Beware the Humping Jefe
Trip Start Jul 03, 2006
8Trip End Dec 20, 2006
But when a butterfly flutters in Tokyo, there's a tornado in Kansas (or something like that). The unraveling of our plan started with, simply enough, the lack of quality pens in Ecuador. The pens at the SuperMaxi are crap, and I had been coveting the "Wall Street Institute" ones that were floating around the school. Oh, they were Quality, Grade-A American pens. The catch: They're kept in Hernan's office, Hernan being the director of the school. Hernan speaks no English whatsoever and has not been overly friendly, but what the heck--on Friday evening, I walked right in and asked for the pens. He was so generous--he gave me 5 of them!--that I felt compelled to stay and small talk for a minute.
Me: "So what are your plans for the weekend?"
Hernan: "Oh, I don't go out much. My dad just died, so I'll probably just visit Mom and Dad at the cemetery.
Me: "Ok, great, well, ummmm, I'll see you--"
Hernan: "What are your plans?"
So I told him about Baņos, and he suggested he drive us halfway, since he was considering a day trip to Salasaca anyway. Georgia and I had been looking forward to making the trip alone, so I quickly backpedaled, pretending I didn't understand. It was no use: He knew I knew. I had to accept.
The small talk at lunch the next day was no less awkward. I asked him about his pregnant wife, Efigenia.
Me: "So do you know if you're having a boy or a girl?"
Hernan: "It's a boy. But Efigenia left me yesterday."
Me: "Ok, well, ummmm, I guess we should get going."
We left the restaurant, and I prayed to God that my Spanish was failing me when Hernan said, "On the way out, I'm just going to stop by my house and pick up some things in case I decide to spend the night." Oh, dear. We waited in the car, and ten minutes later, out came the duffel bag. It was a loooooong trip to Baņos.
Immediately upon arrival, Georgia and I headed straight for a very, very strong drink. We tried to keep up the banter--"Who do you think will win the election? What's your favorite part of Ecuador?"--but every time he left the table, we frantically tried to figure out how to ditch our boss' boss. But I felt bad for him, and I thought he must just be terribly lonely. Finally at dinner, we laid our cards on the table. "Hernan," we said, "You should know that we plan to speak English tonight. With every drink, we are going to speak more English, and by the end we will not be speaking Spanish at all. We're sorry about that. Furthermore--" (glug, glug) "Furthermore, we are on the hunt for gringos. If we see them, we are going to make them sit with us. They, too, will speak English. You should just know this in advance." He seemed good-natured about it, and even offered to keep an eye out for "extranjeros" walking by. Secretly, we hoped he would retire early, and we would have the night to ourselves.
OK, skip ahead to 2am. Hernan has bought us shots poured from a bottle wrapped in electric tape and then set on fire. We've met two gringos, one Dutch and one British, the only two in Baņos as far as we can tell. We've made our way to the dance floor of the 3rd or 4th bar. Hernan keeps trying to dance with us, and I'm not talking about ballroom dancing. Suffice it to say that we've nicknamed him the Humping Jefe. Anyway, we were doing this very intricate pattern around the dance floor, with Georgia and I constantly trying to dance away from the jefe and towards the gringos, but mostly just dancing with each other. Finally, Hernan stomps over to me, yanking the Dutch guy along behind him.
Hernan: "We came here to dance with you and Georgia. If you're just going to dance with each other, we'll leave."
Me: "Look, it's nothing personal. In the States I would never dance with my boss like this. It's not appropriate."
Hernan: "Well, you're not in the States. You're in Ecuador. You have to adapt."
Hoo, boy. I almost "adapted" my knee to his groin. But that seemed like a decision best made sober, so I just shrugged and went back to Georgia. A few minutes later, I saw him throw his hands in the air (mind you, this is a 50-year-old man with a pregnant wife!) and stomp out like a little boy.
We've all had creepy bosses, but that takes the cake for me. The next day, he didn't get up until after 1pm, when he hunted us down in the market. All morning we had been debating how to deal with him, but when he saw us, he was all smiles. Asked us how we had slept, asked if we were hung over. We still don't know if he feels bad about his behavior or if he just doesn't remember it. Either way, he was hell bent on getting back to Ambato--he almost killed half the women, children and donkeys of Ecuador as he barreled down the road. Georgia literally fell out of the car and kissed the ground when we pulled up to our complex.
So they were painful lessons learned, but we learned them well:
1. Never get in a moving vehicle with Hernan at the wheel.
2. Never, ever tell anyone our weekend plans. If anyone asks, we are ALWAYS staying in and studying Spanish.
3. Just use the crappy SuperMaxi pens, for God's sake!!!