S. One of my friends was watching the news yesterday and he said that the indigenous people painted some of the faces of the people in congress and made them do a little dance.  Now, this is the best form of protest that I've ever heard of.


Presently, things have calmed down considerably. The indigenous population is giving the current president six months to make a difference. If nothing changes, they threaten to hold much stronger strikes. Unfortunately, this will be around the time of Emily's wedding and I might have trouble getting to the United States. Lets hope that no pasa nada. If worse comes to worse, I'll walk to Quito if I have to. It's a two hour drive, but I could do it. We'll see. Okay, I hope everything in the states is going well and I'll talk to you later.



Last night my friends and I were talking about how the United States involves itself in other countries' affairs.  I didn't realize the extent to which the U.S. does this until I moved to Ecuador.  A major factor in why the military coup didn't gain power was because the U.S. government refused to give any future aid to Ecuador if a military dictator ruled the country.  I am curious as to why the U.S. cares so much about the form of government in Ecuador.  Recently, the U.S. has established a military base in Manta, Ecuador due to the conflicts it has been having with Columbia.   Perhaps, the United States is afraid that it might not have a secure relationship with a military dictatorship like it does with a democratic government.  In that case, the United States could possible lose its footing in the country bordering Columbia.  I don't know.  These are just speculations, but I would be interested in knowing how the United States chooses which country's affairs it decides to step into.  For instance, why would the United States not get involved with Africa's revolution, but it would get involved with Bosnia?  These are the questions I have.  



Today, I had good and bad news.  I asked my classes if there was anyway I could make my teaching better for the next semester.  In the first class, I got the feeling that they haven't really enjoyed having me as a teacher.  One student had a lot of complaints.  She said that I needed to be more patient with them, speak more slowly, be friendlier, etc., etc.  I felt really bad.  I wish that I had known this a few months ago so that I could have been more personal with them.  I was really sad after this class.   

In my next class, I told them to write down their criticisms on paper without putting their names on the paper.  I had them hand in the papers at the end of the class.  I thought that the punch might be easier to take in writing.  After class, I reluctantly opened the first folded paper and it said, ''You are an excellent teacher and you shouldn't change anything.''  I opened the rest more eagerly and most of them said that they really enjoyed having me as a teacher.  Quite a few said that I was their favorite teacher, and they appreciated how hard I worked to keep them from getting bored.  I did get some criticism; one student said that I should go to the discos on Friday nights more frequently.  Anyway, after this class I felt a little better.  It is true that I enjoy teaching this class more than my other class, and I guess it really showed in my abilities.  I hope that next semester I can improve and not let biases stand in the way of my teaching ability.  Furthermore, it's also really difficult to be in a good mood everyday.  I think that when I was sick, I might have been in a bad mood and this definitely was reflected in my teaching.  I guess you just have to take the good with the bad and try to improve on what you can. 

I have realized from moving to a new place that people generally have the same initial impression of me.  Almost everyone who doesn't know me very well comments on how nice I am.  Only people who know me very well or have to see me on a daily basis know that like anyone, I am not wholly a nice person.  I can actually be pretty horrible sometimes.  I'm just sorry that my students experienced these faults.  Well, all I can do is try harder next semester and see how it goes.  Actually, while it was really nice to hear all the compliments from the second class, the criticism from the first class is more useful to me.  

2/9The ash is back

This morning, I went with one of my friends to watch her get fitted for her wedding dress. She is from Ireland and marrying an Ecuadorian. I'm glad that she has let me be a very small part in her planning process, because I'm really sad that I can't help Emily plan her wedding. When we left the seamstress' place, we started walking downhill to catch a cab. As we were walking, I kept on feeling flakes of dirt hitting my eyes. I thought that there might be a construction site in the area, but upon looking around, I realized that this wasn't the source of the dirt. Then, I looked down at my black pants, and saw that they were covered in a brown film.

Finally, I remembered the volcano. It evidently had a big explosion this morning and the wind had changed directions. When I was riding in the cab, I could see the smoke above Tungurahua. Although the day had been sunny, a haze of ash obscured the sky.  It was horrible.  My whole body has been covered all day with a thin layer of gritty ash.  Hopefully, there won't be another big explosion tomorrow, and the wind will be in our favor.  

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the ashfall is that the news rarely reports on the volcano anymore. When I went home, I turned on the midday news, expecting to see at least one story about Tungurahua.  There was absolutely no news of any explosions.  Instead, I heard story after story about dollarization.


I talked to my Spanish teacher this morning about the Black Sheep Inn, because she has stayed there.  She said that everything is organic.  The water is heated by solar power and there is both hot and cold water.  They have a huge garden, in which they grow all of their food.  All the rooms are made out of wood.  She said that she thinks there might be a fireplace in some of the rooms.  If so, we should definitely try to get those rooms.  It is cold at night, and there is no heating in Ecuador.  I have gotten used to it, and have actually come to enjoy piling heavy wool blanket after heavy wool blanket on top of me.  She also said it was really neat.  

As for a place to stay in Ambato, I will try to put you in the nicest hotel, but it's not that nice.  The rooms are clean and the bathrooms are big with hot water.  In Otavalo, we will be staying in beautiful accommodations.  Furthermore, if the black sheep inn is not to our liking, we could stay in a fancy 200 year old hacienda that is on the foothills of Volcan Cotopaxi. 

Besides all that, the wind changed direction and we don't have ashfall today.  However, we do have the kickback of the ash that fell yesterday, meaning that the wind and cars stir up the ash that is on the ground.  I'm just glad that my eyes aren't bothering me.  Life continues to go on as normal, mask or no mask. 

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I was evaluated by worldteach on Monday.  My director ate lunch with my family, went to my classes with me and then took me out to dinner.  We had a nice day.  I got a good evaluation and some great suggestions on how to improve my teaching.  We also talked about the 7 worldteach volunteers who are leaving or have already left.  Most people leave for different reasons, and many of the people are leaving because of reasons that have nothing to do with Ecuador.  I can't imagine leaving.  This has honestly been one of the best years of my life.  Even with the volcanoes and economic problems, I'm glad that I came to Ecuador.  It might be hard at times, but never boring.   

Aside from the ashfall, there are just a few things that I get frustrated with.  First and foremost, I get annoyed with the men, who hiss and whistle after me.  In one of my U.S. history classes, I remember studying the riots that happened in the 1970's.  At first they thought they had to do with poverty, but upon studying them, they found that they were a result of racial oppression.  While I cannot in anyway compare my experiences with the African Americans, I can understand how racial oppression turned into spontaneous acts of violence.  I am completely against violence of any kind, but after 5 months of having to bow my head when a group of guys yell and hiss after me, I find myself wanting to punch someone.  I have yelled a few Spanish obscenities at them, but this seems to encourage them.  I become the funny, angry gringa as opposed to just a gringa.  What can you do--as always, you must take the good with the bad.


I've been to Otavalo both for its Saturday market and on other days. I prefer the days without the huge market. There are less stalls, but the huge market has more stalls with the same things. On the other days, the main square is filled with all the Otavalo goods and the town is calmer. 

Yesterday, I asked my students where they would like to go for their last day of class. They all voted for a Cuban bar, so that's where I took them. My last class met me at 6 o'clock and I bought them all (15) drinks for 7 dollars in total. I decided that I could afford to be a nice teacher for one day. Then, we all agreed to meet at a disco later. Unfortunately, only 3 of my students from one of my classes showed up; however, I had a really good time with them. I didn't get home until two o'clock in the morning.

Today, Christina, Julie and I agreed to meet at the bus station at 10 o'clock to go to Baņos. The whole area was hazy, but Tungurahua was visible on the bus ride down to Baņos. The town itself is pretty much a ghost town with swirls of ash being picked up by the wind in the place of dirt devils. A tourist town made up of hotels, restaurants and travel angencies is now mostly streets with closed metal gates hiding the store fronts. On the main drag, people still pull taffy, and some restaurants, souvenir shops and travel agencies are open. I counted 12 foreign tourists, and about 50 or 60 Ecuadorian tourists this afternoon.  Before the drag would've been packed with people.

Because the occasional gust of wind, carrying the ash, irritated us, we stopped only for lunch and an ice-cream before heading towards the zoo to hike the waterfall. Before we left town, I also went to see the murals inside the Cathedral that testified to the miracles performed by the Virgin del Agua. Most of the murals showed people's incredible recovery from illness due to their prayers to the virgin or their escapes from certain death. Those saved had evidently mentioned the Virgin's name during an accident (a bull dragging a log over someone's body, a person falling off a bridge into the river, etc.).  However, the most interesting murals were the ones depicting past eruptions of Tungurahua. They portrayed the volcano erupting, lava flowing down the rivers, huge rocks falling in the town and the people praying to the Virgin. The people believe that the Virgin protects Baņos from the eruptions. Let's hope that a Mount St. Helen's doesn't happen, and Baņos survives this eruption as well.

The hike was a beautiful trail through lush vegetation--red, yellow and purple flowers. The waterfall wasn't impressive for height, but for the way the river carved its path through the mountain. We sat by the river, talking and listening to the water rushing from the waterfall. Before we left, someone commented on a huge black rock formation on the banks of the river, which I assume is volcanic. I wonder how Baņos will change after Tungurahua has its next big eruption. If I am not here when and if it does have a huge eruption, I hope that I will be able to see pictures of the aftermath. Today, outside the city, everything seemed more or less normal. The hike back up to the road was harder than the way down but fun. The sky was hazy, so we couldn't really even see Tungurahua. In fact, if you didn't know about the volcano, then you probably wouldn't even had known it was there. I don't know if I will go back to Baņos again, but I'm glad I got to see it and the church today. It forces realization that the earth or life for that matter is definitely not stagnant. 

An aside--Usually, Baņos doesn't get that much ash, because it is on the same side of the volcano as Ambato. Consequently, the same explosion that deposited the ash in Ambato, got Baņos as well.


I have become sick because of the ash.  It has been falling for over a week, and I am having allergies.  I'm afraid that these allergies might have developed into a sinus infection, but I'm not sure.  I'm going to wait a couple of days.  If it is not gone in a few days, then I will start taking antibiotics.  Can you ask a doctor if you can take amoxycillan for a sinus infection?  I think that you can.  Tomorrow, I'm going to Quito for the night and the next day.  Hopefully, this will make the allergies go away.  My whole upper part of my nose and beneath my eyes is swollen.  I'm on a lot of Sudafed and a little spacey. 


Well, I feel a little better today, so I'm still holding off on the antibiotics.  I'm going to wait a couple days after I get out of the ash to see how I'm doing.  I'm still taking Sudafed so my head is in a cloud, and I'm not thinking very clearly.  Tonight, I'm going to Quito. 


I'm in Cuenca.  I did something a little extravagant last night.  I got in late on the bus, and I was exhausted.  Instead of staying at the hostel, I decided to splurge on a nice hotel room.  Because I gave the woman working at the desk some cookies, she gave me a suite for the price of a single.  This was around 30 dollars.  Then I ordered room service for about 5 dollars and watched cable.  It felt really good to be in a big comfortable bed for 1 night.  Today, I have to go find a place to stay and somewhere to take Spanish lessons. 


Droopy eyed and cloudy with sleep, I walked through the red-bricked streets of Cuenca, late for my first day of Spanish.  At 7:45, the streets were more or less empty, the stores closed, but the buildings are quaint and charming as always.  Balconies drip flowers over the streets and the painted wrought iron splashes color along whitewashed walls.  It really is incredibly beautiful here.  As I walked through the park, past the pink marbled cathedral, I watched the businessmen sit in red, wooden chairs, reading the paper and having their shoes polished.  Although I am happy with my life in Ambato, I am sad that I don't live in Cuenca.  At least, I have the opportunity to travel to such a wonderful place.   

My Spanish lesson started at 8 and lasted until 11.  I'm glad that I'm taking these intensive lessons, but I guess that I have picked up more Spanish than I thought I had.  On my admission information sheet, I wrote that I was at an intermediate level.  When my Spanish teacher began, she told me that she had a little bit of a problem because she had prepared for an intermediate lesson not an advanced lesson.  I still, however, feel like I can't speak Spanish that well. 

After my first stretch of classes, I walked to the internet place, appreciating the character of this town--the hip restaurants and clothing stores, the antique shops, the architecture, and an old man leaning back in a barber chair, getting  his face shaved.  My next set of classes starts at 3 and last until 6.  I wonder if I made a mistake, taking these Spanish classes all day instead of just taking in Cuenca for the week.  As always, I guess I am forced to make sacrifices.  It's just hard to sacrifice one good thing for another. 

I also question whether I should've allotted time for Cuenca on your trip to Ecuador.  Although it is my favorite city in Ecuador, it is also very European.  I suspect that you could see similar architecture or cities if you traveled to Spain.  On your trip, you guys are definitely going to get more of a taste of the local flavor of Ecuador, the indigenous cultures, the natural beauty and the life of the people.  Aside from Cuenca, these are the things that I enjoy most about Ecuador.  I am excited that I get to share my life with you guys even if it's only for a few days.


I went to a wedding last night.  One of my Ecuadorian friends married his girlfriend of three years.  The wedding was in the Catolica church right next to my school.  It's a really pretty church with stars on the ceiling.  After the wedding, we went to the reception and danced until three thirty in the morning.  I am so happy that I have Ecuadorian friends here.  They really have improved our lives in Ambato.  As for the wedding reception, it was similar to a wedding reception in the United States.  The one cultural difference is when they have all the single girls line up at the beginning of the reception.  The bride thinks of a number between one and twenty, and the soltera, who thinks of the same number, gets chosen. 

Then, all of the single men line up, and the groom uses the same elimination process with them.  Once, they have their single man and woman, the single woman stands on a chair, while the single man puts the bride's garter on her leg.  The crowd of men yell, "Arriba, Arriba" as the single man pushes the garter up the girls leg.  The women yell, "Abajo, Abajo" as the single woman tries to keep the man from pushing the garter very high up her leg.  They did this three times, and thank God, I never got chosen. 


Yesterday, I had to say goodbye to my friend Pardip. She will be the 8th of all the World Teachers to leave early and the second in Ambato. They have all left for different reasons. Pardip didn't want to return to the U.S., but she has been sick for over two months. Living in Ambato seems to make her health worse. She can't breathe and the doctors, although unsure of the cause, seem to think that she has an allergy to something. I can't help thinking that she could have gotten sick from the ash and the fact that her host family didn't feed her very well. Whatever the case, we'll all miss her in Ambato and I was very sorry to see her go yesterday.

I don't think that any of the rest of the Ambato teachers are going to leave before their time is up, but you never know what turns life will throw you. 


Hung over and sleep depraved from dancing until three o'clock in the morning and then being woken up promptly at eight by the hustle of my family in their morning routine, I decided to take the bus down to the centro and find myself a strong cup of coffee to jumpstart my brain.  I boarded the same bus I take everyday to go to work, squeezed past a woman in an isle seat to take my seat by the window.  

Not even a block and a half past my house, I looked up a diagonal cross street to see a man sprawled out on the side of the street, his arms flung above his head, his right leg jutting out at an awkward angle from his body, his face paled and his eyes wide open.  To his side was his ice cream cart overturned.  Ice cream and water spilled onto the pavement.     

Now, I see men lying on the street everyday, drunk and passed out, seemingly dead, but this....this was different.  It was the way he was laying, the way his eyes were wide open, and the way that my heart was pounding with the consciousness of his death.  I watched the cars drive past him; the people stare out their windows as I was doing.  And the strange thing was that no one stopped, they just left this man alone with his ice cream cart on the side of the street.   

My bus did the same after slowing for a few seconds.  It just drove on down the road to get to its next stop.  This is when I became conscious of the other people on the bus, the indigenous women with their bright colored shawls, the women and men standing in the isles, all of them with the same shocked expression that I must've had.   

I turned to the woman next to me, ''Que Paso?'' I asked, speaking more from my own uncomfortability than my desire to get an answer.

 ''No se,'' she answered, ''Un muerto.'' 

''No one's stopping.  Should we do something?'' I asked her.  The woman shrugged her shoulders as the bus braked for its next stop.  None of us, however, got off the bus.   

More passengers crowded onto the bus, the people's faces faded from shock to smiles as they began to chat with one another.  I put my headphones on and started my cd player.  Without a word exchanged between the two of us, the woman, who was sitting next to me, got off two stops later.  I sat alone in the double seat for the rest of the ride, listening to my music, watching the road as the bus snaked back and forth down to the centro.  Everything was back to normal, the same crowded bus, the same route that I take everyday, the same scenery.  I looked out my window searching for new people, new sights, new cars, new anything, but no matter what I did, I just couldn't shake the vision of that man, dead and all alone in the street with no one stopping to do anything.  

Read Jane's most recent adventures in In the Shadow of Tungurahua, Galapagos, Siga No Mas and CuencaTravel Tips for the Ecuadorian Andes   Travel in Bolivia and Chile

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