Thanks for your prayers! Despite a bit of a ¨toz¨ (cough in spanish), I´m back to health. God is good!
Tomorrow is a very important holiday for Ecuador, el diez de Agosto. It´s the day that the first cry of independence was heard, which means the day is treated just like our July 4th. When they have a holiday here, they REALLY have a holiday. They are blocking off a HUGE section of the city with different entertainment in about 10 different plazas. We are going to the plaza that is geared more towards young people. It´ll be concerts, dance presentations, acting.. and also all of the museums are open and free. Should be a lot of fun.
Speaking of fun, last night my friend Eduardo invited me and some of my girlfriends to go with him to his friend´s house for a fiestita. He and his cousin Guillermo picked us up and we went to his friend Pablo´s house. Pablo goes to USFQ and he actually lives right by the school. All of us in the program are placed with middle class Ecaudorian families, but last night we saw what an upper class standard of living is like… wow. Pablo´s house was one of the nicest houses I have ever been in, we´re talking the kind of house like the cliffs or lindenwood. We played pool at a pool table that had its own little cabana in his backyard that overlooked the whole city. yeah. It was great to meet a lot of ecaudorian students, because it´s so good to make friends with the nationals, not just the people from our study abroad group. we had so much fun and i´m really glad we went. eduardo has a great group of friends. one hilarious culture thing is that everyone kisses you here. all night as more people would walk into the house, these random people would come up to me and kiss me on the cheek like they´ve known me their whole lives. it takes a lot of getting used to. but i love that everyone is so warm.
You know, this is going to sound kind of random, but yesterday was such a strange day for me. I was served breakfast by two maids. But I coudln´t shower in the morning because there was no hot water. Then I get on the public bus with the lower class of ecaudor and ride for an hour, seeing lots of poverty as i look out the windows. i arrive at my school which looks like a luxury resort and costs 16,000 a year (which for ecuadorians is a heck of a lot) and as I am walking through the police-gaurded gate I see several filthy children digging through the trash bags across the street. i go to class and we talk about education in ecuador, where i find out that 65% of this country is unemployed and that the school i go to is the only liberal arts school in the country. if students have the lucky chance to be able to go to college at all, let alone this one, most of them are unable to find a job in the field that they studied and many end up as taxi drivers. i ride the bus home and have at least 2 or 3 people begging for money come up to me during the commute home. on the bus rides, children always come onto the bus trying to sell candy or newspapers. where are there parents? nobody knows. I go home to be served dinner by two maids again, who eat in the kitchen while i sit at the fancy dining room table. Then I go to Pablo´s house which is one of the nicest houses I´ve ever seen. I come home and hear on the news about how immigration is flowing heavily out of ecuador due to increasing poverty.
This contrast between poverty and wealth here is so strong that it gets overwhelming at times. I never know what to do… how can I possibly help this situation? I know that we have poverty in the US, but it is nothing compared to this. In the US, almost anyone can get an education. Here it is much more of a priviledge. Being able to work is a priviledge. And to think I complained about it this past summer, when I was getting paid more for my hourly workstudy position than many people who already have college degrees here in Ecaudor.
It´s a lot to swallow. I hope I can make a difference here.