Friday, October 1, 2010

It's a Third World After All, It's a------------

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Yesterday began just like any other day. No, actually better than usual. I got up, made myself some bacon and eggs, and went to the gym. Afterward the morning was so lovely I decided to walk to my massage appointment instead of taking a taxi. It's a 45 minute hoof but I love walking along Avenidas Solano and Remigio Crespo, and I had plenty of time, enough to stop for an ATM withdrawal along the way.

While on the massage table my therapist got a cell phone call and after hanging up said, "Bad news, Edd." I immediately thought she had a family emergency. She instead said that Correa, the Ecuadorian President, had been removed from office, there were no police, and we all needed to go home---now. Wow, talk about a mood breaker; I was suddenly WAY more tense than before I had arrived.

She insisted on driving me home after we picked up her kids from school. Such is the kindness of the Ecuadorian people. My resume is a little thin in the "Political Insurrection" category, but I did have the presence of mind to remember I had next to no food in the house, so I asked her to swing by the grocery store to see if it was still open. Thankfully it was, so she let me out there only by my promising I would take a cab and not walk the rest of the way.

It was interesting on the drive from her office to school and then the grocery store to see how normal everything appeared. Sure, the banks were now closed (with no police who could blame them?) but people were out cheerfully walking, restaurants had the usual lunchtime crowd. There was no overall sense of panic or fear. Same thing in the grocery--no rushing around grabbing all the bottled water and canned goods; folks were casually pushing their buggies around and chatting.

"Better to be safe than sorry" has never exactly been my motto. Neither has "Be prepared." Guess that's one of many reasons I struck out as a Boy Scout. But prudence dictated at least staying off the streets for a bit. Gringos are stereotyped as "rich" anyway (I wish------) so if anyone were ever to act on the notion of robbing one, this would be the time.

I had friends here calling and emailing left and right--what do you know? What should we do?? I decided the best way to deal with the situation was to bake a batch of oatmeal cookies. Worse case scenario: who would harm a guy that bakes cookies? And they might be a suitable bribe--------.

After that I turned off the phone and computer and took a shower and a long nap. Then I poured a glass of wine and prepared a phenomenal barbeque chicken dinner. After devouring that I took my wine and some cookies downstairs to the neighbors and watched some fascinating TV coverage of the unfolding events.

All the local channels were showing the exact same thing--this is a democracy? H-m-m-m----. The cameraman was literally right in there with a bunch of soldiers and it felt like a B version of "Saving Private Ryan." Flares were flying, guns were shooting, guys were scurrying around. I wasn't sure what exactly was going on, but it was riveting. One guy even got shot and fell off a moving truck and down an embankment. Live TV at its best.

Or was it? Because even though it said "Live TV" in the corner of the screen, we watched Correa apparently being hustled away in a cavalcade from a hospital in which he was supposedly being held hostage by the rebelling police force, then less than five minutes later he's on a balcony at the Presidential Palace amidst a throng of people waving to the crowd and delivering a blistering speech denouncing his opponents. I felt like I was in the audience of a magic show where the magician vanishes from the stage and miraculously reappears in the back of the theater. Both instances leave one to ponder, "How did he do that?."

And honestly, all these shenanigans painfully reminded me of watching two pro wrestlers preening, shouting, exaggerating, and threatening each other. I quietly wonder if, like those matches, this whole thing could have been rigged from the get-go. Hey, in Ecuador, anything es posible--------.

Correa was clearly ecstatic over all the world-wide attention. After the balcony speech he donned his colorful and apparently official President banner (and now our next contestant--Mr. Ecuador!!), perhaps changed his necktie and held a news conference in which he said the exact same stuff he'd been repeating over and over all day. "Hey, as long as the camera's on, I'll keep talkin'--I love this job!!"

Now today, one day later, it's business as usual. Correa's more powerful than ever; the Chief of Police has resigned; the week-long "national emergency" declared just yesterday afternoon is cancelled.

And so it goes. Correa, having occupied the presidency for almost 5 years, is the Methuselah of Ecuadorian politics. For his predecessors they didn't even bother printing business cards. Was I scared? No. Was I concerned? No. Was I interested? Absolutely.

A lot of folks move to places like this and do a lot of pretending about what they're really signing up for. Ecuador is a beautiful country, and Cuenca is a fantastic city in which to live. But--------.

This ain't just a cheap version of the US of A. Everything in life has a risk/reward factor. The bank's here pay like 7-8% for CD's, but there's no FDIC to protect you. Want to take a shot? Go for it knowing you could lose it all. Similarly, history demonstrates over time Ecuador is and will continue to be politically unstable. Willing to take the chance on this lifestyle in return for the possibility things might go sideways? We were; many aren't. And shouldn't.

Yesterday was part of the adventure. And it provided a reality check for all of us living here and especially those considering joining us. This place is chock full of positives but it is not paradise or without risk. It is my observation that, personality differences aside, a certain "let 'er rip" attitude seems a prerequisite to happy and successful life abroad. Does that describe you? If not, proceed with caution.

So, you all know the tune--let's sing it together and with gusto: "It's a Third World After All. It's a Third World After All----------."


zootenval said...

Great post, Edd....

Our flight lands in Quito at 8:45 PM on 12/29/2010...

Let her rip, indeed..

Karen Kimbler said...

Again, you hit it on the head. And the song... I kept saying Well we're sure not in Kansas any more!

Mike and Johnie said...

Well said. No hysterics, just a really good account of the happenings in Cuenca. I've lived through several coups, bombings etc. I often feel that I was in more danger driving during rush hour in Atlanta then during the "troubles" in any of those places. Life is not as predictable as perhaps we would wish. Yet it goes on, a testament to the resiliency of the people. (and you too)