Day 38

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
1
47
92
Trip End Dec 25, 2007


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Saturday, October 13, 2007

I brought my computer this morning to sit in the park and try to catch up on some writing. Maybe even study a little. Not that I really thought I would study. Then I ended up walking with two other girls, Kayla and Brianna, on their shopping missions for the day. They wanted souvenirs and I wanted postcards, so I conceded part of the morning to shopping since both would be found in the same place and I needed someone to go with anyway. We got off the shuttle and turned down El 9 de Octubre street to go to the Malecon, where Kayla and Brianna had visited an artisans market the day before on their city tour. We walked all the way to the end of 9 de Octubre until we found a bridge and a tiled walkway that we didn't recognize but figured was part of the Malecon we hadn't visited the day before. All I wanted was to sit down and get some water and look at the map, but the other girls were on a mission and soon we were off again, in what we hoped would be the direction of the artisans market. We passed some shore birds wading around in the mud and I stopped for pictures despite the annoyed looks I was getting from Brianna and Kayla. I was guessing this was going to be an interesting morning.

Wait! Pause for newsflash. We interrupt this program to bring you important video viewing information. I just received an email from Eric, one of our video/photo guys, about TSS videos on YouTube. Check this out!

A lot of people have been asking whether I have been posting videos we've been making for TSS on YouTube. The TSS commercial and "TSS Experience" videos are currently up on YouTube. Although we don't have the bandwidth aboard the ship to view streaming video, if you would like to send the link to family & friends back home so they can check the vids out, the links are below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTw5XXAXiro
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0u2H7C9S-g
There are also, of course, many videos up on the TSS website (www.thescholarship.com) that are always available for public viewing as well.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks!
Erik Wong

And no we return to our regularly scheduled programming. All three of us were quiet as we walked the strip, but it was soon obvious who was the third wheel. (Jessie if you're reading this I'm thinking of you! Nobody else try to understand; you won't!) Brianna and Kayla walked several feet ahead of me, and I began to feel as if I was traveling alone but in sight of someone else. Pretty soon we had left the water behind and were in a part of the city that was definitely not the Malecon, and I finally convinced the girls to stop and look at the map. We were at the gates of the Universidad de Guayaquil, and by the time we found it on the map it was clear we were definitely not where we thought we were. The University was on the other side of the map and at the other end of 9 de Octubre. I'd pointed us in the opposite direction all the way back at the park! And I was guessing we'd walked probably at least 2 miles, maybe 3. Great. Needless to say we decided it was time to call a taxi.

We paid two bucks for a ride to the Malecon. We pointed on the map to one end, but he drove us to the middle and when we got out we had another direction crisis while we tried to figure out what was where. Lucky for us the lighthouse was at one end and easy to find. We made our way past the towers and the cafes and the music (jazz this time) to the "artisans market" - a strip of little shops that all sold exactly the same things, none of which had actually been made here at all. I didn't buy anything but postcards but Brianna and Kayla bought souvenirs for their families and friends and spent entirely too much money on junk while I sat and wrote out said postcards. We walked for a long time and while they shopped I just walked, trying to figure out a way to get out of the situation but not have to go alone. I knew they wouldn't walk me back to the shuttle even if I asked them, which I was not about to do, and there was no way I was taking a taxi by myself or walking back up that street alone. It seemed I would be stuck here all afternoon too, visiting trinket shops full of stuff I would never buy for myself or for anyone else and that was hardly worth buying anyway. We finally sat down on a bench somewhere in the middle of the Malecon and tried to talk about what to do. I let Brianna and Kayla know that I really didn't want to shop anymore and they were like "yeah we noticed." Finally they decided to go back to the ship for lunch to save money, despite the fact that a good lunch in Guayaquil costs anywhere from $0.80 to $2.00 and that they'd been spending money all day, and that got me back to the shuttle and back to the ship without having to go alone.

I took a nap and used the afternoon to start writing again after the long delay from Panama. At dinner Stephanie pulled me aside and asked me to sit with her. She'd had a pretty stressful day and needed to talk it out with someone. I got the impression this might be the first time she'd ever seen real poverty; not that I have spent much time in places like Guayaquil, but the people I saw on the street here didn't surprise me like they surprised her. She'd gone back to the iguana park but this time watched the people instead of the iguanas, and had been shocked by the people she observed. She couldn't get over one little girl who was eating rice with her hands out of a paper sack as she watched the fish and the turtles swim around the dirty pond in one corner of the park. Or a woman selling glasses of coke out of a three-liter bottle. They'd had Alfred's 8-year-old daughter with them, which is probably part of what made it so hard for her. She was having a crisis about her place in the world; that's the long and short of it. She couldn't reconcile our position of privilege with what we were doing here, in these places that couldn't possibly benefit equally from our presence. Our tourism wasn't helping these people at all.

We talked for almost two hours, sitting there at dinner, and I was starting to question too, despite the fact that I know why we are here. We are here so that we will see things like that, and be made aware of the place we come from and the places other people live in. So many people on this ship have never seen these things before, including Stephanie. I felt really sorry; she was so shaken by her experiences, walking past shops full of shoes people shouldn't wear, picking up little Kyra so she wouldn't fall in the gaping gutters of the streets. She wanted to go back to nice, safe, clean Europe. But I knew there were things like this in Europe. I had seen these people in Lisbon and Athens. She'd just found a way to hide from it until today. Even in Panama it seems her experience was glossed over enough to prevent this culture shock. She didn't think she could handle Quito knowing that it might be like this. My thought was, well what if it isn't like this? I was disappointed but I left the choice to her. She didn't want to run away from this only to find it waiting for here there. I could understand that. It made for a lot less logistics anyway.

We went back to the library for the Lonely Planet guide and found the botanical gardens outside Guayaquil and Stephanie thought seeing something beautiful might do the trick. We planned to give that a try the next day, and see how she felt. It was a quiet night for me, and I got a little writing done and went to bed, but it took me a long time to go to sleep with all those things still in my head. I hoped maybe the botanical gardens would be a good break for me too.
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