BUSES GO EVERYWHERE IN ECUADOR, BUT NOWHERE IS BUS FRIENDLY

William Shain - Ecuador


September 22, 2018

This is the wisdom that I have gained in my short time here in Ecuador.
Though pickup trucks and small cars make up more than 80% of the
automobiles that you see on the road, giant 40+ person buses dominate the
paths as they hurdle past town after town, always en route to the next
stop. Here are some guarantees: You will encounter someone selling
something, be it fruit or ice cream, or a miracle new vitamin that you need
because your stomach has too many chemicals and not enough minerals. You
will try to pay five times before the bus worker finally comes asking for
money. And you will be caught off guard as the bus slows down for you but
never comes to a complete stop. All these things make riding the bus here
the experience that it is, and though some might sound less than fantastic
I’m sure not a single fellow would want to change it.

The past week has been fantastic! Starting my job came with apprehensions
of course, but to a nice surprise I discovered that I am in one of the
coolest apprenticeships out there. Working for Vibrant Village, a US-based
NGO that works in more than 22 countries, comes with volunteering in more
than 16 communities across northern Ecuador and daily drives of more than
an hour into the Andes mountains. After a quick introduction on the first
day, our boss told us we would be heading to a town called La Armenia to do
site visits and gain intel on how different farmers that VV had been
supporting were doing. This took us to a quaint little farm on the side of
a mountain. We met a nice family who continuously offered us their peaches,
mandarins and passion fruit (which had been picked the day before from
fields no more than 50 meters away) and subsequently showed us their new
calf that had been born less than 20 minutes before we got there. After two
other similar site visits we called it a day and returned to Pimampiro. The
following day we returned to the same town and led a workshop on soil
conservation, including an experiment with natural fertilizer and control
vs experimental groups. Needless to say, the job is amazing and the views…
well you tell me.

I’d like to share another anecdote for this week’s blog. Jose Luis, the
same host brother I mentioned in the last post, and I have begun to form a
great friendship. Through things like runs, going to the discoteca, and
working around the house, I’ve been able to get to know more about him and
Pimampiro as well. You might call me curious (Jose definitely would) but
I’d love to learn something everyday and so I try to constantly ask
questions to get there. Jose spent a lot of time this week telling me about
the history of Pimampiro, who’s official founding dates back a little less
than 50 years. However, the area has been populated for centuries now,
dating back to the time of the Inca’s. When I asked Jose Luis if there was
any evidence of this he went downstairs and pulled out an Incan doll,
bowls, and vases to show. After asking how much this had all cost he
laughed and told me they regularly found artifacts while working in the
field. When I was quite obviously shocked at the centuries-old artifacts
that I was holding in my hand, Jose mentioned that years before, a man had
done some excavating on his land and found a room the size of a large tool
shed filled with jewels, vases, sculptures, and full sized statues.
Apparently, news quickly spread of this find and soon government workers
showed up and declared that because the man had excavated to a certain
point to find this, it was the property of the state. The area was cemented
shut and nobody has seen it ever since. Another man from the early days of
Pimampiro would exchange alcohol for Inca relics from local indigenous
people. Abusing their appreciation for the newly found sugarcane liquor,
this man made millions in selling these artifacts to outside buyers, losing
the history forever. Coming from a country that has only a few centuries of
history, and of course the thousands of years of native history that has
been continuously adulterated and looked over, I found all of this
absolutely ridiculous. Even with my limited exposure and knowledge, most
recently coming from events surrounding Standing Rock with the Dakota
Pipeline (which no one seems to talk about anymore) I know that there HAS
to be more of an appreciation for these amazing groups. If you’re reading
this, I charge you to read a article about a native tribe where you’re from
and tell at least one person this week about it. It all starts with you. So
here I am, living with a family in the Andes mountains, quite literally
surrounded by history itself, the least I can do is learn from it and pass
it on to you all.

All the best,

Will

William Shain