Lauren's adventure in Ecuador

Saturday, January 27, 2007

First funeral…

Politics are changing in Ecuador. With drastic change come hit men and death apparently. On Wednesday night, while at the Rotary meeting, a Rotarian received a very important phone call, which informed him that the Minister of Defense and her daughter had just died in a “helicopter accident”. I put this in quotes because I find this highly unlikely. When Jaime Roldós, a past president here recently took office, he was killed in a small commuter jet. Funny that Correa and Roldós are very similar in ideology, no? The Minister and her daughter were in two separate helicopters (new, state-of-the-art, armed forces helicopters), and they crashed for some unknown reason. It’s interesting that Nobot, Gutierrez (past ousted president), and Noboa (corrupt candidate for this presidency), all had a meeting last weekend, and now this tragic “accident” occurred. It’s also interesting that both of the helicopters didn’t have black boxes. How exactly does a brand new helicopter not have black box?

The death of this legendary die-hard socialist really hit Quito hard. The President declared a national period of four days to publicly mourn her death. All flags were put at half staff, and there was even a funeral service Thursday in Quito not even 12 hours after her death. I really wanted to go to find out more information. So I went. I was able to see President Correa in person (15 meters away). I am so astounded that the common public can be so close to the President here. My only point of reference is the heavily guarded President Bush, so this “mix with the commoners” deal really has piqued my interest. I sat among the schoolmates of the daughter of the Minister, who also passed away. It’s funny how funerals are really sad even if you never knew the person. I watched all of her classmates hug, cry, and try to console each other, and I just thought to myself that I’ve been rather lucky not to have had to experience the death of a best friend. It was kind of surreal actually to be surrounded by the chants and red flags of the members of the Ecuadorian socialist party. In all honesty, I was kind of uncomfortable to be surrounded by chants calling for Marxism and socialist reform. The irony though was that in a sea of black and mourning, the intense red color of the party stuck out like pulsating, vibrant, bleeding life.

I sat in the stands observing all the people: indigenous leaders, diplomats, congressmen, past presidents, family members, schoolmates, political revolutionaries, members of the press, etc. It was a conglomeration of all members of society. The members of the press really made an impression on me though. They seriously behave kind of like bloodthirsty animals. They scramble, scatter, stretch, and sprint to get that million dollar picture of the Minister's sister who can’t hold in the tears any more. I found them to be a bit ruthless, although I understand that they have stories to write. For crying out loud though, is it so hard to honor silence? As I was saying, it was surreal to hear the chants of the socialists while watching the bishop walk up the path to the coffins. He was carrying a white and a red rose, one for both the mother and daughter. He approached the public in complete, solemn calmness, but to his left were paparazzi and the throngs of disrespectful chanters. Then came the protests. It really was the most interesting funeral service I have ever been to. I just hope that the President exercises good caution, because if history repeats itself, he is the next to go.

I also wanted to fill you in on some other little things that have happened recently. I noticed a sign in the bus the other day that really made me laugh. It said, “Be respectful, and keep the bus clean please; throw your trash out the window”. I wish I were joking! This may explain why Quito is so very dirty. It’s incredible. Anything that has a convex surface is considered to be a perfect resting place for all kinds of garbage. I really don’t understand why they don’t have better recycling initiatives here. So much plastic, paper, and glass goes to waste. It really pains me to throw these products away. There are just so many other pressing needs that recycling has always taken a back seat, which is a shame.

I recently had an interesting conversation with my new professor about prostitution in Quito. He told me that it is technically illegal, but there are certain sectors that go conveniently overlooked by the police. In order for prostitutes to pass under the radar, they must work only in these certain sections and they must carry a medical card with them, which shows their blood work results every three months. If they are caught outside the zone, or without their card, they are doomed. I find this really interesting. The government officially states that prostitution is illegal, yet the same government also has a rubric of official requirements for this business. Makes you wonder…

That’s all for now, folks. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. I’ve found a new love of ping-pong, and pretty soon I’ll be ready to take on Forrest. Forrest Gump, that is. Seriously though, it’s fun. I challenge you all when I get back!


Blogger Kelli said...

Hey Lauren! It's Kelli (from Keys, hahaha, although hopefully you haven't already forgotten me). I saw Kjell and he told me about your blog; I haven't read it all but it seems like it's a real experience.

Being an RA isn't as fun as I thought it would be, but it pays the bills. :) I'm training for a marathon (in memory of you, lol), but that's not until November. Oh, and I'm starting med school at FSU in the summer!

Anyway, I'm glad to see you are doing well. Adios!

11:01 AM  

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