I must admit, these Andean men are HOT! So good looking, in fact, that I do not have any pictures of them. Let me explain.
While I was pushed and squashed this way and that by the rush hour crowd, I couldn't help it, I kept looking over at that handsome face. He was watching me, too. The trolley stopped at the station. As I was being jostled about, I felt a slight tug. Looking down, I discovered my bag was open. The digital camera was gone! I pushed towards the door, desperately scanning the crowd for any sign of my camera. Everything was fast and chaotic. Adios, Kodak.
The cute guy was gone, too. Was he part of the scam? I felt so stupid to have let that classic trick befall me, a "seasoned traveler." At the same time, that sort of thing should definitely be expected, especially in a country with economic problems as extreme as Ecuador is experiencing right now. Did you hear about all the strikes and the economic crisis that just happened here two weeks ago? (Check out this news article from March 17 for more: "Ecuador Sliding Into Chaos") Even now, there are people in the streets protesting the fact that a national bank that closed and took all their money!
For an American, everything here seems so cheap--a full dinner is only 10,000 Ecuadorian pesos. WHAT!? 10,000 pesos doesn't sound cheap, does it? Well, it's about one US dollar. That's right, for a mere one hundred US dollars, you can be a millionaire in Ecuador! It was such a bizarre feeling when Kevin went to change some traveler's checks at the bank. He handed me the hugest, thickest wad of cash I've ever had, and it was only about US$50. Unbelievable! That's a great bonus for foreign travelers here, but it is very hard on the Ecuadorian people. High inflation and unemployment plague the area, which, invariably, leads to higher crime rates.
I met two 17 year old boys on the bus who had recently graduated from high school, Donald and Martin (I'd show you a picture if I had one!) They were going from Quito to Machala to look for work. Even though they were from Loja, they had gone to Quito two months ago, and still hadn't found any steady, good work. Now they were going to try their luck in Machala. What they would give for a job flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant!
So I remind myself of all this stuff, and try to feel a bit better about having the camera stolen. It doesn't help!
Shawn - Life on a Cargo Boat
Monica - We Began the Journey as Paupers and Finished with a Japanese Feast!
Making a Difference - Live from Death Row
Kevin - Graverobbers and Life After Death - My Visit to a Moche Lord's Tomb
Team - Peru's Early Hunters, Artists and Fighters
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