Monday, August 12, 2013

Independence Day in Quito

The 10th of August is a big deal in Ecuador! It marks the first attempt by the Peruvian people to establish a free and independent nation (1810) from Spain. Sadly the first attempt failed.

This afternoon and evening the streets were packed with strolling pedestrians, a sound stage with amplified sound (the sound overs at least a 3 block radius) had been constructed in most plazas. The street-food salespeople are offering a myriad of choices, but ice cream is the clear favorite. There is a real carnival atmosphere this evening. Later tonight we can expect competing fireworks exhibitions from various locations in the city. We are curious about the large police presence in the streets. Early this morning we sat in a plaza listening to a patriotic concert when a large contingency of young communists entered the plaza carrying red flags with sickle and hammer. They placed 2 large floral wreaths beside a commemorative statue and did what they could to interrupt the music...then they left to take their message elsewhere.So apparently there are some political issues under the surface. Most were very young and appeared to be more interested in causing a commotion than by real political interests. There are however strong reactions to foreign imperialists who seek to take their countries weath (forest products,oil, and minerals).

Judy and I have a rule when we visit a new city. We need at least 3 days to develop a sense of the city. It takes that long to build an internal map of the place in my brain, to figure out the tram system, and to feel comfortable with the money system.

Quito is a large city ...and we have only seen a fraction. But the people that we encounter are friendly and eager to help. If I ask strangers for directions they go out of the way to give us what we need Some are curious to know where we are from and how we like Ecuador. My Spanish is far from fluent -but I am pleased that I can generally communicate what I intend to say...and sometimes my grammar is correct!

Like the cities of Eastern Europe here we often find large rather plain looking wooden doors that open to the street... But inside we discover a fine patio with access to a collection of shops, offices, and residences... All using the same entrance to the street. It makes exploring the city full of surprises as we fall into unexpected locations... People here seem to value education as a way to improve their lives and the lives of their kids. Overall, the standard of living for most people here is quite good. We also notice that prices are often on par with US prices. Economists would call this a developing nation, not a third world nation.