Friday, November 10, 2006

B.K. This entry is not about McDonald's

Welp, I was partially right about the Galapagos Islands. But then that's what I get for liking mountains more at this point in my life.

For those who don't know, I like to think of people in one of two ways, mountain-folk and beach-folk. I don't really think you can effectively stereotype the sort in a "you must be a silly introvert / impudent extrovert person," but then I don't think you can really like being on a mountain or at a beach equally. So if you think you do have one of those un-biased respects for these two beautiful settings, pick a side and get off that fence!

Of course there were penguins, and a seal decided to swim with me. These are the highlights, I would happily take one of each home just so I could show you how much fun the two can be, but then I do not own a swimming pool or a bathtub large enough to keep them happy.

1 Week later I sit at a computer in a district of Quito known as La Mariscal, it's the place where all of the foreigners come to drink and party and be loud at night. And I'm not as comfortable as I used to be here. I think I've developed an aversion to the touristy parts of life, the areas that are mainstream and common to the norm. I enjoy the gritty and foreign, the things that people would like to avoid normally - and I don't just mean non-pricey souveniers and trips to foreign places; but also the dark alley-ways and uncomfortable conversations with strangers that no one likes to start because such folk are 'poor' or 'dangerous,' or 'want nothing to do with you'. All the same I have never felt comfortable in shopping malls. When I used to work at Bath and Body works I would go home most nights feeling a sense of self-commercialization, which in no way I want to start downplaying America through ranting about big corporations, but then after 4 months away from home I have come to another realization. In knowing who I am and having a slight understanding of the things I am repelled from, I have come to know that America is a great, great country. Granted there are a few horrible things that revolve around corruption and a seemingly endless lack of care for those in less-fortunate conditions on a national and global level, but then there is so much more to be praised about that nation.

I've had talks about politics in the States, and how much they suck and deprive other countries of benefits for the sake of personal gain - and those are things I can't defend or agree with, but I can say that it has still worked. Things like Free Trade Agreements that seemingly benefit 3rd world countries by giving them global market prices for products are hated outside of the States by many because it still ensures enormous profit for the companies involved while those on the lower end continue to just make ends meet. But then not all actions can be meant for the sake of evil by the hands of the wealthy.

More important than money though, let me say something about people. I have also talked with people here about the condition of a class system. What I have realized through this is that in America, everyone is equal regardless of finance, race, or employment - far beyond that of many, many, many other countries out there. Here at the university of Quito, people are considered unworthy of dating if they receive a scholarship. For those of you at Messiah College who are paying $30,000 dollars a year to go to school, feel special becuase as one of the top 5 schools in Ecuador, the students of the University of Quito pay a mere $10,000 dollars a year to receive their education. The school is populated by the wealthiest of Ecuador's top families, who though I hate to say it, would come off as your stereotypical University of California student, just as opinionated against the student whose family can not afford to pay for them to go to school completely, imagine that where in the States people are praised for their scholarships, for their good grades and citizenship. Also with racism and prejudice, where it is a daily pass to see derogatory statements written about people from all types of walks on garage doors and brick walls, such is not publically tolerated in the States anymore. But I have to stop there before I make statements that can be overgeneralized.

The United States is not perfect by anymeans, I have never been one to think that and I never will. But the one thing that I can assert with more confidence than not as to what the States has been doing better with more than ever is that of respect. I talked to a woman here who told me that when her son was 18 he went to the States to finish high school. Near the end of the school year her son called home and said that he was going to stay in the States to go to college. The mother of the child, distraught as one might imagine, asked feverishly why? The son replied that in the United States, he was treated like anyone else deserved to be treated: that he could make a living scrubbing toilets and still be looked in the eye, greeted with courtesy, and respected as an individual that he ever would in Ecuador. And that still applies here with maids, indigenous families, and especially the poor.

There is a drastic separation of worlds here in Ecuador, just as there was in Albania, more so than I ever thought about the States - where there are the richest poor people in all of the world. Here you can cut the class system with a chainsaw and find just a stark number of people making the effort to mesh them together. The impoverished beggers, the middle class strugglers, and the upper class loungers: full of the wealthy and the non-residential tourists.

I applaud tourism though, it does wonders for the economy in whatever country it is implemented, but then I think there's so much more that could be done with it. I will be going to the most special place in the world for me in 5 days time, but I'll probably have to refer to it by a different name though for evading legal liability in the future. I'll tell you if I figure out what more can be done with that tourism when I get back.