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.

Here´s a typical street scene in Quito.

The Plaza Mayor

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.