Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ecuador, Day 4

There's not much I can write tonight because we're in Manglaralto & I don't really have my computer easily available. So I'm typing this on my little 'palm pilot' & I'll upload it when I can.

We spent the morning working, putting together a rudimentary PowerPoint presentation for our meeting on Tuesday. The Tuesday meeting will be an important one for the project, attended by all the relevant coordinators, deans & even the head of the university. So we took our time with the presentation; we wanted to do a good job.

But by 4 o'clock we'd had enough; we packed our things & headed out to the Terminal Terrestre (bus depot) to get the bus to Manglaralto. Manglaralto is a small town about 3 hours north of Guayaquil, towards the equator. One of our colleagues who works at the university here & has been involved in past projects lives in Manglaralto & runs a small hostel there. He had invited us to come out for the weekend.

I was surprised at how much the Terminal Terrestre had changed since I was here back in 2002. Back then, it was a scary place. I remember it as being noisy, dirty, smelly & sinister, with a stained concrete floor & endless little stalls selling the kind of minor goods you buy for bus trips. It was poorly lit & perhaps that was just as well except that made it all the easier for the pickpockets to do their work. Most disturbing of all were the beggars, especially the mothers anxiously displaying babies who were plastered with bandaids in a haphazard way, to make them look injured or at least more pathetic. Someone told us the babies were drugged so that they would be more placid about being dragged about all day, or to make them look more sickly (and hence more worthy of donations).

But all of that has changed. The reborn Terminal Terrestre now incorporates a shopping centre which could (almost) be any mall in Canada. The place is clean & I didn't see even one beggar or limp baby. The floors are finished, the lighting is fine, & even the washrooms are clean (so I'm told). The only thing that hasn't changed are the ubiquitous stalls selling bus food & magazines. So we picked up some plantain chips for the trip & jumped aboard the bus for Manglaralto. More on that maƱana.

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