Here are more thoughts about Ecuador. To keep my blog posts short, I am splitting things up. They are not in any particular order, as is apparent by the following reflection on my departure from Ecuador.
On the flight home from Ecuador, at the departure gate in the Quito airport, the airline employee who inspected my baggage was very kind and gentle, quite a contrast to what one can expect when going through US Customs. The additional inspection at the gate is now standard procedure ever since the heightened security protocols have been put into place (thanks to the “Lap Bomber”).
I was touched that the man took the time to refasten the clasps on my book bag, even though they were not clasped to begin with, since I figured they would be going through my stuff. (Courtesy is such a rare thing these days.) It then occurred to me that because of the new security procedures, this man, an Ecuadorian, now has a job where one before probably did not exist. With an unemployment rate of 45%, he is probably grateful for the work and quite happy to be courteous. (Or perhaps he is just a nice person.)
The streets abound with people wanting to sell you this or that, usually very little things like gum, candy, a piece of fruit. When stopped at a light, people start to wash your windshield unless you wave them off. They get a few coins in return, I am not sure how much, but less than a dollar. Women walk down the street between car lanes with bags of fruit to sell.
As I would encounter women and children trying to sell candy or small trinkets, I would respond with a polite “no gracias”. But I was told that by simply not ignoring them, I was encouraging them to keep trying to sell me, so eventually one needs to ignore them to get them to move on. I don’t like ignoring people, something I did for years at home when street people would ask me for money. I try not to do that anymore; it doesn’t mean I’ll give them money, but I will at least say something to acknowledge they exist.
Our host told us the street peddling is worse in Colombia, where they will not let up even if you do ignore them. I have heard that this is true in many other countries. It makes me wonder what I would do if my very survival depended on me being able to sell little things for five cents here, a quarter there. What a priveleged life I lead.