This week’s playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/06Bfl2mKAYa83HmRPbM7sd?si=RRhuE3WESAOx-FkOaNxVTg
(Alternatively titled: “Chaos Reigns and Trump Isn’t Even Here!” – Thanks for the suggestion, Dad.)
I have not left Sayausí in nine days.
Let’s be honest, I have barely left my house in nine days.
Just over a week ago, Ecuador entered a state of emergency as people took to the streets to protest the increased gas prices. The president, Lenín Moreno, ended fuel subsidies that have been in place since the 1970s in an effort to ease the debt burden and boost Ecuador’s economy. These spending cuts were made in order to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
In response, the people of Ecuador have begun protesting, mostly in Quito and Guayaquil. Schools have been closed, roads are blocked, and all public transportation has stopped. Over the course of a few hours, my life here turned upside down.
Without buses, I have no way of getting to my apprenticeship or into Cuenca. I am essentially cut off from the world outside of Sayausí. That means no going to work, no hanging out with Fellows, no vanilla lattes and chocolate chip cookies from my favorite cafe. That means no Spanish class, no picnics in Parque de la Madre, no Fabiano’s pizza.
So what do I do with myself now? All the normal ways I spend my time are unavailable to me. What the hell am I supposed to do? I do what I can. I read, I do yoga, I go for runs. I walk to the nearby tienda with Charlie and Emmett for snacks and empanadas. I write, I try to plan independent travel, I talk to my family and friends back home. I even started watching Grey’s Anatomy. (I know, but what else am I supposed to do with my time?)
I do my best to spend time with my host family, but I still feel like there’s a barrier between me and them. I’ve had a lot of really interesting conversations with my mom about the protests, which taught me a lot about how local families are being impacted by current events. I’ve seen my younger sister more this week than I probably have in the past month, but we haven’t really grown any closer. One highlight of my week was the day we spent farming my family’s plot of land down the hill. We spent four or five hours in the field, planting corn and beans. I had the easiest job (who would trust a gringa like me with the important tasks?), tossing three seeds into each hole my mom dug. It was honestly kinda fun, although there were some moments that snapped me back to the reality of the situation. I looked up from the dirt to see a crowd of people marching on the street a couple hundred feet away from me, chanting into megaphones and holding signs. A little later, our conversation was interrupted by the siren of an ambulance trying to break past the barricade set up in the street. Thankfully, the protestors moved the tree branches out of the way enough for the ambulance to get through, as the Red Cross has been desperately asking people to do.
During our day as farmers, I definitely bonded with my family a little bit over our tired arms, the antics of our vecinitos, and a midday snack of bread and aguita. Even so, I’ve felt incredibly lonely this week. I’ve spent the majority of every day in my room alone, reading or watching Netflix. I really only talk to my family at meals, and even then, I don’t always have a lot to say. There’s only so many times I can ask for updates on the protests or remark about something funny the cat is doing. I can’t even really talk to my family back home about it. How could anyone really understand what I’m going through without experiencing it for themselves?
I know that instead of complaining, I should be grateful that I’m safe and comfortable. I haven’t lost electricity or water, I haven’t experienced any food shortages, I haven’t seen clouds of tear gas float through the streets. But it’s hard to remain optimistic when I haven’t seen my friends in a week and a half. When I’m afraid to walk to town by myself for fear that I’ll get swept up in a protest. When both the indigenous people leading the protests and the president refuse to concede.
I guess all I can do for now is keep watching the news and wait for all this madness to end. Hopefully, the protestors and the government can reach a compromise and things will go back to normal. Until then, I’ll be at home with a sleeve of Oreos and the next episode of Grey’s queued up on my laptop.