In the Northern Hemisphere

Yes, I crossed the equator today in Ecuador. Now I can watch the water drain in the other direction. My time is Ecuador has been very short for a few reasons. One, I am way behind schedule, so I needed to pick up the pace. Then I must have ate something bad because I have been sick most of the time here. Fever, headache, exhaustion, bowel issues, and to top it off, a toothache. The times I rode were on highways choked with trucks and buses.

So I saw most of Ecuador from a bus window this time. Which is too bad because Ecuador has a lot to offer as well: Nice beaches, mountains, and the jungle. I guess I´ll have to come back. Taking the bus is OK, but it has its own challenges. I sat next to a guy and his baby the other day. His cologne reeked. He smelled like a mixture of Old Spice and gasoline. I had to stick my head  out the window like a dog to get fresh air. Then his baby fell asleep and dribbled all over my shoulder.

When the bus stops for a bathroom break, you must pay to use the facilities. The attendant asks if you want to orinar, just take a leak, or baño, take a dump. The price is 5 cents vs. ten cents and you get a  few sheets of wafer thin toilet paper if you need it. At first it seemed like a rather personal question, but I got used to it.

I lived in Quito for three months back in 1992 while I studied Spanish. For those of you who claim I have a bad memory, I will have you know that once I arrived in Quito, I found my old house that I lived in, no problem. That’s 15 years ago. I guess the ginko is helping. You can read more about that trip here.

Here´s a typical street scene in Quito.

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The Plaza Mayor

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Garbage and polluted air

I guess I will raise this topic now. Not a reflection on Ecuador because I have been thinking it about for awhile. Anyone who has traveled to a third world country must have noticed there is generally less concern about the environment. Trucks and buses spew out smoke that would get you arrested in the USA. People toss out paper, plastic, bottles, and especially baby diapers from cars and buses all over the roadside. Pedestrians too just drop plastic, paper or bottles wherever. I know, I´ve seen too much of it.  But why is this? Why do some cultures seem to care less than others about polluting their environment? Is it because they are poor and have other things to worry about (like getting enough food to eat?) Can we excuse them for this or should we hold them to the same standard as first world countries?

One reason, I think, is that there are very few trash cans. I carried bags of trash around for days trying to find a place to dump it. In one little town I bought a bottle of water from a store, transferred it to my own bottle, then, holding the empty bottle aloft, asked the shopkeeper if there was a basura, a trash can. She stared at me without comprehension. Basura, I said again. Finally she shrugged, took the bottle from me, and threw it in the gutter.

I find myself being changed by this attitude as well. I used to be extremely careful not to leave anything inorganic on the ground. Now I may let a paper carton or plastic bag fall by the wayside. Why not? Nobody else seems to care. When in Rome do as the Romans, right?

 Here’s a typical shot of garbage along the road.

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4 Responses to “In the Northern Hemisphere”

  1. jenear liverpool says:

    cool journey get home safely

  2. Ben Kilpela says:

    Good post again, Kev. You know I, the least among your brethren, will respond to your philosophical questions, which is why, I suppose, you keep asking them, to egg me on. But I will joyfully allow myself to be egged on (gotta look up where that phrase came from). Often when in Rome, we are forced or compelled (by a million little blows and small wounds it seems) to do as the Romans do. This is true of American culture in countless ways as well. For example, the sprawl of fast food joints across our landscape is hardly resisted or even questioned in the greater culture, and yet some have objected to it and even resisted it quite strenuously (I object to it with qualifications, but have not spent any time or effort resisting it). It is always important to assess one’s deeds for their right and wrong and their bad and good. But this does not mean that it is easy or even POSSIBLE to correct one’s wrong or bad actions or practices. More’s the pity. It’s a tough world. You probably have no choice in almost all cases but to discard your trash in the way the culture deems proper. There are HUGE lessons in morality defined in your circumstances on this issue.

    Ben

  3. DAD says:

    YOU HAVE BEEN TO COSTA RICA—SAME PROBLEM–BUT NOT EVERYWHERE. IN THE MORE RITZY AREAS THE STREETS ARE CLEAN ANF THINGS ARE MORE ORDERLY. WHY ? .THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THESE AREAS HAVE MONEY AND ARE EDUCATED AND CARE BOUT THEIR SURROUNDINGS. WHO WANTS TO LIVE AROUND TRASH. IT IS A MATTER OF EDUCATION. START WHEN THE CHILDREN ARE YOUNG. AND PUT TRASH CANS AROUND THE TOWN. I SEE A LOT OF IMPROVEMENT IN THIS REGARD COMPARED TO YEARS AGO. BUT THE IMPROVEMENTS, i THINK, ARE FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE TOURISTS. IT IS STILL TRASHY IN MANY PLACES. CHECK THE RIDE TO DESAMPORADOS i MUST SAY THO IT IS GETTING BETTER WHEN I COMPARE IT TO 40 YEARS AGO. CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT PLACES WHERE THE ARIAS FAMILY AND RELATIVES LIVE—–NICE. IT WILL TAKE TIME —-A LONG TIME.

  4. Ben Kilpela says:

    Steve is right. Changes in these practices come about tiny step by small step by little bit bigger step. Sometimes even this process doesn’t work. No one seems to known fully or exactly why or how some civic or moral campaigns work or why, if they work, they take so long, while others don’t work at all no matter what someone does. It’s a fascinating subject, how to get people in mass to do or not do something. But there is one sure way to ensure that change won’t happen: no one cares and no one takes the first miniscule step. If no one ever does that, then change won’t happen. But after that first miniscule step, then someone has to take the next just bigger than miniscule step, otherwise change still won’t happen — and so on. It’s a painful but inevitable process. At some point, no one knows where and it changes for every moral or social change proposed, the idea reaches a tipping point and everyone starts changing together in mass.

    Ben

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