We've been home 24 hours and already our busy life has resumed. I want to record some final thoughts before we put this vacation behind us.
Our Last Laundry
We spent our final day in Quito. We met up with Lynne and Sean, our home exchange partners, at their very nice apartment in the city. We went to the old city with Lynne, enjoyed a late afternoon snack and then a dinner before calling a taxi for the airport. Though the variety and pace of things in Quito were interesting, Art and I reaffirmed our opinion that we really prefer smaller towns and rural areas when we're traveling.
The physical beauty of the area where we stayed is comparable to any other lovely places we've seen: Hawaii, Iceland, New England, our own Pacific Northwest. The green seems greener, though, in Ecuador. And perhaps because the number of tourists we saw was smaller, Imbabura province seemed more rare and special. We could have taken a picture of the volcano every morning from our back yard, and each photo would have been different - different cloud formation, different light.
It seemed to me like the area should be filled with tourists. I suppose that's not the case because "Ecuador" doesn't rise to the top of places people want to visit. But for those of us who go there, the memories rise right up.
I've long been in favor of the education of women as the best way for a region to improve its lot. But I always thought of "education" as high school and college. Not as elementary school. I realize that a person can be smart and practical, but if they have no education - or a poor one - their knowledge of the world can be extraordinarily limited. I met a woman, for instance, who thought the Ecuadorian volcanoes were caused by the use of too many plastic bags. I make assumptions about what's common knowledge. And I think we should teach everyone. But then I wonder. Does it matter? If a person is able to get by, how much do they need to know? How much should they know?
Poverty is sometimes measured by annual income. If a family is living on $5,000 a year, but they have a plot of land on which they grow their own food, and they have a cow and a pig and some chickens, and they live with family members, are they poor? Where I live, if money disappeared one day, we'd be in a world of hurt. We grow only a small part of our own food, and we rely upon a sophisticated infrastructure for our heat and electricity - which we think of as necessities - and we live in small nuclear families. But in Ecuador and elsewhere, money is used for only some of their needs. They are more self reliant. And they are accustomed to less. We had fires in two fireplaces in our casa because comfort for us was a temperature of at least 62 degrees. But that's our cultural preference. If we wore layers those fires wouldn't be necessary. Even so, though, we had to maintain the fires in the evening. That required us to be more mindful than setting the thermostat on our central gas heating at home.
We ate fresh local fruits and vegetables in Ecuador. Yesterday Art went to our local supermarket and brought home three peppers. Each was a different color and was bright and shiny. I knew those peppers had been grown somewhere very far from Brier, Washington and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to reach us. Somehow they didn't seem as real as the ones we picked up last week at the mercado in San Pablo. And the pot roast I had for dinner tonight grew in a styrofoam package, not on a recently butchered cow.
I think Ecuador has about 14 million people - very small compared to the U.S. We can get just about anything we want here. But I think about the difference between what we want and what we need, and I wonder.
We're so glad we spent three weeks in Ecuador. We learned a lot more than Spanish.
If you're interested in spending some time where we did, you can rent the casa at www.casaquinde.com.